City street

I almost don’t even know where to start with Hong Kong! To say that the city is amazing doesn’t come close to doing it justice. It’s entirely overstimmulating, yet completely wonderful. You know the phrase “go big or go home”? Well, that’s Hong Kong. Everything here is big – not just size wise, but everything wise. Hong Kong is only the best of the best, there’s no room for second place here. You can’t have a measly sky-scraper here, you must have the biggest, best, and boldest skyscraper with decorative and colorful lights that flash in different patterns at night! The skyline is nothing short of spectacular. I think it really must be the most beautiful skyline on the entire planet, and that alone makes it worth coming here.

Hong Kong skyline

More skyline.

Yet another.

Hong Kong has a fascinating history – it was originally a Chinese colony, but was handed over to the British in the 1800’s and was only given back to China in the late 1990’s. So most of what you see in HK is a very heavy British influence. All signs, menus, etc are in English, and the vast majority of people speak English here. But there is still an underlying Chinese culture that sneaks in. It’s the true epitomy of East meets West. If you come here wanting to experience China though, then you’ve come to the wrong place. HK is really a culture all it’s own. And, while it’s technically part of China today, the Chinese government has done very little to change the already established ways. For instance, in mainland China tv and internet is controlled by the government. There’s no Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter, but you can access anything you want in HK. And when you leave mainland China you must turn in your departure card and go through immigration to get an exit stamp on your passport, and go through immigration again upon arrival in HK. It’s still considered an international trip from the mainland. Strange.

Hong Kong is divided into 2 main areas: Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. The 2 are separated by a river that is easily crossed by car or a 3 minute ferry ride, making it a cinch to travel back and forth between the two.
We stayed at a hotel in the heart of Kowloon surrounded by countless shops and restaurants and street markets that never close. Hong Kong has so much to offer that you really need to research ahead of time and know what you want to do in order to make the most of your time. You could easily spend an entire week just roaming through Kowloon and HK Island, experiencing the markets, luxury shops and world-class restaurants. You could spend another week traveling about to the islands surrounding the area in complete solitude to recover from the chaotic and busy city life. Unfortunately we only had 4 days to spend, so we attempted to accomplish a little bit of both. If you go to HK you must experience the mid-level escalator on HK Island. It’s an awesome outdoor escalator that takes you up the steep streets where you’re surrounded by boutiques and eateries. You can get off on any street you want, do some wandering, then get back on and go another street higher and do some wandering there. Silly as it sounds, it was actually one of the highlights of our stay in HK ~ we loved riding that thing!

Taking a ride on the mid-levels escalator

We took a tram up to the top of a mountain for amazing views of the city skyline. If you’re in HK, this is a must-do, but plan to go early to beat the crowd or go late in the evening and have a drink overlooking the
dazzling lights below.

View from mountain top

We also really enjoyed an afternoon at a small fishing village called Tai O on Landau Island. This offered a quiet day away from the city where the fishermen families live in houses on stilts in the water.  We also took a day trip to Stanley beach on the South China Sea & stopped off at an amusement park to check out the aquarium and panda reserve.

stilt houses in Tai O

Eric dipping his feet in the South China Sea

cutie! we decided we couldn't leave China without seeing a panda.

There are really only 2 downsides to HK. The first is that it’s expensive. You won’t find a hotel for under $200 a night here and the only cheap food you’ll find is street food. The second is the pollution. It ranks right up there as one of the busiest cities in the world, which makes pollution a real problem and
unfortunately can spoil the breath-taking skyline. The pros far outweigh the cons though… we really loved it here & HK was the perfect way to wrap up our trip through China.

Next country: Vietnam!

P.S. I won the battle of shipping things home, and the process was so much easier this time! The post office was just a few minutes walk from the hotel and there wasn’t any line at all (score!). Plus, the post office sells boxes (another score!) which eliminates the need for brown paper (triple score!). And, I didn’t have to fill out any paperwork at all! I was in and out of the post office in less than 7 minutes. AAAHHHHH, so nice to be back in the 1st world!