-Written by Cel
After years of Europe and the Caribbean, we took our first trip to Asia this month! Having been exposed to Hong Kong via the video game Sleeping Dogs, we thought it would be a cool city to go to for our winter trip. We were expecting some car chases, or at least a drug bust, but were sadly disappointed.
As usual, we rented an apartment on Airbnb. It seems like apartments in HK are very different than Western standards. For instance, we had to go through Fort Knox just to get in.
Hong Kongers are also used to smaller apartments than Canadians, though micro-suites are starting to pop up in some cities. The apartment was just big enough for a double-sized bed, a sink, and not much else. There was a private bathroom, but it was a one-piece unit – you could theoretically sit on the toilet and have a shower at the same time.
Another thing we learned is that mattresses seem to be a lot harder in Asia. I have since confirmed this with a Hong Kong native – people prefer harder mattresses. My heels were sore every morning due to lying on my back.
The first major place we went to was Lantau Island. We opted to take the cable car up the mountain, rather than take the bus or the treacherous 8-hour hiking trail with steep drops for most of the way. This picture was taken from the cable car, with the trail below:
Upon arriving, we quickly saw that the island had a heavy Buddhist presence.
There was a beautiful monastery there, but the monks seem to be anti-photography, judging from the no pictures signs that were almost everywhere. We were only able to take a photo of the outside. Sadly, we couldn’t take a photo of the ginormous four golden Buddha statues.
The island also featured some stunning views and hiking trails. We didn’t have the time or gear to really take advantage, but we did hike a short trail called the Wisdom Path, which began here:
The following day, we caught a ferry out to the nearby gambling haven of Macau. While wandering the streets of Macau, we admired the mixture of European and Asian architecture. Like Hong Kong, Macau used to be a European colony (in this case, Portugal).
Of course, we couldn’t leave without entering a casino. The one we went in had an incredible amount of swag:
We even did a bit of gambling on some slot machines. Our 10 Hong Kong Dollars quickly turned into 3 Hong Kong Dollars (50 cents Canadian), which was too low an amount to cash out at the machine. We wandered around until we could find the human cashier – 50 cents is 50 cents.
Back in Hong Kong the next day, we knew we couldn’t leave without going to the Peak, despite being a tourist trap. Hong Kong has very few white people, and that is because all of them are lining up to take the tram ride up to the Peak. It is definitely worth it however. It was the steepest non-carnival ride we have ever been on:
The view from the top gave a great panorama of the city’s skyline. We were blown away by just how many tall buildings Hong Kong has; they even build skyscrapers on steep terrain, which would almost never happen in Canada.
A cruise around Victoria Harbour was also something we really wanted to do. We opted for the daytime cruise rather than the night one so as to not freeze, but both would be great. The ferry takes you on a 1 hour loop around the harbour and drops you off where you started. Very scenic.
One random fact we found out about Hong Kong and Macau is that they like to put random exercise equipment in public spaces. I assume the idea is to encourage people to exercise more – and we actually did see them used frequently, though mostly by elderly people for some reason.
Both of us enjoy gardens – I particularly like landscaped, well-manicured ones – so of course we had to check out the Botanical and Zoological gardens. If you’re in Hong Kong, you should definitely go see it – especially as it is completely free. What other city can you see monkeys swinging around without paying anything?
Here’s the gate to the garden:
And an epic fountain in the middle of it:
We also went to the Kowloon Walled City park, a historic area of Hong Kong. It was very peaceful and relaxing. There were hardly any people there, which is a rarity for Hong Kong.
It’s definitely an interesting place to check out, and like the Botanical Gardens, is also free.
Our first trip to Asia was a great experience. Hong Kong is a very busy, vibrant, and energetic city. Good place to visit if you like hustle and bustle. You can get away without speaking Chinese, though it would definitely help (for perspective, out of nine restaurants, only one of them had no English speaking staff).
It’s early yet, but we look forward to planning our summer trip!