A couple of nights in Hong Kong…

By early January we were absolutely itching to escape the cold of Korea and have a holiday. Come January 13th we were on our way. We left the -20 degrees of Hwacheon behind and off we went to HK via Shanghai. It was pretty cool stopping over in Shanghai even if it was for a little over 2 hours. After having to endure the anal-ness of Chinese Immigration we were eventually let through passport control. I insisted that we had to walk outside the airport so I can actually say I’ve set foot in her homeland. Once I felt satisfied that I’d set foot in Chinese territory we went back to the airport. It was a mere two degrees outside but we were cherishing our new-found relative warmth. I never thought I’d say that about standing outside in +2 degrees centigrade. I can’t imagine Amelia would have either!
A great first impression

Anyway, we arrived in HK early afternoon. The first thing we saw upon walking out of the arrivals terminal was double-decker buses. I knew it was going to be a good couple of days from this point on. This may not sound particularly exciting to your average person, but when you’ve lived in Korea for 6 months you appreciate anything that comes to symbolise home in whatever shape or form.

Just to clarify, there are no double-decker buses in Korea, or hardly anything British for that matter – except for Manchester bloody United and Bolton Wanderers (lol). Needless to say we sat right at the front of the top deck (just like I used to when I was an excited kid riding the old Midland Fox bus into Leicester). We got off at Mongkok, Kowloon and went about finding our accommodation. Amelia had very wisely written down directions on how to get there. We found the building no problem, finding the entrance to our hostel proved challenging to say the least. It was located on the 14th floor of a well-worn tower block. It may not sound overly desirable but it was adequate and we were happy with it especially considering the low-budget. Our room was literally just a bed. This was to be expected – we were in Hong Kong after all.

It wasn't exactly the Ritz

After dropping our bags we decided to go for a walk and explore. We decided that as we only had 2 nights we would spend our first night in Kowloon (across from the main Island), check out a few of the sights and get a feel for the place. We headed towards the harbour as it was already dark and we were both very excited to see what is widely considered to be ‘The best city skyline in the world’. We weren’t to be disappointed, it was spectacular.

I’ve not seen many other skylines or major cities except for Tokyo and Seoul. Hong Kong was far more impressive. We then hung around for an hour or two enjoying the view and anticipating the ‘symphony of lights’ show that takes place at 8pm every night. I’d googled this prior to coming and this was one of the things I was most excited about seeing.

Unfortunately as we were arriving between New Year and Chinese New Year a lot of the lights were being changed and amended so the laser light show wasn’t quite as spectacular as we’d hoped. It was still cool though, and the views over the harbour were absolutely phenomenal. I took a lot of photos but as usual I’ve deleted most of them upon realising that I didn’t need 50 different photos of the same building. We walked around Kowloon for a bit longer before going for a bite to eat and trying to find our way back. Street performers lined the pedestrianised roads – some good, some not so good, and some downright weird.

One of the more 'strange' performances we saw...
The two of us at Hong Kong harbour

On the Friday morning we got up relatively early, headed for the subway and back for a daytime view of the harbour. It was a little hazy but the weather was lovely (at least 15 degrees!) and we enjoyed walking around the Avenue of Stars (The HK version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame).

Friday afternoon we headed over to the Island, took lots of pictures of big buildings and caught the bus up to the peak. This offered spectacular views of HK and we went for a walk. It felt like we could have been in Beverly Hills or somewhere, the houses were huge, with unbelievable views. Range Rovers, Jags and Aston Martins seemed pretty fashionable around here. We chilled out at the peak for the night and ate dinner in a swanky Japanese restaurant overlooking the city. My ‘fancy’ Japanese dish was battered fish and curry sauce with rice. Although my taste buds have improved dramatically over the last couple of years, it still doesn’t feel right ordering sushi over battered fish in curry sauce. My excuse being that I figured I may as well make the most of eating foods I actually like as in Korea, there is very little choice of foods I can honestly claim to enjoy.

View from the peak

On the Saturday we took a bus tour around the Island. We got off at a couple of stops and had a walk around. Everything was so tall – far taller than Seoul or Tokyo, and the streets were so narrow. It’s very impressive how they’ve managed to build so much with such little space.

Hong Kong was a stunning city, but the pollution and smog was something else. I was amazed at how quickly it enveloped the whole Island. We didn’t enjoy the Indian men in Hong Kong either. Of course it’s wrong to stereotype and prejudice but from my experience of the Indians in HK (and this is purely based on my experience of Indian men in HK) literally every (male) one I came across was an absolute nightmare. Everywhere we went they were trying to con us or tailor me some very cheap suit that I had no intention of buying. They were infuriating, I ended up losing my temper with one when he started playing some weird paper game for good luck. Apparently I needed to give him money in order for me to enjoy good luck, health and marriage in my life. He then had the audacity to mutter something under his breath as I walked off. I snapped back at him and we walked our separate ways.

The smog came from nowhere

Asides from these two minor complaints, it was awesome. It wasn’t even overtly expensive. It was a heck of a lot cheaper than London or Tokyo. I’ve heard property is super expensive, but apart from that – it’s very cheap for a city of it’s size, stature and standard of living. Of course it can be super-expensive if you want it to be, but we were surprised at how cheap everything was.

Amelia with her Dairy Milk, Fruit Pastilles and RIBENA!!!

For us, being in Hong Kong felt like the next best thing to going home. Everything seemed British, we felt like we’d died and gone to heaven at certain moments.

British things I can remember from HK:

  • Dairy Milk, Fruit Pastilles, RIBENA!!!
  • British English – everywhere – none of this American English nonsense
  • British style street signs and road names
  • Everybody spoke English
  • Marks and Spencers (Never have we ever been so excited to see a Marks and Spencers store) – we spent A LOT of money here on lunch – our first proper ham and cheese sandwich / baguette in almost half a year. It really was incredible.
  • Lots of British people – well compared to Korea anyway
  • They don’t worship America
  • Denis Fire Engines and proper Ambulances – just like home. The emergency vehicles (and services) in Korea do not fill me with confidence should god forbid, we ever actually need them.
  • A legitimate World War memorial next to the old town hall “The Glorious Dead – 1914-1918, 1939-1945” I paid my respects.
  • Quite a few old colonial buildings – a town hall and town hall square. We could have been in Leicester!!! (Except for the humongous skyscrapers either side)

Now I know that to most of you, I probably sound ridiculous and these are really trivial, small things. However when you have gone almost half a year without being able to enjoy familiar tastes, see familiar people, speak ‘proper’ english (not have to call it ‘soccer’ or trousers – ‘pants’ etc…) and / or enjoy hardly any remnants of home, we appreciated the smaller things that we’d previously always taken for granted. We really did cherish them. I totally agree with the notion that you appreciate things a heck of a lot more when you can’t have them.

Much better than Korean school lunches

We spoke to a few other Brits who were visiting Asia for the first time. I found it ironic that for them they were experiencing ‘culture shock’ and in awe at how different it was, for us we were having a welcome dose of home!

We even brought an ‘I *heart* HK’ t-shirt each. Amelia wanted both of us to wear these matching t-shirts proudly around HK on our final day, but in an effort to preserve my ‘lad’ status, I refused.

We loved Hong Kong. We only had a couple of days there, only having time to do the main touristy things but it was magnificent. It’s nowhere near as intimidating or overwhelming as Seoul or Tokyo. It’s SO much easier to find your way around, people didn’t push into queues and it seemed a lot more laid back and chilled in comparison to the other two.

I’m going to finish off with a quote from our friend Becca’s blog, as her and Ryan also visited HK. She couldn’t have summed up our feelings towards the place any better “We concluded that it would be super awesome and super easy and super exciting to live in HK. Especially after Korea. We congratulated ourselves for surviving in Korea so far.”

Next stop – Malaysian Borneo

My new favourite city - after Leicester of course
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