It’s a surprise to me that Hong Kong is now officially part of China – other than the street signs it really doesn’t even feel like I’m in Asia.
The buildings, streets, people and international food options are definitely more on the western side of things. No wonder this is a favorite destination for most foreigners!
This morning I had an early start and headed to Lantau Island which is easily connected by the amazing subway system. You can get through 3 stops in less than 5 minutes, that is how small this city really is! Lantau island is also home to the international airport along with Big Buddha. The islands of Hong Kong are quite mountainous. Hiking is a beloved activity here among the foreigners. I was told by a Hong Konger that they only like to watch movies and go shopping because they are too lazy for physical activity.
I got to Lantau well before the cable car to the site of Big Buddha opened so I took the bus that basically drove round and round up the mountain. Once I got to Big Buddha the entrance was closed as well, but that meant that this tourist trap was totally empty. After a leisurely stroll thru the temple the gates finally opened and I climbed the 100 something stairs to the biggest sitting statue. The view from the top is awesome and you could even see the cable cars.
Trying to find the cable car to head back down I stumbled through what seemed like ‘Buddha Village’, a man-made tourist town centered around the 360 cable car and Big Buddha. It was quite ridiculous and I felt totally out of place. How do you take a religious symbol, throw in a cable car and turn it into this touristic charade?
But of course I was giving into it as well, so I suppose unfortunately this sort of stuff does work. But really, this village part can be avoided.
This was my first time riding solo in a cable car and it was quite the experience. Just like in Taiwan, this ride was through the mountains and you could see the ocean as well as the airport. At one point I also saw the planes basically flying at par to where I was and I was quite freaked out to move throughout the whole 15 mins the ride lasted. They also had a glass floor option for the cable car which I wouldn’t recommended if you have the same fear of heights as I do. This ride also goes over water!
After indulging in some shopping at the City Gate outlets which are located just outside the subway station on Lantau island, I headed back to Central to jump on a double decker bus towards the south part of Hong Kong island.
Due to the reclaimed land in the north, the coast is simply sludge. The south still has it’s original coastline and that is where all the beaches lie. The 30 min ride to Stanley was incredible! The bus takes you over mountains and back down to what seems like a seaside resort. From the top floor of the bus you can see the sun decks and swimming pools of the rich who reside in this part of town.
Stanley is a great getaway with small beaches and a nice market. It’s filled with tourists along with British styled pubs on the promenade. Stanley was once a fishing village which has now been turned into a waterfront paradise.
After a bit too much sun I jumped back on the bus towards the bustling north and took a stroll in Wan Chai where I was told the best Hong Kong style tea can be found. This was actually a let down because after my first sip I realized that Hong Kong style tea is actually the SAME as Tamil tea – the secret is to use evaporated or condensed milk! It makes it sweeter and creamier. It’s incredibly delicious but nothing new for my taste buds.
But Wan Chai is excellent because I had finally found a pocket in the city where I saw a traditional market, plus a whole lot of locals! People couldn’t understand English and for a minute I was reminded that yes indeed, I am in Asia.
But that was quickly changed back to foreign fest as I went out to check out the night life in Soho with my co-workers and host. I do love the choices for international cuisine in Soho but Lan Kwai Fong, the most well-known spot for nightlife is lined with pubs and foreigners galore who are overflowing onto the streets. Drinks are expensive in Asian standards and it’s SO easy to forget where you are.
Hong Kong is a lovely city but you do need cash to survive, and looks do seem to be pretty important. The usual backpacker look isn’t going to suffice unless you get off the island and head to the outlying islands where I hear people are content living in harmony with nature.