Everything I Was Ever Told About Hong Kong Was A Lie!


Everything I was ever told about Hong Kong was a lie!!!!

Yes you read that correctly. I was lied to! LIED TO! 

Alright, melodrama aside – I wasn’t lied to, however, what I was told over the years by many is not the Hong Kong that I discovered through both research and on my recent memorable trip. Some of the things that were relayed to me were along these lines:

  1. There is not much to do in Hong Kong 
  2. It’s just urban sprawl, nothing but a concrete jungle
  3. You can see everything in 2 days 
  4. It has great designer shopping and fabulous food but that’s about it
  5. Everything is super expensive
  6. It’s so crowded, so many people (okay – that one is true though things run quite smoothly in Hong Kong it seems)

Hearing this is what that had me overlooking Hong Kong as a destination. Until recently I viewed it as place where I would pass through, staying only a few days while en route to another destination. It wasn’t until I decided to go away for a week in February that I even decided to look at it. I wanted to go somewhere that I could explore in a week without feeling like I was missing out on going elsewhere in the country.  A week in Japan seemed to rushed. Same with Cambodia. Maybe a European city? Nope. Not in mid-winter. And no resort sun destinations where I would inevitably have to fork over extra money for a single supplement, punishment for travelling solo. So on a whim I looked at some YouTube videos about Hong Kong as it met my initial criteria. I was surprised! There were many activities and sights that piqued my interest. I did further research and realized I was misinformed! I decided that Hong Kong was my next destination!!

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Hong Kong’s skyline at night – Photo taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World

So let’s address these misleading ideas that I had. Please note that this is based on my experience in Hong Kong.  I know others have different accounts and some have similar ones.  I will make another post of many of these places that I visited in a future post.

  1. There is not much to do in Hong KongNot true!! Museums, theme parks (Disney, Ocean Park), nightlife, hiking, markets, shopping, temples, discovering street art, sensational views, wandering neighbourhoods, dining, historical sites. So much!
  2. It’s just urban sprawl, nothing but a concrete junglePartly true! Hong Kong is a big city with a population of almost 7.5 million. It has a numerous skyscrapers, buildings of all types, an impressive public transit system, and all of this in an approximately 1, 100 sq km / 424 sq mile area
    1. What you may not know is that 40% of Hong Kong is parks and nature reserves. There are areas where you do not feel like you are in a city. Hong Kong is comprised of numerous islands with a substantial area that is separated from mainland China simply by the border. Not all of it is developed. Hiking and walking has become quite popular with several trails set up for all levels and nature is close by.
  3. You can see everything in 2 days No, you  can’t! You can see many of the major sights in 2 days especially if you plan well. But to see and do more you do need extra time. I had 6 full days and I did not see everything I had hoped to (I also went to neighbouring Macau for a day trip so more like 5 days)
  4. It has great designer shopping and fabulous food but that’s about itThere is more!! So much more. Yes, Hong Kong is a shopping haven and has even better food of every style of cuisine. No doubt about it yet there is so much more to this city.  Explore more! Isn’t that what travel is about? =)
  5. Everything is super expensiveMostly true! Hotels, designer shopping, drinks, some food, some tours and entrance fees can add up very quickly. Very quickly. Though there are hacks and ways to save money. Hostels are comparable to Europe though far less expensive than hotels. I don’t know about AirBnB or other options but worth a look. Shopping at markets is cheaper and you can find knock offs there too. Street food and some ‘mom and pop’ restaurants are more affordable and very tasty. The MTR (subway system) is inexpensive and runs like a well-oiled machine. I love the MTR! Star Ferry is even cheaper!
  6. It’s so crowded, so many peopleTrue! Very true though I put it on the list because despite the sheer density of the place I found it to run quite smoothly. Yes, traffic is heavy but which large city is it not? The MTR was crowded but it got me where I needed to go with great ease. Walking around I noticed places well marked. If I got lost it was due to my own horrible (and I mean horrible) sense of direction. If you can get used to being bumped into strictly due to the sheer volume of people then you can manage Hong Kong. And taking advantage of Skip The Line tickets and arriving EARLY can get you to the major sites with relative ease (otherwise expect to wait). 
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Nature along Lantau Island’s Wisdom Path and Lantau Trail – photo taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World

I have to say that Hong Kong did not disappoint. I was excited to see what I had learned in my research and discover on my own as well. Soon, after telling people about my forthcoming trip I was given some useful tips. Some by fellow travellers, others by expats. Bonus! I found it to be a city that was so easy to travel in. I know I’ll go back there as it still holds places that are undiscovered for me. 

Oh and guess what? There is a growing and tasty craft beer scene! Yay!! Good beer!

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Sunday Special – Xalapa, Mexico


We are nearing the end of the alphabet and are up to the letter “X”. Today we will go to the “birthplace” of the ever-popular jalapeño pepper: Xalapa(pronounced ha la pa) in the Mexican state of Veracruz. Yep, that spicy pepper has been cultivated  in this highland state capital since the Aztecs. Used widely in its cuisine this mighty pepper has left its impact on the city (and the world). Though there is more to see and learn about than just the jalapeño.

The state of Veracruz is rather hot and humid though due to the higher elevation of Xalapa it has escaped the searing heat, offering cooler temperatures. It is located below the now extinct Cofre de Perote volcano, approximately 101 km / 63 miles northwest of town of Veracruz. Being in such a location gives it its milder temperature and at times brings about abrupt weather changes. Although a sprawling city with no seeming logic to its layout  and notable traffic congestion it is still considered by many to be a very attractive city. Culture thrives here with many forms of music, art, theatre, and history. Street art and performing musicians thrive alongside anthropological museums and classical symphonies throughout the city. Fine dining and trendy bars are in abundance. As a university city the has a pulse all its own. This Mexican city does seem to be a great place to get lost in. Wander on!

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Xalapa Cathedral or Catedral Metropolitana de la Immaculada Concepción de Xalapa – Photo credit: SoundtrckkCatedral Metropolitana de XalapaCC BY-SA 3.0

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Cofre de Perote volcano seen from Juarez Park in Xalapa– Photo credit: nAShE, Cofre de Perote desde XalapaCC BY 2.0

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Fried Jalapeno peppers – Photo credit: KoffermejiaChiles xalapeños capeadosCC BY-SA 4.0

Sunday Special – Warsaw, Poland


The thriving and growing capital city of Poland, Warsaw is truly a phoenix that has grown from the ashes. Its history of various takeovers and rulers goes back to the 1500s. More recently it has endured the onslaught of  WW II’s decimation of it’s Jewish population, the suffering of those in concentration camps, and the demolition of nearly 85% of it’s buildings. Then came the communist regime under the Soviet Union until 1989. Today, Warsaw has emerged with increased growth and livability earning itself the moniker of Phoenix City.  It is a vibrant and eclectic mix of commerce, culture, tourism, architecture, sports, and lifestyle. It continues to grow and expand in areas of media, research and development, information and technology, and much more. Not only that, it is a city with  some of the highest number of skyscrapers within the E.U. and it’s historic Old Town of Warsaw is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I have to say, this amazing city has just moved up on my bucket list!

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Warsaw’s historic Old Town – Photo credit: Ben Bender, Warsaw Old Town, Warsaw, Poland – panoramio (75)CC BY-SA 3.0

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Warsaw skyline at night – Photo credit: JakuberWarsaw at nightCC BY-SA 4.0

 

 

 

Hong Kong Highlights


Hello from Hong Kong. I’ve been here four nights and have a precious two more left. This has been a trip like no other. Two hours before leaving to come here, after clearing security at Vancouver, I received some very worrisome news. Needless to say trying to enjoy myself was weighed down with concern. Though the newness of this destination proved to be a good distraction albeit slightly tainted. Fortunately the best possible outcome occurred and I have relaxed and enjoyed this world class city. And for someone who is not fond of hot humid weather coming here in winter has proven to a bonus for me. I had hoped it would have been sunny as in weeks prior but the clouds decided to stay. The rain fortunately has been staved off.

Once at home I will write about my impressions of Hong Kong. In meantime, here are some photos of my time here.

All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders the World

View from Victoria Harbour

View of Victoria Harbour (Kowloon side)

Victoria Harbour

 

From Victoria Peak

View from the Sky Deck at Victoria Peak – a stunning view despite the clouds

Incense burning at Man Mo Temple

Offerings of incense at Man Mo Temple

Incense coils at Man Mo Temple

These are coils of incense hanging from the ceiling at Man Mo Temple

Crystal bottom cable car enroute to Lantau Island

Glass bottom cable car taking me up to the Big Buddha on Lantau Island

Arch at Lantau Island

Archway by Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island

Big Buddha on Lantau Island

The Big Buddha on Lantau Island

Temple at Po Lin Monastery

One of several temples at Po Lin Monastery

Clock Tower

The Clock Tower at Victoria Harbour (Kowloon side)

Star Ferry - a longtime icon of Hong Kong

Star Ferry – I took a harbour tour with them

Trams a.k.a Ding Dings

I took a ride on one of Hong Kong’s tram cars – referred to as Ding Ding’s by the locals

Pottinger Street

Pottinger Street

Market stalls in Mong Kok neighbourhood

Fa Yuen Street Market in Mong Kok neighbourhood

Fish for sale at the Goldfish Market

Goldfish for sale at the Goldfish Market in Mong Kok 

One stall of numerous ones at the Flower Market

Mandarin plants for sale at the Flower Market in Mong Kok

 

Bruce Lee statue at the Garden of the Stars

Bruce Lee! One of the statues at the Garden of the Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui neighbourhood

 

Tomorrow I am off to Macau!