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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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!

Sunday Special – Naoshima Island, Japan


Art aficionados, you may want to add this place to your list. Set in the Seti Inland Sea, the small Naoshima Island of approximately 3,000 residents is filled with museums and outdoor modern art installations. A change of pace from Japan’s city life, a small journey via train and boat to this unique island may be an ideal getaway. 

Once a place of dying industry, it’s revitalization came about mainly because of the Benesse Corporation working to set up museums and buildings, many by architect Tadao Ando. Today there are numerous art collections and museums that make it a great place to wander about outside and indoors. Some of the collections are:

  • Art House Project – Abandoned houses found on the eastern portion of the island that have been converted into art or venues housing art
  • Benesse House – A main museum on the island, this not only has art housed within its walls but outside as well
  • Chichu Art Museum – An underground museum with natural light flowing in from above, it was designed to use the light from nature to showcase its art. Paintings by Walter De Maria, Claude Monet, and James Turrell are housed here
  • I♥YU Sento (Bath House) – Unwind with a leisurely soak amidst artwork created by Shinro Ohtake

  • Individual art projects around the island such as a collection of mini Buddhas, the large welcoming Yellow Pumpkin and the Red Pumpkin (both by Yayoi Kasuma), and the Three Vertical Square Diagonal (by George Ricky).

This art island strikes me as a place to explore and wander at a slow pace, taking in modern interpretations of art. Not a bad way to spend a day or two.

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Red Pumpkin by Yayoi Kasuma – Naoshima Island, Japan – Photo credit: KimonBerlin, Red Pumpkin – Yayoi Kusama (8953340449), CC BY-SA 2.0

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One of the Art House Projects, Naoshima Island – Photo is Public Domain

 

My Top 5 Man-Made Sights


Last month I posted about My Top 5 Cities to Wander. This month my Top 5 is about man-made places or things. These places or works of art hold a special place in my memories, my heart, and bring a smile to my lips.

  1. Michelangelo’s Slave and Bound Slave, Louvre Museum (Paris) – I have never been more captivated by art than these two unfinished statues. They are complete by being incomplete. I do not know how Michelangelo did it but there is feeling, emotion in those statues. I have seen them three times and still my heart stops each time. 
  2. Eiffel Tower, Paris – Anyone who knows me, knows I love this building. It was among the first iconic buildings I had seen when I first visited Europe and has been imprinted on my heart ever since.  I have been to the top twice, once on my birthday where I drank sweet sweet champagne with my sister and friends.  If I had never seen Michelangelo’s Slaves this building would be number one.
  3. Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur – The circular and geometric designs of its spires and the walkway them give them a unique look.  I learned of them shortly after they were built I had wanted to view them for myself ever since.  They did not disappoint. I think they are most beautiful lit up at night against the backdrop of the dark sky and city lights
  4. Taj Mahal, India – I had wanted to see the Taj Mahal since I was a child. For a short span of years I thought I may never see and tried to downplay its importance, that it could not be that spectacular.  Silliness really. Yet I did make it to Agra. A hot, humid and crowded experience that was all shed to the side when I finally saw the splendour of this magnificent building. It stands majestically and rightly so.
  5. Pagodas of Bagan, Myanmar – There are so many things I could put for number five. Yet the pagodas throughout Bagan are the first I think of. The entire area astounds me with the sheer amount of pagodas to be found. I loved wandering through the back roads on my scooter and viewing the beauty and importance of these buildings  to the people. 

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

 

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Michelangelo’s talent is breathtaking

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Gustave Eiffel’s treasure to Paris.

Petronas towers

Those brightly shining Petronas Twin Towers.

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The Taj Mahal, a labour of love.

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One of the numerous pagodas in Bagan