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

Monday Sessions – Nepal


Today’s Monday Session is with Linda who I have known for a few years. In October of 2016 she travelled to Nepal and saw the top of the world. Linda shares with us her experiences seeing Everest from Base Camp and the people of Nepal. Thanks Linda!


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WTW:  You traveled to Nepal in October 2016. Why did you choose to visit?

Linda:  I decided to go to Nepal because I was in dire need of adventure and Nepal seemed to be the right place to go. They had the mountains, the culture and the diversity that I was looking for. After reading the book “Into Thin Air”, I became hooked on the fascination of humans climbing Mount Everest. I wanted to hear people’s stories and experience a small portion of the adventure. 

WTW:  That is a fantastic! You went with a tour company.   Which company was it and how did you find this form of travel? How long was the tour?

Linda:  I was in Nepal for just over 3 weeks and I went on a 14-day tour with G Adventures and I would absolutely recommend them.  This was my first time going on a “tour” and I feel like I experienced the hike in a way that I may not have been able to if I hadn’t had a local guide. While you can do the hike on your own, the local government highly recommend doing it with a guide for safety reasons and to help the economy. We had 2 guides, Nima and Tsering, and 4 porters. The guides have the answers to all of our questions, they kept us going at a great pace, and kept our spirits up when we were feeling the effects of the high altitude.  The porters were so amazing. They beat us to each stop by usually half the time and had our duffel bags waiting for us in front of our rooms as soon as we got there.  They didn’t speak much English, however we felt a bond with them instantly and we were all so grateful for their hard work. Towards the end of the hike, some of the trekkers couldn’t carry their own day-packs due to weakness and oxygen deprivation. Without hesitation and on their own time, some of the porters came back to assist some of the trekkers up to the next stop.

WTW:  What an experience. What surprised you the most in Nepal?

Linda:  This was my first time traveling by myself and what surprised me the most was how safe I felt.  Everyone in Nepal wanted to show you around and teach you about their culture and home.  Whenever I thought of Nepal I though of mountains, however, since going I realized that Nepal has a very rich culture to explore away from the mountains too.  I had also been told that the food was not great, however, I learned pretty fast that when people were talking about bad food, they were talking about the food on the trek. The food in the city was delicious. When I first arrived in Kathmandu, I dropped off my bags and went on a hunt for dinner.  My first meal was so delicious that after I made a conscious effort to eat somewhere different everyday and I was so happy I did. 

WTW:  Great to know. What is your fondest memory of this trip?

Linda: I have 2 memories that really stick out for me in regards to my highlights of the trip. The first is meeting a few other girls on the plane and being able to explore Kathmandu with them for a few days before I met up with the group tour.  I remember getting off the plane after traveling for over 30 hours and seeing the chaos of Kathmandu and wondering what the heck I got myself into.  We went to the Pashupatinath Temple on our second day.  This Hindu temple is very active and there were several ceremonies and cremation fires happening while  we walked along the holy Bagmati River. I wasn’t expecting to be able to witness these ceremonies and the whole experience was very humbling and spiritually enriching. Pashupatinath Temple is also home to several Sadhus, who are wandering holy men who have given up everything in their lives to practice their own spiritual journey in Hinduism.

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The second fondest memory would be meeting the Nepalese people living in the villages while we hiked. Their culture and energy  was so amazing. It really felt like I was out of my realm while walking through the little villages up to base camp. It was so fascinating seeing how they live at such a high altitude without any access to pretty much everything.  The people living in these villages have zero transportation and agriculture is very limited.  Everything is carried on their backs or by yaks. This also includes a lot of the food and supplies that they sell to the tourists.  I really realized how lucky we are to have so many simple luxuries that we take for granted here in Canada.

WTW:  Nepal suffered 2 devastating earthquakes in 2015.  From what you learned, how has that affected the Nepalese?

Linda:  The earthquakes have been quite devastating for Nepal.  What hurt me the most was when the Nepalese people would ask me to tell people back in Canada that Nepal is safe and to please come visit.  It was heartbreaking hearing their efforts to bring tourists back to their country just by word of mouth.  Many guides had reached out to past groups to try and get them to come back with friends.  In fact, a lot of the other tourists that I an into had been to Nepal already and they were visiting because they wanted to bring money into the country again.  Structurally, a lot of monuments and history have been lost forever.  Many homes are also still damaged.  When I asked what I could do to help, most of the locals recommended to just come to Nepal and give directly to the people.  The government distributed money to the people after the earthquake, however, it just wasn’t enough.  From what I understand, tourism in slowly increasing in the area since 2015 and I am seeing Nepal on a lot of blogs recently so hopefully the tourists will keep coming!

WTW:  That is heartbreaking yet glad to hear people are still wanting to travel there. What were you thoughts and feelings when you saw Mount Everest?

Linda:  Seeing Mount Everest was pretty amazing.  When people ask me to describe Everest I usually respond with “it was really, really big, every thing was just really big”.   Standing at base camp, I really understand the desire and the call to climb to the top.  I spoke to several locals who were Sherpas taking people to the top of Mount Everest and what fascinated me the most was how they were still amazed and humbled by the enormity of the mountain.  While us Westerners want to “conquer” everything, the Nepalese people are all about the journey.

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WTW:  I like that, being all about the journey.  Do you have any tips or suggestions for anyone considering travelling to Nepal?

Linda:   Nepal has been making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and reduce some of the plastic they use.  They are especially working on cleaning up the garbage along the hikes, where trekkers will drink a minimum of 2 litres of water a day, all out of plastic water bottles.  My suggestion would be to bring your own water treatment tablets so you can fill up your re-usable water bottle with tap water and then treat it yourself.  I hiked for 14 days and drank about 4 litres of water a day. The more water you drink the better your chances are for not getting altitude sickness and you also save the planet from 56 1-litre water bottles. Not bad!  Many of the trekkers were still buying water bottles regardless of the environmental impact, however I hope that people will think twice.

There are so many beautiful places in Nepal and so many locals who are willing to show you around.  I would explore Nepal solo in the cities however join a group tour for the hikes.  You can also find tours once you land in Nepal which are all very reputable.  Hiking is one of the main industries so they have it pretty down pact in regards to what they need to do to make it successful.  If you are not feeling a 2 week hike there are several other hikes you can do to experience the Himalayas.  A shorter but great hike is the Annapurna Base Camp trek which is done in  5- 7 days. The Nagarkot area is also very popular for trekking with many day hikes and overnight hikes available.  Nepal’s slogan is “once is not enough” and after going, I definitely understand what they mean.

WTW:  Those are great things to know. Thank you so much Linda for you time and for sharing your photos (all owned by Linda and used with permission). It’s great to learn so much about Nepal. It sounds incredible.

*Note: Wanders The World  or Linda are in no way affiliated with G Adventures and all opinions expressed are her own. 

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Sunday Special – Belize


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San Pedro Beach, Belize – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by Areed145 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Not long ago a couple friends spent some time in Belize and absolutely loved it. So I though I’d take a look at this small Central American country that does not have a Pacific Ocean coastline. Since it is on the eastern portion of Central America its shores are the Caribbean Sea with neighbouring countries of Mexico and Guatemala. Those shores are one of the big attractions to this locale. Beaches are plentiful along the seacoast as well as on the many islands found nearby. Ambergris Caye is the largest island and possibly the most well known.

So what are all the wonderful things to see and do in this adventure-packed country? Plenty from what I have garnered. Let’s take a look.

  • The plentiful and beautiful beaches, as mentioned above
  • Adventure sports such as zip lining, jungle treks and hikes, repelling and spelunking, caving, kayaking, and diving are yours to enjoy
  • Mayan history and ruins, many of which can still be visited. These include the impressive El Caracol and ceremonial site of Altun Ha
  • Marine and underwater activities – with the world’s second largest barrier reef and the impressive Great Blue Hole make it a haven for divers and snorkelers 
  •  Food! Try Creole Johnny Cakes for breakfast, some ceviche for lunch and rice and beans or conch for dinner

Belize sounds like it has plenty to offer! 

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UNESCO World Heritage Site, Belize’s Great Blue Hole – Photo via Wikimedia Commons: Public Domain

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Altun Ha Mayan Ruins, Belize – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Photo Credit: By The original uploader was Aquaimages at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons