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 jalape√Īo 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 jalape√Īo.

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 РPhoto credit: Soundtrckk, Catedral Metropolitana de Xalapa, CC BY-SA 3.0

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Cofre de Perote volcano seen from Juarez Park in XalapaРPhoto credit: nAShE, Cofre de Perote desde Xalapa, CC BY 2.0

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Fried Jalapeno peppers – Photo credit:¬†Koffermejia,¬†Chiles xalape√Īos capeados,¬†CC 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 РPhoto credit: Jakuber, Warsaw at night, CC BY-SA 4.0

 

 

 

Sunday Special – Brisbane, Australia


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Brisbane at night РPhoto via Wikimedia Commons РPhoto taken and owned  By wirepic (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Brisbane is the capital city of the Australian state of Queensland and the third largest city by population in the country. A contemporary city that lies along the Brisbane River in southeast Queensland, it is a vibrant urban locale with plenty of activities to take part in. What can you expect in this sunny urban destination? It appears to me that there is so much to partake in that you’d have to schedule a rest day!¬†

Fancy a climb? How about heading up Story Bridge? Take a 2-hour climb to the top of this landmark bridge to take in amazing views of the city. After climbing and seeing the river you can go and play on it. Activities such as kayaking or standup paddle boarding are popular. You can also cross the river in a City Cat Ferry. ¬†Should you need a break from the hot sun then head to one of the numerous museums found around town. Notable ones include Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) which happen to be located beside each other. ¬†Another option is the Museum of Brisbane that showcases the history of Brisbane and a variety of exhibits. Meandering through South Bank will show you parks, restaurants, cafes, beaches, the Wheel of Brisbane, family-oriented fun, and cultural sights. ¬†A day away from the city can be accomplished with a visit to Moreton Island, a large sand island that is accessible via ferry. ¬†Rent a 4WD vehicle to traverse the sands across the island or sand toboggan down some dunes. You can take a dip in the Champagne Pools’ crystal clear waters or snorkel with marine life and see shipwrecks. Explore and see aboriginal cultural sites and World War I and II relics.¬†Hiking, surfing, ¬†beaches, and flora and fauna are part of the experience as well.¬†

I don’t doubt that Brisbane is a fun city with much to see and do. The above is only a short list of what I have found. I imagine that Brisbane is a great place to visit.

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South Bank and Brisbane Wheel – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned By Brisbane City Council (28 – South Bank Parklands) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Story Bridge Panorama

Story Bridge, Brisbane – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned By Cyron Ray Macey from Brisbane (-27.470963,153.026505), Australia (Story Bridge Panorama) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons