Wednesday, January 28, 2009

the many faces of Hong Kong

Tonight is my last night in Hong Kong. Early tomorrow morning I will begin the epic trip from here to Hanoi. I say "epic" because I of course could have flown directly from Hong Kong to Hanoi with minimal hassle but at maximum expense... to the tune of $400. Being the thrifty backpacker I am, I decided to opt for another route in which I will make a 24-hour journey that will incorporate the use of Hong Kong's fabulous MTR system, an airport minibus, a flight closer to the China/Hanoi border and another one of my beloved overnight trains.

I'm a little nervous because I feel like I've sort of eased into the whole backpacker thing so far, staying first with relatives in Beijing who know the city and speak the language, then sticking with touristy areas like Shanghai/Xi'An/Hangzhou and then the ridiculously-easy-to-navigate Hong Kong, where everyone speaks English and I feel like I'm in a cleaner version of New York or Toronto (albeit one that has more dumplings and noodles)... but starting tomorrow, the Southeastern portion of my adventure begins. Vietnam! Cambodia! Thailand! Countries where everything is cheaper but nothing is quite as reliable! Scams and danger lurk around every corner! (did you guys ever watch Duck Tales growing up? d-d-d-danger lurks behind you... there's a stranger out to find you!! ok random sorry)

Before we get there, however, a few last thoughts on Hong Kong. In my 2.5 days here I've had mixed feelings about Hong Kong. Part of me misses the adventure of traveling in mainland China, but another part (a larger part, if I'm being truly honest) is relieved to find the more familiar comforts of a large, cosmopolitan and well-established city. There were even several points at which I listed all the reasons why I could see myself being very happy living here -- to start with, you have a diverse and international population, all the excitement that comes with living in a major city, super easy and realiable public transportation, amazing food of all kinds, and free internet everywhere you look.

... did you read that last sentence? Because when I said free, I meant free. Here is a picture of people checking their email for free in the Central MTR station:

It has the famous-with-good-reason skyline (best seen at night), the longest escalator in the world (which I rode, and then got to the top and realized... crap... it doesn't go down), fabulous shopping bargains, and constant reminders of of the 100-year-long British presence... things I already knew about and expected of Hong Kong.

But what I didn't know is that Hong Kong is mostly made up of green spaces... hills, mountains, beaches, gardens, trees, long hiking trails, parks and gardens galore. Today was my indoctrination into that side of Hong Kong. I took the MTR out to Lantau Island and took a winding bus ride through the mountains, flying around hairpin turns and scaling steep roads to reach the famous Tian Tan Buddha near the Lin Po Monastery. I climbed up the 268 steps with hundreds of other visitors and meandered around the platform for quite some time, staring up at his serene face, looking out at the spectacular view and soaking in the sunshine. After a quick lunch of fish balls and chow mein (delicious), I went back to Hong Kong Island and took the bus over to Stanley (getting a glimpse of the beautiful Repulse Bay en route) to browse the market and stare out at the boats.

Whatever you want, this place has it. Seriously. If you don't believe me, check out the photos:

Boats near Blake Pier at Stanley:

View from top of Tian Tan Buddha platform:

Tian Tan Buddha, viewed from midpoint:

Hong Kong Island skyline at night, viewed from Avenue of the Stars:

One of many such signs:


  1. I love the skyline photo. Have fun on the next leg of your trip!

  2. i hope you picked up some cipro for your more exotic stops :) be safe!

  3. whoa...just saw this blog. way cool. how'd you decide to do this? and when do you get to korea? i'm quitting my job too, and thinking of hopping on free airforce planes around the world.

  4. ahhhh. love my birthplace. my parents lived in repulse bay when i was born. (nice life, right?) glad you got to see it. and isn't stanley great? did you get any good deals on placemats or silk or anything?

    if you end up working there i PROMISE to visit :-) good luck with the next couple legs of the journey. eat well!

  5. ahhh!!! everything looks amazing. you are a beast traveler...very impressed. can't wait until you come home.

    though dude, it's "d-d-d-danger, WATCH behind you..." i sort of watched ducktails everyday after school.