1. It’s busy
I know, I know. It’s a city and it’s a given. But it is BUSY. Like, the closest I’ve got to this busy is New York. And this is probably more like Tokyo-level busy in places.
2. The prices don’t make sense
I knew HK wouldn’t be cheap. But beers in a bar cost upwards of $50 – equivalent of over £4 in a London pub. Accommodation was also fairly expensive. But we had a great, quick meal for $27 (about £2) each, and getting the Star Ferry between Kowloon and Hong Kong island costs $2.50 (20p). What is that about!?!
3. I preferred Hong Kong island to Kowloon
This surprised me. I’d read that HK is the real city part with business districts and most of it is on a hill. Nathan Road is the epicentre of chaos and a backpacker haven just a few minutes from the harbour, Star Ferry, Symphony Of Lights, Avenue Of Stars… but to me, Nathan Road is just full of shops, little restaurants, flashing lights and men trying to sell you watches. Hennessey Road, the second road we stayed on, was busy and bustling on a smaller scale, with a neighbourhood atmosphere that you don’t expect. Two streets away you can find a whole host of bars and clubs, plus you can get to Central for plenty more, without having to catch the MTR or ferry. Shops and restaurants feel more local and though busy, it has less urgency about it.
4. Some of the big attractions are over commercialised
This is to be expected to an extent. But Victoria peak tram arrives in the MIDDLE OF A SHOPPING CENTRE. Big Buddha is surrounded by a twee little village filled with souvenir shops, Starbucks, Italian ice cream and Subway. It felt like we had stepped into Epcot at freaking Disney World. That said, both attractions are 100% worth the money and it’s quite easy to dismiss the commercialism and concentrate on the real things. It was simply very odd.
5. It’s a really cool city with quirks
There were things I liked, there were things I didn’t like. I didn’t fall in love with it and that might have been mostly down to the weather, but it’s a really great place to visit. There’s just enough to do, and plenty of cafés and restaurants to soak up the atmosphere. You’ll see ducks and geese hanging up in most windows, the strangest thing I saw was a stall full of baked seahorses, and a lot of places don’t really speak English at all (which surprised me) but it was still easy to get by. You can go to the races, you can visit a huge aquarium theme park, there’s a Disneyland, and there are a LOT of high buildings.
I’m so glad we spent some real time there as it was good to experience so many different sides of Hong Kong. I’d recommend trying to stay on both sides of the city as they both have a lot to offer in their own way.