We only spent a week in Hong Kong (which I guess is a fair amount of time for a single city) but in that time I made quite a few observations about the city. This was our first Asia experience too, but it was very different to most of what we’d come to find in the rest of Southeast Asia.
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. Beers in a bar cost upwards of $50 – equivalent of over £4 in a London pub – and accommodation was also fairly expensive. But on the flipside, 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 in Kowloon 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.
Hennessy Road, the second road we stayed on on Hong Kong island, was busy and bustling on a smaller scale, with a neighbourhood atmosphere that you wouldn’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 actually, surprisingly, 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 what you’re there for. 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, with its close ties to the UK) 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.