Before heading to Asia, friends gave me lists of things to do in Hong Kong and told me how much I’d love it. Well, I have to admit, Hong Kong and I got off on the wrong foot. Coming out of the subway into the sweltering heat and massive crowds, trying to find my way around, I felt like bursting into tears. I had just left my sister in Macau and was feeling a little teary-eyed to begin with. As I made my way along the sidewalk, squished like a sardine, I was completely overwhelmed by all the pushing and shoving just trying to get down the street. The Canadian in me found myself constantly apologizing as I was bumped from one person into the next. The smells, the crowds and the overall confusion of trying to make my way to my hostel had me hating Hong Kong before I really gave it a fair chance.
When I finally made it to my hostel, I dropped my bag and tried to go out and explore Causeway Bay on foot, the way I always start out in a new city. But I soon found myself back at my hostel, half wanting to tuck myself into my third-level bunk and call it a day. However, the traveler in me prevailed and I set back out, determined to make my way to the ferry docks. Thankfully, the metro system in Hong Kong is easy and English-friendly and soon I was on my way.
After paying my $2.80 HKD (for a weekend crossing, $2HKD for a weekday one) I boarded the Star Ferry, one of Hong Kong’s most famous attractions, for a ten-minute cruise across Victoria Harbour to Kowloon just after sunset. Staring out at the water and back at the bright lights of the Hong Kong skyline, all my earlier frustrations vanished, and I saw what everyone was talking about – a truly vibrant place full of life, lights and history.
After disembarking, I found a place near the old clock tower to sit. I looked across at the bright lights of Central and Wan Chai, taking it all in before wandering to the water along the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade next and following the ‘Avenue of the Stars.’
Here, you can find the history of what was once a dynamic film industry in Hong Kong and see statues of film directors and the names of stars. There’s even a statue of kung-fu legend, Jackie Chan.
Making my way back to the ferry, stopping for postcards along the way, I was reminded that being in a foreign country can be stressful – even for someone like me, who prides myself on loving the unknown and enjoying the chaos of struggling to make my way on my own both at home and abroad. However, persevering when you’d rather curl up and cry usually leads to something awesome.
I only had about 30 hours in Hong Kong and was now determined to make the most of my time, regardless of the heat and crowds.
The following morning, I made my way to the HSBC building, a stunning 53-storey building filled with glass and lights that, at the time of completion, was the world’s most expensive building, costing over US$1Billion! Guarding the main entrance are Stephen and Stitt, two bronze lions named after former bankers, who have been there since the bank was built in 1935.
You can still see the bullet holes from when the Japanese used them for target practice during the occupation.
The next stop of the day was a ride on the Peak Tram up to the top of Victoria Peak, the highest point in Hong Kong at 522m. ($40HKD for tram only or $75HKD for access to the 428 Sky Terrace.) On the way up, the tram runs almost vertically alongside the high-rises nearby.
At the top of Victoria Peak is a market filled with souvenirs, from panda bracelets to postcards, magnets, mirrors and fans. Up here, you can also find fancier shopping and gourmet restaurants, as well as Burger King and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, or even tour Madame Tussauds!
The view from the top is incredible and the extra money to go to the 428 Sky Terrace, where you can take photos from above the glass, was worth it. From here, you can watch the tram run up and down and look out over the city and the water below. The views in Hong Kong really are incredible.
A short walk from the Lower Terminus of the Peak Tram is Hong Kong Park. On a hot summer day, the shade and water fountains may be your reason for venturing in, but with an aviary, artificial ponds, a man-made waterfall, Olympic park, wedding registry and numerous fountains, you’ll easily be able to kill a few hours roaming the eight hectares.
Feeling slightly more sure of myself and my ability to walk around this crazy place, I decided to try and make my way back to Causeway Bay on foot. Along the way, I came across Pak Tai Temple and a large outdoor market filled with everything from fish to purses, clothing and friendly stall-owners making small talk as I wandered through.
This bustling city and I may have gotten off on the wrong foot, but by the time I was once again packing up my backpack to head to the airport, I realized something. In my 30 hours in Hong Kong, I’d barely scratched the surface, and will definitely need to make my way back!