14 Jan 2017 No Sleep Until Stunning Hong Kong
No Sleep Until Stunning Hong Kong
Hong Kong. Whether it was the countless peaks, the urban jungle, or something else altogether, the city reminded me of an old friend, a place I’d been many times before.
For too long, I saw intercontinental travel as something that was overly pricey and out of reach. But, with a bit of digital legwork and the cabin fever that accompanied the end of that 2016 winter, I finally left North America.
On my way over to the humid coast of southern China, I was impressed by the never-ending mountains of Alaska and Russia. With a layover at Narita Airport in Japan, I was also able to see Mt. Fuji from the plane, hiding behind a veil of clouds, and the Tokyo skyline in the distance—and then it was off to Asia’s World City.
Upon arrival, a wordless immigration officer passed over my landing slip, I stepped onto an MTR train bound for Kowloon, swiped my Octopus card, climbed into a taxi, and somehow managed to find the right hotel. Hours later, I was headed to Kowloon Walled City Park, where the infamous enclave has since been replaced with gardens and waterfalls. However, the site retains its remarkable history and offers visitors a respite from the hustle and bustle against the backdrop of impressive architecture. The rest of the day was spent meandering along Nathan Road and beside flamingos at Kowloon Park, among other diversions.
Every night at 8 P.M. (well, almost), a laser show lights up Victoria Harbour. Comically, my first attempt to observe the display was thwarted by Earth Hour, an eco-conscious campaign which takes place once a year and shuts the lights off to raise energy conservation awareness. I couldn’t help but laugh at how I keep finding myself in these situations and return for a more successful try 24 hours later to watch the junk boats drift in a sea of colors.
After crossing Victoria Harbour through an underwater tunnel the next morning, I found myself surrounded by towering buildings at Happy Valley Racecourse. Although no horse racing would take place on this day, various sports were underway in the infield. However, it was time to continue on, and at this point, searching for taxis had become a sort of pastime. Fortunately, all the drivers I came across were approachable, spoke English, and charged far less than what I was used to stateside.
While planning the journey, I’d been obsessively eyeing wave forecasts and trying to decide whether or not to include surfing in the plans. As someone who regularly surfs Lake Michigan, I’m used to catching waves in unexpected places and Hong Kong would be no exception. From what I gathered, March could be a bit hit-or-miss, but everything came together the day before I left. Located on the eastern side of Hong Kong Island, Big Wave Bay offered rideable surf and hours of fun. Plus, the lineup was filled with friendly locals and there were a handful of shops to rent boards from (with very reasonable rates as well).
When it comes to the outdoors, Hong Kong doesn’t disappoint. With an abundance of hiking trails, islands, and protected areas in the region, travelers will have no problem leaving the busy streets behind, thanks in part to extremely convenient public transportation. During my short stay, I hardly scratched the surface.
The trip was perfect, at least in my book, since the minor flaws only gave it character. You know, the complimentary cockroach trying to hide when you enter your cheap room for the first time at one-something a.m., the building’s alarm waking you up the following night after you finally start to get some real sleep. I’ll never forget the smell of incense burning in alleyways, the trees with massive root systems, or the lofty skyscrapers, but above all—the welcoming and helpful people.
Flying out, I noticed the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge under construction, a reminder of constant change. I was already missing the city and wondering when I’d make it back.
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