Monday, 27 February 2017

Crossing from Asia to America - via Hong Kong

Hong Kong: 23/02/17 - 27/02/17

The last step of our Asian adventure...

So after a brilliant 6 or so months in Asia, our last destination was somewhat forced upon us. After months of checking for the cheapest/best flights across the Pacific, we finally settled on a flight from Hong Kong to Chicago. We knew it was risky going to the Windy City in the middle of Feb, but it was nearly double to fly to the west coast as we'd previously planned. Hong Kong was also the cheapest place to fly from, so that was that. 

We thought it'd be cool being able to explore HK for a few days, but as we soon discovered it's a pretty expensive city. It's one of the most expensive places in the world for buying property, so with that comes expensive hostels, and everything else. As was also explained to us, you can rent a cage in a flat to sleep in, which comes with a shared kitchen and bathroom, and which costs roughly the same as a flat to rent in Cardiff. We had looked at hostels in HK, but the cheapest (at 15 quid a night for a double) was in the middle of one of the most densely populated parts of the city, and we were told was not a place you wanted to stay. We also walked past it one day and it looked incredibly dodgy. Therefore, we decided to continue Couchsurfing, as we found its the best way to meet new people, explore an unknown city and save some money! After sending 200 (no exaggeration) requests, we had one answer - from Amanda. She was our saviour, as we may have had to live in the airport if we'd had no answers! 

The difference between the buisness part and the old part of town

Amanda lived in a fairly quite part of HK which was nice. It was busy, but as we soon learnt, the main centre is crazy. You have the mix of huge skyscrapers and office buildings, and the old high rise apartments which are straight out of a Kung Fu movie. As Amanda had a busy schedule working in a hospital, most of the time we spent in HK we walked around of our own accord (going by some of Amanda's recommendations), but we did spend a day being shown round the older part of HK and having a brilliant food tour by our host! That was definitely the best part of our few days! 

As I'm fond of lists, bullet points, and not writing a lot (pretty much the opposite of Bob's writing style), heres a run down of what we did in our last stop is Asia: 

  • Avenue of Stars: This was pretty much a long avenue (as the name suggests), celebrating many different actors, actresses and singers from Hong Kong and around. There was a statue of Bruce Lee and a wall of handprints from many different celebrities/directors/actors (most of whom I didn't know). Part of the avenue was closed, but it was interesting to walk down. There's an especially nice view over the river of the Hong Kong skyline.
  • Star Ferry: This was another tourist attraction recommended to us. For very cheap you can get a very from mainland HK to the main island. The views are beautiful, and we took it at night as well which is even nicer as the skyline is incredible. 
Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, sky, bridge, skyscraper, outdoor and water
  • Victoria Peak: Yet another tourist thing to do, but again the views of the city are amazing. It took us about 2 hours / 1 1/2 hrs to reach the top (it's quite a tough climb but on a road). The walk was probably the best bit though, as at the top you meet the people (so many people) who took the tram up, and there's a huge mall. It kind of takes away from the great view, and they try to get all your money by charging you to get up to the observation deck. We just got some chips instead and looked out over the poor-persons view. We also did this hike the day we were leaving for the airport, in an effort to tire ourselves out for the 13hr flight/sleep in HK airport. 
  • Science Museum: We were entertained for hours in this museum. We didn't expect to spend long there, and for 2 quid we didn't think we'd get much, but we spent nearly 4 hours walking round marvelling at the dinasaurs (there was an interactive VR headset thing) and playing with the electricity exhibition.
  • Being generally amazed by all the buildings: As we're cheap and on a budget, most of the things we do are walk around and look at things. This was easy in HK as theres so much to see! The new, upmarket, buisness district is crazy with it's huge shiny skyscrapers, and very busy streets, Then just up the street you're taken into the more genuine HK - closely built highrise apartments, filled with people. The streets below are also filled with people, stalls, animals and cars, as well as tiny little cafes selling everything.
Image may contain: skyscraper, sky and outdoor
Those views though!! 

Our day with Amanda

This day definitely needs its own section, as we did a lot of cool stuff/ate a lot of good food. We started the day at a Michelin Starred Dim sum restaurant, which although had a big queue, was worth waiting for. We gorged on all types of dumplings and dim sum, and then took a walk around the streets of the older part of town. Amanda explained that every street 'has its own this'. So you get streets filled with people selling toys, aptly names Toy Street. There's one for clothes, shoes, tech and even animals. We spent a while gazing at all the kittens and puppies in the shop windows. Whilst walking around this part of the city, we also took a few stops to try more classic Asisan/HK/Chinese food. We tasted delicious pineapple bread (name due to how it looks like the fruit, not because it contains it) and tea, fried chicken, octopus balls (interestingly tasty), spicy curry skewers, mango pudding, bubble waffles and pork balls. Safe to say we were very full by the end of the day. 

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, foodTo attempt to walk the food off we also took a mini-hike to the top of a hill to watch the sunset. Unfortunately it was a bit too cloudy to see the sun, but we had a great time chatting and looking at the views. Before we went home, we took one last trip to some food stalls, and walked through a busy market street filled with old women dancing to classic HK music, as well as men dancing with dogs (?!).

We were very very grateful for the amazing tour and insight we had into the city with Amanda, and that she let us crash in her lovely apartment!

So our few months in Asia came to an end in Hong Kong airport at about 6am (after sleeping on the floor in said airport for about 5 hours). Well, we actually had a stopover in China but that doesn't count as it was a nightmare - nearly didn't make the Chicago flight as the queues for security were massive and the guard was messing around with my bag. We were very sad to leave this beautiful continent, as we'd had so much fun and seen so many things. It had been cheap, full of tasty food, and we'd met lots of great people. From navigating Indonesian mountains on scooters in the rain, to being overwhelmed in Delhi, to jumping into lagoons in Laos, we really didn't want to leave. But we were looking forward to the American half of our adventure and seeing old friends, and family! 

Sarah x

For more photos -- Instagram: wheres_halliday

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