So behind-the-scenes of all my traveling & fun living abroad lies the web of complicated paperwork and administrative details needed to legally stay there. Thus, as soon as my internship in Shanghai ended, I flew to Hong Kong for a week to get a different visa and re-enter China as a student. Hong Kong is semi-autonomous under the PRC’s administration, so entering Hong Kong is considered “leaving China”, and is visa-free for US citizens, making it a great place to go to update your China credentials.
I flew with Hong Kong airlines from Pudong airport, and was honestly really sad leaving Shanghai. But landing in HK, I gazed out the window at all the beautiful, green, hilly mountainous islands and the turquoise water, and instantly became really excited. Immigration was really overwhelming because of all the people, but once there, I refilled my Octopus Transportation Card and bought a temporary SIM card for data at 7-11 for only 70 HKD (~$10 USD). Then I took the really comfy Airport Express train to Hong Kong Central, and the MTR to my Airbnb in Sheung Wan. So my first impressions of Hong Kong were: 1) beautiful & 2) convenient.
My Airbnb for the week was a shared studio apartment, and it was honestly a great experience! I shared the room with an American guy & a French guy, and we would all chat about our days and share snacks. It was fun having some new friends in HK, and it made the little studio feel like a small home.
Day 1: Hong Kong Island
After a brief rest, I went out to explore! I first stopped at Man Mo Temple to look around & take some photos. It smelled wonderfully like incense from all the coils on the ceiling and had very peaceful vibes. Then, I continued my walk to stop at Lan Fong Yuen for their famous milk tea & pork buns. So good & so cheap. Continuing my walk again, I realized how hilly & crowded Hong Kong’s streets are. I eventually found the Peak Tram – a funicular that takes you all the way to the top of Victoria Peak – and began a horrible nightmare among the hordes of tourists, waiting 2 hours to be shoved on the tram up to the Peak, which was equally crowded at the top. So definitely not worth it in my opinion. I couldn’t even get a good photo, or breathe for that matter. Everything was expensive, and people were really pushy and annoying. When I went to take the tram back down, the line was just as long, so I ended up taking a taxi back to Central. After unsuccessfully wandering the International Financial Center in hopes of finding suitable food for dinner, I ended up at a hip northern Thai restaurant in Sheung Wan called Chachawan, which totally salvaged my day. Good food always cheers me up.
Day 2: Relaxation in a Typhoon
So I had hoped to take a trip to Macau, but I woke up to pouring rain and discovered there was another typhoon warning – so no ferries to Macau. Then I googled “what to do in HK in the rain,” and got some great suggestions including afternoon tea, shopping, and massages. I went back to sleep for awhile, and eventually made my way to tea at Cafe Grey Deluxe in the Upper House in Central. Although it was a little tricky to find, I was not disappointed. I sat by the window with an amazing view of Victoria Harbour and the tea seat was so yummy. I stayed there for a few hours just munching, enjoying the view, and eavesdropping on a young HK couple next to me. Then, I went to get a foot massage. I booked it online using an app, and only paid $8 for the hour long massage. I had never gotten a foot massage before & didn’t know what to expect, but it was very thorough, and at times painful, but still relaxing. All in all, I had quite the relaxing day and felt much more refreshed.
Day 3: Getting my Visa & Wandering in Kowloon
Early Monday morning, I made my way to the Commissioner’s Office of the PRC in Hong Kong — aka the place to go if you need China docs — which is located in the China Resources Building in Wan Chai. All in all, it was a really easy process. I filled out a paper application, took some new passport photos, and only had about 7 people in front of me. In total, it took less than an hour. With my paperwork processing, I took MTR across the harbour to Kowloon, getting off in Tsim Sha Tsui. My plan was just to walk around all day, but it was miserably raining again, so I made a few stops, eating breakfast of ramen noodles & toast, getting a coffee, and looking around in a mall. I ended up walking all the way through Mong Kok, then walked further north to try my luck getting a table at Tim Ho Wan — the world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant with famous dim sum. I had some delicious pork buns, pork & shrimp shumai, beef vermicelli wraps, egg cake, & noodles. Then eventually, I wandered to Sham Shui Po, then took MTR to Choi Hung for the sole purpose of taking photos for the ‘gram. I was super tired so spent the rest of the evening eating Thai food near our Airbnb & chatting with my roomies. Good times.
Day 4: Lantau Island
Again, I made my way to the Visa Office in Wan Chai pretty early in the morning to pick up my new visa! Mission to HK accomplished. From there, I took the MTR all the way to Tung Chung on Lantau Island, and got in line for the Ngong Ping 360 gondola. In line, I didn’t mind the waiting at first because I was so happy to see sunshine and the island breeze, but I grew more & more impatient as I realized how long the line actually was. I ended up waiting 2 hours, but I have to say, the view was worth incredible. The mountainous island was like something from a movie. Nevertheless, when I got off in Ngong Ping village, I wanted to get away from all the tourists. But I still took a quick lap to see the “Big” Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha) & the Po Lin Monastery. The scenery there was cool with the lush background and random cows strolling around peacefully just doing their thing. Then, I took the 23 Bus to Upper Cheung Sha beach. However, the driver told me he couldn’t stop at the place I wanted for some reason, so he kind of just let me off somewhere random nearby, and I walked up the road a ways until I found some steps leading down to the beach. The beach itself was extremely isolated — only a few other people there. The water, weather, and sand were so nice, although there was some trash on the beach. Nevertheless, I was so happy to tan on the beach and go in the water for a little. After a few hours, I walked back up the road to wait for Bus 11 to Tung Chung. After a while, Bus 11 rolled up, but was full so didn’t stop for me. Then me, being impatient, took Bus 1 which was right behind it, thinking/hoping it would eventually go to Tung Chung. I was wrong. It ended in Mui Wo — a super small fishing/ferry town that I had the unexpected pleasure of walking through at dusk trying to find Bus 3M to actually take me to Tung Chung. I eventually made it, took MTR back, ate some dinner in Sheung Wan, and ended my day of exploring Lantau!
Day 5: Central & Victoria Harbour
I started the day pretty late, and went for a Masala Chai latte at a cute place called Teakha in Sheung Wan. After that, I perused the antique market a few streets down, and stopped at Lan Fong Yuen again for more milk tea & pork buns. Then, I shopped & walked around Central before meeting my friend Lara for dinner at an Indian restaurant called Bombay Dreams, which was amazing. Indian food is supposed to be pretty good in HK, so I’m glad I got to try some. Then we rushed over to the pier in Tsim Sha Shui to catch our boat for the harbour light show. Our taxi driver told us the traffic going under the tunnel would be really bad, so he dropped us off at the Central Pier & we took the Star Ferry across, and made our boat ride just in time! The boat tour was really nice – we were among the 5 people on board (due to scattered thunderstorms, I suppose). The boat was a “junk boat,” so it felt like old-school Hong Kong, and being on the water was a cool experience in general.
Day 6: Causeway & Mong Kok
The last day in HK, and I had high hopes of going on a beach hike on the outer islands. In the end, I was too tired, and slept in really late. Then I went to Causeway Bay & waited an hour in line to eat at this Japanese pancake restaurant called Flipper’s, which was good, but I absolutely hate all the waiting in line in HK. After, I went to Mong Kok in Kowloon to meet Lara in her fancy hotel & go swimming at the pool there & relax. Later, we got sushi for dinner and did some last minute shopping at the mall there.
Hong Kong Impressions
SO my thoughts on Hong Kong. It was at times relaxing, but at times claustrophobic & confusing. I hated that there’s so many people, meaning lines for everything. On the other hand, I liked how accessible the city is by public transportation, and how close it is to nature, with so many things to do there. The food was also great, with a very different selection than in Shanghai. Yummy dim sum, Thai food, & Indian food. I tried to balance my sightseeing (which usually stressed me out) with relaxation (my tea, massage, & beach day), with general walking around (which was harder to do with confusing roads/stairs/hills). I really liked my Airbnb & neighborhood in Sheung Wan a lot. I felt like it was less crowded and more laid back with cute cafes and good food. And I loved Lantau Island. I wish I had done more hiking & beach excursions while there. I loved the sunny days when the weather was good, but I don’t feel like the city of Hong Kong is as beautiful as Shanghai. I felt like there were a lot of options & things to do in Hong Kong, but I just didn’t understand the vibe as much as Shanghai. There are some places you just vibe with and love, and for me, Hong Kong wasn’t one, although it’s still an incredibly interesting city, and I hope I’ll be back one day to explore it more. Now to Beijing!