When you talk about Hong Kong, you have to talk about Hong Kong like it is it’s own country. Even though the British gave back Hong Kong and Hong Kong Island back to the Chinese government in 1997, Hong Kong is very much different than the rest of China. Hong Kong operates under the “One Country, Two Systems.” This basically guarantees the people of Hong Kong will not be messed with economically or politically for the first 50 after Great Britain left in ’97. Needless to say, they have their own culture and their own flag to match.
I visited Hong Kong when I was backpacking East Asia in 2013. I was leaving Cambodia and traveling to Beijing when I decided I wanted to stop off in Hong Kong for a few days to see about getting a new suit and to see if the Hong Kong replicas are all they’re cracked up to be. I flew into Hong Kong international airport, which is unlike anything i have ever seen; it’s essentially its own island.
After grabbing my bags, the hotel I booked laid out a convenient bus route to take me from the airport to the hotel. The buses that service the airport are almost all red double-decker buses, just like the ones in Britain. It was about a 30- to 40-minute bus ride, but it was definitely worth it. The bus takes you up along the side of the mountain so that you can get a great view of Hong Kong, Victoria Harbour, and Hong Kong Island. The waterways are filled with hundreds and hundreds of boats ranging from fishing boats to oil tankers. It’s really unlike and other port I’ve ever been to. As I got deeper into the city, the streets became very densely populated and came to life with upscale fashion, electronics, and noodle shops that literally went on for miles.
The hotel I was staying at was called Chungking Mansions, and it is right in the center of Kowloon. Kowloon is the peninsula across Victoria Harbour from Hong Kong Island and is the epicenter for entertainment and shopping on the mainland side. The “mansions” I was staying in were anything but luxurious. The mansions are closet-sized, single rooms located above a multitude of electronics stores, clothing wholesalers, and replica watch hustlers. But, considering the location, it was a good deal at only $30 a night.
Surprisingly though, it was pretty quiet in my room. There were only three showers on the whole floor. And when I mean shower, I mean a one-person toilet room with a shower nozzle mounted on the wall above the toilet, a drain on the ground, and a glass folding door with the light switch in the hallway. I wasn’t complaining though; I was backpacking and was just happy to have a room to myself.
I cleaned up and then proceeded to head out and see the sights. As I was walking out of the building, I was approached by multiple men who were trying to sell me replica watches out of a catalog. I came to Hong Kong because I wanted to see if they really had the best replicas, so I asked one of the guys if he had Audermars Piguet and Patek Philippe watches and he said he did. Next thing you know, I’m two blocks away, on the 15th floor of some building in a Pakistani apartment with no windows, browsing through watch catalogs. Let me tell you now, the replicas in Hong Kong don’t live up to the hype. Every watch I picked they either wanted way too much for or the quality was far from par. Maybe I am a connoisseur for high-grade replicas, but I had just seen better quality and for a quarter of the price in Cambodia the day before. Once I evaded that situation, I then went in pursuit of a world-famous Hong Kong tailored suit.
Many of the streets are lined with custom suit shops, so it won’t take long to find one. As I looked through the shops, I saw high quality suits at high prices. I was under the impression that you could come to Hong Kong and get a beautiful suit for cheap. They do have quality, but I believe they overcharge on the price because they know they hype too. I had just purchased two gorgeous suits a week prior in Bangkok that was a fraction of the price of Hong Kong. The remainder of the afternoon was spent getting lost on the back streets and hopping from noodle shop to noodle shop before I headed out for St. Patrick’s Day. I can honestly say that the best noodle restaurant in all of Hong Kong is located at 17 Lock Rd, one block over Nathan Rd. in Kowloon. I ate at this restaraunt at least twice each day I was there. I can’t pronounce the name of the restaurant, but I have provided a picture and GPS location (22.297440, 114.171475). The restaurant is on the second floor with a street-level entrance.
Next to my hotel was a really nice authentic-looking Irish pub. So what better way to spend St. Patrick’s Day than in an Irish Pub? Well, after I found out they were charging $10 for a pint of Guinness, I said, “Hell, if I’m going to pay $10 for a beer, I might as well go to the top of the International Commerce Centre (ICC) building.”
It is the tallest building in Hong Kong, and they have a beautiful bar at the top. As I was walking to the ICC building, I saw multiple parks with people practicing Tai Chi. The parks in Hong Kong have people practicing Tai Chi and meditation all day and all night. I eventually reached the ICC and took the elevator to the 108th floor that opened up to a spectacular upscale bar and a 360 degree view of the whole city.
After a few Guinnesses, I decided to head to Hong Kong Island to see what it had to offer. I took the subway under the harbour and popped up just around the corner from the main street where all the bars were located. After popping my head into a couple of pubs I met some German guys who were hopping around to and asked if I’d like to join. Naturally, I said yes.
We were on our way to another pub when there was a tidal wave camera crew and photographers. Apparently, these people were filming a reality show in Hong Kong, and somehow I got wrapped up in the scene. After my ten seconds of Hong Kong fame, my new friends and I caught a cab back Kowloon where they were also staying and where I would ultimately turn it in for the night.
The next morning, I was headed to Macau with my new friends. But before I met up with them, I decided to go meditate at one of the many parks in the city. Then I headed down to Victoria Harbour where they have a Hong Kong movie Walk-of-Fame and a statue dedicated to Bruce Lee. I then caught up with my friends and took a hydrofoil ferry to Macau.
When we got back that evening, I split off to go see the world-famous Victoria Harbour light show that happens every night on both sides of the harbour. If you ever go to Hong Kong, it is a must see on the to-do list. The show goes on for about ten minutes, and every building (no matter how big or small) is lit up with lights that operate in sequence to the music being projected.
After the light show, I went shopping for a little while and then turned it in because the next day I was catching a flight to Beijing. Hong Kong is a place unlike any other. It’s similar to New York, but with a culture and outlook that sets it apart from any other city I’ve visited in Asia or the world. I very much enjoyed my time in Hong Kong and look forward to coming back to see some of the many sites that I missed, but for the short time I stayed, I couldn’t be happier.