EAT, PRAY, LOVE: 13 Things to Keep in Mind When in Hong Kong

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After years and years of having Hong Kong on my travel bucket list, I finally went ahead and booked my ticket and crossed it off the list. This August, I went on a two week vacation to Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo. Whoo hoo~

Nothing more urban than hitting the three largest East Asian metropolitans as a way to satisfy that year-long wanderlust. From airport to subway to the streets of Hong Kong, I was prepared to soak in all the hustle and bustle-- even if that meant sweating up a storm in the humidity.

So here are 13 thing to keep in mind when you visit Hong Kong

People. Everywhere.
1. If you think San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York are urban, wait till you visit Hong Kong. 7 million people packed into 427 miles of land. They are ranked #4 in the world’s most densely populated sovereign state or territory. So expect people everywhere, from the moment you land at the airport to when you take the MTR to your hotel.

Umbrellas are extremely common. Any shade is a blessing!
2. The humidity is on a different level. People don’t kid around when they say that you will sweat the moment you leave the AC (even if that means escaping the cold, but more on that later). When we were there, it rained our first night leading to cooler temperatures. But the day when we visited the Tian Tan Buddha, I kid you not, you could not tell the difference between me sweating and me being doused by a bottle of water.

Cause she's so highhhhhhh, high above me

It looks so tiny!

Alright. I take that back.

3. Tian Tan Buddha aka Big Buddha. Regardless of your religious belief, this bronze statue of Buddha is an impressive sight. Located up high at Lantau Island, it’s a popular tourist attraction as well as a must-visit for any Buddhists. We took the Ngong Ping 360 Gondola up to the Ngong Ping Village that leads up to the Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha. And for my boba lovers, a milk tea shop at Ngong Ping Village served the strongest milk tea I’ve ever drank in my life. The boba was lacking in texture, but the tea was ridiculously rich and strong. That bitterness twang was on a completely different level.

268 steps trek up!
It's not too bad if it wasn't so humid.
Finish and cool down with some silky tofu pudding. 
Heading back down~
You get a great view of the airport.
4. To battle the heat, people in Hong Kong blast on their AC. It seems counterintuitive to bring a jacket with you when it’s hot outside, but in reality, people carry a light jacket with them to survive inside the frigid sub-arctic malls, restaurants and stores. Otherwise, prolonged exposure between the wet heat outside and the freezing stores will get you sick.

Dim Sum is a must in Hong Kong

They don't mess around when it comes to breakfast.

Did Willy Wonka design this?

5. Any time. Any day. If you’re hungry, something is open. From high class dining to cheap street food, Hong Kong will cover all your bases and leave you stumped with what you should try first. I’m happy to say I got my craving from curry fishballs fulfilled. Some of the other eats while I was there included delicate, multicolored XLBs for all the adventurous eaters. Don’t look at the menu. Pick a color and guess the flavor. Rubbing shoulders with the locals while indulging on dim sum. A must when you’re in Hong Kong. Refreshing silken tofu dessert at the base of the Big Buddha. And how can you skip out on trying the local McDonald’s with items on the menu you can only find in Hong Kong?

"Crystal" from  Le Dessert Palais
6. If you’re a TVB buff like me when I was younger, you’d get a similar image when I mention Lan Kwai Fong. You think classy, stylish doctors and lawyers hanging out and grabbing a drink. Did I spot TVB? No. Doctors and lawyers? Maybe? I didn’t stay long enough to find that out. Head over here if you want to check out the bars and nightlife. After all, Happy Hour lasts till 10 PM or later. Unbelievable, right? And if you’re a woman walking around,  you’ll attract attention from the workers trying to entice you to enter their bar.

7. Where do you go for a breathtaking view of Hong Kong’s skyline and the harbor? You go to Victoria’s Peak and specifically right as the sun is setting to watch the lights go up. While you have the option to do the extra-touristy thing and take the tram up to the top, or you can skip the long line (stuck in the stifling hot humidity) and catch a taxi! The taxi driver will take you through the curving hills and up to the top at about HK$ 50-60. They have a mall up there for the shopaholics with a plethora of restaurants. For that picturesque panorama, head up to the Peak Tower for The Sky Tower 428 and fight your way to a prime spot for your photos.

8. For a closer look at the skyline, head down to Victoria’s Harbor. While you’re there, you can check out the Clock Tower in the Tsim Sha Tsui area. Apparently it’s the last remnant of the original site of the former Kowloon Train Station. And if you MUST shop, head over to Harbor City Mall. It’s a shopper’s paradise, decked out with high-end stores and apparently the largest mall in Hong Kong. Largest mall, but little to no seating to rest your feet. For weary travelers like my friends and I, we just hopped over to McDonalds when we need a break.

Mango soft serve. Bet you can't find that in America!

9. Along the Victoria Harbor waterfront is the Avenue of the Stars, also known as the Hong Kong equivalent of Hollywood Walk of Fame. Take a stroll away from the sun through the Starry Gallery and learn more about the Hong Kong movie industry and make your way up to the Garden of Stars. It’s still in renovation until when I was there (till 2018), but you can still see the handprints and signatures of famous celebrities like Jacky Cheung, Andy Lau, Leon Lai, Aaron Kwok (you see what I did there with those four?) Tony Leung, Eric Tsang and more. Take a picture with the Bruce Lee statue or my personal favorite: McDull!

Jacky's hand print. 

10. You gotta do this once when you’re in Hong Kong. Take the Star Ferry. It doesn’t matter which direction, but we went from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central and paid HK$2.0. So cheap~ And they also accept your Octopus. If you do the tourist cruise, they make a route to all the stops, but it’s cost more. It’s a nice and relaxing short trip that takes you across the water, lasting less than 15 minutes. If you sit near where they dock, you can see how they rope the ferry in by tossing it to another member on the pier, who would catch it with a long billhook. Apparently, they’ve been using the same method since the 19th century.

This strawberry fruit jelly yogurt was purchased at a  Central office building we slipped into,

11. While I was in Hong Kong, we stayed at Royal Plaza Hotel in Mong Kok. The hotel is connected to a mall and also to the MTR station. A great location to stay in as Mong Kok is arguably one of the major shopping and eating areas in Hong Kong. You have buildings dedicated to women’s fashion, anime/figurines models, skincare and makeup, foreign CDs and etc. Certain streets have acquired particular nicknames depending on what they sell, like Ladies’ market because they specialize in women’s clothing and accessories. Great place to go people watching and Hong Kong never sleeps, in case you have the late-night cravings for something to eat or do.

12. The cheapest and arguably fastest way to get around Hong Kong is through the MTR, which stands for Mass Transit Railway. Pick up an octopus card at the nearest station or at a 7-Eleven and load it with some money. From there all you need to do is swipe it every time you use the MTR to get around. My friends and I stayed in the Mong Kok area, which made it extremely convenient to travel from place to place. I did end up taking the taxi on several occasions, especially if you want to avoid the hellish tram line to get up to Victoria’s Peak. Trust me, the HK$ 50 is well worth the cost and saves you so much time.

13. Hong Kong moves fast. From getting you and in out of restaurants. Getting you from one place to the next on the MTR to how fast people speak and interact with each other. To drive home that point, you will notice the lack-of-seating. Which btw, is annoying as a visitor who has been walking the entire day and just wants a place to sit for a moment. Hong Kong doesn’t want people to stay in a place longer than needed and what’s a better way to guarantee that than no seats in the MTR or mall.

Hong Kong isn’t large in the sense that there’s a lot of land, but you feel so small when you compare yourself to the sheer population and you’re simply one in 7 million. Despite what people may say about Hong Kong and the people who live there, they are also one of the most hospitable and helpful people out there. Special thanks to the lady who offered us directions and shelter under her umbrella when we first arrived in Hong Kong. And I can’t stress how thankful I am to my friends' families while I was there and for their generosity and hospitality. Until next time Hong Kong!

Keep your eye out for the next several posts! I will be recapping my stay in Hongdae while I was in Seoul. I battled dragonflies, shopped my way through Myeongdong, ate my way through Hongdae and got lost at midnight in Namdaemun. You can follow my daily hijinks on Instagram and Snapchat @ifyouseekemilie.

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