by Roaming Panda
The last 3 weeks have been an absolute whirlwind but it's good to be back home in the land of centralized a.c. and strong WiFi connections. I took a long overdue 2 week vacation to Asia, mainly to visit family, but also to do an 8-day tour though some of the more renowned cities in China. I was hoping to put up some posts in real time, but the WiFi connections in mainland China are completely abysmal.
We started our adventure from Ft. Lauderdale International Airport, with one stop in JFK and then a direct flight from JFK to Hong Kong, which was roughly 15.5 hours. If you're wondering what you do on a plane for 15.5 hours...you watch a lot of moves. Altogether, it's about a solid 24 hours of traveling.
Out of the total 2 weeks we were there, we sadly only spent about 3.5 days in Hong Kong (2 days toward the start of the trip and about a day and a half toward the end). I realized from talking to a lot of my friends that no one really knows a lot about Hong Kong, and to a certain extent, I don't either. So here's a brief classroom lesson.
Hong Kong is a territory in Southeastern China comprised of a series of islands. It's an interesting city that is part of China but not really. Hong Kong actually used to be a British colony and was "leased" out for 99 years following the end of the Opium War in the late 1800's. In essence, Hong Kong operates like an entirely different country within Communist China. Even after it's transference of sovereignty back to China in 1997, Hong Kong still remains an autonomous territory with separate government and financial structures. Whenever someone asks me where I'm from or where I was born, I always respond that I was born in Hong Kong or I'm from Hong Kong instead of saying I'm from China because I truly think the differences are drastic enough to make that distinction. But enough with the lecture, let's get to the good stuff.
If you've always wanted to travel to Asia but the thought of traveling to Asia is intimidating, I recommend starting in Hong Kong. It's a vibrant and modernized city with lots of Western influences and a lot of things familiar to home. It's a city that blends a lot of new with a lot of old. The landscape mixes the natural beauty of the ocean and the mountains with forged skylines that stretch as far as the eye can see. At any moment you can admire the natural scenery and turn your head and gaze in awe of the towering buildings that define the city. Public transportation is a breeze with my favorite being the MTR (subway) system. You'll find some of the best shopping in the world, and let's not forget all the amazing food around every corner.
On our first day, we went to the top of iconic Victoria Peak which offers one of the best sight lines of the entire city. You get a breathtaking view across Victoria Harbour of all the immense skyscrapers and it is just absolutely gorgeous and incredible.
In the evening, we walked through the narrow street markets of Temple Street. If you're in need of souvenirs, this is the place to get them. There are a ton of vendors peddling cheap wares at negotiable prices. It's fun to see what you can get away with.
We topped the night off in Tsim Sha Tsui where you can catch an unforgettable night view of Victoria Harbour opposite the Peak. The cool sea breeze and the luminous lights from the buildings offer a serene environment to relax and take in the city view.
On day two we ferried our way across to an old village on Cheung Chau Island. It was fortuitous timing on our part since we happened to be there right as the local residents were in the midst of celebrating a week-long Bun Festival that takes place every year. I actually never heard of this festival until now and the history behind it is rather interesting. The residents started this festival as a means to drive away evil spirits and diseases that once plagued the island. The tradition still carries on today and consists of music, colorful parades, worship, and culminates to a Bun Scrambling Competition where participants scale a giant bamboo tower lined with buns to collect these treats for points. The more buns you collect from atop the tower, the more points you get. We didn't actually see the competition but did see the setup of the tower along with the effigies that were constructed outside the temple for worship. Pretty neat.
The last few days we spent in Hong Kong centered around family and we visited my aunt's neck of the woods in Sai Kung. Sai Kung is a picturesque and quaint little fishing village that bears a resemblance to the Mediterranean seaside. You'll find a lot of Westerners roaming around and a number of Western cafes and bars. Being a fishing village, you'll find fishermen selling their day's work right from their boats and a number of restaurants/aquariums offering fresh seafood right from the source. You'll see some seafood you never knew existed and all are available to eat if you so desire.
I apologize for the long post but it's so hard to capture so much in just a few words. Hong Kong will always hold a near and dear place in my heart and is a city I will never be sick of. If you want to see all the pictures from my trip, click HERE to check them out in the gallery. I have several more posts coming up for each city I visited so stay tuned!