I have a funny travel history. I went to lots of farther away places before visiting the ones nearby. Perhaps I kinda tell myself that it’s so near I can go anytime, and just procrastinate it away. Or sometimes I tell myself that I’m not really interested in seeing cities or countries that are so similar to what I see day in day out. Or perhaps you always want to see those legendary places in the West. Anyhow, I ended up in Hong Kong for the first time in my life, at an old age of 29, and largely due to SQ forcing me to clear my Krisflyer miles.
I thought I shall write down some impressions of the place, before it fades away in memory.
Hong Kong, of course, is such a sister city of Singapore. Size, population, demographics, culture, economy. It’s about as similar as any place could be. But of course not totally the same. Transport system that’s better in some ways and weaker in some ways. Airport that’s IMHO not much of a challenge to ours.
Kowloon was, massively messier. It’s like the Android to the iphone style of SG. More vibrant, more organic, more wild. Of course both styles have their plus points.
The cramped buildings, cramped flats, cramped everything of HK. My goodness. Tokyo didn’t exactly feel that bad. As S said, HK isn’t very romantic. The smog and dreary skies didn’t help the photos either. Nor the dreary exteriors of the buildings.
The overhead walkways so typical of them. The huge amount of foot traffic. The relatively slow foot traffic I would say, I felt that they walked rather slowly, but drive fairly fast.
Huge bustling cities are totally my kind of thing. I love being in cities. The life the activity the intensity.
SG authorities have refused to allow huge billboards and neon lights. Leading to really neat, but darker buildings. Good and bad. Less advertising, but seems quieter.
I wish I had a tripod. I also knew I can’t carry it around all day. I also wished I had a smaller camera. Conflicts.
Being a very vertical city, a lot of HK is about looking downwards.
A lot of exterior air conditioning units. A lot of dripping water.
And what would any place be without its cuisine. I’m sure there were better and more luxurious restaurants out there. But like the article in the Straits Times today, an overly planned and rigid holiday takes some of the life away. Prebook Michelin star restaurants force you to a fixed itinerary that doesn’t take into account your location, your level of hunger, the weather, and random variables. We dropped in one some small eateries all over the place, hunted down a few. I generally depended on a variety of friend recommendations and Google Maps and TripAdvisor app. I gotta say the tripadvisor app was more useful than I would normally admit to.
In terms of being on the ground, a data connection is a must, Google Maps apps for navigation on transport and directions (precache the area), Tripadvisor app for food recommendations (predownload the info), Google Camera app for incredibly convenient lens blur, Google Now for weather info. Your mileage might vary if you’re the type to prefer to take taxis everywhere. We avoided that and managed to get everywhere really efficiently cheaply and fast.
We tried Airbnb this time. I totally forgot about it till S mentioned it. I guess I travel for work too often. It was pretty good. Interesting conversations with the hosts, who fit our demographic of young, tech savvy individuals interested in web, data, design, music. The most amazing thing was that all of us had Nexus 5 phones. It’s really so rare to randomly come across a stranger with one. So delightful. (I always wish it was more accessible for purchase to normal folks.) and I’m envious of their big monitors..my Dell one is similar but a tad smaller. Anyways, airbnb can be fun, if you choose a host who is similar to you and not just running a business on airbnb. =) Living on the real streets of HK allows you to appreciate how life works, and you go home with peripheral memories of many things: the multitude of gates for building doors; the elevators; the dripping water; the warnings on the escalators; the shop keeper who is half talking to herself in cantonese but realising I can’t understand anything; the shoe shop with a stupid cat and a dog; the extremely friendly young shoe seller; the dim sum shop lady fussing over us, in cantonese; the brisk but sincere service of small food outlets; the severely cramped dessert place and the young folk hanging out; the prc tourists; the crazy tourist taking photospheres (me); the old folk sitting around at the little park areas in the middle of the roads, and the young boy who seemed to want a drink of my water but I couldn’t understand him and I didn’t dare to offer; the freaking crowded wet market; the super techy taxi driver; the tram super crowded with filipino workers heading back; the american-looking girl behind me in the queue with her headphones and faceless expression looking like she’s from some movie; the sadly desperate prc tourists who just reminded me how much they have to fight for their lives back home; and the sheer madness of it all.