Impressions of Hong Kong
Hong Kong was not what we expected. Not at all. This could be because we made this trip on a whim without doing much research. Regardless, we were very surprised with what we found. While we did have an awesome time on our trip, some things left a bit of a bad taste in our mouth. We can totally see why some people fall in love with this place, but it is definitely not for everyone. We strongly feel that you should always see a place for yourself, but just to give you an idea of what to expect, we’ll fill you in!
We immediately noticed how efficient everything in Hong Kong is. From public transportation to eating in a restaurant, checking into the hotel along with everything else in between. Even immigration in the airport and ferry station was super fast, quite the difference from anywhere else we’ve been. It didn’t take long to figure out we were no longer on “Thai time” and everything happened on time as promised. We were very impressed to say the least.
The ride into the city from the airport on the double decker bus was spectacular. Although it was quite hazy, the views of the sky scrapers, mountains and beautiful blue waters were stunning. We did not expect that as we mostly think of Hong Kong as a big city, but the natural beauty of the islands blew us away. We took a bus tour of the city that drove around Repulse Bay and that was possibly the highlight of the ride. It reminded us of our drive along the Pacific Ocean in CA as we were surrounded by mansions and mountain cliffs plunging into the ocean below. It was definitely one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen and Hong Kong is worth visiting for that alone.
Culture and Lifestyle
We have become quite accustomed to the laid back vibe and culture in Thailand and I don’t think we were prepared for such a significant change in pace. We expected the fast pace lifestyle like that of NYC, but we were surprised and disappointed at how unfriendly the locals were. With the large amount of people in such a small island, we realize the idea of personal space is practically nonexistent. But after 3 days of being pushed around, cut in line and getting no help from anyone for directions or guidance, we grew frustrated. Even bitter. We quickly learned to have our money out and ready just buying a water at the 7-11. Otherwise, the minute we start digging in our pockets for change, dirty looks would ensue. We also had to step up our game, get aggressive and push our way to the front of lines like everyone else or we’d never get anywhere. That’s just not our style though and made us somewhat uncomfortable. We’ve read that this is just their lifestyle – it’s not to be rude – but it was difficult for us to not see it that way. On the other hand, some people prefer life at that pace. If you are the type that likes to get in and get out and not have to hear your cashier’s life story, Hong Kong is probably your cup of tea. Additionally, because everyone hustles, things get done a lot quicker which is why it is so efficient.
Speaking of hustling, we were really surprised by the abundance of street hawkers selling everything from custom tailored suits to knock off handbags and watches, as well as massages and anything else they can sell you. Yes, you definitely see this in Thailand. But they were much more aggressive here. They line every street and you can hardly escape them, although you might get off easy if you can blend in with the locals. I’m not sure if it was Charlie’s large stature or the camera bag over the shoulder, but we could see their face light up the second they saw us coming from a mile away. In some particular areas, swarms of them will come at you at once and literally send you screaming down the road. Yes, that happened to us. And then we watched them do the same to another woman. She ducked down, covered her head and started shrieking aloud until they finally went away. Is this how Britney Spears feels every time she leaves her house? Needless to say, this got really annoying.
We knew it wouldn’t be cheap, but we figured since we were only planning on staying 4 nights it wouldn’t be too hard on the wallet. Ha..ha..ha…
If you watched our Intro to Hong Kong video, then you saw what our room looked like for $83/night. All we kept thinking about was the 4 star resort we could have been staying at on the beaches of Thailand for that price. Instead, we were in a room the size of a closet with a bed we couldn’t fit on. We got hardly any sleep with our feet hanging off the end and absolutely no room to move. And that was practically the cheapest hotel we could find in Hong Kong. The bus and the MRT were fairly priced and made it easy to get around. It cost us $4 for a ride to the airport on the bus and $1.50 for a ride on the MRT from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. Food was also pretty expensive. We found ourself at McDonalds multiple times for a cheap meal and still ended up paying about $10. We ate Indian food one night at a take-away style restaurant and paid about $30. A dim sum dinner including three sets of dumplings and two drinks set us back about $32. And to be honest, we weren’t really impressed with any of the food. Our best meal was pizza night with a friend from the US that now lives in HK. For 2 pizzas and 5 beers, the total was $70. Let’s just say by day 3, we were ready to get back to Thai prices!
Big Bus Tour
The best part of our trip was signing up for the Big Bus tour, a double decker hop-on hop-off tour bus that covers the main attractions on Hong Kong island and Kowloon (similar to the bus tours in Paris and Munich we did). While it set us back $50/person, it was worth every penny. The tour included an audio guide that was very informative, noting facts about the high rises and history of Hong Kong. It was very convenient to be able to see the sights on our leisure with buses running every 15-30 minutes. It also included a ride on a Sampan boat around the fishing village in Aberdeen and a round trip ticket for the Star ferry that transports you from one island to the other. We were able to see and do everything we wanted to in one day thanks to this tour. Because of that, we actually left Hong Kong two days earlier and checked into a much fancier hotel in Phnom Penh. Score! You can purchase bus tickets ahead of time online and save money –> click here to purchase
We really enjoyed the short ride on the Sampan boat, and the tram ride up to Victorias Peak is definitely a must. Unfortunately, it was so hazy the day we went that we literally couldn’t see our hand extended in front of us. Nonetheless, it was a cool ride and we still enjoyed it. We recommend making that your first stop for the day if you are planning to go. We got there around 10 am and got right on the tram. By the time we came back an hour later, there was a long line of people waiting. Repulse Bay and Stanley were also favorites for us. Very beautiful views of white, sandy beaches and charming architecture! We were actually a bit disappointed with the Symphony of Lights which we had really looked forward to. Maybe our expectations were too high. We still recommend you try to catch a show if it fits in your schedule. It happens every night at 8 pm. We didn’t do any shopping or markets, partly because we didn’t want to spend any money and partly because we are kind of over markets after being in SE Asia for 6 months. They are supposed to be some of the best though, so you might want to check out for yourself!
All that said, we are so glad we visited Hong Kong and it was a beautiful place! We highly recommend seeing it for yourself, especially if you love the hustle and bustle of big cities! Would we go back? Definitely…when we have infinite amounts of money to spend 😉
- Hotel/Guest House: Lee Garden Guest House
- Time spent in Hong Kong: 3 nights
- Favorite spot: Stanley/Repulse Bay
- Best tip: highly recommend the Big Bus Tour and the ferry to Macau for a day!