Tales from abroad: Hong Kong
Hong Kong surprised me with its beauty.
When I first learned I would be spending two months of my summer doing an internship in Hong Kong, I imagined a grimy city akin to Shanghai. Don’t get me wrong; I love Shanghai. But I would never associate the word “scenic” with it.
However, Hong Kong had a combination of mountains, skyscrapers, and sea that took my breath away as soon as I stepped out of the airport. Looking out of my office building from the 47th floor, I could glimpse a fantastic view of the picturesque harbor, the steel and glass of downtown Hong Kong, and hilly islands in the distance floating on the blue South China Sea.
The city is a great place to be young. My weekends were packed with nights out at the numerous bars and clubs in Lan Kwai Fong, shopping trips to everything from Louis Vuitton stores to cheap-as-dirt-but-need-to-bargain shops in Mongkok, and customary visits to popular tourist spots around the city. Lan Kwai Fong, or LKF as it is more commonly called, is the most popular nighttime hangout spot. Spanning just a few streets, the area is closed to traffic at night, allowing people to walk around freely among the various clubs and pubs. I loved the atmosphere in LKF at night — everyone was dressed up in their bling best, intoxicated, and having a good time. Mongkok — with its popular Ladies’ Market — proved to be my favorite shopping destination. Everything from cheap tops to jewelry to accessories was on sale — and thankfully I had a native Hong Kong friend to bargain for me in Cantonese.
Hong Kong is all about the views. You can go up Hong Kong Island’s tallest mountain, Victoria Peak, in a tram and catch a glimpse of the glittering buildings at night. Take a ferry across to Kowloon Island and walk along Star Avenue for a view of the skyline up close and lit up in a daily light show. Take a trip to Lantau Island and see the spectacular Big Buddha statue perched on top of a hill from a cable car. And while there are many, each view never fails to disappoint.
Hong Kong is also perfectly situated for further exploring Southeast Asia. During my time there, I made two trips to the glitzy casino city of Macau. If Hong Kong is the Eastern New York City, Macau is the Las Vegas. With its own Wynn, Venetian, and Sands casinos, Macau proves to be the ultimate gambling destination of the East. I’m not much of a gambler, but I still enjoyed the glamour of the casinos. Beyond the casinos, the city’s Portuguese architecture is also worth a look.
Hong Kong culture comes off as strongly cosmopolitan, with the high foreign population and abundance of Western brands everywhere. But if you dig deep — and make some helpful Hong Konger friends — it’s hard to overlook the distinct Chinese culture. Make sure you get a taste of both worlds, because their coexistence is exactly what makes Hong Kong so unique.
One of my favorite parts of traveling is tasting the local fare. My food adventures let me sample a wide range of cuisines: delicious Hong Kong staples like wonton noodle soup and egg tarts in tiny street shops, tasty dim sum lunches at a quiet tea house and a bustling family-style restaurant, and Taiwanese dumplings and Korean barbecue. Hong Kong’s international culture also expanded my restaurant choices. Italian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Mediterranean food all graced my plate while dining at fancy restaurants in the culturally diverse area of SoHo.
Life in Hong Kong proved to be perfect for a 20-something working and living alone. It was fast-paced, with the right amount of adventure and excitement balanced by lazy Sunday mornings. I fell in love with the city the moment I saw it, and after two months there, I can’t wait to plan my trip back.