Monday, January 28, 2013

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is kind of but not really China, so it's westernized enough that we white people are no longer a novelty.  However it's Chinese enough for it to be a novelty to white people.  Case in point, dim sum is breakfast food!

Dumplings, deep fried thingies and chicken feet (not legs, feet) for breakfast?!  It strikes me as odd but it is so, so tasty.

Arguably the number one thing you need to do in Hong Kong is eat dim sum, and we ate myriad dim sum.  We were very fortunate to have a Chinese speaking friend of a friend along with us who knew the best local places and could translate for us.  These places were legit local (and cheap!) but were not the kind of places I'd feel comfortable going to without a translator.

Arguably the second most important thing you need to do as a tourist in Hong Kong is have clothing custom made for you at a fraction of what it would cost in the west.  Come in to the shop, have your measurements taken and pick your fabrics and styles from the sample books they have laying around.

In a few business days, voila, you have custom made business attire.  Martin stocked up on eight shirts and paid far less each than he would pay off the rack in Australia or Norway.

As for tourist sites, we did a couple of things.  One major regret I have is waiting in line for one and a half hours to ride up the Peak Tram.

It's a freaking tram that goes up a hill.  Whoopty-doo.  The line and wait time were ridiculous, and it didn't help matters that it was really cold out.  Thankfully I had the body heat of 2,500 of my closest friends to keep me warm during the wait.

Don't get me wrong, Victoria Peak, the destination of the Peak Tram is totally worth a visit for the island and ocean views of Hong Kong.

But only later did I learn that you could take a taxi up there for 5 Euro and save yourself an hour and a half wait.  I was pissed!

Pro tip: Cab up to the Peak and if you really want to ride the tram just take it down.  That line went very quick, and it was a pretty old tram car worth seeing.  Definitely not wait-in-the-cold-for-an-hour-and-a-half worth seeing, though.

Speaking of cabs, if there's one thing Hong Kong does magically (better than any city I've seen) it's cabs.

They are everywhere and they are cheap.  People don't own personal cars as this is an island and every square inch of land is expensive, and the MTR (metro system) is super cheap and highly efficient.  Therefore the only traffic on the road is buses, trams and taxis so you're never stuck waiting in traffic for long.  The cabbies won't rip you off, either, which is an important pieces of the pie when deciding to spring for a cab or take the MTR.

On a rainy day (shite weather seems to follow us wherever we go) we spent half a day at the Hong Kong Museum of History, getting our learn on about the history of the island and its people.

Even though we walked by it a hundred times, we never actually got on and rode the Central to Mid-levels escalator.

This is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, and it only runs one way - up.  I imagine this comes in very handy in sweltering summer heat.  If the Hong Kongese (as they are called) are half as lazy as I then I imagine these things are a godsend.

The main event of our time in Hong Kong was New Years eve.  I'd heard that it gets off the chain there around midnight (as it does, um, everywhere on NYE) but we stuck to our contained rooftop bar and enjoyed the fireworks from the comfort of the 32nd story.

Usually a crowded bar scene is not my cup of tea but the music the DJ was playing was awesome - think mid-90's top 40 - so I approved.  We got to spend quality time with a handful of friends from Edinburgh, and we cleaned up real purdy for the event.

You can't really tell from this picture, but holler at me for recycling my bridesmaids dress from my sisters wedding in October.

Hong Kong is a great tourist introduction to Chinese Asia (says she who has never been to mainland China and, realistically, probably never will).  English is widely spoken, it's easy to get around and you won't stick out like a sore thumb with your big white face.  But beware, accommodation is pricey.  I think the cheapness of everything else makes up for it, but plan to shell out a few hundo per night just to lay your head down.

Another thing about Hong Kong is that it is 99.7% malls.  Seriously, everything and everywhere is in a mall, and you're never more than 90 seconds away from one at any given time.  Many of them are fancy malls, too, containing the likes of Gucci, Prada and Fendi.  But here's the rub: This designer loot actually costs more in Asia than it does in Europe or the US.  Wha-wha-whaaaa?!  So don't expect to score some cheap stuff while you're there.

At least you have shopping options.  You can buy a $10,000 handbag as a souvenir or something like this, at a more moderate price:

Whatever floats your boat!

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