3 days, 2 travelers, 1 really big Buddha: Hong Kong

Soon after we got back from New Zealand, Gordon and I faced our next game of chicken. We got a email about an opportunity for a short, paid trip to Hong Kong. All we had to do was act as couriers for a local company. Gordon first dismissed it as a joke, but once I got more information and confirmed it wasn’t sketchy, illegal, or a scam, he got on board. So Hong Kong… here we come.

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Because there is only enough product for one courier to transport per day, Gordon and I left a day apart. Wednesday morning, I was at the airport by 4 am, ready for my 6 am flight out of Raleigh. After a quick stop in Canada and a short 15 hour plane ride, I arrived in Hong Kong around 1 pm. Disoriented from lack of sleep and jet lag, I managed to find my hotel and get checked in, then bought a train ticket to check out the city. After walking around a bit,  I found a dim sum restaurant where I had my first taste of authentic Hong Kong food.

 

Dim Sum

After my wandering and dinner, I was absolutely exhausted and decided to head back to the hotel to be fully rested for my next few days of adventure. Like any true Hongkonger (real word) I got a nice nap on public transportation.

 

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The next morning, I grabbed some dumplings then headed toward the Big Buddha. After figuring out the transportation, I realized I didn’t have enough time to fully explore, so I opted for a nearby outlet mall. This wasn’t just any outlet mall, it was all designer clothes. If I ever go back with money, I’ll be revisiting.

 

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That afternoon, after he repeated the whole travel process, Gordon arrived. He handles lack of sleep much better than I do, so we hopped on a train and headed into town to explore. We stopped in a couple custom suit shops to get estimates, then found a noodle bar for dinner followed by frozen beers at Piss Bar. Yes, the bar was called Piss Bar, and the taste of the frozen beer wasn’t too far off. It’s a cool concept, as the frozen foam melted, it kept the beer cold, but the initial struggle to get through the gross foam to the beer ruined it.

 

Frozen beer

Every night at 8 pm, Hong Kong puts on a light show over the Victoria Harbour. Gordon and I grabbed a table at the Intercontinental (a fabulously luxurious hotel overlooking the water) and watched the spectacular show of 40 skyscrapers shooting lasers and colored lights into the sky.

 

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After another train ride nap, we called it a night.

 

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Our hotel offered two free breakfasts if we paid with Visa, so we decided to take the free route. Holy moly. Best. hotel breakfast. ever. They had several stations with traditional Chinese breakfast foods, American breakfast foods, and all sorts of other foods from around the world.

 

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After following the transportation route I had mapped out the previous day, Gordon and I headed back to Tung Chung to visit the Big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery. We took a cable car up the mountain and checked everything out. They’re not kidding, it’s a really big Buddha.

 

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If I ever go back to Hong Kong, it hopefully won’t be in June. It is excruciatingly humid. It felt like we were in a never-ending deodorant commercial. People kept walking past us at the monastery with their shirts drenched in sweat. We pointed out the first few. “Gross! Look at that guy.” What goes around comes around. And by “comes around” I mean by the time we finished walking around we were just as disgustingly sweaty as everyone we noticed earlier.

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Since the job only covered one free hotel night each, we switched to a hotel closer to the central area of Hong Kong, then headed out on the town. We struggled, but finally successfully conquered the massively crowded subway system. We also took the star ferry across the harbour – a beautiful sight at night with all the lights from the skyscrapers.

 

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Hong Kong is the most vertical city in the world and one of the most densely-populated places in the world, something that was obvious to me within 10 minutes of walking through the city. It is seriously overwhelming. What is amazing is that no one talks to each other. You are constantly surrounded by people, but I can count the conversations I had during our trip on one hand (the language barrier probably didn’t help).

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We had watched Tony Bourdain’s Layover episode prior to our trip, so obviously, we wanted to try some of the things he had – one being roast duck. We found a restaurant that seemed to be filled with families and locals with a grungy but established feel – like a Cooper’s BBQ or Rendevous. We got roast duck, plus a shrimp dish our table-neighbors (They only have big tables, so they don’t hesitate to put separate parties at the same table) had that looked awesome.

 

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After wandering around a bit more, we found a street full of bars to check out. We quickly realized just how well we fit in here – it seemed to be full of expats and international businessmen. Upping our game, we then headed to a flash bar on the 30th floor in downtown Hong Kong.

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By our last day, Gordon still hadn’t eaten at a dim sum restaurant, so we went out in search of Tim Ho Wan. Unfortunately, we didn’t account for the fact that this part of town depended almost entirely on characters as opposed to English words, so we had a bit of trouble finding it. After wandering around a bit through some street markets, my stomach led us to a bakery for a pre-lunch snack. Here we tried two things I had read about and wanted to try before we arrived: Pineapple Buns (buns with a sweet crunch topping and a heap-load of butter) and Pork Floss (a bun topped with stringy pork – pretty much like bacon cotton candy).

 

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We finally found a dim sum restaurant we wanted to stop in. It was small, smelled good, and most of the diners looked local. For all we know, it was Tim Ho Wan. We had dumplings, custard buns, BBQ pork buns, chicken feet (yes, chicken feet), shumai, and hot tea. We even got a nod of approval from the man at the table next to ours.

 

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After a slow, painfully stressful journey to the airport and through security, we finally boarded (at last last last call) our plane and headed home. It was all a blur, but a fun, tasty blur that we’ll hopefully get to do again!

 

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