China just celebrated the Qing Ming festival this past weekend, a holiday to remember their ancestors. It’s also called Tomb Sweeping holiday because they will visit their ancestors graves to sweep them and show respect, sometimes leaving gifts. We had Monday and Tuesday off to celebrate the holiday and many of my students traveled home.
My friends Andy and Raymond wanted to travel to Hong Kong for the Qing Ming festival holiday and asked if Lauren and I wanted to join them. I’ve never stepped outside the Hong Kong airport before and was excited for the chance to finally see it!
To get to Hong Kong we took a 7 hour slow train to Shenzhen, a big Chinese city right on the border. We stayed the night in Shenzhen then walked across the border into Hong Kong the next day from the Lo Wu Port next to the train station.
It was just like going through immigration and customs when you fly to a new country – you show your passport and fill out a departure card, etc., and boom you’re in Hong Kong. Since we’re American we didn’t need a visa to go to Hong Kong; Andy and Raymond are Chinese citizens so they had to apply for a visa before we went.
About Hong Kong:
- 1 USD = 7.77 HKD
- They drive on the left side of the road
- They speak English, Cantonese, and many speak Mandarin
We had 3 full days in Hong Kong and it was incredible! We spent time in the Kowloon section and also on Hong Kong Island. Here are a few of my favorite things.
This is probably number one on lots of Hong Kong ‘must do’ lists. You pay 40 HKD for a cable car to the top of Victoria Peak (or you can hike it) and get an amazing view of the city and islands. There’s a giant mall on top with tons of shops and restaurants and it’s a nice place to hang out for awhile.
Temple Street Night Market
There are lots of night markets and shopping streets to see in Hong Kong, and I heard this was a great one to look at. It was just like many other night markets in China – lots of vendors and food shops hoping to sell you something. It was also a great place for people watching.
Shopping in Causeway Bay
There are tons of malls in Hong Kong and Causeway Bay is the place to go if you want to see a lot of them. There are so many designer brands and Western stores here – Fossil, Chanel, Nike, Gap, H&M, Adidas, etc. There’s even a mini Times Square here and some awesome Western restaurants.
The Harbor and Ferry
The Hong Kong skyline is incredible, and there are so many great places (besides the Peak) to view it from. You can go to the Harbor to several viewing platforms, and you can also take a ferry to get from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island and back again. It’s beautiful day or night.
If all else fails, just walk around and you’re bound to find something interesting. Hong Kong streets are so diverse, huge skyscrapers and shopping malls next to little mom and pop restaurants and Chinese snacks. I’m obsessed with the neon lights and red and white taxis.
Some Other Things
Hong Kong is awesome because English is everywhere! We didn’t need translators to speak to people or read menus, so that was a nice little break from China. There are Seven Elevens and Starbucks everywhere, and grocery stores with Western food (CHEESE AND AMERICAN SNACKS AND BAGELS)
Hong Kong was a little expensive, especially to buy those foreign imported things or drink Starbucks or eat at a Western restaurant. We spent a lot of money at a Mexican restaurant but it was so worth it because we can’t find that in Hengyang.
We also ate Chinese food (of course). For a traditional Chinese breakfast you might have noodles and dumplings and these delicious meat filled steam buns
Hong Kong Costs
- Water: $7 – 12
- Coffee: $20 – 40
- Dinner: Anywhere from $30 – 80, more for a nice restaurant
- Tram to the Peak $40, plus $50 to see the top observation deck
- Average Metro Ticket: $4-8 one way
- Shirt at H&M: $100-300
Traveling is a great way to learn about the world and also about yourself and your traveling friends. Everyone has their own traveling style – some people like a strict schedule packed full so you don’t miss anything, and some prefer a relaxed day wandering until you find something.
Andy and Raymond were somewhere in the middle, and I appreciate that because I’m the same. Sometimes when I asked Andy if he wanted to go somewhere in particular he would say “I just want to feel the atmosphere you know?”
We had a few different things on our to-do list. Andy and Raymond really wanted to see Hong Kong University and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and were amazed by the buildings’ architecture, because many Chinese universities look so different from the Hong Kong style.
Lauren and I saw one university and thought it looked just like American ones because it was so Western looking. I wanted to see more of the Asian side of Hong Kong – I like street markets and little alleys, but these are the kind of things Andy and Raymond didn’t find as exciting because they see that more often. Hong Kong is said to be the place “where the East meets the West” and I found this to be so true. It was cool to see their perspective on Hong Kong and how different it was than my perspective.
Andy and Raymond are both from the Guangdong province, right next to Hong Kong. They are from the city Shaoguan, where in addition to Mandarin and Cantonese they also speak their hometown dialect. (So with English, they essentially know 4 languages. That’s crazy.)
I’ve been friends with Andy for almost a year and a half and he’s one of my closest Chinese friends – it’s easy to talk to him about deep topics or silly things and he says the funniest things sometimes.
On the way to the train station he advised us, “When it is crowded, the danger is coming!” And later when it was just the four of us walking on an empty street he said, “We are the crowd now- so we are the danger to other people mwahaha.”
If I walked too fast to catch the metro he would say poetically “When you hurry through the day, it is like an unopened gift….thrown away.”
On the train to Hong Kong a girl walked over to our seats and put her suitcase above us and Andy winked and said, “She came over here because of me, you know.”
Andy and Raymond left a day before me and Lauren to visit their hometown. When Lauren and I left Tuesday morning we decided to take the fast train back from the Futian Port instead of the Lo Wu Port. It took 2.5 hours to get to Hengyang from there.
All in all it was a great first trip to Hong Kong and hopefully not the last! There’s so much more I didn’t get a chance to see – 3 days was only enough for a little taste of Hong Kong.
Now it’s back to the teaching grind.
Lots of love,