Posted: 12/10/2011 | December 10th, 2011
I’ve become a bit of a lazy traveler. I barely do any planning or research anymore. I hardly ever look into where I’m going until I get there. Sometimes that doesn’t bother me; just winging it has its benefits. But sometimes I regret not doing any research, because I never know what to see or do or even where to start, and I often end up missing sites and activities I know I would have enjoyed.
And I didn’t do any planning for my trip to Hong Kong either. I knew nothing about the city other than that I had to eat dumplings while there. But I knew who would know what to do — you. So I did something I haven’t done before: I let my readers plan my trip. I asked people on Facebook and Twitter to suggest things to see and do and then used their responses as a guide. I was very impressed and overwhelmed by the outpouring of ideas and information. I knew I’d never be able to do everything suggested in the three days I had in Hong Kong.
But I tried.
By the time I arrived at my guesthouse on Hong Kong Island from the airport, it was dinnertime and I was severely jet-lagged. After eating dinner (delicious fried chicken and rice) and exploring my neighborhood, I collapsed into bed around 9pm and fell asleep within minutes. So much for Friday night!
A few people recommended Ocean Park, so that’s where I went. It’s a theme park that features giant panda bears, rides, and an aquarium. I’d never seen a giant panda before and was pretty excited to see one, though I wasn’t so excited when it decided to do a #2 right in front of me. That was more than I wanted to see. I spent the day photographing pandas, enjoying a few roller coasters and water rides, and marveling at how you can still find huge tour groups with a flag-holding tour guide at an amusement park. I mean, is it that difficult to find your way through a tiny amusement park? PLUS, the guides had microphones so they could talk about…what? Going on the rides? Sometimes I just don’t get those tour groups.
To be honest, this is a pretty lame amusement park. The aquarium doesn’t have a lot of interesting fish. The rides are less than thrilling. The food’s bland. It’s way too crowded. I wouldn’t go back to Ocean Park. The only reason to go there is to see a giant panda. It’s worth the entrance fee alone.
That night, I followed the advice I’d gotten from many on Twitter: I went to Lan Kwai Fong. This area of town is one of the main nightlife areas and is especially popular with expats and tourists. It’s pretty much all foreigners. There was a carnival going on, and the streets were lined with beer sellers, food vendors, music, and dancing girls. After generous quantities of beer, my friend and I called it a night, and I went back home to finally kick my jet lag.
Waking up early, I plowed through some work and then explored Kowloon Island. I went around the seaport and walked around Kowloon Park, which is a lovely place. I don’t know if it’s just a Sunday thing, but everywhere I walked, I encountered small groups of Muslim women sitting around, chatting, eating, and sometimes singing. Maybe someone from the area can clue me in on why it was only Muslim women (I’m guessing from Indonesia) who were doing this.
The park is an excellent way to cool off as it’s very well shaded, though I was super sad the public pool was closed until March. I mean, come on city officials, it’s still pretty damn hot in November!
Walking away disappointed and dripping with sweat, I took the advice of every travel blogger known to man — I visited the famous Chung King Mansion. Famous for being derelict, run down, and a huge fire hazard, I couldn’t imagine staying at one of the guesthouses in the building. Sure, they’re really cheap, but even that’s too cheap for me. However, a bright point is that there are some really good Indian food stalls and restaurants on the ground floor. Delicious food at a good price. And if you for some reason need a stolen phone, this is the place to go. They have everything.
I did the Ngong Ping 360 on my last day. This is a cable car that takes you through Lantau Island and up to see the famous giant Buddha. My whole weekend in Hong Kong was beautiful, warm, and sunny, but the day I decided to do the cable car ride for sweeping views of the city, it rained. It got cloudy. It got cold. I could barely see a few feet in front of me. But because I have an incredible fear of heights, that might have been a good thing. I spent most of the ride cursing at my friend for taking me on this thing while trying not to look down. I was miserable. Sure, the scenery was impressive when the clouds broke on the way back, but it’s not an experience I want to relive.
And the Buddha statue? It’s pretty awesome. It was gigantic and ornate. I was very impressed by it.
After only a few seconds in Hong Kong, I realized three days was not nearly enough time to explore the city. I need more time. A lot more time. I didn’t make it to Macau. Inclement weather prevented me from heading to the peak for a view of the city at night. I missed the fireworks. I didn’t get to some of the outer islands or small villages. I just missed so much.
But the food…the food! Hong Kong is a foodie city if there ever was one. Around every corner is an amazing noodle, dumpling, or dim sum restaurant. Smells of noodles and pork and fried chicken fill the air. My nose guided me to delicious food stalls for three days. And as an avid sushi lover, I was overjoyed to find that there seemed to be a decent quality sushi restaurant everywhere I went.
I barely scratched the surface of this fabulous and mesmerizing city. And by saying even that, I’m being very generous with the amount of sightseeing I did.
I loved Hong Kong and regret coming to Asia so often yet never having made it here before. Hong Kong is simply an amazing and energetic city that you should visit, and I need to return for a much longer visit.
And thanks, everybody, for the great travel advice. This was my first experiment in having my whole trip planned for me, and it went extremely well. I might have to crowdsource my trips more often. You are better than any guidebook.
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