In September 2017, I took a leap of faith and booked and 15,000 mile trip across the globe to a weird and wonderful place of the world.
I had my doubts – while I’ve always wanted to travel and work internationally, Asia was never on my bucket list. The reasons I realize were all pretty shallow. If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, I’m a small town gal. Even downtown Toronto gives me anxiety (and for those who are international, you’ll realize that’s a bit of a joke). So encountering a city where it every nook and cranny is highly populated and busy made me antsy. Also, (and I’m not too sure where this perception came from – probably my ignorance towards that part of the world) is that Asians are strange (and I’m sorry, I’m not by any means racist, and not trying to be offensive). But I’ve always thought they’ve had strange food, a stranger language and an “interesting” sense of fashion.
I landed extremely jet lagged, but was instantly impressed by the speed of how things moved. For anyone who has travelled through Pearson/YYZ, you know not to check bags as it’s takes 45 minutes just to claim them. I blew through customs, picked up my luggage and Octopus card (similar to Presto) within that time frame and took a very scenic bus route to my destination.
My first impressions were all wrong – I said it was dirty and overpopulated. Well, duh!! It’s a highly populated city, and shockingly enough, when I took off the Debbie Downer hat I realized it’s actually cleaner than some parts of Toronto (considering it has about 7 million more people in a quarter of the size of the GTA.)
What I loved about the trip was the fact that:
- HK consists of Islands, you can do amazing hikes in the morning, watch the flamingos in the morning at Kowloon Park, do Tai-Chi and Kung Foo in the afternoon and shop till you drop in either the night markets (similar to flea markets/bizarres) or the higher end shops.
- It’s reasonable (if you know what you’re doing). While I didn’t do much shopping there, I relied heavily on transportation and wet markets for food (while treating myself to a daily local dish). I could have done the “tourist thing” and grab cabs and Uber, but the MTR was so efficient (literally ran every 3-5 seconds in rush hour).
- The food nor people are strange: I ate the most amazing beef satay in giant bowls, pad thai, deep fried pig ears (not by choice, but was quite good during hot pot), dim sum, thai vermicelli noodles. Note: DO NOT eat KFC of McDonald’s there (I don’t eat that crap here, so why try it in another country). Besides, they have tons of local burger and fried chicken joints which are far better.
- Sidebar, something I found annoying was the amount of my Canadian friends asking if I was eating ok. Yes, I ate real food for 16 days straight…in fact, I probably ate better there than I do here.
- I got lost during several adventures but picked up so much trinkets, trash and great memories along the way.
- Stumbling upon the beef jerky street in search of finding cheap eats in Macau which literally at every store had different kinds of cured meats and samples to try!
- The Ladies Market in Kowloon. I got 5 bras for $30 CDN dollars. Enough said.
- The Night Markets/Temple Street: pretty “touristy” it’s a great place to find cheap bargains on pretty much anything. Offer the vendors a smoke, they drop the price, play dumb…they drop the price even more. But here’s what worked for me – being friendly.
- REAL FOOD AT 2:30 a.m! Getting spicy thai vermicelli noodles, Tsingtao (the local beer) and eating outdoors was a dream. However, if that’s not up to your liking, you could a smorgasbord of food (seafood and street meat – which is not hot dogs, but chicken, beef, liver skewers, fish balls…pretty much anything your heart desires). An international city indeed!
Would I go back to Hong Kong again…absolutely. It was a humbling learning experience and the trip was an adventure and experience of a lifetime.