Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

48h in Hong Kong

I returned back to Paris this weekend, after two weeks in China.  It was a crazy trip, and left me fairly exhausted. I do okay when I travel by myself, but when I travel with my boss and/or co-workers, we tend to all enable each other into too much food and booze, and not enough sleep and exercise.  Plus, I'm fairly introverted, so things like trade shows really take a lot out of me.  Having to be smiley and friendly all day long is hard work for this girl. ;)

I traveled to two different parts of China, and had a free weekend between the two weeks, so I decided to take the train to Hong Kong.  I didn't really want to hang around where I was nor go back to Shanghai, plus Oneika was back in town for an extended stay, so I figured why not?

I didn't really know much about Hong Kong besides that it was a major financial center full of expats, but the more research I did, the more I was looking forward to going. In the end, I actually had a hard time trying to fit everything I wanted to do in the two short days I had there.

And unfortunately my two short days became even shorter after a 3h+ train delay.  About 30 min after leaving the station, my train stopped in the middle of nowhere. Shortly after, several men with shields, guns and batons started surrounding our train. Announcements were made in Chinese, but I couldn't understand a word they were saying, and no one around appeared able to translate.
As time went on, the train turned into one hot, sweaty mess and other passengers became quite agitated. People were banging on the windows and the doors, and being very aggressive with the train employees. One hour became two hours, and then two hours nearly three hours, and I was getting progressively more and more anxious. I had no water, no money and no clue what was happening.  I finally had the bright idea to send a message to one of my Chinese colleagues, and he was able to talk to one of the train employees for me.  The train was broken, they would not be sending a new train, and we would sit there on the tracks until it was repaired.  The guards were there so that no one would try to escape off the train.  Whew, finally some information.  And luckily not too long after that, the train started up, the A/C came back on, and we continued on our way.

I lost no time after arrival, quickly dropping my bags off at my AirBnB, and then heading up to The Peak for some 360° views of the city. 
I meandered back down, took a quick shower (HK is hot, hot, hot!), and then headed out for a night out on the town. I was lucky enough to be invited to a bachelorette party and experienced the best of the city's nightlife.  So. Much. Fun.
The next day, I rolled myself out of bed at an ungodly hour and made the long trek out to see the Big Buddha.  I climbed the 260 steps up to see him and to enjoy the aerial views.
And then I headed back down to do some hiking. It turns out that Hong Kong is mix of islands, city and scenery, and I only got a short taste of it all during my stay. 
After following the wisdom path, I looped back around to check out the Po Lin Monastery. The lunch there came highly recommended.  My opinion?  If you're with a large group, it's worth it because you get to try 8 dishes, but if you're alone or with a small group, you only get 4 dishes and you pay the exact same price...  The food was good, but I could have gotten pretty much the same thing for 1/4 of the price from the vendors just outside of the restaurant (with a lot less waiting).
Those of you that know me know that my travel style is pretty thrifty, but I also like to splurge every once in a while. So for example, C & I may get a super fancy hotel and then have a romantic picnic for dinner. To get up to the Big Buddha, most people take the cable car there and back (at a cost of around 29€/$33).  That seemed a little pricey for me, and thanks to Google, I found out there was a bus that went up there for 1.90€/$2.10. The bus ended up providing some great scenery, and also let me enjoy guilt-free the 360° crystal cabin ride on the way back down (19€/$23).
Once back on hard ground, I checked out several markets. My verdict - meh. Cheap shopping is definitely better in China or Thailand.
I meant to watch the city scape light show before heading home, but Oneika talked me into a foot massage instead.  :)
It was a quick ferry ride back to Central, and then I had to take the longest escalators in the world back to my AirBnB.
I ended up having an unexpectedly great time in Hong Kong, and I would definitely like to go back for a longer stay in the future. From the little I saw, there are a lot of other islands, beaches and trails still to be explored, as well as several other cultural sites in the city that I didn't get to see.  Public transportation was great and easy to use, most people spoke decent English, I felt very safe walking around alone, and the food options are plentiful.  The only downside is that it's a fairly expensive place to visit, but it can be done for a reasonable price if you use options like AirBnB and eat locally. It would be a great place to spend 3-4 days before heading out on an Asian Cruise for example!

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