November 28, 2013

Hong Kong Calling

Hong Kong calling

For years I have been travelling at least once a month, sometimes within Germany, where I used to live, but almost all the time outside the country.
Skyscrapers and mountains
When I moved to Asia, travelling and exploring more of Asia was one of the things I really wanted to do; There is so much to see here, so much to explore. It hasn't been easy to find the time to travel though, I have had a lot to do with my studies as well as other things; Not the least getting organised and setting up my home, getting to know my new city. For the first time in years I therefore had over two months (September, October, and almost the whole month of November) without any travelling which included crossing borders – hard on someone who is travel addicted like myself. Middle of November I couldn't cope anymore; I had to get flight tickets and go and see something else. The natural choice this time, even though there is a lot to see in the region was Hong Kong, as I have very good friends in Hong Kong, friends I hadn't seen in a long time, friends I was dying to meet.

Last time I was in Hong Kong I stayed in Mongkok, close to Prince Edward, an area in central Hong Kong, very densely populated, very Asian. Mongkok and Kowloon are areas that I really like; Sure, it is loud, busy, full of people, but there is something about it – but then again, it is easy to say that when you are just a visitor and don't live in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is after all one of the most densely populated cities in the world and living space is limited. Many people, especially westerners, will call me crazy, but I really to feel that Mong Kok is interesting. 

To me, the area around Prince Edward and Mong Kok has a certain charm; and it is not just because it is easy to get to and from. It's something about the atmosphere, I love the bustling life, the haggling, the shouting, the pushing, the dust, the smells and aromas, the air being thick of the smell of stinky tofu, the lights and the rush, I adore the way I can be anonymous but still always greeted as if I was known. 

I enjoy being in mainland Hong Kong, it is only an underground ride away and still it is completely different from Hong Kong island; Where Hong Kong Island is fashionable and fancy, and very busy, if you go to the mainland you will see another Hong Kong, far less western, organised in a different way than what we may be used to in the West – and that is after all partly why I am here, to explore and get to know something new, something different. I said when I left that I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, and I did. Except now my comfort zone has grown yet again - a friend was jokingly saying the other day how I am the most at ease when I am on the road, and how the world is my comfort zone, and there is some truth to that... 

How to travel and what to see in Hong Kong?

There is so much to see and do in Hong Kong, I will have to write multiple posts on it, but most important; Explore, take your time. 
10 000 Buddhas Monastary Hong Kong
Don't bother about taxis, there are plenty of options when it comes to public transportation and the metro is excellent - and in a taxi you won't meet new and interesting people, whereas you may if you use public transportation.  From Prince Edward you can easily take the metro: You can with just a change go out to the New Territories (Highly recommended! There is a very good museum out there, showing the history of Hong Kong) and you can reach the 10 000 Buddhas, an amazing temple with a beautiful view (just don't try and take the escalators; They lead you to a burial area, not to the temple, the stairs to the temple are close but you will have to walk... Many people have made the mistake of using the escalator. And  to be honest, the burial place is beautiful in it's own way so it is not an entirely bad idea, just don't expect to get from there to the 10 000 buddhas...) 

You can also easily reach Hong Kong island easily from Prince Edward, and from Hong Kong Island and Central you can reach the islands around - the ferries go from the Star Terminal, the is the main hub for the boats.

Islands worth mentioning

Part from Hong Kong island, the main island where the financial centre is located there are a few other big ones that every traveller should know of. The island all foreigners will see a bit of if they fly in is Lantau Island. It is a big island and this is where the airport is located nowadays - it is no longer the centrally located airport that I heard horror stories about taking off and landing in, in Lantau Island there is plenty of space for the planes to land. 
A sandy beach, and the waves from the ocean
Lantau Island is however a lot more than just the airport, so take some time here, and venture out and away from where the metro stops. There are beaches and wonderful hiking trails around Lantau.

Lamma Island is another one, one I very much enjoy – an island that you can reach with ferry from the Star Terminal. Bring your hiking boots for that Hong Kong visit, is my advice. Even if you are into shopping Hong Kong isn't cheap but rather pretty expensive, and the selection in the international shops are the same as it is all over the word. If you want to do shopping, look for something that is unique for Hong Kong and that area.

How to travel between Taiwan and Hong Kong

If you are in Hong Kong and want to visit Taiwan; Don't just look at Taipei and the two airports there. Taoyuan is the biggest one, south of the city, easily accessible also from Taichung (thanks to busses and high speed train) as well as from Kaochung, in the very south of Taiwan, thanks to the high speed train. For Hong Kong you can also look at Kaochung, but more importantly; Taichung. From Taichung City you can fly straight to and from Hong Kong – and it is inexpensive and very convenient, too.  

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