I have had this blog set up for several years and this is my first post. I wasn’t going to do a ‘travel’ blog but several people said I should do one (ha ha! I see what you meant there), so here you go. You have been warned.
In case you don’t know the background, I accepted a voluntary severance package from my downsizing work last year. Large monetary packages were being offered to anyone wanting to go. Translation: please leave and take this large amount of money and don’t bother us for a while. With no job but a huge, fat bank account – what else would I do except go travelling for a while? I’d always had a long list of places I wanted to go to but never had the time or money. Here was the perfect opportunity.
For this next paragraph, please remove your tiny violin from its case and play it for a good ten minutes.
I suddenly had a problem that most people never encounter, save for the super rich. If you had lots of money and didn’t have to work for a while, where would you go? I was struck with a multitude of destinations, some close to home, some far away and exotic. People offered their own suggestions – Antarctica, South America, Canada, Alaska, Vietnam, Cambodia, Namibia. I could go anywhere I wanted, and unfortunately the number of options put me in limbo for a while. It was hard to narrow it down (you’re still playing that tiny violin, right?)
Eventually I decided I wanted to see more of Asia, since the only previous time I’d ‘done’ Asia was a stopover in Singapore airport on the way to Australia, which doesn’t really count. Having heard rave reviews about Hong Kong, I decided that would be my first port of call. It actually wasn’t until I booked my flights that I realised I would be there over the Chinese New Year celebrations. Suddenly, I was immensely excited.
I do want to say something about my flight to Hong Kong, since the amount of money meant I was able to treat myself to business class – again, something I’d always wanted to do but never been able to afford. Anyone who knows me knows I like a drink (yes, I admit it), and the prospect of unlimited booze was too much of a temptation. You guessed it – I got absolutely hammered on the flight over, at one point I was dancing with the cabin crew in the bar area as they topped my cocktail glass up. I don’t know how many drinks I had but suffice to say, I felt like death warmed up the next day, even though I’d been able to sleep properly in a flat bed.
To illustrate my point, here are pre- and post-drink photos.
So, I arrived in Hong Kong with a terrible hangover, feeling like I could vomit any second. A good job then, that their metro system is super efficient. Through my alcohol-sozzled brain, I was still able to appreciate the majestic mountain scenery falling down to the coast, as the airport express whizzed me into the city. I’d chosen the Tsim Sha Tsui area in Kowloon to stay, as it seemed to be right in the thick of it. I wasn’t wrong. My hotel was right next to a metro station, though had several flights of stairs to negotiate (I almost died). The hotel owner was very friendly and I soon settled in (read: had a nap to try and get over my terrible hangover).
I managed to make it out in time to see the Symphony of Lights on the first night, passing by areas of Kowloon where children were practising their dance routines for the new year parade. The sight of tiny Chinese children dressed as bumble bees coupled with my hangover prompted me to burst into tears. What a twat.
I decided food was needed and went on a walking tour until I found a glorious noodle place round the corner from my hotel which served big bowls of noodles and noodle soup for about £4. It was so good, I visited a further 3 times during my stay.
The next morning I decided to have an authentic Hong Kong breakfast, which turned out to be macaroni in chicken broth, topped with ham and a side of eggs and toast. Comfort food at its best. The place I went to had been serving this one dish for more than 20 years. Many will say yuck, but I said yum. It was exactly what I expected it to be.
On Sunday I decided to visit Victoria Peak. This turned out to be a day when everyone else was visiting the Peak, and I queued for a good 2 hours to get on the tram taking everyone up there. Worth the wait, though. I was astonished how long ago the tram existed, and how someone would think, ‘let’s build this tramway up a mountain.’ I had morning coffee with a great view.
Around this time, I realised a Twitter follower of mine was in Hong Kong (@fancywookiee) – real name Tom, and we should probably meet up. He’s a great chap and a surgeon at that – ask him about the time he tended to Jonny Wilkinson the rugby player in a Japanese hospital.
The next day was the Chinese New Year, and we wanted to see the parade. We waited for hours but nabbed a great spot, gaining loads of freebies in a lucky Chinese bag. Here we are waiting.
The parade was excellent, particularly the dragon and lion dancers. I have gazillions of photos, but just imagine an explosion of light and sound and you’re somewhere close.
Oh, OK. Here’s a pic.
It wasn’t until the next day that either of us realised there had been riots and clashes between police and protestors in nearby Mong Kok. I only realised because Twitter followers told me to avoid the area. I wasn’t sure why until I switched on the news.
The next night were the fireworks. Again Tom and I waited, though we were slightly in the wrong place. They don’t actually tell you where the fireworks will be exactly. We and thousands of others got it wrong, though we still saw a lot and were impressed.
Every day I’d been in Hong Kong had been warm and sunny. The day I left, it rained. Obviously. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to – the new year meant many places were either closed or busy, but I have a few more days there in March before heading back to London. I can’t wait.
Things I liked about Hong Kong:
Great rooftop bars
Very good cheap food
The fusion of West with East
The sheer scale of the tower blocks, which must house thousands of people.
Neon signs – other countries seem to do this so well, the US in particular.
Things I didn’t like:
People being pushy and shovy
Hassling street vendors – I learned to say fuck off pretty quickly.
Surgical masks. I cannot imagine British people EVER wearing a face mask in public, even if there was a risk of a zombie-like virus.
Just how many shopping malls does one city need?
NEXT STOP: Bangkok.