Hello Hong Kong, I’ve been waiting to visit you for years. Though I never thought, even in my wildest daydreams, that I would get to visit. Then one rainy Tuesday afternoon an opportunity knocked on my door. Well, it knocked on the door of one of the humans. A work trip to Hong Kong, which in my eyes is just another word for adventure. An adventure which I couldn’t say no to. Even though it would be my biggest challenge so far because I would be travelling without my photographer. I like to think of myself as an independent dinosaur, but the thought of solo travel is quite terrifying, mainly because my photographer plans everything and I just bring the snacks.
With my suitcase packed and COVID tests logged, my photographer took me to the airport for the longest flight of my life. 20 hours and 40 minutes of flying took me from Newcastle to Dubai then on to Hong Kong via Bangkok. I was lucky enough to have the window seat and happily watched the world go by. Sadly, I couldn’t go straight from the airplane to exploring. Instead, I spent 2 hours in the airport to have a PCR, the test was horrible but the organisation in the airport was second to none. 45 minutes in the taxi took me over a bridge to Hong Kong Island where my hotel was located. I was staying in the Novotel Hong Kong Century, a stone’s throw away from the famous Victoria Harbour which I was able to see from my room. One of the perks of staying on the 18th floor (I was just too scared to look down). Even though I had been awake for more hours than I can count I was wide awake. Jet lag is one of my favourite things, after food, because you get to see the city at a different time to normal. Seeing all of the city lights without my photographer made me really sad, just don’t tell them I said that! I know they would have loved to see them, maybe one day. I was most excited by Ding Ding (the tram) when it was zooming by it reminded me of the trams at Beamish.
Sadly, the next couple of days were interrupted by Typhoon Nalgae, the first No. 8 alert typhoon in November in 50 years. It was ironic that I had travelled a long way to have to work from my hotel room. I won’t complain though, it was an incredible thing to experience from the safety of my bed.
I did sneak out in the evening to find some snacks, luckily, I was staying near a 7eleven and a delicious bakery. The bakery sold life changing mango cake (I may have returned daily for these). I even found some statues who I had heard were on a street lined with lanterns. Unfortunately, the lanterns weren’t there, maybe it was because of the bad weather.
The overcast weather made me feel like I was in a cyberpunk scene, there’s something cinematic about skyscrapers, neon lights and rain. The storm wasn’t as bad as I had expected but the low hanging clouds left some very atmospheric scenes. The photographs don’t do it justice, using a camera is difficult with short blue arms! I spent my entire time in Hong Kong in awe of the size of the buildings and the sheer number of humans in a small space. The fear of being stood on returned with vengeance, I forget how lucky I was during the pandemic when everyone was spread out.
The only thing better than the scenery was the food. Initially I was worried about what I could eat as Asian countries don’t really cater for veggiesaurus’. Instead, I found myself struggling to choose what to eat. Sadly, most mornings began with a COVID test (I was always negative!) but it meant I was able to sample traditional Hong Kong breakfasts. My favourites were the Nai Wong Bao (steamed custard buns), and the soy sauce noodles.
I was meant to eat breakfast in my hotel, but I found the local options were a lot better. I even managed to try one of the famous Hong Kong egg tarts which reminded me of those Portuguese tarts. In between eating I had a nap whilst the humans did some work so I would be ready for my evening of adventures.
Taking a walk through central was an incredible experience, the animals on the billboards were so lifelike. Walking is the best way to experience Hong Kong, it gives you a chance to spot the eclectic mix of traditional and modern. The shops in central are all designer and a little out of an adventursaurus’ price range but I had fun window shopping. Sadly, I didn’t have a lot of time for shopping because I was invited to a working lunch at Peking Garden (Central), a restaurant which used to have a Michelin star. Not only did I get my own chair, but a robot also brought my food! The food was delicious, especially the apple dumplings for dessert. I walked back through the skyscrapers to my hotel after a really busy day, not before spending an hour watching the world go by from my hotel window.
The next morning, I started my day with another delicious breakfast from HoiXe cake shop (don’t tell my photographer I had cake for breakfast).
Then I did some wandering around Wan Chai. The older buildings such as Mei Wah Building were an incredible find. A teardrop shaped building houses many people, Chinese medicine shops, a hospital among other things. To think I had stumbled on this purely by accident. For once my sheer lack of planning and adventure took me somewhere incredible.
My final full day in Hong Kong greeted me with overcast but dry weather. So, I headed to central station to catch a metro to Mong Kok. My first stop was the Ladies Market which initially I was worried about what I would find (disclaimer: it’s all pg.). Sadly, it turned out to be a flea market. Even without my photographer I managed to go shopping (sigh). Shopping isn’t really an activity dinosaurs enjoy but it was an experience I am glad to have had. It is one of the largest street markets in Hong Kong but sadly a lot of the stalls have closed due to the lack of tourists. I picked up a couple of souvenirs, a ribbon Feng Shui coins (for luck) and a chinese knot with a rabbit for the next Lunar New Year. My photographer has always wanted to visit Hong Kong to celebrate Lunar New Year, so I am bringing Hong Kong to them! Currently, there are minimal visitors as you need to carry out several tests and fill in a lot of paperwork (let’s hope these rules change soon!).
I wandered along Nathan Road towards an ancient department store. Yue Hwa is on the corner of a busy crossroads and embodies the tradition of Hong Kong. Highrise apartment buildings littered with neon signs, which I could not get enough of especially as the sky was getting darker. I loved seeing the lanterns and traditional outfits in the entrance. If I could have brought some home, I would have. Seven floors sold everything from food to clothes to electricals and homeware. As I was travelling without my photographer, I decided to pick up a couple of things which are nearly impossible to find in the UK. Wife cakes, biscuits (which I didn’t tell my photographer about the spiciness) and chopsticks for my photographer and a new teapot for myself. Hong Kong introduced me to Jasmine green tea, a delicious drink which I am going to continue to drink in the UK.
Continuing along Nathan Road through Kowloon, I found some beautiful ancient trees. They are Banyan Trees and have lived in this area for a century and have been nicknamed walking trees due to growing roots from the extending branches. They are so unique and definitely worth visiting if you are in the area.
Exploring is very hungry work, so I decided to go to Moon Lok Chiu Chow Restaurant, which specialised in chiuchow food from the Guangdong Province in China. Stupidly, I had never realised there were so many different types of food available in China. Of course, I’m glad I realised so I could try all of the different types of food. Before I write about the taste of the food, I want to give a special mention to the bowl of soup. Look at the presentation, I mean it is an art to make soup look good never mind making a perfect Yin Yang symbol. The white side was chicken and egg white, the green side was vegetable.
I also had stir fried mixed vegetables which came with a happy mushroom. They were delicious and I devoured the whole plate. Some of the humans I visited with ate the braised goose, they say it was delicious and something you should try when eating in a chiuchow restaurant. The meal ended with sweet and sour noodles, a dish which is like nothing I have ever eaten. The noodles are crispy from being pan fried making the perfect balance of crispy and soft. To eat them you add a sprinkling of sugar and a dash of vinegar. This was a unique and delicious meal which I really enjoyed.
After eating I decided to walk down to Tsim Sha Tsui past all of the designer shops with the aim of reaching the star ferry pier. I found the Clock Tower, a landmark in Hong Kong. It is 107 years old and a monument to the Kowloon-Canton railway which used to run from Calais to Hong Kong. I loved the simple design with the small fountains in front. It fits in perfectly with the modern skyscrapers which surround the tower.
From here I chose to stroll along Kowloon Public Pier which boasts great views of Hong Kong Island and Victoria Harbour. Sadly, my photos don’t do it justice, the view is incredible. I love how the lights dance and bring the buildings to life, I sat for a long time enjoying the view. If it was that beautiful on a cloudy evening, I can only imagine how beautiful the lights look on a clear night. I tried to search for my hotel, but I had no idea which building it was, when walking around Wan Chai and Central you don’t realise there are so many buildings.
Sadly, it was getting late, and I had to pack my suitcase ready to go home. So, I chose to jump on the Star Ferry to head back to Hong Kong Island. I don’t really need an excuse to go on a boat as we all know. The Star Ferry cost $3.2 (£0.34) and I had a beautiful 20-minute ride from Tsim Sha Tsui to Wan Chai. The inside of the ferry was wooden with rows of wood plinths to sit on. I was lucky to be on a very quiet ferry and had the opportunity to sit at the window seat in the front row. The views are incredible, I couldn’t decide which way to look. A bucket list moment and a must see for anyone visiting Hong Kong.
My final morning in Hong Kong began with another (unhealthy) breakfast from HoiXe where I decided to try an egg tart and mango cake. I did some last-minute packing whilst the humans finished their work before heading across to the airport. Luckily, I didn’t need another PCR test (I had to have 7 tests in 6 days and my nose was a bit sore). The taxi drove across the huge bridge and through the skyscrapers to Hong Kong airport. I waved goodbye to the buildings as the taxi zoomed across stonecutters bridge, suddenly overwhelmed by emotion. The people in Hong Kong had been incredibly kind but I was sad my photographer had missed out on all the fun.
Hong Kong International Airport was incredibly big, and I was pleased to have four hours to make my way to the airplane. I had to take a train between dropping my bag and reaching departures. I enjoyed wandering through the designer shops to tire myself out before a gruelling 22 hours of flying. It wasn’t as bad as I initially thought, I managed to sleep the 5 hour flight from Bangkok to Dubai. Then my final flight allowed me to glimpse the Burj Khalifa as we took off before I had another six hour snooze as we flew back to England.
I’m not being sponsored/paid but I would like to give special thanks to the staff at University of Sunderland Hong Kong campus for showing me around this incredible city!
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