Hong Kong was, to put it best, very very interesting. We had a good time and have a ton of funny and memorable stories from the trip, but it was definitely exhausting! Not to mention the 13 hour time change from Atlanta!
We fly standby, and the flight to HK is pay load optimized from Seattle, which meant that on Thursday when we first tried to get there we didn't get seats on the flight. We were stuck in Seattle for the evening... and it just so happened that the Seahawks had a football game that night! We had to buy hats and gloves (and tickets of course), but the experience was fun and it's definitely a great story! I mean, when in Rome!
FIRST NIGHT IN HONG KONG:
When we arrived in Hong Kong, it was about 7:00 at night on Saturday. (The flight left Friday at noon Pacific time.) We were obviously exhausted from traveling, and by the time we got to our hotel it was about 9:00. All we wanted was a light dinner snack before going to sleep! Little did we know... that would prove to be a challenge!
We stayed in the Times Square area of Hong Kong and (wrongly) assumed we would be able to find a restaurant with some snack-type food that we could eat quickly before resting. Instead we found a tiny restaurant with a giant pot of soup and three men who couldn't speak any English except for the words "yes" and "ok." We all ended up getting pretty good food (I got noodles and soup) but it was certainly a challenge, especially running on little sleep!
DAY ONE IN HONG KONG:
Our first full day in Hong Kong was packed to the brim with things to do. We woke up early (ish - with the time zone we were all awake about 7AM, 6PM the day before on the east coast!) and got started. We made our way over to Victoria Peak and took the tram up to the top. We luckily managed to have a beautiful clear day and could see out all over Hong Kong Island, as well as part of Kowloon and even the outer corner of Lantau (all islands that make up Hong Kong). The man behind us in line for the tram said he didn't see the need to go all the way up the tower, but I absolutely recommend it if you're in HK! There's no better way to grasp just how big the city is than looking over all of it.
After Victoria Peak, we went over to the Central-Mid Level Escalator, which is "the world's longest outdoor covered escalator and walkway system in the world." Definitely interesting. The escalator is only one way, so just remember... what goes up, must come down! Since it was around lunch time, we stopped just over half way up to get lunch at a Nepalese restaurant (still scarred from our experience the night before) before finishing out the escalator.
We walked all the way down the escalators, to the ferry piers, took a boat to Kowloon, and walked to the Ladies Market. I do not recommend walking, and I don't think anybody else would either! The map made it seem like a shorter distance than it was, but toward the end of our long trek we were already to stop at one of the many McDonald's for a treat (and boost of energy).
The Ladies Market is very cool, there are tons of (fake) purses and wallets and belts, as well as actual clothing and even underwear for you to buy. There are also little trinkets that make great souvenirs.
Once we finished at the Ladies Market we made our way to the Goldfish Market, which wasn't a far walk but literally felt like forever on our aching feet. We were instantly cheered up buy the sight of PUPPIES!! The Goldfish Market street actually had a lot of general pet stores, but walking on the sidewalk you could see tons and tons of goldfish tied up in little plastic baggies all along the walls. Many stores also had frogs and tadpoles and some even had giant blue crabs. But the puppies were our favorite parts, it's just too bad you weren't able to take any pictures of them!
After taking the subway back to the ferry pier, and getting on a boat back to Hong Kong Island... we did as any good tourists would do... we went to a restaurant called "Angus" and got pizza. Oops!
DAY TWO IN HONG KONG
This day was an even earlier start because we were going over to the island of Lantau to see the famous Big Buddha statue (formally known as the Tian Tan Buddha)! We were able to take the subway all the way over there, and then a cable car up the mountain. We bought tickets for the crystal bottom cars because the wait was (somehow) shorter, and it was fun to see us soaring over trees and water, and then spot people hiking up to the tourist town on top, Ngong Ping.
Once we were in Ngong Ping, which is kind of like a mini-Disney World town, we walked toward the Big Buddha. Pretty self explanatory, since that's what everyone else is doing up there too! The "hike" up to the Big Buddha is about 250 steps, so it really wasn't hard except for everyone stopping to take pictures along the way (ourselves definitely included!).
Once you're up there you can go inside the base and learn more about the Buddha itself and the religion of Buddhism. There are also a few shops in there that have Buddhist gifts blessed by all of the Monks. I got a Chinese knot symbol to hang above my bed that means "all my dreams will come true." Plus all of the profits from those stores go back directly to the monastery.
We went to a Japanese noodle restaurant in the village before going back over to the Po Lin monastery. The monastery is absolutely beautiful. It looks a lot smaller than it is from the front, but goes back pretty far. The temples and altars all have beautiful tile work on the roofs in rich green and blue colors, and the Buddha shrines are all in innate gold.
After leaving the monastery and taking the cable car back down to Lantau, we took the subway to Kowloon station and went over to the Ritz Carlton. We looked pretty funny in our sneakers and tshirts from visiting the Buddha, but there were many other tourists trying to do the same thing as us... get a drink at the World's Highest Bar! The Ozone is on the 118th floor of the Ritz Hotel and the view is spectacular. It opens at 5:00 and is definitely worth a visit to see Hong Kong Island from the Kowloon side, as well as the sunset. The view from the bar is great... but the view from the bathroom is even better!
For dinner that night we had Vietnamese and Thai (I actually had sweet and sour chicken, which I thought was usually considered a Chinese dish, but at this point I was just rolling with it) at a restaurant in the Lan Kwai Fong area. This area has a lot of bars and a lot of advertisements for happy hour deals lasting until 10pm! Nothing can be too bad about that!
DAY THREE IN HONG KONG:
Our last full day in HK was pretty relaxed. In the morning we went over to Aberdeen fishing village, on the other side of Hong Kong Island. We walked around the fish market there until the water came up above our shoes, and then took a "harbor tour" in a little boat driven by an older Chinese woman who spoke almost no English. Then we went over to the Aberdeen temple and to the Aberdeen market, where we saw many interesting sights and smells... including butchers cutting up meats and displaying all parts of the animals: hearts, kidneys, livers, intestines and more.
After leaving Aberdeen, we made our way back over to Kowloon to the Wong Tai Sin Temple. My mom and sister had seen an episode of the Amazing Race where they went to this temple... so we had to visit it too! This particular temple is famous for it's fortune telling. You get a can of sticks, each with their own number on it. Then you shake it "prayerfully" until one falls out. You then take your number to a fortune teller who asks you what you want to know about: jobs, love, family and health. I chose the job fortune, and through her broken English (even though the sign said fluent English speaker, haha) she told me I was going to get a good job and all my dreams would come true. I'm choosing to believe her, part out of desperation to find a job and part out of knowing I had just bought the Chinese knot symbol with the same message!
We then revisited the Ladies Market on our way to the famous Jade Market. China is famous for their jade sculptures and jewelry. Let me tell you though... the jade market vendors are vicious!! If you even looked at their stall for a second they would pounce on you and essentially not let you leave until you bought something! That made for good bargaining, but my mom was looking at a necklace but decided she didn't want it anymore... until the woman grabbed her arm and essentially barricaded us in the market until my mom finally agreed to buy it!
At night we had tickets for the light show. Hong Kong is famous for their Symphony of Lights, so we decided to watch it from the tourist version of a "junk boat." You can watch the light show from almost anywhere along the water, but we wanted to be on the water to see it! Overall... we were disappointed with the show, but agreed that maybe all of the Christmas lights/decorations were in the way of some of the lights. Hey, just an excuse to come back and see it again!
The next day we boarded a ferry to Macau... so stay tuned for part two of our trip!