I have a love affair with Hong. Something about that glorious, unique, smelly city draws me back again and again. I have been able to visit 4 times, each completely different to the last.
It seems everyone I have spoken to about Hong Kong seems to think it is just sky rises, hoards of people and smelling of fish. Whilst, yes, they are quite right, there is also so much more than that. Many people use HK as a stopover en route to another far-off destination, so can be forgiven for only seeing the aforementioned if they only have a couple of days. But should you give this beautiful destination a little more time, you will see so many more sides to it.
First off, HK is made up of over 200 islands, and its developed land mass is as little as 25%. Yet of that 25% there are 7 million people living there, making it one of the world’s most densely populated areas. Get exploring to one of the many accessible islands and you will soon see a different side to HK. Or take an MTR train (underground and overground network, frequently described as the best in the world, and I absolutely agree) out to the new territories and you will slowly see the high rises evaporate and the mountains and greenery grow. There are endless trekking and cycling possibilities, beautiful beaches and an island with no cars. There is so much to appreciate and fall in love with in this place.
When we visited this time round, in 2011, we ended up visiting 3 times and each time was very different. There were a few reasons for the multiple visits; firstly, that is where we flew to and from, so obviously that makes up 2 visits. The 2nd visit was due to our China visa coming to an end (you get 30 days then you have to skidaddle, fast) and we splashed out in an amazing 5 star hotel; any one who has travelled for an extended time will surely appreciate the need for a little luxury on the odd occasion (which was swiftly followed by a 5 day extension to the stay due to our Vietnam visas coming back from the embassy wrong, which saw us go from the lovely Royal Plaza to a little backpackers where we had the weirdest power cut, i’ll tell you about that another time…)
On our last visit, mind, we were there for a good week or so, with no money. We were in Chiang Mai, Thailand, when thinks went a little up the shoot, and we (for some, unbeknown to me now, reason) took a plane to Shenzhen, China, then made the trip across the border into HK. We had NO money, just enough to cover our hostels and a little bit of food. But we happily discovered HK is 100% doable AND enjoyable with no money. We went to the fantastic science and history museum (so worthy of a visit, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t do well in museums) which were free on certain days. We went swimming in the local, and excellent, outdoor swimming pool in Kowloon Park. We wondered along the walk of fame, though how famous these chaps were i’m not too sure, we watched the autumn festival parade, we took a train to the new territories. We walked around Nathan Road, rode the star ferry, and walked around Soho. We browsed the markets of Mongkok and ate where the locals ate. It was a completely different way to see the city and we fell in love again.
I will recommend Hong Kong over and over again, and will continue to love this place and attempt to remove the perhaps pre-conceived perceptions most people (and naturally so) have about one of the greatest cities in the world.