We’re about two months into our trip now, and from here on out, the only English-speaking country we will visit is Ireland. We’re headed to Asia—southeast Asia, to be exact…the land of squat toilets, cold showers, mosquito nets, and delicious food. But first…we spent one night in Hong Kong on our way to Thailand, and though 24 hours doesn’t seem like a very long time, it felt like we managed to do quite a bit during our short stay there (we plan on staying a little longer when we fly back through Hong Kong on our way from SE Asia to Taiwan).
We flew from Cairns to Hong Kong on our around-the-world ticket, and then purchased tickets from Hong Kong to Bangkok via AirAsia (http://www.airasia.com), a low-cost Asian airline. It cost us about HKD$2100 (approx. US$300) each for the roundtrip tickets. This is a little more expensive than we expected it to be, but it was the best deal we could find.
We booked a great room at the Mingle Techotel via wotif.com (a GREAT last-minute hotel resource that Jasmine told us about) in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Kowloon. Random funny: I thought we booked a room at the Mingle “Tee-cho-tel”. It took me a minute to realize it was actually a “tech hotel,” not some weird Mayan hotel in the middle of Hong Kong.
We got in a bit late—it was about 10PM by the time we took the train into Kowloon and then the taxi to our hotel, but the place was absolutely alive like it was a Friday night (it was Tuesday). The streets were packed with people shopping (the stores don’t close until about 11PM here), eating at the food stalls, and generally hanging out with friends.
We walked around Tsim Sha Tsui and headed towards the boardwalk, where you can see Hong Kong across Victoria Harbour.
We were pretty exhausted from our long flight and headed back to the hotel after an hour or so. But when we laid down and turned on the TV, what was on but the inauguration! We had to stay up and see our new president get sworn into office. So, right there in our Hong Kong hotel room, we watched as Barack Obama took the presidential oath. It’s a strange thing traveling as Americans during this time…Jeremy and I have been to South and Central America, Asia, and Europe before, but this is the first time as travelers that we feel proud to be Americans. Everywhere we have been, people have been very supportive of Obama. We felt really patriotic watching the inauguration, thinking that we were sharing this moment with millions of people, not just in the US, but around the world. It was 1:30AM Hong Kong time when Obama finally finished his speech, but it was worth the wait.
The next morning, rested and reassured that things were getting kicked off back home, we enjoyed a great breakfast—I had jook (they call it congee here) with pork and pickles, Jeremy had wonton soup. Yum!
Jeremy and I split up for the day—he wanted to see if he could exchange his North Face day pack (which is already falling apart after 2 months), and I wanted to go shopping (it’s official, I am sick of my clothes). Hong Kong is a shopping haven…in fact, I’m not sure what else people do in Hong Kong! It seems like people are just buying things all day long. So, I headed towards Mong Kok, while Jeremy took the subway into Hong Kong.
I found a street market with lots of clothing stalls and found a few cute items. Of course, I had to bust out the Mandarin when negotiating (even though most people speak Cantonese in HK)—I figured that speaking English can only end in a higher price. I may have gotten totally robbed, but both the saleslady and I were happy with the deal so that’s a good bargaining session in my book.
I also had a chance to sample some of the Hong Kong street food while I was out and about. Some of it was a little scary-looking (fish balls stewing in a curry sauce?), but I was able to point at some delicious deep-fried dumplings and some pork meatballs on a stick. Yum!
Jeremy had a good day downtown too, though we were both pretty exhausted after our day on the town. The sheer number of people in this city makes simply walking the streets a huge effort. This is good practice for the rest of Asia, though…at least there are sidewalks in Hong Kong!
Thanks for the great day, Hong Kong! We’ll see you soon…