When we last left this blogger, she had staggered off a 16-hour flight, spit out an expletive and proceeded to tour Hong Kong with her expat neighbors along with her two youngest children.
The China trip had always seemed so far away because we booked it so far in advance. I am usually pretty last-minute and willy-nilly about everything in my life so making plane reservations for the vacation six months ahead of time was a completely foreign concept (and really, setting the tone for the entire adventure). But we pulled the trigger in October, bought the tickets, and then started counting the days.
It turns out, I am not a great counter because all of a sudden — somewhere around mid-March — I realized we were scheduled to leave about two weeks hence and had done nothing to plan our itinerary. Zippo. I reached out to my girlfriend, who moved to Hong Kong last summer with her family, to ask her if she had any ideas and she messaged back, “Actually, what do you think about this?”
It was like a dream come true. We literally just had to get our asses over to the other side of the world, and our friends had made plans for the rest. It was like being on a tour or something.
The best part about the trip – well, one of the best parts about the trip – was that we had locals as our very own tour guides. And we were their first visitors, so things were still relatively new for them. It wasn’t like, “Oh, there’s that giant Buddha again (*yawn*).” They were as excited as we were.
Because we were with locals who don’t own a car, we not only got to experience the thrill of riding in a Hong Kong taxi, but we got ourselves some Octopus cards (Hong Kong’s equivalent of NYC’s MetroCard) and rode all sorts of public transportation, like the rollercoaster double-decker buses, the crazy little green minibuses and the MTR (or subway) all over the island. We also took a couple of gondola rides, but that’s another story.
We jammed a lot in during our week there, including breathtaking hikes, yummy dim sum, foot rubs, a twisty-turny rollercoaster ride above the South China Sea, a junk boat tour and a visit to the aforementioned Giant Buddha. And we ate at some outstanding restaurants but did manage to have a brush with some of China’s creepier food choices. Never — I repeat — never order a chicken Caesar salad for your lunch at a Chinese beach snack bar. Shiver.
Anyway, here are some of the highlights:
Hiking the Dragon’s Back
Since our friends moved to Hong Kong, they’ve posted lots of pictures on social media of amazing hikes they’ve taken around the island with their three young sons. I had indicated that we’d love to do some as well during our trip. So when I went to my local Athleta store to buy some fresh new tops for sightseeing and hiking (a goodwill gesture towards the Chinese people so that they would not subjected to seeing me in an item pulled from my old pile of stinky, pit-stained workout tops), I told the very enthusiastic sales woman that I didn’t anticipate any serious exertion. “They’ve got young kids,” I told her, “so we’re really just going to be going for walks and not quote-unquote ‘hiking.'”
So, it turns out that those expat friends of mine are fucking hiking with their kids. Like, strenuous stuff. Our first hike was the famous Dragon’s Back – named for the way the mountains the trail traverses resemble one of those fire-breathing creatures — which is part of the Hong Kong Trail. We climbed eight or nine miles of hills and steps, and it was kinda hot and we were kinda tired from the time change and maybe a tad dehydrated but then we looked around at the drop-dead gorgeous scenery and shut the hell up.
Hitting the Beach at Big Wave Bay
The Dragon’s Back trail ends with about 1,000 steps down (literally) to Big Wave Bay, which is where we crashed (literally again) for the rest of the afternoon. Who knew China had beaches, much less boogie boarding? Oh, and shark nets. That’s a thing.
Walking Around SoHo
Sailing Around the Island on a Junk Boat
Later that day we walked down to Stanley Pier, right down the road from our friends’ flat, and boarded our very own junk boat. When my girlfriend told me before we left that they had made reservations on a junk boat, I envisioned we’d be on one of those old-fashioned Chinese-y sailboats with the red sails. You know, one of these deals:
But, no. We boarded a lovely two-level sea vessel replete with beanbag chairs for lounging and a crew to make us dinner and sail us around the island. We stopped for a while off Big Wave Bay — outside the shark nets, I might add — to do a little swimming. Beer totally helped get me past the threat of sharks or the very large, red jellyfish we kept an eye on. As my girlfriend would say — and I began to follow suit — about a thousand times while we were there whenever we encountered something not-very-American, “Welcome to Hong Kong.”
Victoria Harbor Light Show
After dinner and a competitive game of Uno, we headed to the north side of the island to see the famous Symphony of Lights show. Asian countries — admirably, in my opinion — have a thing for lights. Like, the more, the better. This holds true in Hong Kong where all the crazy tall skyscrapers lining the harbor light up as the sun goes down and then at 8:00 each night, laser lights stream from the top and sweep across the harbor for the light show.
This is totally not my video. Thank you, YouTube.
Honestly, we had a hard time — sitting there on our junk boat in the middle of the choppy harbor — gauging just when the show started or stopped. We were a little underwhelmed. But we happened to catch the show a few nights later from a restaurant high above the city, and it seemed a lot better. But who cares? It was a spectacular setting.
Oh, and there was a full moon.
But Wait, There’s More …
I think we’re going to need a Part 3. There’s so much more to show and tell you about. We still haven’t even gotten to the Big Buddha, the insane gondola ride over mountains and the South China Sea or all the smelly fishing village we visited. Not to mention all the toilets I took pictures of. No, we’re going to need to do this again.
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