After spending a heavily scheduled month in rule-oriented Japan, bursting into the teeming, chaotic streets of Hong Kong was a breath of fresh air. We were invigorated by the vague sense of lawlessness that infused the city (a sense certainly heightened by our previous destination – we have never jaywalked so much or so gleefully as we did in Hong Kong!), and we felt like we were finally getting a glimpse of madcap Asia, and a primer of what was to come in China.
You may have noticed that pretty much every post we have written about Hong Kong to date has mentioned food. This was not an accident. We visited Hong Kong with the goal of eating as much as humanly possible, and although other elements of the city charmed us, the food definitely did not disappoint and remained a major highlight of our time there.
After wandering around Hong Kong willy-nilly for several days, Steph and I decided it was time for a little change of scenery. We had read that Stanley was a worthy diversion from the city, with a market and a beach-front promenade, and we knew that the mini bus station outside the door to our hostel went there, so we decided that was provenance enough and jumped on a bus one morning. Armed with a woefully inadequate map and little to no information about where we were going, we were off on an adventure!
I firmly believe that a trip to Hong Kong that revolves solely around eating as much food as possible is not only entirely acceptable, but wholly desirable as well! However, not everyone is so singularly minded as Tony & I are, and it would be wrong for us to give the impression that all there is to do in Hong Kong is eat. Far from it! Though we spent the months leading up to our trip seriously downsizing our belongings, and carrying all of our possessions on your back has a way of causing you to re-evaluate just how necessary a purchase really is, like millions before us, we discovered that Hong Kong is a bit of a shopper’s paradise.
It would seem that one necessary evil when traveling is the inevitable encounter with a Traveler. A Traveler has a world-weary “seen there, done that” air about them and is constantly engaging in games of “one-upsmanship” (anything you’ve seen or done, they’ve seen or done something better or cooler). A Traveler is someone who goes to great pains and lengths to enumerate the many differences between being a Traveler and a mere tourist (and of course, how they are the former, not the latter), and quite frankly in their books, if you’re going to be a tourist, you might as well just stay home. Constantly chasing “authentic” travel experiences, a Traveler will condemn an activity as anathema to them with the damning label of being “too touristy/touristic”.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a planner. In the years (yes, years!) leading up to leaving on this journey, I wiled away countless hours reading, researching and dreaming about all the things Tony & I would see and do when it was finally our time to burst into the world. I don’t doubt that some of my reluctance when the time came to actually transmute dreaming into doing stemmed from the fact that part of me wasn’t ready for the fun of planning to be over! I was also more than a little worried about what would happen when we left Japan, because while that leg of our trip had been hammered out in near exquisite detail, I had not really had any time to devote to planning out a real itinerary for Hong Kong.
Visiting Hong Kong is a sensory experience. We have (and will again) waxed peotic about the food in Hong Kong, but walking the streets goes beyond just the restaurants. There is a cacophony of smells, sights and sounds that surrounds you as you make your way down the crowded sidewalks. Few cities offer the almost unimaginable range of experiences that simply stepping out your door in Hong Kong can provide. We spent our first day in a bit of a daze, unused to the buzz of this new city and shaking off the placid, orderly calm of Japan, but we were quickly immersed in all that Hong Kong has to offer.
Hong Kong is the land of good eating and features many excellent restaurants. For a country so small, I was astounded (and excited!) by the number of Michelin stars it has under its belt – I believe the free tourist map we picked up one day at Victoria Harbour listed approximately 20 places that have earned Michelin approval of some degree. As we hungrily glanced at the list, duly noting Tim Ho Wan’s inclusion, our attention was captured by another restaurant: One Dim Sum.
I’ve never really believed that big cities could be beautiful. Dynamic, electric, inspiring? Sure. But beautiful? Not so much. The essence of beauty seemed far too lofty, too delicate, to allow itself to be captured and entrapped in towering cages forged from steel and concrete.