“No.” That’s the answer we would have given you if you had asked us three months ago if we were going to travel to Hong Kong.
However, thanks to the persistence of our friend, Matt, who now lives in Hong Kong, we finally gave Hong Kong the green light after several persuasive emails. What came as a last minute decision was, hands down, one of our best travel decisions to date! We fell in love with Hong Kong and we don’t care who knows it!
Hong Kong is arguably one of the best cities in the world. While we haven’t been to London or the city of Singapore, we would say that Hong Kong gives both New York and Chicago a run for their money and here is why…
The Best of Both Worlds: The East Meets The West
After two and a half months of diving head first into Southeastern culture, we ecstatically welcomed several comforts of home while we were in Hong Kong. New York style pizza, Cincinnati style chili, and cupcakes are just a few western treats we (over)indulged in during our long weekend. The best part was that we were able to cure our western cravings by walking few short minutes outside of Matt’s apartment!
Have no fear – we also took in the flavors of the local cuisine as well. Our first day we enjoyed dan dan noodles at a private kitchen. What in the world is a private kitchen you might be asking. Well, it was a new concept for us too. It’s a speakeasy-style restaurant that is typically in a residential building (they don’t do advertising so they gain new business by word of mouth). I think it might be a way to get around the restaurant taxes but regardless of the reason, it was a neat experience and getting there is half the fun! From the street we entered a building and went up a few floors by elevator and then entered into a room by an unmarked door and low and behold, inside we found a little restaurant (aka private kitchen). The food was incredible and cheap so it’s easy to see why the place was packed during lunch hour. Luckily, Matt took us there before the big lunch rush hit!
Our long weekend didn’t have a shortage of dim sum either, which is a Cantonese style dumpling that is served in small steamer baskets. On our last day we actually checked out Tim Ho Wan, which serves incredible dim sum and happens to be the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant. We had an absolute feast for lunch as we were conducting our own taste testing session and our bill was a whopping 20 USD for the three of us. Michelin star restaurant at McDonald’s prices – it’s a deal that can’t be beat! If you ever try it out, Brian and I voted the pork buns as our favorite dish!
Aside from the flavorful mix of western and eastern cuisine that is offered all over Hong Kong island, there is also a cultural mix to match. The Chinese influences are quite apparent in some areas of the city while the western influences are evident in other areas. With Hong Kong having a strong international presence when it comes to the finance, lots of financial gurus flock to Hong Kong creating a large expat community! In fact, when we went out to grab a few drinks on Friday night Matt took us to an expat area that was bustling with bars and restaurants. To be completely honest, there were several points throughout the night that I forgot we were in Hong Kong because we were surrounded by so many westerners.
Hongkongers love gambling and horse racing so it was no surprise that we spent Sunday enjoying the traditional Hong Kong pastime of horse racing with Matt, his girlfriend, Andrea, and a few of their friends! We headed to the Hong Kong Jockey Club (which is a short can ride outside the city) and tested our gambling luck. Unfortunately, even though it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, we didn’t have the luck of the Irish when it came to betting on the horses but that didn’t stop the fun! The attire was certainly more casual than the Kentucky Derby which was a blessing considering my big Kentucky Derby hat didn’t make the cut when we were packing for our trip.
The City and Mother Nature Collide
Have you ever gotten lost in a big city and then found yourself in the jungle? In Hong Kong with a few wrong turns, you can surprisingly find yourself putting your feet in the sand at the beach or hiking up a mountain. Pretty remarkable, isn’t it? You have the hustle and bustle that comes with a big city but you have Mother Nature at your finger tips if you want to escape city life. With the harbor on one side, the city in the center, and the mountains on the other side, Hong Kong has got it all!
While we didn’t visit Hong Kong during prime time in terms of weather so we didn’t get to take advantage of the many beaches. However, the weather was perfect for trekking while we were there! Having purchased new trekking shoes for Nepal on our first day in Hong Kong, we spent the following two days racking up about 15 miles in our new shoes. We didn’t want to flash forward one week and find ourselves in a position where we are curled over on the side of a Himalayan mountain grimacing in pain from blisters from unworn trekking shoes. We are not expert hikers but we hoped to avoid that novice mistake.
If you ever make your way to Hong Kong, trekking is a must! The hikes are incredible and the views from the top of the mountains are just spectacular! We hiked Dragon’s Back which is a popular hike and a short trip outside the city. The trek ends at Big Wave beach, where as the name implies, we checked out some surfers riding the big waves.
We also did a longer hike on Saturday with Matt and Andrea which was part of section nine of the Wilson Trail. The hike took us about 4-5 hours and was pretty intense. We hiked along the mountain ridge line for about two hours during our hike. The views from the top were amazing and very rewarding!
Mouthwatering cuisine, a special blend of eastern and western cultures, easily accessible beaches, incredible trekking just outside the city, a mild winter, and the all the excitement that comes with big city life – what’s not to love about Hong Kong? In our opinion, absolutely nothing.