Finally made it through the midterm period (∼celebrations all around∼) and I thought I would get down to documenting some of the places I’ve visited in Hong Kong so far. Armed only with knowledge gleaned from others, my initial ideas of Hong Kong were concerned with food, shopping and food. And whilst Hong Kong does fulfil my expectations in those arenas, there is so much more to discover!
Holding the proverb, ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ to be true, my first month into the exchange period was a hectic flurry, ticking off tourist destinations, experiencing just the surface of Hong Kong. I joined a hike organised by the university during orientation week, leading to the top of Victoria Peak, the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island. Taking a trail starting straight from campus (so convenient!), the hike provided amazing views of the city throughout our ascent. Jarringly enough upon reaching the top, rather than finding a quiet, tranquil area to relax and enjoy the view, you’re coolly greeted by the 21st century in the form of a little shopping area filled with fast food restaurants, big brand chains and overpriced ice-cream! (~£4 for one scoop, hurts just thinking about it)
In a similar vein, visiting the Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island felt like walking through some manufactured wonderland. Skipping the hike (this time!) and opting for the lazy efficient route via cable car, spectacular views were to be enjoyed, but for those interested, I would recommend pre-booking tickets and selecting the glass floor cable car for a really exciting ride! Once there, cheery elevator music is played through speakers while you browse the shops filled with souvenirs before eventually getting to the Buddha. Although impressive, knowing that it was only built in 1993 takes a bit away from the grandeur of it all – nowadays everything seems so easy and effortless, it’s hard to appreciate the labour and workmanship (of which I’m sure was hard and many hours) that went into constructing it. Nevertheless, there’s the Po Lin monastery nearby to check both the history and sacred-ness boxes as well as an infinity pool and fishing village which I unfortunately didn’t get to see, but is definitely on my list to come back and do!
Heading over to TST, I walked the Avenue of Stars and was grateful for my Hong Kong Cinema module as otherwise I would have been pree-ty clueless about most of the famous names and handprints on the walk. Saving this topic for another post, but I’ve come to realise how underappreciated and unaccredited Hong Kong cinema is in terms of influence – especially on Western cinema (side eyeing Scorsese here). More in this area includes the Hong Kong Museum of History, wherein I saw a very informative exhibition on the Han Dynasty as well as getting to view up close an extremely intricately made jade suit, that only members of the royal family were buried in. It’s funny how unaware we are about the history of other countries, and quite overwhelmingly depressing knowing there’s so much information out there that will never be learnt or even cross your mind. In contrast, the Hong Kong Space museum isn’t anything special. While I trust the information to be perfectly valid, it’s quite drab and in need of a renovation. Especially when comparing it to TeNQ, (Tokyo’s Space Museum) which utilised exciting cinematic technology to exhibit short films as well as presenting information in an engaging and interesting way – there’s a lab with scientists from Tokyo’s universities conducting research that you can peer into (if you like that sort of thing heh).
My most recent endeavour was a scenic bike ride starting from Tai Wai, going along the river and harbour to the Tai Po area, only to regain all those calories burned with all you can eat BBQ! Luckily for me, the route consisted of mainly flat terrain, making it an easy and relaxing cycle through rural parts of Hong Kong. It was so lovely to get away from the endless high rises in the centre and experience Hong Kong like a local – surprisingly this activity doesn’t attract many tourists, but is for sure the best thing I’ve done yet!
I’m cautious about viewing Hong Kong through rose-tinted glasses, but there’s certainly more depth to the city than I initially thought. So far, it seems like there’s everything you could ever want in one place, beautiful beaches and natural landscapes to explore/relax, then bustling shopping areas and nightlife to have fun/spend your student loans away. As time goes on, I am unexpectedly finding that I’m growing to love the city more than I had anticipated, making me question whether I could uproot myself from the comfort and familiarity of the UK to embrace the scary concept of working and living abroad for a while…