…cause I sure did. Joy of joys, last weekend was a five day weekend so I did as any self respecting woman would do and got myself the hell out of Korea, this time to Hong Kong, which was faaaaabulous. It was an exhausting trip since I arrived very early one morning, had three full days, then had a red eye flight back to Korea, found out my train to my home city had been cancelled and, to make an INCREDIBLY BORING story short, by the time I got home I had been awake for twenty seven hours and my eye lids felt like they were going to GIVE UP THE GHOST. And yet Hong Kong was still worth it which I think says a lot.
So, as I said, I arrived very early Sunday morning. Literally the moment I left the airport I could feel the heat like a wall–and this was at 3 AM. It was so, so intensely hot and remained so the whole time I was there, which took some adjustment. Getting from the airport to my hostel was really easy, so I arrived without incident and my hostel was in a really well lit and central area. I wasn’t really able to sleep at all, I was too excited, so I woke up at the crack of down and bounded out into the city. Hong Kong is a really weird mix of poorer and wealthier than Korea, like the area I was in (which seemed pretty standard for most of the city I saw), looked like this:
And an equivalent neighborhood in Korea would look sort of cleaner, crisper, newer (I would supply a photo supporting that but honestly a lot of this is just based on ‘feel’) and have a lot more shopping. But then Hong Kong had multiple neighborhoods of high end store after high end store and nowhere in Korea has that, not even in Seoul. So that was interesting.
Once I had made my sociocultural observations for the day I started in on the sites that were closest to my hostel. In general I found that all the major tourist sites were really, really easy to locate and navigate to, which was great. My first stop was the Pak Tai Temple, which I was kind of glad I had not gone wildly out of my way to see, because it was TINY. However, also delightful:
As an aside, all the temples I saw in Hong Kong were WONDERFULLY gaudy and over the top, which I appreciate partly because I am a deeply tacky person and also because temples in Korea are usually kind of…boring. So it was a nice change.
After the temple i headed for Hong Kong Park, which is a truly gorgeous green oasis that in hindsight I should have taken the subway to because by the time I got there I felt like my eyeballs were sweating. However, it was really beautiful:
I actually spent a lot of time in the park because in addition to all the outdoors stuff they also had a conservatory that was air conditioned (sweet, sweet air conditioning). The conservatory was mostly unremarkable except that for some reason they had teddy bears as decoration:
Also until I posted that picture I had forgotten that the teddy bears are on a broomstick. Because the only thing stranger than teddy bears as greenhouse decor is WITCHY teddy bears as greenhouse decor.
My next stop after that was to take the tram up Victoria Peak which is the highest point in Hong Kong. The tram is conveniently located inside Hong Kong Park which I of course did not realize until I had LEFT the park, but nonetheless I trudged back and waited for the tram in the WORLD’S LONGEST LINE:
I had also forgotten that when it’s THAT hot I don’t really get hungry, I just very suddenly get physically weak, so halfway through the line I started to feel like I was going to faint and I had to sit down on the concrete while various tourists tried to edge their way around me, like, hello, my eyes can barely focus but I think I remember my place in the line of death, thank you. I didn’t really pay attention to the views on the tram on the way up because I was focusing on not vomiting in public, but once you get up the vista really is spectacular:
For context: you take the tram up, and it dumps you into what’s basically the Victoria Peak mall–tall, cylindrical building with a bunch of shops and restaurants and each floor of the building has a balcony all around it that you can take pictures on. What I’m trying to say is that there was a Burger King behind me when I took this picture:
There was also a coffee shop with a balcony, so obviously I hung up out there for a while. I decided to get all my “for the view” stuff in at once, so after Victoria Peak I headed to the promenade along the waterfront which was basically exactly what it sounds like. Very striking, though.
At that point I had been awake for sixty-something hours with two hours of sleep, so I crashed really early and woke up correspondingly early the next morning to see the creatively named Big Buddha which is, as you might guess, a large Buddha. The Buddha is on Lantau Island (as opposed to the main Hong Kong island, which is where my hostel was and where I stayed on my first day), but you can still take the subway there for which I was grateful–I saw the ferries when I was on the promenade and they looked superbly chaotic. So, I took the coward tourist’s way out via the train and headed for Lantau. The subway takes you to a town on the island and while usually you can then take a cable car from there to the Buddha, when I went the car was closed for repairs. Which was a little disappointing, but the bus does drop you very close to the Buddha’s steps. Even as you’re approaching the steps you can see the Buddha looming in the distance:
And then you walk up the many, many steps to get to it:
Also you can tell from that picture that it was not crowded at ALL. Nothing I visited my first two days was, which really surprised me because my long weekends are basically eastern Asia’s long weekends. Anyway I spent a million years going up the stairs but at one point I stopped to take a picture of some flowers/return to my resting heart rate.
The Buddha is on a large platform, so you can walk around the base, and there are a few sections with stairs where you can go up a little higher. The fog made for dramatic pictures but also meant even though I was so elevated I couldn’t actually see anything, so here’s a picture of my face.
There are also a bunch of statues around the base of the Buddha. This one was my favorite, although honestly my favorite thing about this picture is the deeply sassy pose on the elderly woman behind me.
Near the Buddha is a monastery and temple complex (unsurprisingly). I did walk over to it, but there were a lot of people actually praying and I felt uncomfortable taking pictures while they were doing that, so here is a picture of the outside where no one was praying:
That all took a really long time (the subway ride itself was an hour, then the bus was about 45 minutes, then I spent a lot of time contemplating my life choices while going up the stairs, et cetera) so the only other thing I had time for that day was another temple, this one the Man Mo Temple. Again very small and very gaudy, but who’s complaining?
The next day was my last day and honestly at that point I was a little tired, so the only site I went to was Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple (say it five times fast). This was the most crowded place I went by FAR, I assume because by then it was Children’s Day. But, it was also the prettiest temple I went to and very big.
There were a LOT of people praying here, too, so in my effort to not be a rude white person I didn’t get any pictures of the temple interior. But you can get some sense of its ornateness here:
Behind the temple there was a garden that was also really beautiful:
I went to one more temple that was so tiny the only picture I have from it is of a stray cat that wandered in, which I think just about sums it up. I spent the rest of the day shopping and eating which aside from the fact that I very nearly bought a hat the as wide as I am tall, was uneventful. Overall my biggest disappointment is that Hong Kong doesn’t stamp passports anymore so I do not have a cool passport stamp to treasure forever, but it was such a great trip and I’m so glad I went. I have two more full weeks of school, then i’m going to Japan, four more full weeks, and then I go HOME!!!!