By Bailey McHugh
A lot of people have asked me, “Why Hong Kong? What’s in Hong Kong?” To which I replied, “Why not Hong Kong?” I traveled for the adventure, to experience something so far out from what I’m used to. I traveled to escape my everyday routine and endeavor on something completely different. This is the feeling that a lot of people avoid but I, for some reason, am drawn to it. Also, where else can you get authentic Peking roasted duck and eat at the worlds cheapest Michelin Star Restaurant?
Day 1: February 6th, 2018
I landed in Hong Kong on a Monday morning, which I was still wrapping my head around since I departed Saturday morning. Jet lagged and hungry, I was wondering if I was in a dream. As much as I wanted to retire to my hotel room and sleep like the dead, the first order of business was food, the main reason I traveled across the Pacific Ocean. I managed to hail a taxi from HKG to Central District, drop off my luggage, and take on the streets of Hong Kong to search for breakfast. My first stop was Joy Hing Roasted Meats, a Michelin Star Restaurant that Anthony Bourdain visited when filming “The Layover”. I attempted to order but I’m pretty sure the owner didn’t understand what I was saying so he just brought me his choice, which I was okay with. It was sliced BBQ pork and roasted duck served over a bed of warm white rice and topped with some kind of homemade spicy sauce. I was just getting started here in Hong Kong and I knew this meal would be hard to beat. I could barely feel my legs after walking back to my hotel and the 32-hour travel day had finally caught up to me.
Day 2: Kowloon and Temple Street Night Market
I woke up in Hong Kong to the noise of buses and ferry boats blowing their horns from across the harbor. The first thing that popped into my mind after noticing a killer headache: coffee. Not just coffee, strong espresso straight through the veins. Now. Yesterday I had noticed this little coffee shop across from my hotel. It had a sign hanging down which had a panda on it holding a cup of coffee. It turned out to be a laundromat but you could sip your espresso while waiting for the spin cycle. Since I didn't need any clothes to be washed, I went up to the window and settled for a triple latte. Jet fuel for my trek over to Kowloon. Central District is the ideal area to stay for travelers. It has easy access to all other major parts of Hong Kong via MTR, Ferry, Bus, or Taxi. I walked to Central Ferry Pier from my hotel and boarded the ferry to Kowloon (part of Mainland China). My main reason for checking out Kowloon was for the Chan Chi Kee Cutlery Shop, the oldest knife shop in Hong Kong. On my last trip to Tokyo, I brought back a chef’s knife and wanted to add to my collection. Chan Chi Kee was stocked with every type of kitchen essential you could think of. Peking Duck slicers, porcelain chopsticks, tea sets, etc. I went to the counter and gazed over the many types of kitchen knives they had. I asked the man for a small Peking Duck slicer, (English is widely spoken in Hong Kong) he pulled one out from underneath the counter for me to see. It was lightweight but sturdy and more importantly, it was handcrafted here in Hong Kong. The knife had Chinese symbols etched on the blade and a wooden handle. I was sold. The man carefully wrapped it for me and instructed me on how to care for the blade and wooden handle.
I walked through Kowloon stumbling across street vendors and sightseeing until the sun came down. The Temple Street Night Market comes to life around 5pm with independent vendors setting up tents selling everything from iPhone chargers, to miniature buddhas. Everything you didn't think you needed was at this market. I skimmed my way through and came out with your basic, cheap souvenirs. The most memorable part of my trip happened on my way back from Kowloon on the ferry. It was night time and the entire Hong Kong Skyline was lit up from across the harbor. The Ferris wheel was lit up in bright red lights, each sky scraper was outlined in a different neon light. You see it in pictures, but to be up close and personal to one of the world’s largest, brightest skylines was incredible. After drooling over the ferry ride, I made it to the pier and found myself at New Discovery Bar overlooking the harbor. I ended my adventure with an ice cold Tsingtao, China’s favorite beer.
Day 3: Tian Tan Buddha
I hopped on the MTR and ventured off to Lantau Island to see the “Big Buddha.” The large bronze statue of Buddha Shakyanumi is also known as the Tian Tan Buddha and is located in Ngong Ping Village. This Buddha got it’s nickname for being the largest seated Buddha in the world. Ngong Ping Village is also home to the Po Lin Monastery and is tucked away behind the mountains. It can be reached by a 25-minute cable car ride. After being surrounded by dirty high rises and hundreds of people, it was nice to get into a secluded cable car suspended over what little nature Hong Kong has. The gondola lift takes you over water and through peaks of mountains to reach Ngong Ping Village. I was mostly surprised at how blue the water was in Hong Kong; it was so clear I could almost see right through it. Walking through Ngong Ping Village was very peaceful and completely opposite from Central District and Kowloon. Ox’s roamed free and Chinese lanterns were hanging from teahouses. I climbed the 238 stairs to the Big Buddha and took in all the views. I couldn’t believe I was actually there. I took time to light incense at the Po Lin Monastery and hung out with the Ox that followed me around all day.
On my last night in Hong Kong I was walking down the streets in Central District looking for a cold drink. I was on the lookout for a quiet bar until I saw a small sign for a Tiki Lounge on the 4th floor of a business building. A Tiki bar in Hong Kong? This could not disappoint. I found myself in Honi Honi (meaning Kiss Kiss in Hawaiian) drinking some concoction with bourbon, ginger, and lime. I looked back on my last days in Hong Kong and smiled. I was so happy to check something off my bucket list. I had traveled to a place I only thought was reachable in my dreams, a place I’ve always wanted to go but never thought I would get the chance. I will be back to Hong Kong - I know I didn’t even scratch the surface.