This Thanksgiving was with family and friends. Last Thanksgiving, Hawaii. But I will never forget that in 2007, after a trying year with career and other challenges, we decided in a moment’s notice to pack up and go to Hong Kong for Thanksgiving. Traveling there from East Coast of United States is not exactly a short plane hop, and disappointing not one but two families took heaps of courage. But as my husband said, in a quote that has become a motto when we plan serious travel in our lives, “If not us, who? If not now, when?“ And that is how we approach our life’s travels, because we have but one lifetime to live and one fantastic globe to discover in the process. It is best to ditch the reasons that keep you at home, to pack light and travel far and make memories that in your old age will warm your heart, and bring you a quiet satisfaction knowing that while you could, you traveled. You explored. You went away from home to see the world.
Why Hong Kong, I cannot tell you beyond the reason that I had always wanted to go there. It is the hub of technology and advancement, and the center of capitalism in Asia. We knew none of the 16 million population and while they do not celebrate Thanksgiving, this trip still seemed to more than satiate our hunger for discovery and exploring that November. The timing was far from ideal on so many levels that I shudder at how we made the decision to go so far away from home. Yet, in looking back, I see that when we came home after our trip, life started to pull itself together. Perhaps going away is the therapeutic vacation for the mind as much as it is for the heart and soul.
In the booming and bustling city that is Hong Kong, we spent 7 discovery days. It was like no other city, and no other city we visit will ever be like it. I found much to love and a few things to detest. After two years, I still distinctly remember the silence and magnificence of Victoria Peak, the early morning walks along Kowloon Pier and the delicious aroma of tea. Perhaps you will be traveling to Hong Kong someday soon, or vicariously through another’s eyes and memories. In either case, after scrubbing through a very long list, here are my 10 reasons for you for seeing Hong Kong at least once in this lifetime.
1. Looking over Hong Kong from the Magnificent Victoria Peak:
We went to Victoria Peak 3 times during our 7 day stay, and it was not nearly enough. We took the Peak Tram up 522 meters, or 1810 feet, at an angle so sharp it makes me quiver to think of it now. We made sure to visit the peak at least once after dark, just to see Hong Kong all lit up from above. The view is astonishing, and the silence overwhelming. It is the single one place I found to escape the noise in Hong Kong; much as I loved the city, unlike Japan, I found it to be unavoidably loud. But not at Victoria Peak. The view before you is mesmerizing, and the quietude and serenity completes the enjoyment. The experience consumes you, and repeating it does not diminish the pleasure.
2. Taking a Stroll down Kowloon Pier for watching the morning sunrise or the evening light show:
We were staying at the Shangri-La just off the Kowloon Pier. The pier walk became a daily ritual. We did it first thing in the morning to watch the sun-kissed Hong Kong wake up slowly in the hazy fog across the bay, and to see life in action, people jogging, a Tai Chi lesson in session, ships passing by and seagulls catching fish. The pier is packed with adventure. I remember best the bronze statue of the beloved Chinese King of Martial arts, Bruce Lee, the star walk with hand prints of all whom Hong Kong deems worthy of fame especially Jackie Chan, and my favorite, sitting in the Director’s Chair to be filmed!
3. Watching the Kids perform an impressive Kung Fu Show at Kowloon Park:
Traveling changes your mind and expands your horizons! If you like to see the other travel stories here, check the On the Road category.
Kowloon Park is a nice getaway from the busy streets. We came upon this show of little kids performing before their parents and teachers, and thoroughly enjoyed watching it. They were serious, talented, and strong. The love of Martial Arts is hard to miss in Hong Kong. The parks are usually filled with amusements, and give you a relief from the busy streets and the hustle and bustle.
4. Enjoying any and all Sight-Seeing out and about Hong Kong Island:
Sight-seeing was pure fun. You can find anything in Hong Kong. All goods and services are available, and all countries are well-represented. If you should be seeking Persian rugs, Greek cuisine, Japanese watches, Indian silks, Italian shoes, or Parisian clothes, you shall not be disappointed. The heart of China’s capitalism does not want to be excluded from anything in this world, and they make it loud and clear for you.
5. Taking the Star Ferry to Central Pier from Kowloon side to Hong Kong Island side:
We were staying on the Kowloon side, and needless to say, had to go over to see Hong Kong Island. The Star Ferry ride is fantastic fun, dirt cheap at 25 cents a trip, and a quick way to cross the water. The wind, the water, – not to mention the amazing skyline – creates a sweet photo op! The schedule is extremely flexible, and we found ourselves going back and forth just for the fun of it.
6. Buying the Highest-Quality Tea in Hong Kong:
Oh my love of tea has only grown deeper and stronger since 2007. The tea shops stock some of the best teas with a vast selection to choose from. The Oolong tea continues to be my favorite, with Green tea ranking a close second. In the photo, I am listening carefully to exact brewing instructions and water temperatures from the saleslady. Of course, we did not follow all the instructions every time, but you’d never know with how intently we were listening and taking notes! At least, I was proud of my Zojirushi at home which makes living a tea-lifestyle superbly easy. Buy heaps and heaps of tea if you ever set foot in China. Either yourself or someone lucky in your circle will thank you profusely. Tea is good for the body, the heart and the soul!
7. Taking the stairs or escalators up the hills in Hong Kong:
Hong Kong is built on lots of hills, and unlike San Francisco, there are covered staircases and escalators to help you up those hills (see the middle right tunnel in the above photo). We enjoyed taking them up, and looking back at the great heights we had covered in such a short time. It felt triumphant! Seriously, though, it is brilliant to help people move about and not put anyone anywhere on the hill at a disadvantage!
8. Roaming around Hong Kong after Dark:
Hong Kong after dark is not at all dark. The city is lit up better than a football stadium (did I just make an analogy to football?), except with colors and Chinese signs. Well, maybe not at all like a stadium but lack of lighting is not an issue. The sellers are still tenaciously trying to get you to purchase something. We visited the famous market where they boast the best knock-off brand names (not for me of course, just for moms!). The best views of the city at night are from Victoria Peak or from Kowloon pier where the night light show will take your breath away.
9. Eating Exotic and Delicious varieties of Asian Fusion food:
Andy’s breakfast: Miso soup, shrimp dumplings with chili sauce, pork bun, smoked salmon with brie, scrambled egg whites, orange juice and green tea. The yogurt in the far left corner is mine. He thoroughly devoured his exotic Asian breakfast, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching him! I have to admit, it was nice to have miso soup and the dumplings, when I was splurging. If you needed just one reason to go to Hong Kong, the food could be a sufficient one.
10. Getting the Experience of Flying Cathay Pacific:
Part of the experience of traveling is getting there. Sitting in crammed coach seats for transatlantic cross-continental flights are agonizing torture for me. And when it comes to flying, you cannot put a price in achieving, and maintaining the Executive Platinum status! Having the status does not mean you just enjoy flying business. It means the entire process is first class. During our check-in at the airport with Cathay Pacific airlines, I felt nothing short of royalty. I remain impressed to this day with the service and shall fly them again in a heart beat. Professionalism. Private technologically advanced booths. Courtesy. Respect. Your comfort in style. It was indeed the best way to wrap up a vacation and prepare for the trip home.