#takingoverasia: Hong Kong

February 14, 2017 • Travel Stories

I’m back in New York! I’ve been back for over a week now, but was not prepared for the jetlag and some anxiety that awaited me. I did not touch a computer for the 37 days of my trip so it’s taking time to go through all of my photos. Without further ado, let me tell you about my January in Asia in the next few posts! 🙂

I arrived in Hong Kong on December 30th with a girl I met through a mutual friend. She had never been to Asia before! This was my third visit to Hong Kong so I was already familiar with the geography and lifestyle after falling in love with the city on a short trip with my mom four years ago. I actually wanted to spend my whole winter here living like a local to experience life outside of New York, but was only able to stay for 10 days so I needed to treasure every moment I had.

My first day in Hong Kong was already met with challenges:

  • We stayed at an apartment in Happy Valley, a less chaotic neighborhood for lower prices and bigger accommodations. My mom told me to just take a cab in so I don’t get lost or stranded, but later I would learn just how convenient the tram is.
  • There was only one bed so I slept on a couch that was a head shorter than me – it was advertised as a couch bed on Airbnb, which it obviously wasn’t.
  • The lady who usually lives there wasn’t around for the holidays so we didn’t have wi-fi.
  • The hot water only lasted 5 minutes unless you wait in the middle of a shower for more water to be heated. Saves water, but a warm shower in winter would be nice.
  • I had an international SIM card in an old Samsung Galaxy so I can call/message people if needed, but the sim card kept popping out of the phone and 2G data was impossible to navigate my way around, though it was good for posting photos on Instagram.

On the plus side the weather was AMAZING, hovering near 70°F / 21°C all day and night. It didn’t take long for me to blend into Hong Kong culture:

  • Egg waffles and fish balls are a party in my tummy – I used to never touch street food because I’m germaphobic about what I eat but I will guarantee you that street food in Hong Kong will not make you sick. Plus it’s super cheap.
  • Every girl wears a giant sweater with a mini skirt so I bought a giant sweater and a mini skirt.
  • There are doggos and pupperinos EVERYWHERE. I’ve never seen a Corgi in New York before but on my second day here I met a super friendly one just outside our apartment. I didn’t expect it to jump into a stranger’s arms for a hug!!!

This is an egg waffle. It is soft and savory and worth every carb.

When he stares into your eyes. <3

Exploring the City

On New Year’s Eve, I wanted to go up to Victoria Peak, the highest point in Hong Kong Island. The tram to go up was so crowded that we just decided on the spot to hike instead! I was silly and didn’t know there are also buses that go up, but I definitely do not regret this decision because I learned just how much I love hiking. Half of Hong Kong is built on the mountain, with the city on one side and scenic beaches and harbours on the other. The views on that hike were stunning, and we finally reached the top after an hour and half. Unfortunately hiking while jetlagged took me out about 8PM and though I woke up again at 11PM, I could not make it until midnight to welcome 2017. But my legs didn’t even hurt the next day and I would have done it again if I had time. From now on please sign me up for all getaways that involve hiking!

More mountains and the sea in the distance.

Hong Kong’s skyline is amazing but the Bank of China lights happened to be dim the moment I took this. 🙁

Hong Kong might be one of the most luxurious cities in the world, but I think some of the less fancy locations have a lot more to offer than they look! My mom didn’t want us wandering in Aberdeen Harbour, a poorer community on the south side of Hong Kong with lots of Tanka people who live in boats, but I took my friend there during the day for the best dim sum! I can’t speak Cantonese and can’t read Chinese characters, but we were so lucky to split a table with a lovely family whose teenage daughter spoke enough English to translate the menu and order for us.

Aberdeen Harbour has many traditional boats called sampans, but there are way too many yachts and ferries parked there as well.

Another part of Hong Kong that is overlooked is right across the river in Kowloon, famous mostly for its gang activity, population density and dystopian lifestyle in Western movies. However, you can’t get a better view of the city than taking a boat across the harbor. Kowloon also has more room and many beautifully kept parks for you to explore! I recommend Nan Lian Garden which has a beautiful tower, a water wheel, and is adjacent to a nunnery where you can see Buddhist nuns. :O

This is the view of Hong Kong from the Kowloon side!

If I were a princess, could I live in Nan Lian Garden?

Three Gems of Hong Kong

If you visit Hong Kong and have time for a getaway from the chaos in the city, there are three locations I recommend 100%!!!

The first location I found by accident! On our fourth day, I decided to finally take my solo sabbath and spend a day by myself. I first got a haircut and recolored my blonde tips purple! They used a color with a reddish base so that it wouldn’t fade as fast as last time when I had a blue base. The stylist also moved my parting and fringe to the other side of my face, which was a fresh change. Even though it’s not my natural parting, it gives my hair more defined volume. At first I regretted dyeing my hair because it was darker than the red I was used to, and made my eyebrows look too light and too big. On a whim I bought eyebrow tools and eyebrow gel, and started trimming and filling my eyebrows. It made a huge difference to have darker but thinner eyebrows! I’ve never done my own eyebrows before since I usually get them threaded (I don’t recommend that). I initially looked more edgy than I liked because I used too much gel, but practice did make better!

Here’s me, with my new look and Hong Kong style clothes.

After my haircut, I hopped on a tram without a destination and just sat on the top deck admiring the street life. The streets in Hong Kong are really unlike any other city I’ve been to. I took the tram all the way to the end of the line, then saw a bus that was going to Shek O, a location I had seen in an article online about Hong Kong’s hidden gems. I didn’t think about what would happen if I got lost, or how long it would take.


I ended up in Shek O Village, an absolutely adorable seaside town with the cutest little houses and a really beautiful beach (Hong Kong generally doesn’t have great beaches). It wasn’t very crowded probably because the village is hard to find and isn’t catered to tourists. There were tons of European expats tanning and even swimming in the cold water. I must say climbing the rocks to gaze upon the sea was an amazing moment. The village was very chill and the community life was very humble. I enjoyed walking down the streets through the village, and a few times got lost and wound up in people’s backyards because the houses and roads seemed to blend into one. Luckily nobody reported me!

Atop the rocks in Shek O beach!

The houses in Shek O look similar but are distinct in their unique way.

Because I loved Shek O so much, I definitely didn’t want to miss out on Tai O. Tai O is located in Lantau Island, which is quite far away from Hong Kong Island. That day I invited two Hong Kong friends to take us because the further you get from the city, the less people speak English. It’s great to have native friends around because they did everything I struggled with – finding the right bus, ordering food, communicating with people. They even gave me detailed history lessons about the places we visited! Having them as guides made my day less stressful. 😀

Tai O is even more interesting than Shek O – all the houses there are built on stilts right in the water!

Truly experiencing the life of people dependent on the sea.

Afterwards we hit up our friend The Big Buddha, one of the most popular tourist attractions, who sits on top of the mountain in Lantau Island. For some reason there are cattle running around that area freely. They were rather tame and ignored the humans like myself who tried to (and failed) to selfie with them. Though we took a bus to get up the mountain, my two Hong Kong friends insisted we take the cable car down. They wanted to take it even more when it seemed like I was afraid of heights – which I am not!

The weather was so nice that it was hard to get a good shot of the Buddha.

I’m flying free!

Whose idea was this?! The view might be nice but it’s highly nauseating to take the cable car!!!!

Lastly, you must hit up Cheung Chau for the king of getaways! Cheung Chau is an island about an hour away by ferry, and is perfect for biking and fresh seafood. There isn’t much to do when you first see the island – it just seems like a village to eat and take a stroll in, but Cheung Chau’s secret is to be found deeper in the island! My native Hong Kong-er friend was the one who told me that the island is home to a cave where a 19th century pirate, Cheung Po Tsai, hid from his enemies. We found the cave, and people could even slip inside for a look! Even though I’m claustrophobic, I squeezed through an entrance that probably can’t fit a girl bigger than me, into a dark cave. The other side of the cave opened up to majestic rocks and cliffs to climb. Some places were so rocky you could only get across by pulling yourself with a chain.

Scenic little boats in Cheung Chau!

Overlooking the cliff after climbing out of the cave!

Winding Down

Things became less exciting after that because I was so tired. I made the mistake of going to Macau immediately after excursions to Lantau Island and Cheung Chau. The boat ride made me so seasick that it was hard for me to enjoy the city. There also isn’t much to see, since most of Macau runs on casinos and gambling just isn’t my thing. However, the city was a Portuguese colony 400 years and is still very Portuguese! A lot of the buildings are European, and there are forts with cannons overlooking the city. The ruins of St. Paul’s is also cool to think about since it’s still standing while the rest of the church was burned.

This used to be the front of St Paul’s Church.

I had to take it easy after getting back from Macau. I wasn’t used to traveling for so long, and my body was not getting enough rest sleeping on the couch every night. I spent my final two days in Hong Kong just shopping in Causeway Bay for Korean brands recommended by my overseas friends, especially Skinfood and Innisfree. One thing really caught my attention – much to my surprise, I counted three Malamutes in Hong Kong on my last two days there. The Alaskan Malamute is my favorite breed of dog, and you don’t tend to see them in New York because they are a bigger version of Siberian Huskies and require lots of exercise in cold weather. So what on earth are they doing living in a cramped, tropical city like Hong Kong? I cannot believe that any Malamute would be happy living in a place like that. From what I know, Chinese people are not as strict about adopting pets, and most pets are bred from other people’s pets or sold for high prices on the market. This is not okay!

He looks absolutely miserable. 🙁

When I was in college and even in grad school, I dreamed of moving to Hong Kong. Though I didn’t get to spend my winter here, I only learned to love the city even more during my ten days. It’s my favorite place, but I do not think I will be living here anytime soon. My career in tech doesn’t seem to be taking me here, though if I ever have a chance to move here in the future, there’s no way I would pass it up.

The view from the peak is still beautiful.

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9 Comments to "#takingoverasia: Hong Kong"

Claudine wrote on 17th February 2017 at 9:31 AM

I miss Hong Kong! I’ve only been there for a few days but I loved it so much, and I’m so happy that you posted about the places you liked because there are some spots that I haven’t been to, such as Shek O and Tai O. I will definitely go to these places when I come back to visit!

I haven’t been to Macau and I wasn’t really interested in going there during my last trip to HK because all I know about it is that it’s full of casinos (not really my thing). But I didn’t know that there were still Portuguese structures, and I love architecture and pretty structures so much so I might consider going there next time! 🙂


Tara wrote on 18th February 2017 at 1:52 AM

Welcome back home! Woot for spending all of January in Asia 🙂 I’ve never visited Hong Kong. Outside of Japan, Korea, Nepal, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, I never wanted to visit the other Asian countries as much. I may have to reconsider Hong Kong . . . your post is very educational and has opened my eyes up to that place, along with a fellow foodie who recently visited there, too, on Facebook. You two are enticing me to want to visit Hong Kong! Buuuuut, Japan will always be my place XD;

I just realised that I’ve never went travelling for more than a week. All my trips have been a week or less since my first trip to Guam as an adult in 2004. I am not sure how I would handle anything longer than a week! I do know — thanks to what you wrote above — that I will take it easy and give myself breaks in between. That’s something I hadn’t considered before, but will now!

Thanks for sharing this part of your trip here! I enjoyed reading about your adventures and seeing the photos of your trip here 😀


cantaloupe wrote on 19th February 2017 at 6:51 AM

That looks awesome. I’ve never really had a yearning to see Hong Kong because I sort of just picture as another metropolis. But you paint a cooler picture than that. That Nan Lian Garden picture is absolutely stunning for example, and not what I’d expect in Hong Kong proper. (I Googled some pictures and it’s cool how you can see the skyline behind the gardens. Like a central park of Hong Kong, heh.)


Cat wrote on 22nd February 2017 at 11:54 AM

I really liked looking at your Hong Kong photos! You saw a lot of pretty views! I especially like seeing the skyline, and the photo of Nan Lian Garden is so pretty. I’m hoping that my next international trip will be to Hong Kong and Taiwan. I’ll have to keep your entry in mind when I do because I love finding less touristy places like Shek O and Tai O. Shek O Village is so cute, and that’s so cool how Tai O has houses on the water. Love all the boats at Cheung Chau too!

I went to Macau a long time ago, and the only thing I remember are the casinos. It’s interesting how a lot of the buildings are European though. Looking forward to your other posts about your trip!


Michelle wrote on 25th February 2017 at 1:18 PM

Hong Kong looks so beautiful <3 I know there is sometimes problems but I'm glad that you got to experience it in all its splendor and glory <3 Cute pictures especially that doggy~


Kya wrote on 28th February 2017 at 5:11 AM

Welcome back! I am sure that the girl you travelled with was really thankful that you knew your way around. It would be a lot to try and do by yourself if you were not familiar with where you were going.

Eh. That would have been so awful about the hot water, not having a bed to sleep in and not having wifi. 🙁 At least the weather was really good, that is a big plus!

I love the purple on the ends of your hair, it looks so nice. 😀

That is really sad that there is not a lot of strict laws on dog breeding. 🙁 I can imagine that some of them would be living in bad circumstances. *sigh*

I really enjoyed reading the post, hearing about your adventures and looking at all the brilliant photos! 😀


Brandy wrote on 3rd March 2017 at 6:33 PM

Jetlag is the worst. I recently came back from a trip at the end of January and it took me a little over a week to recover. It wasn’t so bad going, but returning after being 16 hours ahead was a struggle.

It looks like you had an awesome trip! I enjoyed your photos. 🙂


Pauline wrote on 5th March 2017 at 10:47 AM

I really enjoyed reading through this post, it’s given me some ideas on my trip to Asia next year (fingers crossed!) As you were posting on Instagram, I was showing my friend your posts (he’s from HK) and he kept telling me super cool interesting facts about some and personal stories haha which was cool 😛 That photo of HK at night is absolutely stunning, views like that give me life <3

I've started to miss Asia a lot recently (as I've shown on Instagram actually!) Started feeling very homesick, I miss the asian culture around me! Reading this post really helped though 🙂 Thanks for sharing this awesome experience! <3


Georgie wrote on 11th April 2017 at 3:40 AM

I was laughing so much during this post.

Every girl wears a giant sweater with a mini skirt so I bought a giant sweater and a mini skirt.


Also, I decided spontaneously to hike up Victoria Peak too, not realising how fucking steep it was. It was sooooo funny though, and I was relieved when I got to the top. It was rainy season though… so it was cold. But yeah, so glad I had proper shoes on that day. Ughs. And sorry to hear that you had intermittent access to the internet (omg INTERNET) and also had to wait a while to have a hot shower. 🙁

AND omg at egg waffles I LOVE THEMMMMMM DROOL. Get in my belly.

Tai O and Shek O are beautiful. I had no idea they existed and next time I go to Hong Kong I will definitely be checking those out.

Of course I saw the Big Buddha as well. I can’t remember if I took the cable car, I am pretty sure I did on the way up. It was lovely. An amazing view.

I feel sad for those malamutes. 🙁 I agree, not OK for them to be being exploited like that. The one you took a photo of does look sad.

Sounds like you had an amazing time overall, though. I went to Hong Kong a few years ago and that was the first time I went since I was a kid. So I definitely had a whole new experience about it. 🙂


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