Hong Kong is my favourite Asian city. It’s a close call as I have loved all of the ones that I have been to – except for Singapore (nice zoo, boring city). Each city has a different vibe: Phnom Penh is dark and edgy, Bangkok is fun and lively, Tokyo is a neon jungle, Shanghai is fun, Delhi is dusty, Saigon is full of surprises, and I spent so long sitting in a taxi in Jakarta’s heavy traffic that I barely remember the city at all. But Hong Kong has a bit of everything.
My weekend in Hong Kong got off to a bad start. My flight departure time was 6am and due to a crazy karaoke session the night before I woke up at 5am. As luck would have it a taxi was just passing my front door as I ran out of it an impressive ten minutes later and a hectic journey to the airport ensued. Thankfully the laws of the road are a bit more relaxed in Vietnam so I urged my driver to go as fast as he could, jump red lights and drive onto the pavements to overtake slow traffic. This might sound hugely irresponsible but it’s all too common in Vietnam. Besides it was 5.15am and the sidewalks were pretty empty.
To my relief I made the flight and a few hours later I had my first glimpse of Hong Kong. It was wet. Very wet. In fact in the 3 days that I spent in Hong Kong it did not stop raining but I was not about to let that put a damper on my experience (although I would advise against visiting the city in June). The journey into Hong Kong from the airport takes you past some amazing mountainous scenery which was a refreshing change from the flat Vietnamese landscape that I had grown so used to in Saigon. Before long I was in the city. It all felt oddly familiar. Huge zebra crossings, modern double decker buses, cars driving on the left, Marks & Spencer and station names such as ‘Admiralty’ made me feel as if I had just stepped into London. Of course I knew Hong Kong’s history but never did I imagine that it would still seem so British, whilst managing to feel so completely alien at the same time.
Hong Kong is a bizarre hybrid of East and West. The main road lined with designer brand shops could be Oxford street yet a wander down a small side street will take you directly into the heart of China, albeit without the tangle of electricity cables dangling precariously overhead. While wealthy locals, tourists and expats flash the cash in the shopping malls, throngs of Filipino maids gather together in parks or in the shelter of an underpass on a Sunday in order to gossip about their weekly chores. A Gateway between East and West it most certainly is.
Walking around the city is a completely unique experience: lush green mountains loom over skyscrapers and elevated walkways make it possible to walk around the city without the need to go down to street level. It is hard not to think of Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner set when wandering the streets of Hong Kong, especially in the rain. I made the most of being a tourist by taking in the Peak and the Botanical Gardens before heading to Hong Kong’s popular nightspot Lan Kwai Fong.
Lan Kwai Fong is a row of bars all lined up down a very steep road in Hong Kong’s Central district and this is where the party will continue until dawn. We danced the night away out on the street in the pouring rain until it was time to think about my long flight home – a perfect way to end my life in Asia.
So if you want to visit a city that offers a fusion of traditional East and modern West, set against a stunning mountainous backdrop and with the added edge of a kick-ass party scene then Hong Kong is for you!
Have you been to Hong Kong? Is it somewhere you’d like to go? Give me some comments!