I’ve just returned recently from twelve days in Hong Kong visiting my husband. It was the first time I’ve been to Asia and I was pleasantly surprised although the flight was total Hell.
Sixteen hours in a seat that was made for a thin child of ten can only be described as torture. I chose the window seat with grandiose dreams of being able to sleep. I should have known better since I need an ideal environment for sleeping with full lay down bed, ear plugs, total darkness and silence. Those silly looking neck pillows? Total waste of money if you ask me, equivalent to wearing a human dog cone.
Yeah I was super jealous of those lucky saps in first class with their fully reclining beds and privacy curtain.
By hour ten I was eyeing up the emergency escape door. I felt so trapped and cramped I had visions of tearing off all my clothes and running around screaming while pulling out my hair. Did I mention I may have a tiny bit of claustrophobia? Instead I woke up my two seat mates and stood up for a good forty minutes and stretched in a corner near the bathroom. Glamorous I know.
It took all my willpower to return to my seat and climb back into my tiny hole for the remainder of the flight.
I arrived in one piece, albeit lightheaded with very blurred vision. I may have asked three Chinese guys if they were my husband before I finally found him in the crowd.
Upon arrival I found the city to be an overwhelming assault on my senses. A cacophony of smells, sights, sounds and sensations incessantly bombarded me.
We managed to find areas that were more soothing to the senses during my twelve day stay.
There is so very much to do in a city the size of Hong Kong.
Here are 10 surprising facts about Hong Kong I learned on my visit.
1. The MTR transit system is brilliant, efficient and cheap.
We took it daily and although it was packed with riders it was exceptionally clean and always fast. I give it very high marks compared to the system we have in Toronto or anywhere else I’ve visited such as London, Paris or New York.
2. There are an insane amount of people living in Hong Kong.
7,391,851 to be exact with a population density of 7050 per Km2 (18,258 people per mi2) in a space that is only 1,050 Km2 (405 sq. miles). People followed rules and lined up all the time in a mannerly fashion for the trains and buses. They were well organized and disciplined.
3. I found people to be friendly and polite, more so than I anticipated.
4. The people of Hong Kong speak Cantonese, not Mandarin and only a few people speak English although you can often find English on signs.
Often times taxi drivers do not speak English at all. It is best to have the address you need to get to written in Cantonese so they are able to read it and understand where to take you. My husband learned this the hard way.
5. Hong Kong is home to many great authentic French restaurants and bakeries.
They seemed to be on every corner. I loved this! And no, I discovered I’m not a huge fan of authentic Chinese cuisine. I’m a vegetarian and that is often a challenge. I tried authentic dim sum and learned that I really dislike it. That said I did like Sichuan style which has much more flavour and isn’t buried in corn starch sauces.
6. Speaking of food at most authentic Chinese restaurants they use MSG.
If you are like me and have a sensitivity to that chemical I suggest you seek out Buddhist restaurants. They avoid the use of additives and MSG. Also we found their food to be the freshest and it is vegetarian.
7. Hong Kong is a city of contrasts.
There are the dirt poor and the filthy rich. It is the most expensive city in the world to live in. You can find a Bentley dealership next to a plywood store. I don’t believe they know what zoning laws are. In contrast they have entire streets where all they sell is goldfish. That’s right goldfish. Two large streets filled with tiny shops all selling goldfish in plastic bags. It was like stepping into a David Lynch film.
8. Don’t judge an entrance.
Often the stores look super tiny from the outside and then you discover that it is massive inside. On the other hand, often times the store is the size of a closet…literally and there is no hidden area. I discovered this while thrift shopping. It was a “store” jammed between two other “stores”. There were no mirrors, no change rooms and no room to move. At all. I felt briefly like I was back on the plane. Also you couldn’t move or view the clothing because the racks were too full. That said it didn’t stop me from still pushing past all that and bringing home four pieces of authentic Hong Kong vintage. Nothing gets between me and some choice vintage.
9. Some of the very best places to visit won’t be found unless you know where you are going.
Don’t plan on just walking around and stumbling upon a great restaurant. Many of them are located in buildings without any street entrance. You have to take an elevator up to the floor where it is located. It is quite magical when the elevator doors open and you enter another world like this 1950’s restaurant Veggie SF.
10. I have never seen so many high end stores or vast malls with only high end stores in my life.
That includes Paris, New York and London. If you have loads cash to spend I highly recommend Hong Kong. Also you will be sometimes be offered a cool beverage by your “shopping buddy” who is assigned to you upon entry to these kingdoms of elite shopping. When we were in Chanel at one point I believe we had a posse of six people following us through the store. I had to wonder if we really looked that much like professional thieves. I snickered to myself thinking I finally knew what it was like to have my own security team.
Did any of these 10 interesting facts about Hong Kong surprise you?
Have you visited Asia?
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