My last two days on the road brought me to Hong Kong and, having been to nearly 20 countries over the past five months and dozens of name-brand cities, I can safely say Hong Kong is one of my favorite. With plenty of English speakers, no visa requirement, and stunning harbor beauty, there’s no excuse not to take a getaway to Hong Kong or use it as your starting point for an Asian adventure.
I may be biased — landing in Hong Kong from Delhi is like walking into a Gucci catalog when your whole live you’ve been exposed to only The Goodwill. It’s like Japan in this respect: everything works, you won’t hear a honking horn for days, the level of service is high, and the chaos on the streets is organized and friendly rather than menacing and discouraging.
After arriving at my hotel in Kowloon I had to sleep. Sleep deprivation has become an issue for me: never do a red-eye if you’re in coach, don’t have a sleeping pill, and/or are flying the shitty Air India! After awaking from my slumber I headed to the harbor. Hong Kong is all about the harbor. Deservedly so: it’s picturesque in a way few other places are.
As I walked along the waterfront, I felt a warmish breeze and realized the weather was perfect. Just perfect. I also noticed how focused Hong Kong was on making the city a pleasant tourist destination. There were cops enforcing the "No Hawking" sign and a video playing on a big screen encouraging locals to smile and help foreigners. The absence of touts is one of many reasons why I think the Hong Kong Harbor is far superior Shanghai’s Bund waterfront.
Then I stopped in a Hagan-Dazz store. Did you know there’s an actual store for Hagan-Dazz I ate an "Oriental Delight" ice cream dish and then kept on walking around. Ah, to be able to meander aimlessly! Since leaving Japan, pollution, noise, or poverty has prevented me from truly enjoying a stroll.
The hour clock struck five thirty and I made my way to the San Francisco Steakhouse, which appeared on my tourist map. I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to support a San Francisco brandname! The restaurant was filled with old pictures of San Francisco and cable cars. San Francisco and steak have no connection, but who wouldn’t try to riff off the world’s greatest city name? I mean, who in Hong Kong would eat at "Palo Alto Steakhouse"?
At SF Steakhouse — several floors above ground level — I watched the sun hit the harbor. Beautiful.
I had another sleepless night which started to crush my bodily functions, but I managed to get up on Day 2 and take the fast, easy train to Chinese University Hong Kong, about 30 minutes away from my hotel. Chinese University HK just forged a special exchange / partnership with Claremont McKenna College and since I’m pondering study abroad possibilities I decided to check out the campus. The two best universities in Hong Kong are University of Hong Kong and Chinese University HK. The campus was nice — about as good as any private college in the States…which means: incredible! US private colleges spend ridiculous amounts of campus beauty, landscaping, and facilities and it seems this Chinese university has a similar bug. I wandered around, checked out some classrooms, and generally got a feel for the place. I’d definitely be opening to studying here.
Sleep deprivation, stomach pains, and overall exhaustion defined the lunch hour. In an effort to defeat these gremlins I did a workout in the hotel gym. After crushing the weights to the tunes of Kelly Clarkson and her ilk, I returned to my room and felt quite lightheaded. My meal schedule was totally messed up and I hadn’t had lunch. I ate a banana and then lay down for a nap. I awoke an hour later still feeling lightheaded but needed to head over the Central island where I was meeting a UBS person for dinner.
I went backa nd forth whether I should cancell the dinner because, despite Hong Kong’s allure, I was feeling like shit. I forged ahead and took the ferry across the harbor. More great views. I arrived to my meeting a few hours early thinking I’d walk around but I felt so light headed I just needed to sit. I found a seat in a lobby restaurant of the International Finance Center, the tallest and grandest building in Hong Kong which houses UBS and other firms. My dinner companion came down 30 minutes late and so our 8 PM dinner actually started at 9:30 and ended past midnight! And my plan was to be back in bed by 10 PM! A good conversation and genuine connection saved the night and she took me to Victoria’s Peak at night — a common tourist go-to that I skipped — which offered one, final view of the Hong Kong lights.
Hong Kong: I’ll be back. Your fusion of east and west, your cosmopolitan yet relaxed feel, your natural beauty, your English speaking population: all those things and more resonate with me!