My second Hong Kong trip just came to an end and I am missing it already! I was in Hong Kong in June first week for the RISE Conference and this was my second visit to the stunning city with an infectious energy. During my first visit to Hong Kong, I had covered pretty much all touristy things, and loved them all. But this trip was reserved for pure unplanned exploration and I was determined to walk the walk, like the locals do. So, after three days of meeting exciting startup teams from all over Asia and getting wowed by brilliant ideas at RISE, I started my Explore Hong Kong mission.
I set out to explore Hong Kong fully equipped with all the things I might need. Namely:
- With a pack of wet tissues in my bag (June is very humid and my face sweats like a pig)
- A topped-up Octopus Card in my wallet (for transport and more)
- A tiny portable battery operated fan in my hands (it’s totally a normal thing in Hong Kong – you’ll see impeccably dressed people walking the streets in the middle of the day, holding these fans for some relief from the heat. Brilliant idea, I say!). And,
- The Skyscanner Apps on my phone (not only for flights, but also their Car-Hire App and Hotel App. These apps have been my savior.)
I did my best to see and experience the local life and vibe during my Hong Kong trip one and two, and needless to say, it was a stunning experience both times. The city is young and the streets are always -ALWAYS – buzzing with energy. Just being there in the middle of these streets, breathing the air as people walk all around you (almost half with tiny fans, yes) amidst happy chatter – makes you feel a part of it. Also, the fact that the bars seem to fully functional and fully occupied by 5:45 in the evening is pretty motivating too, hee hee.
But those are the usual things everyone knows about Hong Kong. What about the misconceptions people seem to have about Hong Kong? Well, Aditi’s Monologue to the rescue! You know how much I like to say ‘you’re wrong’, right? What about the things you don’t know about this beautiful bunch of islands that form Hong Kong? Here’s a list of stuff you didn’t know about Hong Kong, you’re welcome.
5 Things You Didn’t Know About Hong Kong:
- Hong Kong is not the same as China. Far from it, actually. Politically, I don’t want to comment on it in much detail because that’s not a discussion for a travel website, but I’ll say this – more than half of the locals identify themselves as ‘Hongkongers’ and not ‘Chinese’. And I think it’s correct. Hong Kong has it’s own currency (The HKD is the eighth most traded currency in the world as of 2010), has it’s own flag and also had the Basic Law. It is an independent state when you consider the culture which sets Hong Kong apart from the Mainland. The Hong Kong Harbours and ports are of extreme importance to China and Hong Kong is one of the world’s most significant financial centres with the highest Financial Development Index in 2012. No wonder going from an Autonomous Territory to a completely independent state will not be easy. But for what I’ve seen, Hong Kong is not China as many of us India travellers believe. For one, Hong Kong has complete internet freedom unlike China, so you can breathe easy. And the cultural and linguistic differences are huge. Personally, Hong Kong is a world in itself, a world that I love.
- Hong Kong can be covered in a weekend. A lot of people I’ve met seem to think that a traveller can explore Hong Kong over a weekend because, and I quote, “it’s just a small island.” No sir, you’re completely wrong. Firstly, Hong Kong is not just an island, but a collection of many islands. There is more to Hong Kong that the HK Island. The Kowloon Peninsula, Lantau, Lamma and New Territories, along with over 250 outer islands form Hong Kong – and you cannot cover it all over a weekend. In fact, I’d be happy if I covered the entire Lan Kwai Fong in one weekend, if you know what I mean, ha ha. SO no, you cannot explore all of Hong Kong in one weekend, you need at least 5 days just to cover the famous spots like Lantau Island’s Big Buddha, Disney World, Ocean Park and the likes found in the pages of a tourist guide. And if you ask me, you need close to ten days to really let the Hong Kong vibe sink in, to experience Hong Kong by seeing the famous spots, wandering the streets, experience the local life, trying out the wide variety of food and just living the Hong Kong dream. Anything short of it will feel rushed, trust me.
- Hong Kong Food equals Chinese Food. This again, has been the misapprehension that many people have. I mean, yes Chinese cuisine is found everywhere in Hong Kong, but the food scene in Hong Kong is mind-blowing. From regular steamed Dim Sums served with Chinese green tea to top quality modern dining with cuisines from all around the world – you’ll find everything in Hong Kong. Street food is delicious, and contrary to popular belief, vegetarian options are aplenty. A major part of my Hong Kong trip revolved around food, thanks to my foodie family, and I was so surprised by the variety here that I plan to do a separate article on the Hong Kong Food Trail. Stay tuned for that one, okay? And please try out different things to eat here, you’ll love the diversity.
- The Octopus Card is only for public transport payments. Hong Kong’s public transport system covers 90% of the total population and is the widest in the world. Yes, more extensive than MRT Singapore – it was hard to believe until I experienced it myself! And the Octopus Card is the backbone of Hong Kong’s massive transportation system. But, what most tourists and travellers don’t know is that the Octopus Card can also be used for shopping and eating at a lot of spots. Brilliant, right? You have to remember that Hong Kong is the one of world’s top ten most expensive city, so as an Indian tourist in Hong Kong, you have to be a little careful of not overshooting your budget. Octopus Cards can help here, because a lot of outlets accept them including Seven Eleven stores, most theme parks, a lot of theatres and a few local eating joints. So just top it off with a sum you want and use it for more than just transport.
- Hong Kong is Too Expensive / Cheap. Yes, both are misconceptions and both are things you probably didn’t know if you haven’t visited Hong Kong. Let me explain. So, I just mentioned few points back that HK is one of the world’s most expensive cities. That is true, the cost of living here is high and renting an apartment is pretty damn expensive, even if you compare it to Indian cities of Delhi or Mumbai. But, for a traveller, Hong Kong has many options. I found a fantastic hotel for a Malaysian journalist who landed at RISE Conference Day 1, straight from the airport. I used the Skyscanner Hotel App and found an amazing deal in Wan Chai area for her. I also ate at a few local food joints and while the food was outstanding, the bill at the end wasn’t. For example, we had a lavish lunch at ‘Thai Na’ in Sing Yin Pun, and the bill was pretty okay for five people. So, what I’m trying to say it, living in Hong Kong is expensive for the residents, but for the travellers, suitable deals and alternatives can be easily found. Just research well.
Those are the five things I did not know about Hong Kong before I visited it. I hope it help you in planning a Hong Kong trip – for experience this super vibrant destination. And a dream destination it is! In 2014, Hong Kong was the eleventh most popular destination for international tourists among countries and territories worldwide. Hong Kong is also the most popular city for tourists, nearly two times of its nearest competitor Macau. How cool are these stats, right? Much cooler will be when you experience Hong Kong for real. So what you waiting for? Plan your trip and let me know if you need help in preparing the best Hong Kong trip itineraries for Indian travellers, I’ll do the best I can to help out.