Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Gorgeous skyline! Kind of an asian NYC. I recommend Hong Kong as an Asian city to ease yourself into the culture without abandoning all comforts. Also, no visa required!

WEATHER: 3/5 stars
Weather was record lows for Hong Kong and felt freezing to me coming from warmer climate. With that said, it was 50 degrees, so still warmer than back home. It was cloudy and foggy everyday which is normal for this time of year but make my vista views from the peaks less spectacular. The hostel didn’t have a heating system and since my bed was practically on the floor, I was freezing!

LODGING: 3/5 stars
Yesinn @CausewayBay. The hostel was nice and clean. It had a terrace and a rooftop. The kitchen was tiny but I didn’t use it. The rooms had 9 people, 3 bed bunk beds. I luckily got a bottom bed. There were two extremely annoying Americans in my room that create the stereotype of American backpackers as loud. Didn’t matter the time of day/night, they were so loud, whiny about everything and overall got on my nerves. They also snored along with other people in the room so I didn’t get much sleep. The hostel also had no heat and only provided a sheet. It was colder in our room than it was outside and used my extra clothes to make a blanket. The shower was broken, rarely had hot water and on the last day, a pipe broke outside so there was no water at all.

There are specific walkways above streets to conveniently get around without having to wait for traffic lights (all have escalators, you pretty much never have to walk up stairs in HK). There are tourist signs everywhere telling you where to go for the attractions or transit (required cause city streets are not in a grid like NYC). The subway exits are labeled and there are signs telling you which exit leads to which attractions (also convenient for meeting to say specific exits – NYC needs to implement). Buses and trams are double deckers so more people fit, they are super clean and have digital displays telling you stops, security cameras showing you the luggage rack and airplane like seats with own air con and reading light.
Subways: The platforms have glass doors like for the tram at the airport. This is mainly to help air con costs, but also prevents people from getting hit by trains and keeps tracks clean. There ads are across the platform so no one can manipulate them and some actually are TVs! Above the glass doors there is the subway line showing all the stops and which way the train goes (NYC should do this). The cars are wider than NYC, seats are slightly smaller, and cars are openly connected (can stand in between) making so much more room in the cars. The trains have digital maps that light up showing subway direction and flash at interchange stations to let you know about possible transfers. They even have indicators about which side the doors will open. All the signs and MTR materials are nicely designed, very clean, colorful and simple.
Escalators in Hong Kong: They are everywhere! Heaven forbid you have to walk up a slight hill or steps. When on them they even say don’t walk and specifically say “dont keep your eyes only on your mobile phone”. They have the worlds longest escalator system going up almost one mile. Its pretty convenient for the bars and restaurants along them to just hop on and off.
Traffic: All crosswalks have audio beeping for the visually impaired letting you know when to cross. At night, you only see buses, trams, minivans or Ferraris, kind of weird. I was hit by one of those minivans (Im fine) and just got a hand wave (universal “I’m sorry” I guess).
All transit (and even some restaurants and convenient stores) take the Octopus Card (NYC really needs this!). It acts as a debit card and you pay for only the distance you travel. You just tap in on the way in and out. Love that it also works for buying snacks! Only downside is that you have to have cash to load onto the card. Get the card if you visit! Well worth it!!

HONG KONG CITY: 4/5 stars
Hong Kong has a comparable skyline to NYC but with more color and a daily light show. The transit system is also amazing! So easy, convenient, cheap and clean. Also, it is a much better city in terms of catering to travelers with dual language signs (All signs and audio announcements are in Chinese and English. Most people in the central area speak both languages as well.) and wifi hotspots (Phone booths are usually also wifi hotspots and in subways there are computers and free wifi hotspots.). However, while crowded, they don’t have the NYC walking pace, except maybe in the subways in rush hour. You can drink on street so people just go to 7/11, buy drinks and drink in the streets outside the bars. There are great hiking trails on the main island and surrounding islands. You feel so remote and yet not far from downtown. Also amazing views with the mountain landscape (on a clear day). The bamboo scaffolding amazes me! It seems more complicated to use and less safe when building skyscrapers but it obviously works. Other than a couple temples though, HK doesn’t really have many touristy things to see. They built the giant Buddha as a tourist attraction (reason I didn’t go). There is also Disneyland and other theme parks. I’d say 3-4 is enough time to visit.

Star ferry: I think it’s a cheaper, faster way to cross the water than the subway and has great views!

TST: I wasn’t trying to buy anything so the markets didn’t really care to walk the markets extensively. Reminded me of Chinatown though with people walking up mumbling things they offer (handbag, watches, etc).

Avenue of the Stars: I knew Bruce Lee! There is actually a statue of him also. This is the best spot to watch the daily light show from.

10,000 Buddhas: really cool! There are actually like 13,000 Buddhas and each one is unique. They line the steps and surrounding areas of the temple. The temple is gorgeous! It also has hundreds of Buddhas (1 foot tall) that each has a light on the shelves of the walls. It makes the temple sparkle. Also it is a free attraction!

Chi Lin Nunnery: pretty cool with authentic Chinese wood buildings. Free!

Nan Lian Garden: nice Chinese vegetation and design. There are some ponds and Chinese architecture buildings. Also free!

Victoria Peak: If you only have a short time, this is a must do! On a clear day I think it could be cool during the day but the view at sunset or night is picture perfect. I stupidly took the tram up and had to wait in line for 1hr. I’d recommend just hiking up to the top, do the loop and hike back down (the escalators will take you half way!). Also you don’t need to get the skypass, the overlooks have a great view and the mall behind the tourist building also has an overlook. This should be a free attraction if you are able to hike.

Dragon’s Back Hike: it was a nice hike and felt very remote for not even leaving the main island. It typically would have great views but it was cloudy/foggy.

BUDGET: Feb 13 – 17
Flight: $288
Transportation: $23
Lodging: $120
Food: $60 (should have been $30 but took out too much cash)
Gear: $5

TOTAL: $496 (w/o flight – $208)