It has been awhile since I posted online and I apologize for the delay. Work has kept me occupied with all of the travelling I have been doing. So with this post I will travel back to my first time in Hong Kong SAR. Hong Kong is a very unique city. It has a complex history of being colonized by Great Britain and a very large growth rate over a century. Also Hong Kong was my first place that I have traveled to and lived in outside of the USA which has a special place in my heart. Over this blog I will talk about Hong Kong from my initial stay there. Then in other blogs I will talk about other things I did in HK during all of the times I have returned over the years.
So my first time in Hong Kong was when I decided to participate in an Engineering Exchange program with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) during my second year in Undergrad. I flew from LAX to HKG airport using Cathay Pacific Airways which was an amazing airline to use. So I ended up going out there in early August with my sister. I had arrangements to live in the student halls but for the first week out there we stayed in a hotel together. The funny thing about this hotel it was called the mini hotel in Lain Kwai Fung but we did not realized that it was literally a mini hotel. There was barely space for a full sized mattress with a toilet and shower combined through a see through glass window. My sister and I was shocked and just dealt with the space. The picture below shows the sizes of the room but we were on like the 35th floor. It was so small and I could see through to the bathroom which was crazy and the buildings were very close to each other so they could look into our window and see us shower people across the street.
HK is such a busy city as shown in the pictures. There is so much economic activity happening there and it is a very unique city. It is known as “East Meets West” because of the western influences on the city. You can see the British influence like the driving on the right side of the cars and the double deck buses. Even their traffic signals operate on the EU standards with the phasing of G+Y+AR> AR&Y+G which the USA standard is just G+Y+AR > R+G. Also their road systems in HK are very complicated because there are mainly bridges that fork off in every direction in existence. You also will see the traditional Chinese influence there with all of the different types of street vending markets selling Jade and everything else under the sun. Mong Kok is an area that has the Ladies Market where they sell a lot of clothing and jewelry. Usually if you want electronics you could go to the underground electric market in Sham Shui Po. The market there is so large and busy I have bought a few hard drives from there. The best thing about shopping at these places is that you can bargain with the owners and try to get the best prices.
I was paired with a buddy from the University to show me around HK when I initially arrived. He was really nice and showed my sister and I around. Hong Kong is essentially comprised of 3 main islands. There is HK Island which has the central business districts and the tall skyscrapers, Kowloon which there are a lot of shopping districts, and New Territories which are mainly residential and small settlements. Usually the foreign people with money are living in HK Island and the locals and lower income immigrants live in Kowloon or New Territories. Most of HK is covered in Mountains and there are settlements in between which makes land scarce and the buildings having to be build vertical rather than a horizontal sprawl. My buddy Uni took me up to Victoria Peak which is the tallest peak in Hong Kong which you can have a spectacular view of Hong Kong. Also HK is the city that never sleeps Lan Kwai Fung is the drinking district where you can stay out all night drinking until you drop which I did plenty of times. One time during Halloween I decided that I was too broke and lazy to put effort into buying a costume so my ghetto self decided to become a mummy and took all of the dorm toilet paper rolls and have my roomate wrap me up. Haha it worked well and I remember other people were dressed as a fox that was when that “What did the Fox Say?” song came out. I would get drunk and sleep outside until 0600 when the MTR station would open and take the train to Choi Hung and wait on the mini bus to fill up to take me to Clear Water Bay where I was residing.
I met a lot of people at the university and made quite a bit of friends. This was my first experience meeting so many people from so many different countries. On the first day of school I met the president of the University during the back to school apple ceremony. He was a really nice guy and made me feel welcomed at the University. I had a full course load and remember how hard the Calc 2 course was. Each student hall had a group pride thing going. It was interesting I think I was hall IV. The university’s location was on top of a mountain and the student halls were down the mountain on a beach front. I remember going to class I would have to take like 3 or 4 lifts and those elevators were crowded.
My sister and I decided to go to Disneyland in HK which was a magical experience. This was my first time in Disneyland which there is one in LA where my home is but at that time I never been to. My buddy Uni, happened to work at Disneyland and invited us to come visit. They had a buzzlightyear exhibit I remember and a lot of parades happening there with them shooting water at the crowd.
I traveled around Kowloon with some course mates and we learned about the history of the Kowloon Wall City which was known as the city where even light cannot penetrate the interior because of the extreme densities of the buildings. It was about 6.4 Acres the area of the settlement. Below shows the images of the city before it was tore down. The buildings were originally a Chinese military fort but became an ungoverned part of HK when Britain took over Hong Kong after the Opium War of China and Britain. Also during WWII the population exponentially increased when the Japanese government occupied the place. Then in 1994 the place was demolish due to safety and health issues.
Another thing I noticed about Asia is that fresh food is literally fresh and alive and they will chop up the animal right in front of you. To westerners like myself it was shocking because our food is always packaged up. I never seen an animal be slaughtered but the food tasted very good compared to our food that are pumped with all types of chemicals.
I went with my classmates to a shrine that had a large tree with ribbons and oranges thrown into the tree. The tree represented good luck and you would write your wish on the ribbon and throw it onto the tree and then hopefully your wish will come true.
So we went to the Ave of the Stars which is similar to the Hollywood walk of Fame but the Asian version. Also the ave of the Stars in HK is way nicer than Hollywood in LA. I believe that Christmas time is the prettiest time in HK. The Christmas lights are out and hanging out everywhere. Seeing the HK skyscrapers turn into a colorful Christmas beauty is amazing.
HK Food is amazing, there are such a large variety of Asian food in HK. HK is known as the NYC of Asia where it has just about any type of Asian cultural food in it. There is the traditional Dim Sum which has lots of different types of dishes and you typically eat with a lot of people. My friend’s mother would cook the best meals ever. I could not even describe most of the food I have tried because the vegetables are different from what we eat in the USA. I had a friend who we had Calc 2 together and we became good friends. He would invite me to come and eat at his house and I would get the taste of local food which tasted amazing. I celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival with his family and it was an experience that I appreciated even years later. I was able to have a better understanding of the different Chinese holidays. We became best of friends and have many shared travel experiences over the years together which I will talk about in other post.
I learned how to play a Chinese game called Mahjong which was a interesting game to learn. I enjoyed living in HK and did quite a bit of travelling throughout mainland China which will be discussed in another post. I remember I went with a friend on a a fishing trip to catch squid and we were able to catch them by shining lights into the ocean and they would squirt ink on us when we tried to pull them off the hook. It was too funny and my friend took that fishing trip serious. For HK I will have many post but I will have to find more of the pictures and explain more stories like the Giant Buddha and the 10k Buddha statues. Stay posted for more post.