I currently have a six-month visa that can’t be renewed in Beijing. In order to get a new one, I had to take a trip to Hong Kong. Since I had to go, I combined it with some days of vacation and relaxation. Hong Kong is a beautiful city! This was my second visit to Hong Kong (and probably not my last), so I didn’t feel like I had to do every traditional tourist attraction on this trip. Downtown Hong Kong is actually on an island (Hong Kong Island) just across from another part of the city on the coast. A channel connects them that you can cross on the Star Ferry for less than 50 cents (USD).
Hong Kong Island from the Kowloon side at dusk.
Hong Kong Island from the Star Ferry after dark.
Hong Kong Island from the Star Ferry during the day. I think this is one of my favorite skylines in the world, especially since it is easily viewable from a ferry!
Hong Kong helps Americans (and probably mainland Chinese folks, among others) to know which way to check for traffic. Since they were under British rule for so long, they drive on the left side of the street. The British influence is still very evident in the English level and the way people “queue” (that’s British for line up), among other things. Hong Kong is, quite frankly, much easier to get around in using English than Beijing is. It is also much more cosmopolitan. It makes an excellent mental break from China because it is different enough to be a break but similar enough to not need to struggle through a whole new culture (which is how I sometimes feel when I go to Thailand).
The cosmopolitan nature of Hong Kong comes out in the food. There’s Cantonese food, Hong Kong local food (which is a sort of combination of Chinese and Western), and all sorts of other food. I at this giant slice of pizza, Thai food, and Indian food. I wanted to eat Mexican food, but when I went to the restaurant I found online (which was close to other things I was doing) I found that they only serve drinks at lunch time and don’t start serving food until 2. So no Mexican for me. It isn’t that I can’t find these sorts of places in Beijing, but you have to look harder and most of them are not very close to where I live.
In that Starbucks cup: chai latte! If I had realized at some point before the airport heading back to Beijing that this was available, I may have visited more Starbucks. I did have chai at another cafe with some friends, and it was delicious both times (Beijing, why don’t you have chai?!?).
The vast majority of my vacation time I spent on one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands, called Cheung Chau. It is a 30-45 minute ferry ride from downtown Hong Kong. Cheung Chau doesn’t allow cars and has some of the nicest beaches in Hong Kong. It is sort of like Mackinac Island without the horses and fudge crossed with Saugatuck or Ludington (not quite as artsy as Saugatuck).
Some of the many bikes on the island overlooking a ferry coming into the Cheung Chau harbor.
Sights in the village on Cheung Chau: bamboo baskets for steaming food, flags along the water, and dried fish.
I stayed at a guest house/retreat center for people like me working around the world. It is more personal than a hotel, includes Western style breakfast and dinner, allows space to connect with others or be by myself, and is in a beautiful location.
When I didn’t go into Hong Kong, I spent the mornings on the beach, ate lunch in the cute town, and then climbed back up the (significant) hill to the guesthouse before relaxing and reading for the afternoon. It was so refreshing for this water-deprived Michigan girl!
Signs you’re not in Michigan: the water is salty, the beach area is enclosed by shark nets, and the “sand” is very pebbly. But you do get this amazing tropical view.
The disadvantage was that it was really hot (I think around 90F) and really humid. So any walking, but especially up the giant hill, meant that I ended up drenched in sweat. I hope that sweating cleans the toxins out of your body or something useful like that, because if it does I should be nice and clean now. It also makes Beijing feel a bit more pleasant—it is about the same temperature but not as humid (at least not yet).
I’m so thankful for this time away to be refreshed. I’m back in Beijing ready for the adventures that are ahead!