In desperate need of a break and dangerously short on time, I began the exciting but never ending search for the perfect getaway.
Thumbed through brochure after brochure, considered sleeping my week away in a hammock strung between two palm trees, but eventually settled on a quick trip to the shopping mecca and bright lights of Hong Kong.
Now, I know that most people don’t think Hong Kong is a destination on its own and that if you’ve been to Hong Kong it was probably just a day on your way to somewhere else, but I determined to debunk the myth that Hong Kong was merely a stopover on your way to somewhere better.
I busily began planning and booking the trip and fast realised that I had underestimated how much there was to do in Hong Kong – and started questioning whether my 7 days was going to be long enough. I reminded myself that was all I could manage and continued on my journey. I quickly realised that Hong Kong was so much more than a shopping haven, and that I was going to have to plan this trip if I wanted to get the best out of it.
Planning complete, I set off my trip. An overnight but relatively short flight of 7 hours, and I landed in the city that must never sleep. The skyline was filled with city buildings and bright lights as far as I could see, and I started to wonder whether my plan was going to be achievable. I had unleashed the adventurer within and had planned a quest that the seasoned traveller would be proud of.
That night, as I meandered through the city streets, I stumbled upon the most authentic Peking Duck restaurant, complete with ducks proudly displayed in their window to demonstrate the freshness of their produce. First thing ticked off my list, and I hadn’t even made it to the hotel yet. My list was starting to look achievable after all. After an amazing dinner in a restaurant where I was the only Westerner, I rolled down the stairs and up the street to my hotel. On the way at 11 o’clock at night, the market stalls were alive with action, so I was able to tick the second thing of my list – and that was to make sure I returned with a suitcase of options to provide for family and friends’ Christmas presents.
The following morning, an early start, and I was off to pray with the largest Buddha in the Southern Hemisphere …Yes, in Hong Kong! A local bus and a cable car ride (with a glass bottom viewing platform), and I arrived in time for lunch with local monks and an afternoon prayer session. I’m no vegetarian, but the offerings were generous and wholesome and after ticking off the third thing on my list, I started to think that Hong Kong hadn’t been given a fair go over the years. It really was surprising me.
An early evening boat ride to a local village for dinner with some locals, and I realised I may have been out of my depth here. Being offered their local delicacy was an honour, but one I would need to toughen up for. The river that I had just witnessed someone bathing in was the very same river they had just caught my jellyfish in – and that they were now proudly presenting to me on a plate! How bad can it be? Right? As I swallowed my first mouthful and tried to tell myself “It’ll be just like chicken”, I realised it wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t so good either, but it’d be a great story to tell my grandchildren.
Having always wanted to see Pandas, and being so close to mainland China, the next day I made a trip into China to see if I could find these endangered creatures. I quickly realised, it wasn’t the Pandas that were endangered – it was English speaking Customs officials, who were nowhere to be seen. So after a 3-hour delay in my adventure, I realised that perhaps finding Pandas in the wild would need to wait until my next trip and made my way by ferry and coach to the Guangzhou zoological gardens, where they proudly have 3 Pandas on display. After pushing the schoolchildren out of the way; after all … didn’t they realise I had a list to complete … I see a very large black and white teddy bear munching happily on bamboo. Quite frankly, it took a bit of convincing that they weren’t actually people dressed up in bear suits!
But my suspicions weren’t confirmed and the signs that indicated they were ferocious animals scared me enough to not take the risk of accidentally dropping my hat into the enclosure. Mainland China had a very different feel to Hong Kong, and after a quick look around, I was on the journey back to Hong Kong.
The next few days went by in a whirr of activity and excitement. I spent hours at the jade markets talking to the locals about the different characteristics of the ornamental stone and made a few purchases to add to my already bulging suitcase. I stumbled upon a local bird market, where elderly locals made the daily trek in from their homes to proudly display their beautiful songbirds in intricate wooden bird cages. On my way through the back streets, I also came across a flower market of gigantic proportions, housing every possible colour and shaped flower I had ever imagined – and even some I hadn’t. As my week in Hong Kong came to a close, I purchased my very first Jimmy Choo handbag in the modern and decadent shopping arcades, and I felt proud that Hong Kong had delivered what she had promised me in those glossy brochures that pass my desk every day.
Hong Kong had allowed me to experience a little bit of everything in a short time frame. I had shopped ‘til I dropped, tasted some amazing (and surprising food), got an understanding of religious beliefs that were different to my own and got the feeling that not only were the local people happy to see Australian tourists, but they had so much more to offer if I had more time. I’ll be back Hong Kong and this time, I’ll be prepared!