Hong Kong Travel

Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Macau… except not Shanghai

Tickets back home to Michigan over Xmas were too expensive this year which meant Lindsay and I had to figure out what to do to maximize our time together over the holiday break.

To be honest I would have probably stayed in Japan and spent our modest budget visiting a new region or city or something, but Lindsay really wanted to go somewhere totally new and tickets were reasonably cheap to Shanghai, China – unfortunately the tourist visa was something like $185 USD and took a long time to process… BUT you can get a transit visa for 144 hours as long as you are flying through China somewhere else. In other words, you can’t book a trip Tokyo -> China -> Tokyo and qualify for a transit visa but you CAN book a trip Tokyo -> China -> Hong Kong -> Tokyo. So this is what we booked.

Unfortunately the flight to China was out of Narita which is not the most convenient place to fly out of. It’s a solid hour and a half from our house (sorry Corie who is flying into Narita to visit in a few days!). Double unfortunately our flight to China was a red eye. Triple unfortunately, after we got on the flight around 11:30, literally minutes before we took off three people came to our seat and told us that our flight from Shanghai -> HK was cancelled… so the flight is ready to go and we had to decide if we were going to stay on the flight and very likely not be able to stay in China OR get off the flight. We had to make a decision right then with everybody on the plane watching and the cabin lights dimmed for takeoff. Anyway, we got off the flight because I was a bit concerned we’d end up being forced to buy a super expensive last minute flight once we arrived in China to HK.

Anyway we got off the flight but we were stuck on the other side of immigration – immigration was closed. So we couldn’t just walk back into Japan, we had to sit for probably 30 minutes while the airport staff got some office staff to come out and figure out what to do with us. Eventually we got let back into Japan and made out way back home, a good 2 hours later (having spent a solid USD$100 on the last night bus). We were felling pretty bummed about our plans being completely ruined, not to mention the fact we had to eat a bunch of reservations (hotels, flights, etc), but in the end the next day with fresh eyes we booked a cheap flight to Hong Kong so we could at least use our return flight HK -> Tokyo.

Here we are trapped in immigration after it was closed. Nobody at any of the lanes, everybody went home. We sat like this for a good 30 minutes.

Hong Kong

Anyway, that thrilling story out of the way, Hong Kong. What an absolutely amazing city.

Here is what we did:

  1. Ate dim sum
  2. Walked around the HK island as well as Kowloon
  3. Went to three museums
  4. Watched Food Network in our hotel room (which had a 3-10 second delay in the audi0 for unknown reasons)
  5. Went to a beach (Shek O)
  6. Went to Macau (“Asia’s Las Vegas”), ate Pastel de Nada and gambled and lost 180 HKD (around 24 USD) between the two of us (BUT got 6 beers and MANY snacks)
  7. Saw a Christmas concert
  8. Went to a friends house to have some homemade umeboshi
  9. Hiked the “Dragon’s Back”
  10. Hiked to the giant Buddha
  11. Went to Tai O (a small fishing village)
  12. Random nightlife stuff

A few favorite things below.

Tai O

Tai O is a popular tourist day trip from HK. That said when we were there, winter, it wasn’t very busy at all (either from people living there or tourists – I actually don’t think we saw a single tourist there to be honest). It was incredibly beautiful and cozy and a bit difficult to explain. “Old fishing village with houses on stilts and tiny little passage ways and tiny passenger bridges over little waterways, and everything is sort of colorful and a bit rustic in a very charming sort of way” – the thing that really made the place feel special to me was the fact that the town felt lived in, and like a real community. Along the narrow passages between houses over bridges there might be little signs advertising some sort of community initiative or notice.

If I’m honest the below photo actually captures NONE of this, but none of the photos I have really capture the village, so why not post a photo of sweet Lindsay’s ironic leg pop?

And here is my leg pop in Tai O for good measure

Other photos

I have a general principle that I live by, that being “if you happen to walk by an IKEA in a different country, you have to go in and get some food”

We had quite a few different soups. They were good.

Below is the Central Hillside Escalator Link, which is 800 meters in total length. That’s like… almost a kilometer, if my math is correct. It was honestly a highlight for me, in part because Chung King Express has a few scenes on this escalator.

Central Hillside Escalator Link
We spent a decent chunk of time at the library, Lindsay doing school work / grading.

The below photo isn’t very exciting but semi-significant for me – this shirt was a gift, either from Lindsay or possibly from our friend Brooke who made it, from when we lived in Oakland. Somehow the shirt is still holding up pretty well despite me wearing it frequently (probably once every week or two at least). When I got the shirt it was a bit of a joke (I think?) because it has some famous towers on it, “Big Ben”, the Kowloon Clock Tower in Hong Kong, and the Oakland Tribune building. Two of them very famous, one of them (the Tribune) famous and loved mainly by those in the East Bay / Oakland. Anyway, I’ve now seen all of the towers in person, and I wore the shirt specifically to make a point of this.

I would not give these super high ratings. I’m a bit spoiled with regard to pastries and most of the egg tarts / pastel de nada I had in Macau tasted of crisco and egg, vs butter and cream custard.

One thing that for some reason stood out to me in Hong Kong was the population density. I live in Tokyo so am exactly not a stranger to lots of people, but there were just times in Hong Kong where it hit me how many lives there were in a square block. The photos below are from one random apartment complex, very few people outside but a seemingly endless number of apartments. Actually there were two kids playing tag outside below these apartments when I took this photo and it somehow really hit me, thinking about or trying to imagine what it would have been like to grow up in this apartment. Such a huge community living directly below and above me.

I’ll end with a few photos from Shek O and the beach there. We went here on a whim really but it was beautiful. Certainly one of the great things about Hong Kong was the hiking and the ability to get out of the city.

To be honest I don’t know if Hong Kong would be the city for me, I get the impression that it would start to feel pretty small, a bit like a playground for people with money but perhaps it might get a bit stale. On the flip side there felt like there would be a vibrant community there, lots of great museums and art and likely enough things changing all the time to keep things interesting.

Overall, a great trip. Except for the Shanghai thing.

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