17 September 2011

Beware of The Shaft [Hong Kong, China]

I seem to be progressively testing my body. Taking things to the next level. What sort of torturous situation can I put myself in next? How about 20 hours on a hard train seat from Shanghai to Shenzhen? By the end of it ass was beyond sore, I could no longer feel anything below my waist. But hey, it is all in the name of my budget. I was lucky enough to be sitting across from a nice Chinese girl called Winky that could speak English. So She and her family kept me entertained.

I arrived into Shenzhen at about 8am, and was already blown away by the heat and humidity. I thought it was bad in the north of China, but it seems to be getting progressively worse as I travel south. Shenzhen is not huge on 'attractions' other than theme parks. I think the fact that it was a tiny fishing village until 30 years ago might have something to do with it. Combine that with the fact that I still wasn't feeling too hot (flu), I decided to take the day at a relaxed pace. A large majority of it was spent in nice air conditioned malls, Starbucks, or lying on the grass in the park.


Actually the park was a bit of a highlight, with a nice green grass, huge trees, colorful gardens and a big lake. It was also full of people doing all sorts of random activities. Some people working out, dancing, playing sports, playing cards or board games. I sat and watched some people play ping pong for a while, they were insanely good. After a while they asked if I wanted to have a go - so I tried. Embarrassed myself. Then left.

That evening I met up with my host Leige. A super-awesome Brazilian girl who has been living in Shenzhen for about seven months. She took me out with one of her friends to a local club. Up until now I had not really been out to a club in China. The whole experience blew my mind. It was just... strange. I'm not sure exactly why, but a few observations - there were lots of older Asian guys, DRUNK, and dancing. There were stunning Asian girls all over old western guys. The fact that there were old western guys there was strange. I'm painting a picture of a disco in an old-peoples home or something, but this was a pretty standard club. A lot of young people (in amongst the oldies), LOUD music, lots of drinking, dancing etc. Anyway, it was just strange.

The following day I jumped on the metro and headed to Hong Kong. It is that easy from Shenzhen! While in the line I met a girl from the States named Jennifer. We actually met up a few days later and travelled to Macau together, but we will get to that... So I got to Hong Kong no trouble, and made my way to my hosts house (Chris). Chris was born and raised in Hong Kong and is an extremely generous person. It was really great to be staying with a local Chinese person, as most of the people in China on CouchSurfing are actually foreigners. Chris took a lot of time to help me out to get around, making recommendations, and even taking me out a couple of times and playing tour-guide.

Just as I thought I was getting over the flu, it hit me worse than ever. I felt like death! So that put a bit of a damper on the whole experience. I think it has something to do with all the air conditioning. It is SO hot and humid in Hong Kong that literally every single building has the air conditioning blasting. But even feeling like crap I managed to get out and see a lot. Impressions of Hong Kong in general? Awesome. I loved it. It is like a bright, neon lit little paradise. The English here is really good, the food great (sometimes ...interesting), the people friendly and seem more open minded than the mainland, the public transport amazing, the urban area is crazily developed with massive buildings built in ways I have never seen before, but the city still retains pockets of authentic Hong Kong. And outside the city? Beautiful mountains and green forests. What is not to like? Plus they don't block facebook! WIN.

The list of sights that I hit - Victoria Peak via the Peak Tram, which gives amazing views over the city. Unfortunately the smog kinda kills it a little. St. Johns Cathedral; one of the only remaining British/Christian churches. Markets; LOTS of markets. Some more interesting than others, with more than the normal tourist crap. The night market was particularly interesting; walking down among the stalls I stumbled across someone selling all kinds of sex toys on more than one occasion. But it is also full of fortune tellers who can tell your fortune by almost every method imaginable - name and birth date, hands, face, palm, incense and lots more... Chris and I took the Star Ferry across the harbour one evening, seeing all the buildings lit up at night was beautiful.

Chris and I also visited the west of Hong Kong city together. This is an older area of the city with a lot of old local stores. Some selling lanterns for the Moon/Mid-August festival, others dried seafood (I'll elaborate more below), but most interesting were those selling paper models of houses, cars, clothing, food... almost everything. The reason is that traditionally Chinese people believe that if you burn a paper model of something, it becomes real in the next world - so they are 'sending' it to their dead relatives. You can buy paper iPods, playstations, even a maid!

The final thing I did in Hong Kong was meet with Amy, a local girl from Couch Surfing, and made a trip to Lantau Island - about an hour ferry ride from Hong Kong city. On the island is Tai O, a small, very authentic fishing village. The other main draw card was a massive Buddha statue. And I mean MASSIVE. There is a cable car from the Buddha and temple to the small town at the bottom of the hill for all the lazy buggers. Amy and I hiked the path under the car for the amazing views of the island and ocean.


I feel I should make a quick note about the food in Hong Kong. Maybe it was because I was staying with a local, and one that made a real effort the expose me to everything Hong Kong had to offer, but I found the food was pretty crazy. Over three days I ate blood cakes, tripe, pig skin, fish skin, pig rectum, chicken feet, cow stomach... and that is just the top of my head. The locals seem pretty crazy about seafood. Stores selling all kinds of dried fish parts are all over the place. I saw a lot of shark fins which was a little disturbing. One place even had a pile of shark fins, then right beside they had a sign about protecting the environment and making sure to turn off your car instead of leaving it idling. Ironic much?

On a recommendation from my friend Paul, Chris, one of his friends and I went for dinner at a place called Tung Po. It is over a fruit and vegetable market, with a very 'local' feel; think plenty of locals, plastic furniture, paper table cloths. It is pretty crazy; the owner Robbie cranks the music and dances around knocking back beers with all the customers. He is definitely a character and knows how to entertain. And while the decoration might be extremely basic, the food is amazing. Not cheap, but GOOD! So it is one of my recommendations if you find yourself in HK.


  1. You ate a pig rectum? Really? *gag*. I pretty much puked a little in my mouth there.

    Are you feeling better though? Are you still sick??

  2. Still the best city in the world for me. Glad you had a great time in HK and got to see so many of the "local" stuff as well as some of the touristy stuff.

  3. Hey Neal, your blog is awesome!
    I also was in HK two days ago (before having my plane back to France), didn't see as much as you but like you I enjoyed it so much... Especially after China ;-)
    On my side, I didn't catch flu, but hepatitis A; Same for Simon. We've drunk chinese tap water during a month (yeah sometimes we're not very smart).

    FYI, Simon is still travelling (with a canadian girl currently) in south-western China, he's heading to Vietnam in a couple of weeks.

    Wish you all the best for your trip.

    Hervé, from Terelj, Mongolia.


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