Shopping has never been easier than in Hong Kong. The entire city is geared towards effortless money spending. The moment you venture outside you find yourself surrounded by myriads of shops. Shops are not limited to ground floors, but can be found on any level of multistorey buildings. In fact if you look for a bargain, your best bet is shops hidden on upper levels of tower buildings. Another interesting feature of Hong Kong is that shopping malls do not have public sitting space. So if you wish to take a rest, your only option is a cafe or a restaurant, which means spending more money. I am undecided whether it is genius or just plain evil.
This consumerism culture made me almost want to stay in Hong Kong and indulge in shopping and eating and find a job to support this lifestyle. Fortunately we made it out of Hong Kong, before this idea turned into reality. Below are purchases made during this shopping frenzy.
Sony F1.8 35mm prime lense
Hydrogen peroxide and a bunch of bandaids
A tailor made suit courtesy of Empire Tailors International
Advanced ceramic knife (confiscated later at the Guangzhou Railway Station)
Sony Xperia C
Two pairs of Converses
Bodyshop skin sponge
Soy sauce and sesame oil
High prices and lack of decent and cheap hostels make Hong Kong far from a good destination for a backpacker. After you cross the border with China, prices on the same goods and services increase two or three-fold. Most of things are still cheap by European standards, but at first such a dramatic change is hard to digest. Nightlife was particularly expensive even comparing to Finland. 350HKD (around 35€) to get into a club for a Canadian no-name deep house DJ (and that is with the name on the guest list) with the drinks priced accordingly. I gave it a miss. Some places compensate a steep entrance fee with an open bar, which I guess is a fair deal if you want to get wasted and have Western genes to process alcohol, but otherwise it is insanely expensive. Interestignly enough is that on average I spent about the same amount of money as in Russia and Mongolia, but after a month spent in China Hong Kong it felt painful.
Accommodation situation is not any better. There are several hostels scattered around the city, with prices for dorms starting from 15€ upwards. If you want to go really cheap, then Chung King Mansions or Mirador Mansions are the best bets. These two massive prison-like 17-floor buildings standing next to each other host numerous guesthouses, hostels and inexpensive (by Hong Kong standards) hotels. Both buildings are the true melting pots and there is a good chance that you are can encounter here any nationality you can think of. Ridden with bedbugs, rats and other parasites, urine smell on staircases and renovation long overdue, these so called “mansions” look more like a prison complex. Add to the mix hookers, drugs/watch/suit/god-knows-what dealers and other dodgy people constantly on guard in front of the building and you get one of the most interesting attractions in Hong Kong. Chung King is particularly special – it has its own wikipedia article
and a movie
named after it too. What is particularly interesting is that most of clientele actually lives here, as opposed to staying a couple of nights. One of the dorms I stayed in was full of belongings of an older British man piled on several beds and occupying one entire wall. I have no idea for how long he has lived there, but judging by the amount of stuff he got there, it seemed like he made Chung King his permanent home. Sharing a bed with bedbugs for a couple of nights was more than enough, but living in such conditions is something I cannot imagine.
One of the things I’ve been trying to figure out during my journey low budget I can go without compromising my comfort and I finally hit my edge of comfort in Chung King after getting bitten by bedbugs. Noisy dorms with snoring people, dirty sheets and crappy showers? No problem. Ear-plugs, eye-cover and a silk-linen sleeping bag cure most of these problems. But waking up at 4AM wondering what the hell is going on and spending the next week battling itchiness all over the body is the experience I would not want to go through again. Chung King and Mirador are definitely worth a visit, but you would be better off finding accommodation elsewhere.
If Shanghai is Paris of East and Macau Las Vegas of East, then Hong Kong is most definitely New York of East. What do we have here? Very cosmopolitan and modern on the verge of being futuristic. Impressive city skyline and even more impressive history. English is widely spoken and understood here, which is a major bonus. Hong Kong’s Mass Railway Transit (MRT) is considered one of the best public transit networks in the world. No gimmicks or unnecessary decorations, it is stylish, minimal and functional. It just works. On a first sight there are no major tourist attractions here, but Hong Kong is doing just fine without them. Wandering in the maze of skyscrapers, exploring MRT or hiking around the numerous hills will keep you occupied for days.
Hong Kong is a city of two faces. On one hand you have this modern facade: futuristic skyscrapers, ubiquitous wi-fi networks and massive infrastructure. While on the other hand you have lots of countryside and semi-wilderness, as well as the dystopian world of decaying backyards and side-streets. Gloomy backyards with signs of urban decay, skyscrapers standing proud in the night-sky and the weird mixture of English and Chinese complete the Bladerunner impression. Give them another twenty years and legions of androids will make their way into they daily life. The city skyline is long, but not as clearly defined as in Shanghai. While Shanghai’s skyline is designed from the bottom up and is tidy looking, Hong Kong’s one is seemingly random, as if it just happened on its own. The skyline as well as Hong Kong overall are best experienced in nighttime. During the day it is just grey tall buildings, but after the sun sets the city gets a new face lift. Symphony of Light, a daily 15 minutes long light/laser show incorporating music and choreographed skyscraper lightning, adds a nice touch. While the show itself is not such a big deal, the scale of the whole thing and the amount of effort put into it certainly leave an impression. As for nature, in fact 70% of Hong Kong’s area is hilly countryside. An hour on an MRT or a ferry and you find yourself in a sleepy fishing village that has nothing in common with the modern Hong Kong. It is indeed a delight to see a modern megapolis living in a symbiosis with surrounding nature.
Hong Kong is most definitely the nicest Asian megapolis I’ve visited so far. Beijing and Shanghai were great, but Hong Kong even more so. Loved it <3