The last time I saw Hong Kong was when I had stopped there in transit. I got to see very little back then, and after hearing so many good things, I thought, why not check out Hong Kong like a local for my next holiday? I had a few days to spare in between my professional commitments, and my sister Surilie also agreed to tag along, and that's how we decided to explore the beautiful city of Hong Kong.
Although August is a rainy time in Hong Kong, if you are lucky, the weather gods can be kind. Just make sure you're prepared for it. I was! I had a raincoat, some good shoes that wouldn't get ruined in the rain and faith that I wouldn't get soaked. As my holiday was a short one, I planned to do as much as I possibly could and soak it all in.
We first headed to our hotel, which was in the centre of the city. I learnt very early in my travels that the city might be noisy and crowded, but if you want to immerse yourself in it all, find a place bang in the centre. You'll automatically see more of the place as your travel time is reduced drastically. We stayed in central HK, and it really was central.
A walk through Old Town
Surilie and I got lost in the by lanes every day and discovered something new each time. We spent our first evening in walking around the Old Town. Hong Kong used to be a British Colony until 1997 when it became a part of China. As such, it is heavily influenced by British architecture, as well as food, the language, and music too. Old Town has the quaintest cafes I have ever seen, truly hole-in-the-wall but lovely. Don't forget to have a delicious matcha latte when you're here. And the beauty of the old town is you'll be sitting in a tiny café, sipping on your coffee and watching old ladies pay their respects at a temple next door. The amalgamation of modern and traditional is eye opening to see.
The local food
Our holiday truly began when we dived into the food. While both Surilie and I are non vegetarians, we also explored a lot of vegetarian food and everyone who knew we were going to Hong Kong told us that the food is going to be tricky. It surprisingly wasn't. Yes, meat is easier to find, but vegetarian food is available everywhere. We started our feasting with the most talked about dim sums and I am still to understand, how does one stop eating them? They are delicious. Also this new trend of dim sums with cartoon faces made it even more fun to eat. The locals call the tradition of eating dim sum while drinking Chinese tea as Yum Cha. The street food is another exploration of flavours altogether. The egg waffle was the one to completely feast on.
Beaches to explore
The territory consists of beaches and mountains and we knew we had to explore both. We started with the beach because it has always fascinated me although I claim to be a mountain girl. We got a lot of suggestions of which beaches to head to, as Hong Kong is covered by water on three sides. There were quite a few options but I wanted to see the beaches of Sai Kung. With over 5 beaches to choose from, Sai Kung did not disappoint at all. It had the perfect sand, wasn't crowded and the weather was just right. A kayak session ensued as we are both big on adventure. What better way to enjoy the beach than by going deep into the water and taking it all in, right? Surrounded by hills on three sides with pristine blue waters, it is the perfect spot for a midday snooze.
I have always believed a holiday is of two kinds: one where you're just relaxing and the other where you live like a local. I was able to mix the two and I call myself "a tourist living a local life" on holiday. We don't do all the typical touristy things, but some things are too hard to miss like a harbour cruise on an Aqua Luna or watching the city twinkle from the observation wheel or heading up Victoria peak for a 360 view of the entire territory at sunset. And while you're at it go find a rooftop bar in the city and watch the city transform at night. Being a tourist definitely has its perks and Hong Kong reminded me of them!
Visiting the temples
My holiday would be incomplete without talking about two things: one, the monasteries and temples, and two, the shopping. Hong Kong will never fail you in these two departments. Let's start with the biggest, true to its name the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery, which will leave you surprised. The Buddha is spectacular no doubt, but it was also the monastery gardens that took my breath away. It is tranquil and even with so many visitors, one rarely hears a sound. Plus, their delicious vegetarian buffet makes it a must visit.
The other temple is the Tin Hau Temple at Lam Tsuen. It is a temple where it is believed that wishes come true. Visitors and followers believe one has to write down a wish and throw it onto the wishing tree. If your wish lands higher, it is more likely to come true. What they don't tell you is how beautiful the temple is on its own. With Fu dogs at the gate, the perfect red tiled roof and slight gold embellishments make this temple a must see too. Plus watching people fervently wish for something is adorable as well. Reminds you about the determination of the human spirit.
Shopping in Hong Kong
We ended our holiday on a shopping high. Hong Kong is the city for any budget. SOHO promises every brand on your bucket list and the ladies market shows you knick-knacks you'd get in less than a dollar. Shim Shui Po promises to find you things you never thought you need and reminds you that as an Indian, we totally can bargain. While you're looking at the bags and shoes and clothes, don't forget to buy some traditionally Chinese souvenirs to remind you of your trip when you're back home. You'll find a gift for everyone.
Hong Kong is really a mixture of tradition, culture, and modernity whether that is with fashion, food or lifestyle. Every lane will help you find something you were never expecting and each time you reminisce about the territory, there will be only one emotion you will think of - happiness! I hope you find happiness in Hong Kong too.