Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tour Diaries: Hong Kong

After re-applying eye makeup and doing our best to tame our airplane hair, we flew out of our hotel room, eager to experience the city we had been hearing so much about. "It's a mix between China and London! Awe, I wish I could come with you!" said our new friends in Beijing before we left. 

We only had to walk a few blocks from our hotel before we found all the action. It was late at night, but no one seemed tired or ready to slow down. Cities are made of the same basic elements: buildings, lights, people, noise. The way that these elements are combined is what interests me. Gucci and Dulce and Gabana's sparkling storefronts lured us in on every street corner. Business men in a hurry and women wearing dark shades of lip color rushed past us on the sidewalks. There is a real sense of urgency and ambition in Hong Kong. It feels kind of like New York in a strange way, minus all the familiarity of a U.S. country and great pizza. I felt as though there was an adventure waiting for me, ready to be lived and forgotten all in one night.

This is us at the top of The Peaks! We had to take a windy road up to the top, but it was totally worth it!
We made an instinctual left turn up a steep hill to discover a maze of cute boutique shops, late-night tapas bars, and attractive people crammed together around tall wooden tables, looking sophisticated with their cigarettes, effortlessly alternating between languages, from say, French to Chinese mid conversation. I have to admit, I envied all these worldly people who all seemed like they had such interesting stories to tell. As Dia and I stared in awe at all of the newness around us, I asked her, "How am I supposed to explain THIS in my blog." She just jumped up and down, skipped ahead of me and screamed "Hooong Kooong!" like a loony.

There is something quite liberating about traveling to foreign lands. Have you ever traveled to say, Omaha, Nebraska and had the thought, "I can do anything I damn well please, dress any way I like, say anything I want, because no one knows me here?"  Well, that feeling is multiplied by twenty when you travel to a different country where nobody can understand you even if you did say something bad about your eleventh grade English teacher. 

Luckily, Carlo's cousin's girlfriend Abigail agreed to show us around all the local haunts. Knowing someone who could show us around made all the difference. Sometimes it's fun to get lost and make discoveries all on our own, but most of the time we enjoy having a guide. We would have never found a bar where they stacked wine glasses, shot glasses, and beer mugs on top of each other, poured alcohol over the whole glassware pyramid, and then lit the entire work of art on fire. (Yes, you are supposed to drink this concoction while the flames are still burning. Makes the alcohol absorb into your system quicker or something. No, I didn't indulge!) 

We never would have found a secret pub located in the top floor of an abandoned building where you had to know the secret password to enter. Here we ordered sparkly lychee cocktails. Our tour manager drank a monstrous potion consisting of two shots of some insanely concentrated liquor inside a tumbler of more alcohol, inside a mug of beer with two more shots of liquor inside another giant mug of beer. I am not exaggerating, cross my heart! I can't remember the name of this drink, but I would have called it , "Drink me if you want to forget this night as well as the last three weeks of your life and perhaps your middle name as well." (Truth be told, I don't think he was even hung over the next day. I wouldn't have made it out of the elevator had I attempted to knock it down.)

Abigail also showed us an adorable little Mexican spot. Has anyone seen the movie, Labrinyth? Remember that part where the lead female character has to get through a wall in the maze that appears to be solid and impenetrable, but once she looks closer, she discovers there is an opening if she looks at it from the right angle? The pathway leading to this restaurant was just like that! You couldn't see it in between a tiny drug store and an old, decapitated apartment complex, but if you were standing just right and tilted your head just right, you could spot the restaurant sign. 

A tiny lantern lit the entrance. A body guard smiled at us as we slipped past a few passionate couples leaning in toward each other over glowing-neon margaritas. For those travelers among you looking to find love, it's quite possible you could fall in love at least 16 times your first night in Hong Kong. They played the music in that joint so loud, talking was out of the question but it didn't bother us or anyone else. We were all there to dance, scream, and stuff our faces with guacamole and homemade horchatas. 

As we continued on to the next bar/restaurant/shop, I couldn't help thinking, "I can't believe that Hong Kong has been here my whole life, and I am only just discovering it now," which made me realize how many other amazing places there are in the world that I have yet to discover! 




  1. Yes, a lot of Hong Kongers seem to be in a hurry all the time. You know you're in HK when you see people walk fast even on the escalators. :)

    The best time to visit is right now without the high summer temperatures and oppressive humidity. It's hard to resist writing about the food and shopping when there seem to be so many restaurants and stores everywhere you look. Nothing beats having a helpful local knowledgeable native as a guide when you have little time to venture on your own.

    Did you happen to see the incredible centuries-old art of paper cutting in China? The artists take a sheet of paper, folding it and using scissors to cut extremely fine, intricate designs. I'll tweet you a photo of one that depicts the Chinese zodiac, which is one of the most memorable souvenirs I've ever gotten. I hope it never becomes a lost art, as it is so labor intensive to make. Glad to see you're enjoying this tour.

  2. you bring me back to memories of growing up in new york city (not that i ever grew up)... buildings, lights, people, noise, but also food and diversity and creativity (three of my favorite aspects of any huge city)... thank you for taking us on your tour :)