If I had to describe Hong Kong in one word what would it be? Well, a few options come to mind…
It was SO grey. Whether that was because it was autumn and that’s what their autumn is like, or more because of the smog I don’t know. The air was incredibly muggy, no matter how hard the sun tried it couldn’t burn through the thick clouds and the dirty air managed to infect my nose piercing!
We had a tour guide, Lyona, who was clearly incredibly proud of the area and the views it boasted, but as a group we just couldn’t see it. I’m sure on a clear summers day the view from the Big Buddha would have been a lot more impressive, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get excited about a grey city skyline.
Everywhere you looked there was a McDonalds, a Pizza Express or a Subway. And I mean everywhere! Surrounding temples of worship, on the way up to the Big Buddha, and then every street was jam-packed and more like walking through the streets of London than anything else!
It would have been incredibly naive to have expected a full authentic Chinese experience in Hong Kong – it’s known as huge business district after all. But I can’t deny it wasn’t weird approaching the Big Buddha on my first day and passing the corporate machine of McDonalds, or seeing people praying and worshipping to their Gods next to a giant Subway.
This brings me on to another point – how free we were to wander around and take photos of incredibly beautiful temples and monasteries whilst people were deep in prayer. It felt almost wrong to be taking photos of such an event, as worship can be so personal. I know I’d definitely get self-conscious if people were gawping at me and pointing cameras in my face!
Unbeknownst to me at the time, Hong Kong is very proud of its historical background, but whereas our UK history goes on for thousands of years, theirs is limited to about 400-600 years ago. When Lyona would mention something that happened “a very long time ago” she was normally referring to an event that occurred roughly 200 years ago!
However, did you know that Hong Kong translates as ‘fragrant harbour’? And if you go down to one of the fishing harbours you will very much appreciate how it came to be known as such! And I don’t remember the specific details (I blame jet lag personally…) but it was incredibly interesting to hear how the city went from being under the control of the British empire to then becoming a part of China in 1997.
In fact, history is still being made with the current student protests. A few of us went to the site to see what, if anything, was going down. Truth be told, not much was happening, but the fact is that they’re taking a stand, and have an incredible amount of support throughout Hong Kong.
I was fully prepared to be stared at for being fair skinned and blonde once I got through immigration, but I could not have been more wrong if I’d tried! This is where my naivety comes into play, as I did not expect to run into as many tourists and people who had emigrated (usually because of work reasons) as we did. Don’t get me wrong, we were still vastly outnumbered by locals, but not to the extent that I was anticipating, and I didn’t feel like a freak of nature for being blonde! Always a good thing 😉
But if I had to settle for one word? Well, ‘Not My Cup Of Tea’ takes me over the word limit, so instead I’ll settle for Bonkers. It was all a bit all over the place, but being that varied is not necessarily a bad thing! There was something for everyone; cheap shopping markets, huge corporate brands, tourist attractions, proud cultural heritage, good nights out and a hell of a lot of noodles! I can’t say I particularly enjoyed my time there, but I can at least say I’ve been. I don’t have the stamp in my passport, but I have the photos and the memories of spending my time there in good company, and that’s all that matters really 🙂