I was more scared than excited about this trip to Hong Kong with my sister Mikha and cousins, Carlo and Rizza this September. Our plane tickets, Airbnb and all other tour packages were booked and paid for already early in April. When the 2019 Hong Kong protests or the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement (Anti-ELAB Movement) started in June with reports of violence from the police, we immediately tried to rebook or reroute our flights to a safer destination.
Since, we bought our tickets from a promo, our flights cannot be rerouted, just rebooked with additional fees. We couldn't do that since Carlo was leaving to work in Spain by the end of September. This was the only time we had. There was nothing we could do, but anxiously read the news about the protests, blogs about recent travels and prepare ourselves for the worst when our plane lands in Hong Kong.
Touchdown Hong Kong Airport
After we got off the plane and past immigration, we got our the Portable Wifi, we availed from Klook (click hyperlinked texts to check out the packages), as well as Octopus Cards which we were to use to ride the buses and the train (MTR) all throughout our trip. Double Decker buses were ready to pick us up outside and drop us off in Tsim Tsa Chui, the location of our Airbnb for our 5-day stay. They had compartments for your luggage and we immediately went up to the second floor and sat up at the front.
It took about an hour for the bus to smoothly get from the highways leaving the airport, going the mountainous landscapes, through bridges crossing rivers and onto the busy city streets of Hong Kong. Heavy rain started pouring and we got off the bus, carrying our big bags and pulling our luggage along the wet sidewalks as we set off into what then, seemed like a very gloomy 5 days in a country
Hong Kong Museums
There were two museums in Tsim Tsa Chui and since our check-in was still at 2pm and it was raining heavily outside, we decided to start with the Hong Kong Museum of History. During Wednesdays, you can visit the museums for free and it was kind of a nice start of our Hong Kong journey to learn about its origin.
The Hong Kong Space Museum was also really fun because not only will you get see planets, galaxies and space equipment, but every exhibit they had was interactive.
We were supposed to stay in an Airbnb in Mong Kok, but 3 hours before we were to leave for the airport, the host cancelled on us because of extenuating circumstances. It was a good thing that a customer representative from Airbnb assisted Carlo right away and we were able to find a new Airbnb last minute.
We got a better place compared to our old one and it was still within our budget! It has 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen/laundry room and a living/dining area. We were only 4 pax, but our Airbnb was already good for 10. Can you believe how lucky we were? The place also had everything else that you ever may need in your stay in Hong Kong. The attention to detail was unbelievable. From pillows and comforters, to towels and toiletries, sandals, umbrellas and raincoats, a stream iron for your clothes and even outlets for your charging cable. They thought of everything to make the place as comfortable as your home. Our new host was also very responsive and accommodating for the questions we had. There were just 3 flights of stairs to climb, but come on, isn't it worth it? Click this link to check it out!
Getting around Hong Kong
You can ride either the Hong Kong Star Ferry or the MTR (train) to cross the Victoria Harbour to get from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. The transportation system in Hong Kong is excellent. Most people commute to get around places and it's a norm to see people lugging around heavy baggage onto the buses and also in trains. Hong Kong is like a well-oiled machine, with no delays whatsoever. People always seems to be on the go, rushing to get from one place to the other. Warning, the escalators in the MTR stations go really fast, you really have to hold onto the hand rails.
It was rush hour when we took the train to find a place to have dinner in, but even where there were a sea of people coming and going in the MTR station, the trains were still not cramped. It's not like here in the Philippines where you have to push yourself onto the cart and squeeze yourself into sweaty people just to get on.
The travel was super manageable and there was always the next train coming after the other. Maybe, the only thing to remember is you have to keep up with everyone and know where you're going beforehand. Carlo was our official navigator and we kind of just followed him around through the entire trip. He had his trusty Google Maps app and we had our Octopus Cards and we were set. We managed to get place to place riding only trains, buses and doing a lot of walking. We average at around 22K steps a day during our entire stay. You'll basically get used to it. It is Hong Kong. You have to be on your feet, or you'll get left behind.
Light Show by Victoria Harbor at the Avenue of the Stars
We ended our day by watching the light show by Victoria Harbor. We were on the Avenue of the Stars watching as several of Hong Kong's buildings lit up in different colors to match the symphony of music. Ferries passed by Victoria Harbor flashing in lively neon perfectly timed as the show ended.
The sky was still dark when we got to Ocean Park. There weren't many people at all. There were only locals and a handful of tourists. The park was so big that we honestly didn't get to visit every aquarium or attraction inside even when we entered right when it opened and stayed until closing time.
We didn't wait in line for anything at all and went straight from one attraction to the other. Our trip was already super worth it when we caught a glimpse of this cute panda. You could just watch him eat and laze around all day, but there were just so many other animals to see. They even had so many penguins!
Their shank tanks and other aquariums are totally insane. They're so big they make up whole buildings and you would have to go down flights of stairs to get deeper. You'll really feel like you're under the sea.
We marveled over the cute little critters and enjoyed the short thrill from the roller coasters or another rides we wanted to try. Ocean Park was kind of ours that day and we were so lucky to have experienced it the way we did.
Hong Kong Night Market
I didn't realized how different the Night Market in Hong Kong was from Taiwan. Instead of local street food, Hong Kong's Night Market is a literally an entire row of streets you pass through. At both sides, Vendors are selling dry goods in tents. You can buy a variety of clothes, souvenirs, jewelry, actions figures etc.
We had fun buying there because you have to work for a good deal. You can either win or lose. See, the vendors have a strategy in making you buy. Once you look through their goods and ask questions about a particular item, they will not let you go. They force the product on you, lowering the price or giving your more products for the same price until you end up actually buying. Like, since I'm weak and can only say "Yes", I exited the Night Market with lots of bags, too much souvenirs and a huge chunk of money gone from falling victim of all of those deals. Haha.
Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car
We got the Crystal Cable Car in Ngong Ping 360. The Crystal Cable Car's floor is clear glass so aside from the amazing view in the windows, you can also see the water and forest along the mountains below as the Cable Car passes over them. Even with fear of heights, I only got scared for a split second because of just how incredible the view was. We were mostly looking down than we were looking at the windows.
Also, you can do so much with the glass floor. On our way back, we actually got a Cable Car all to ourselves. Like how lucky, right? We did all sorts of photo shoots inside the cable card and the 25-minute ride seemed to go by so fast. We lied down to make it seems like we're floating on air, but the reflection of the lights don't make it so.
The cable car will bring you up to Ngong Ping Village where you can explore the Po Linn Monastery and go up to meet the Tian Tan Buddha (Giant Buddha).
We visited many Buddhist temples like the temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas. You can count them if you want, but you're not allowed to touch or take pictures inside. There were monks and you can also find chubby dogs and cows all over the village, just chilling. Haha. We lit up incense to pay our respects before leaving to climb up to reach the Giant Buddha.
But when we were on those steps, it felt like the Giant Buddha was calling me and urging me to go all the way up and meet him. We climbed all the way to the top, tired and drenched with sweat.
It was worth it though. The view was even nicer up there. You could see the temples from afar and the mountains that surround the statue. It looked like Giant Buddha was presiding over all of it.
The Peak Tram and the Sky Terrace 428
The Peak Tram was the last thing we had on our itinerary. The Peak Tram is iconic and still keeps its historic charm going way back to 1988. It would bring us up to the Victoria Peak Tower, a mall resting on top of a mountain overlooking the whole of Hong Kong. The mountain side was really steep and the tram was climbing it at a very awkward acute angle. It was actually quiet scary because technically ropes were the only ones pulling you up. The tram was also so close to the edge of the mountain, it would feel like you could fall down anytime. I mean, look I actually did!
On the Sky Terrace 428, we were able to look down at the entire city of Hong Kong just in time for sunset. I bought a cliché " I <3 HK" shirt because I my polo was dripping with sweat from all the walking. It was also a nice way to culminate our last night in incredible Hong Kong.
It was time to say good bye and even when we did so many things and must have explored every corner of the Hong Kong streets, the moment was still fleeting and it was all going to be over. Stare at that view as hard as you can, it won't change anything. You'll leave and come back home to the same life you've been living. You only carry the memories and those still take a bit of effort to hold on to.
It really seemed like we were off from one activity to the next. We tried to experience as much as Hong Kong as we could to make it all worth it, every single minute. Even when we were tired already, we still went for anything since "We were already there". This was the last time we were going to be together as cousins. We saw how we were as kids who were clueless about what's ahead. From the many sleepovers we had as kids, playing Monopoly and Tekken, fighting each other both as Christie Montero in the PS2, to only meeting each other during birthdays and holidays as College students, we are now going to be separated as adults. We've discovered who we are and there's so much ahead of us!
We are all grown up and going to our own ways in life. We have our own dreams and the roads to get there may not be the same. Our paths may never cross again, but we will always share the memories under the Hong Kong street lights. We're gonna miss you Carlo, and hope you have an incredible life there in Spain! We're thankful for everything and wish you all the luck and happiness int the world cause you deserve it. See you again!
Is it Safe to travel to Hong Kong?
Actually on the afternoon that we landed, they withdrew the bill that Extradition Bill to calm down the protests. We were just honestly lucky that we barely encountered any protests during our trip.
We did not get into any dangerous incidents, but we did see a few graffiti on walls. Some stations in the MTR were closed because of some scheduled protests. We were walking by the streets of Mong Kok when a girl just randomly shouted, and a couple of people shouted back. It translated to "Five demands, not one less" click this link to learn more about this. We even saw the police with their shields and batons inside the train station one time ready for any protesters.
We simply stayed vigilant, updated and tried to get out of their way. The protest still continue until the people of Hong Kong seek justice and get all of their demands fulfilled. We can't necessarily say that Hong Kong is safe, we were just really lucky and thankful. You can definitely still visit Hong Kong, but I would advise to go on a later time to avoid the stress of worrying about any possible danger you may encounter. Always read on the latest news and be ready for anything.
See you guys on the next trip!
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