So just over two weeks ago I set out on my travels to head to Australia with a short three day stopover in Hong Kong. I’ll tell you one thing, there is nothing more valuable than this experience.
Around September time I decided that I’d had enough of Belfast and that it was time to do what I have always wanted to do, and that’s travel. After a quick google search online I contacted the travel agent BUNAC who specialise in working holidays for young adults who want to travel and make some money abroad. For me it sounded ideal because not only did they offer some excellent packages but they also had the option of a group flight so you wouldn’t have to travel alone. I would highly recommend this option if you would like to go travelling but are stuck for someone to go with. My package included the flight, a three day stopover in Hong Kong and a week in the YHA Sydney Central hostel upon arrival in Australia. My fellow travellers all opted for the same package which meant I had plenty of time to get to know them and make friends with likeminded people.
On January 29th I set off for Heathrow airport to begin my journey, I won’t lie, it’s a pretty nerve wrecking thing leaving home knowing its for a such a long period of time, and although it’s early days yet I think it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
Around twenty three people aged between 18 and 30 met at Heathrow airport and embarked on an eleven and a half hour flight to Hong Kong together. We arrived at around 7am, completely exhausted but determined not to succumb to jet leg. We met our tour guide Lynor at the airport who lead us to the bus that brought us to our hotel in Kowloon. Lynor was very good at her job, was extremely informative and entertaining and insisted that we visit The Big Buddha in Hong Kong via the cable cars up the mountain. So as a large group of exhausted bewildered young people, off we went.
It was definitely worth the visit, albeit a little odd to be sightseeing with a group of complete strangers but it gave everyone a bit of time to size each other up and talk to everyone. The views at the top of the steps were fantastic although it was quite a misty day in Hong Kong and they lacked a little sunshine.
We returned to our hotel exhausted but determined to beat the jet lag. The girls all decided to have dinner together while the lads occupied the bar. We set off I search of an authentic Chinese dining experience only to come across Subway and Pizza Hut. We eventually found a busy Chinese restaurant and sat down for our meal. I settled for a safe option in Beef Curry only to be disappointed when produced with chunks of fatty meat in a hot curry sauce. Authentic or not, I’ve had better Chinese meals. It also quickly became apparent that the part of town we were in wasn’t used to foreigners as for the large part of the meal, and the trip, we were stared at by locals who seemed stunned by our presence.
What was also quickly established was that I may have a drinking problem as the majority of the girls decided that they were off to bed for some well earned rest, I went off in search of the inebriated boys to see if they wanted to experience the Hong Kong nightlife. When I found them I was delighted to discover that a small handful of girls had been thinking the same thing so we set off for the harbour.
The first bar we came across was an Irish bar called Delaney’s, trust me the irony is not lost on me. It seemed that I’d travelled half way round the world from Ireland to sit in an Irish bar with a group of English people. What made things worse was that the cast of The River Dance had also decided to visit Delaney’s that night, I felt like I was at home. For anyone visiting Hong Kong you need a fairly small budget. BUNAC suggested changing around £100-£150 into Hong Kong dollars but if you are anything like our group i would suggest that you bring slightly more if you fancy a drink as the alcohol can be fairly expensive in some places.
The following day after a long lie in, we met our guide again and visited Victoria Peak to take some photos of the Hong Kong skyline. Again there was a slight most over the city and although the brows were breathtaking a clear day would have made them better.
We then visited Aberdeen fishing village and took a ride on a Sampan boat around the harbour. The sharp contrast of wealth in the city was evident in the water with the harbour surrounded by sleek skyscrapers and occupied by extravagant yachts. In contrast humble fishing boats/ houses had docked beside them which was an interesting and somewhat sobering thought.
That evening we were promised an authentic Cantonese meal, we were lead into a room that looked like it was set up for a wedding reception and handed a pair of chopsticks, which was hilarious. We were served a range of dishes which included goose, chicken, fried rice and fish, which were tasty but it was all a little odd. The staff were clearly disgusted by our lack of skill where chopsticks were concerned. It was a nice meal but il stick to my Chinese takeaways from now one. It wasn’t exactly what any of us had in mind. That evening we all went out as a group, I would tell you how it went but I can’t really remember. Awkward!
The next morning I wasn’t the only one nursing a sore head which was made worse by the knowledge that we were catching a nine hour flight to Sydney that night and had a full day of sightseeing ahead of us. We packed our bags and set off to the Chi Lin Nunnery and the Nan Lin Gardens. Although they were nice to see I don’t think a group of hungover young adults managed to fully appreciate them.
We then set off for the airport and a nine hour flight to Sydney. Hong Kong was a great city and I’m glad I got to visit however it isn’t a city I would quickly rush back to. It may have been the part we stayed in or the fact that we were all a group of strangers attempting to get to know one another but I don’t think we managed to experience everything Hong Kong had to offer.