No such thing as a life that’s better than yours – J. Cole
This quote resonated with me as I was eating Popeye’s chicken in the Hong Kong airport. I found myself smiling and humming this lyric repeatedly as I munched on my tenders and scarfed down my biscuits, happy to have a little taste of familiarity at the conclusion of an awesome New Year’s trip to HK. It was 3 days into 2016 and I was reminiscing on how far I’ve come from the same time a year ago, and I knew right then that I am living the life I want and I’m blessed to be able to do so.
The euphoric feeling was abruptly interrupted when we looked at the time and realized we had less than 5 minutes to be at the gate before the bus taking us to our plane was to pull off. After a mad dash to the gate that would have made Usain Bolt jealous, the gate agent made me throw away the rest of my chicken before we could board (apparently Popeye’s bags aren’t on the list of approved carry-on’s). But we made it.
This incident was the last in a series of experiences that could not be replicated in a million years. I went to Hong Kong for a five day excursion with my wife, our friend Rese, and our homeboy Neil. Twas better than I could have imagined. I kept meticulous notes and awesome pictures in my phone from the time I got off the plane, because I knew I’d want to share this trip with everyone at its conclusion. Unfortunately I’m back in Chiang Mai now and my phone is still in Hong Kong (I’ll explain later) so I’m going to have to freestyle this post off of memory. Breaking down every single thing that happened would take an attention span longer than yours and mine, so I’ll just give you a few do’s and don’ts for vacationing in Hong Kong.
Talk to random Black people on the street
One of the most memorable nights was our second in town when Rese stopped a random guy named Charles on the street who was on his way back to the airport as he was just in HK for a few hours on a layover. Neil convinced him to hang with us for the night and we shut the city down until about 3:30 a.m. From the hookah bar with the best hip-hop mix I’ve heard since leaving the States, to Charles getting cell phone footage of a street fight that transformed into a literal gay fashion show, the night was incredible. And it all started when we stopped a dude and invited him to share in our turn up.
Travel with a group
Erica and I always have fun when we take trips with friends, and this time was no different. Because both of our friends are well-travelled, we were all able to add valuable input and suggestions as to how to spend our trip, and we all returned back home thoroughly satisfied with the time we had. Be careful with this one though, because traveling with the wrong people can really ruin a trip. Choose your travel companions wisely and watch it enrich your trip thoroughly.
Come prepared to eat and drink heartily
I’m not sure if we just got lucky with all of the places we stumbled upon to eat, but they were ALL delicious. We visited the Michelin star restaurant chain Din Tai Fung on the first night and that set the tone for the food for the rest of the trip. Soft-shell crab burgers, nachos, BBQ pork buns, duck breast, wings, etc… they do food right in HK. The drinks though?! Their happy hour scene is the best I’ve ever experienced. Don’t believe me? We came across a bar with a happy hour that has drinks that start at 1 HKD (12¢) and double in price every 20 minutes. It was a cocktail paradise. Tip the bartender and order multiple drinks at a time to maximize this experience. While this was the best deal, 2 for 1 happy hours abound on all sides of town. Lan Kwai Fong is the party district of HK and a few bars offer free drinks to women all night. Basically if you leave HK thirsty, you’re doing something wrong.
Make time for touristy stuff
This may be one area where we lacked a bit. While we did get a chance to ride the world’s longest escalator, see the skyline from Victoria Peak and watch the “Symphony of Lights,” I can’t help but feel like we spent too much time either in pursuit of the partying, actually partying, or recovering from the partying. Don’t get me wrong, no regrets at all, but the inner tourist in me left wanting more. I’ll have to return one day to do all of the stuff on my list that we didn’t have time for: riding a junk boat, visiting the Big Buddha, doing a Tai Chi class, taking a day trip to Macau, and so on. No way we could squeeze all that into a five-day trip so next time I’m going to plan for a week.
Come on a budget
Maybe living in Chiang Mai has altered my reality on how much one should spend in the course of a vacation, but Hong Kong is not for those on a tight budget. We got the plane tickets for a steal, but the money we spent in those five days is close to what we would spend in about 3-4 weeks in Chiang Mai. Maybe I’m just salty because rent was due as soon as the plane landed. I never could get used to the HKD to USD conversion, so I had no idea how much things really cost until I checked the account after returning home. Prices of everything from accommodations to public transportation were spiked because of the holiday which had a strong effect on this as well so if you want to save a little money, come during the low season (around April – August) and the prices will be more reasonable.
Get your Asian languages mixed up
I’ve been in Thailand for going on six months and the only Thai words I know are “hello” (sa wat dee khap) and thank you (khap khoon khap). It just rolls off the tongue in Thailand so easily that I just blurted out the phrases when the situations called for it in HK, only to be stared at in confusion by the Chinese person I was talking to. Realizing my mistake, I’d quickly remedy the awkward situation with a “konnichiwa?” which is Japanese for “good afternoon.” That’s the extent of my Asian communication skills. Then, I’d feel racist for just throwing random Asian terms against the wall hoping one would stick. The third time this happened was the funniest because the 7-11 attendant said in perfect english, “Dude, most of us know English.”
Take shots of absinthe
On the last day in town, Neil and I made one last trip to Lan Kwai Fong where we indulged in the usual cocktails until one of us
me had the genius idea to take a shot of absinthe. Why not? It’s 2016 and we made it through the whole trip without a drinking mishap so I felt like HK could do me no wrong. LOL. I’ll spare you all the interesting details but I ended up on the wrong side of Victoria Harbour at 5am on the side of the highway with my phone and hoodie mysteriously gone. The police and paramedics got involved and I spent the next two hours trying to make it home. Good times.
Add Hong Kong to the bucket list. It’s the only big city I’ve been to that I wouldn’t mind living in one day. Americans get a 90-day visa upon arrival, so immigration is a breeze (even though it’s whack they don’t stamp passports anymore there). It’s busy but not too much so, a lot of people speak or understand English, the food is amazing, and they know how to have fun… maybe too much so. Please just stay away from the absinthe.