Despite our four short days in Hong Kong, it was a whirlwind of food, shopping, crowds, lights, and more crowds. But unlike in Bali, I feel not like a tourist but more like I’ve been engulfed into this city, roaming the streets like a local would- not simply because I’m Chinese, but because the HK locals just don’t care whether you’re a foreigner or not; they’ll talk to you in Cantonese and treat you how they treat everyone else.
There’s a range of cuisines here to suit everyone’s tastebuds, but since we subscribe to the age-old adage of ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ we like to eat (or at least try) the foods that locals eat on a daily-basis. On our first night, one of our friend’s took us to eat claypot rice where we had to line up for over 30 minutes just to eat at a popular local haunt. The oyster pancakes (shown in the middle of the first picture below) are also a standard addition to everyone’s order at this restaurant.
The thing I’m still trying to get used to though is all the people’s rush, with their sense of efficiency bordering on rudeness. You will walk into a restaurant and the first thing the waiter will do after seating you at a table is to ask what you want. Usually, the last customer hasn’t even left their seat yet. Once you’ve finished your meal, the waiters will start to clean your table, wiping in and around you as a not-so subtle sign that they want you to leave, despite the fact that your eating companion may not have finished yet. The first time we experienced this, we realised that this is how a lot of restaurants maintain a high-turnover rate in order to accommodate so many hungry locals. Thus, everyone else’s rush makes us rush too, and so we tend to order and eat faster than we normally do in Australia- or anywhere else for that matter! This happened regardless of whether we ate with friends or by ourselves, and while it happened mostly in really local restaurants, we got the sense that even the waiters in more high-end places didn’t appreciate us lounging around after we finished our meals. This is an aspect of the HK lifestyle that I just can’t seem to wrap my head around… is this why so many people in HK also wear sneakers, even when shopping? Because they’re always rushing from one place to another? We were people watching one day and we saw more than half the people walking past us wearing joggers!
It’s the same in the streets and inside malls where large crowds throng around major shopping and eating districts.
Personally, I’ve found this very draining as I don’t like to be in places where there are too many people, too often. It was a huge relief to be able to go back to our place on our second-last night and just sit in bed watching movies and eating HK snacks and cup noodles after a long day of shopping and walking around. I feel that even during travels, one needs a refuge from the outside world to just do whatever it is that will get your energy levels back up.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life in HK, a nice place to visit is The Peak. To get here, you can go by cable car or by taxi. We chose the latter option since the queue was way too long. Though there is some trekking (girls, leave your high heels home!) the scenic view is worth the uphill climb, and you’ll see a cityscape of HK different to anything you could have imagined the island to look like! We were lucky to have two friends from HK show us around here. In fact, we had a friend to show us around on each of the four days we were there, so we had a lot of guidance and advice from locals on things ranging from the very interesting, to the most mundane like where to go grocery shopping. This time we didn’t use our Lonely Planet guidebook as much as we did, say, in Bali and Vietnam.
The shopping, while in some aspects good because there are so many stores selling a variety of goods, it’s made me reflect on the high consumerist society we live in today, as well as how much garbage we must be all creating and especially since so many of us (sometimes even myself, I admit) like to chase the latest clothes and gadgets without any regard to the things we already have and building waste by hoarding things we don’t actually need.
But one should be in a lighter mood on the eve of Christmas, so I’ll leave on a more happy message to say that we are going to Seoul, South Korea for two weeks! This was a spontaneous decision when we realised that 30 days was a bit too long to spend in Taiwan. So we’re off again to a new country a week after the new year 🙂 I’m super excited to see snow again! Temperatures are expected to be in the minus degrees! brrr
Stay tuned for posts on Taiwan!