Hong Kong, for when your real life isn’t quite hectic enough
I intended to write a two-day itinerary and detail activities here, but honestly I can’t figure out what the hell there is to do in Hong Kong aside from wait in line and walk with a million people among skyscrapers like you’re heading to work.I probably should have guessed this given that almost all “top things to do in Hong Kong” boil down to seeing the skyline. See the skyline from the Star Ferry crossing. See the skyline from Victoria Peak. See the skyline from Avenue of Stars. Oh, and Hong Kong Disneyland.I’m being somewhat unfair as there are some temples and gardens that are undoubtedly worth seeing. But it’s such a nightmare to get around Hong Kong that I have no qualms about skipping them.You’re probably wondering at this point, why the hell am I even in Hong Kong. As you may have surmised, this is not my final destination. Hong Kong was supposed to be a layover, which I turned into an overnight stop out of curiosity and to get some rest. On the flight over, I was actually getting really excited and wondering if I shouldn’t have booked two nights here. But it took less than an hour to realize that maybe booking even one night here was probably unnecessary.After a long line at immigration, which is common almost anywhere, I had to spend 20 minutes waiting to get to an ATM, an unavoidable endeavor at the Hong Kong airport because taxis don’t take cards and even the ticket machines for public transportation are cash only.I took the Airport Express train part of the way to my hotel and then got so tired of trying to find my way around highways that I had to cab the rest of the way because I couldn’t get to the other station I was supposed to walk to. To say that Hong Kong is pedestrian unfriendly is an understatement.One good thing about this city is that the cab drivers are generally honest. They’ll turn on the meter and the fare information is posted visibly in English in the car. The downside is that the traffic is so bad that you inevitably end up wondering if you wouldn’t have just been better off walking or taking the train. So while it may be worth the $6-10, it’s definitely not worth the 35 minutes you spend gridlocked behind double decker tour buses (where do they even go?).I might feel a little more chill about the city if I had a cushy place to stay and rest and enjoy the view of the skyline, Hong Kong’s #1 attraction. According to reviews, the guesthouse where I’m staying is clean, comfortable, and ideally located. And it’s next to the Sheraton. How bad could it possibly be?Well just a few steps down from the Sheraton, there is a high rise that has a flea market on the ground floor. Among fake purses, halal stands, and weird guys standing around trying to offer you a place to sleep, there are a series of elevators that lead up to these moth ball jail cells, where I am resting for the night. How this place has an 8/10 rating on Hotels.com, I’ll never fucking understand. But I shudder to think about the kinds of places Hong Kong has to offer that are not highly reviewed by guests.But a shitty room and creepy dudes will never stop me from enjoying a place, so of course, I ventured out into Hong Kong. Only to find endless lines everywhere. There’s lines to cross the street, and there’s so much congestion that you sometimes get trapped on the median battling people going in the other direction. There’s lines to get on the subway. My God, heading from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon during rush hour looks as if the Rolling Stones just finished playing for 50,000 people. Except nothing special was going on. Literally nothing. This is just a regular weekday at 6 pm. And I certainly don’t tolerate this in my regular working life. Why would I possibly want to subject myself to it on vacation?
The good thing is that public transport use is relatively orderly. People won’t shove you into a train car whether you fit or not (ahem, Shanghai). They’ll just stop at the door when it’s full and wait for the next one. Luckily the next one comes after about a minute and a half. But the volume of people is so massive that you can expect to wait at least 15 minutes in a too-warm train station trying to catch a train.I was also excited because Hong Kong is one of the few cities where there are several divey Michelin Star restaurants. Super cheap, almost street food, yet considered deserving of the prestigious rating. I tried to go to one and found yet another line around the block. And nothing kills my interest in anything faster than having to wait around indefinitely for it.When you’re not in line, you’re trapped in a stream of people moving purposefully through tunnels and bridgeways that are designed to keep pedestrians off the street. Everyone looks like they’re late to something and when you walk at their pace, you start to feel like you also have somewhere to be.Some of the nicer promenades on both sides of the harbor are under construction so you can’t even enjoy that properly at the moment. There are just more bridgeways and unremarkable buildings that look foggy as hell anyway because the air quality is terrible.
You hike Victoria Peak in that smog and let me know how it is. I think I’ll sit this one out. I’m in the middle of a really good book.