Watermarked photographs courtesy of Elizabeth at Wanderlust Photography (www.elizabethgottwald.com)
1. Asian People
Asia is without a doubt the most intriguing place for a Westerner, due mostly to the people who reside here. Asians are, for lack of a better word, a little strange. Not bad strange, like the fella who waits outside your school with sacks of sweets and no hands on show, or the senile old lady who screams racist remarks to everyone that hops on the bus with a tan. They’re just…interesting strange.
I’ve always had a slight obsession with Asian culture and with every place I travel in this continent, the more interesting the people become. Southeast Asia had its bizarre ways and people, however I couldn’t help but feel that most of this was put on for the tourists. Now, Hong Kong, there was some mighty-fine people watching!
Head down to Kowloon park and you will see groups of Asian youths busting moves to loudly blasted K-Pop or harmonically singing in unison, like a living musical. Go to Avenue of the Stars and watch them snapping away with their photographic monstrosities, worth more than your parents house. Instead of getting drunk and moaning about their reduced pensions and how the world was a better place ‘back in their day’, old men gather to play Mah’jongg while the wives do their daily Tai Chi in the park.
Actually, I retract my previous description of them as weird, my word for Asian people, is cute.
Speaking of cute…
2. Everything is Adorable
From the kids to the ridiculous cartoons that they use for absolutely everything, the vast majority of Hong Kong’s visual attractions are enough to make a grown man break into falsetto.
We spent the vast majority of our time there pointing at stuff and commenting on whether that was cuter than what we had previously seen.
Thinking about spitting in the street? Think again. Not only will you receive a wallet-raping fine, you will also disappoint the little animated drop of saliva that accompanies every warning sign. Just the sheer thought of upsetting that unlikely mascot of basic cleanliness is enough to make your mouth go desert dry.
Let’s not forget the cutest trait, universally recognised as the Asian thumbs up – the peace sign. Never has a two-finger salute made every person on the receiving end of it want to go out and give every modern-day tyrannical dictator a massive snuggly hug of a snuzzle.
Just try taking a picture on a busy street and look back later to count the amount of peace-signing photobombers you can spot – a slight bit sweeter than the fella flipping you the bird when you tried to snap the Eiffel Tower.
See, even The Wandering Photographer and Joey Supertramp look adorable peace-signing!
While on the subject of street photography…
3. Every Street is a Photographer’s Dream
Neon and bright illuminations alight the city streets at every turn.
All that Cantonese got your head confuzzled? One thing you needn’t be confused about…
4. It’s the Easiest City to Navigate
Being from a city where the train and bus network is one of the best in the world, I appreciate an effective and easy public transportation system – and where the London Underground is king, the Hong Kong MTR is God.
Literally, from the second you step foot into one of the millions of MTR stations dotted around the city, you are already gravitating towards your destination without really knowing where you are going.
And it doesn’t stop at the underground metro – there are overground trains, buses, trams, ferries and cable cars galore.
If you lose your way around the city, there is always a signpost with all the local sights listed or a full-colour map just a couple of steps away.
If you don’t feel like walking up that steep SoHo hill – which, after a few Tsingtao beers is a massive feat – there is the world’s longest outdoor continuous escalator to slowly ascend you to the next pub.
What’s that? Pub? Do I have your attention? If so, there is only one place for you…
5. Lan Kwai Fong (LKF)
Imagine if someone shrunk our planet down to the size of a grapefruit, cut out Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Khao San Road in Bangkok and a handful of the Greek Islands, put them all into a blender, threw in some thirsty partygoers from all over the world, added a dash of hedonism, mixed, then served into the corner of a tipped glass, you would have probably the greatest inner-city party that the world has ever known. Lan Kwai Fong is not that, however it comes pretty close!
Found just off of SoHo on Hong Kong Island, this corner of the city is dedicated solely to the late-night antics of the visitors, the locals and the long-termers who found themselves in HK temporarily then forgot their way home.
Lan Kwai Fong and the adjoining Wyndham Street are packed with bars, clubs, fast-food joints and the mainstream staple of every big city, the Hard Rock Cafe. Basically, you need not go anywhere else to get your mess well-and-truly on!
The Wandering Photographer and Joey Supertramp hit LKF…hard!
You never know who you’re gonna meet…did anyone say, Asian Batman?
Still, I hear you asking, what makes this more appealing than the massive party areas of all the major cities in the world? Three numbers, separated by a forward slash: 7/11.
There is a massively convenient 7/11 mini-mart located right in the heart of the action. This cuts out the inflated bar drink’s prices and means you can continue the pre-game, while sizing up the dancefloor most likely to be burned by you and your dance posse.
7/11 Party Massssiiivvveee!
It was a battle for the sixth spot as both of these points go hand-in-hand in importance, however, the sixth most awesome thing about Hong Kong (and Asia in general) is…
6. You Can Drink Alcohol Absolutely Anywhere
The Open Container Law is literally one of the dumbest regulations ever set by a bunch of recovering alcoholics, needing an excuse to make the rest of us as miserable as they now are. Other than the extremist countries who believe that alcohol is bad but treating women as second-class citizens is just swell, there is no excuse for getting a whinge-on over a beer being consumed outside of a bar/restaurant/household.
The USA and Australia are the biggest enforcer of this invasion of basic beverage consumption rights (not sure there is such a thing), without religious justification. So, after spending 7 months in complete freedom lockdown (Australia), you can imagine the first thing that I did on touchdown, was find my first 7/11 to fulfill my street alcoholism craving.
As previously mentioned, the biggest plus for the absence of such laws is that you can have your before-bar tipples, right outside the bar – at a fraction of the price!
Go ahead…call the cops…no open container laws…CHUG!
I know that I cannot stop banging on about them – and I promise I am not working in their PR department for extra beer tokens…yet – but this little retailer really does deserve an honourable mention…
7. 7/11 – The Asia Backpackers Lifesaver
As I feel that my trusting readers are now starting to suspect a possible affiliation with the above store, I am just going to copy an excerpt from an earlier blog post in order to give a slight idea on just how much you will come to appreciate these convenient little nuggets of retail gold.
‘For those of you who have never been to Asia, the 7/11 is the most convenient convenience store in the world. Open 24 hours, the 7/11 sells ice cold beer and spirits like a bar that never closes and sells the sort of snacks that when pissed, are the equivalent of every great meal you’ve ever eaten, pushed into a sandwich, toasted and served from a sealed cardboard container. Run out of shavers? 7/11. Want a Moshi Monsters action figure to give as a peace offering to the kid you puked on last night? 7/11. Need some medically unapproved Viagra to stir up your downstairs? 7/11 (then, probably a hospital!) They are literally the staple of Asian convenience and when you leave this wonderful continent, you wonder why the rest of the world doesn’t have anything quite as spectacular.’
And you thought that this was to be the end of my incessant ranting about alcoholism in Hong Kong? Think again…
8. An Array of International Beers
Something that I find is an important indicator of whether I’m going to particularly like a destination, is the quality of their local grog – and Hong Kong loopholes this by offering the best of the rest of the world, without bringing any of its own to the table! Every Asian beer is on offer as well as a few European. This gave me the option to taste the flavours of somewhere I am still dying to visit (Asahi – Japan), while also delivering the sweet reception of nostalgia (Carlsberg – not typically British, but still one of the main UK beers).
Bravo Hong Kong, you crafty bastard!
Yet, as beautiful as everything can appear while under the influence of the multi-national brews available, there is one Hong Kong sight that can take your breath away under the most sober of human conditions…
9. The Most Beautiful City Skyline In The World (Official)
Officially voted ‘The World’s Greatest Skyline’ by Emporis Standards Commitee (ESC) who are apparently the people who have the taxing job of voting city skylines, as well as being the abbreviated key on the top left of your keyboard.
I’ll let the photos do the talking.
Other than being one of the prettiest lil’ outlines you ever did see, HK went and made sure that they stayed at the top spot, by splashing millions of ‘honkies’ on…
10. The Symphony of Lights
A multi-million dollar ego-splash by the Hong Kong government resulted in this – a nightly light show that illuminates the entirety of the world famous skyline to a very Cantonese soundtrack. Admittedly, it sounds better than it actually is, however I don’t know anywhere else in the world that would put in this much effort to stay at the top of a list that no sod has ever heard of.
Regardless, get yourself a few of those 7/11 roadies, head over to the Kowloon side (specifically the Avenue of the Stars) at 8pm every night, and watch the brainchild of an Asian government who were clearly honking on their crack-pipe when they had money left over from the previous fiscal year.
Once the light show bores you and the city starts to have a wearing effect, grab a cheap ferry and hop over to one of the other islands for…
11. Beaches, Mountains and Disneyland!
There is a whole lot more to HK than just the big city, the other islands have a lot to offer too. Now, don’t for one moment think that these are islands spread far and wide from the main landing point, in fact, the airport has it’s own island also! A cheap ferry ride guarantees you a quick, sometimes rocky, way to get there, as well as the numerous bridges that connect the islands.
Unfortunately I never got to see all-too-many of the beaches, however I passed Lantau Island’s stretch of sand, which was nice. I have been told that Shek-O and Stanley beaches are a lot better but after seeing every single bloody beach that Australia shoved under my nose, I wasn’t too bothered about seeking them out.
The mountains that surround the islands are incredible and an amazing way to see them is by taking the skylift from Ngong Ping 360, a fake and touristy little money trap located next to the Po Lin Monastary and Big Buddha statue on Lantau Island. It costs around 80 Honkies (11USD / 8GBP) for a one way ticket but the scenery from the cart is pretty stunning, especially when you near the airport. Get yourself on it around 5:30 to catch the sunset if you have a pretty little thing to snuggle up with (and if they’re not so pretty, you have an awesome sunset to distract yourself with).
Oh…and if the thought of an Asian Snow White or hearing the safety instructions for Space Mountain being said in ‘Engrish’ excites you, go to Hong Kong Disneyland.
Not sure about you but all this island-hopping makes me hungry…
12. Eat Your Face Off
Anything you could possibly want, you can have. Argentinian steak, Italian pizza, Mexican lunch buffets and even English food at this fine establishment…
Surprisingly, Sunday Roast wasn’t even on the menu!
And this is one of those magical places where everything you crave can be ordered from the comfort of your couch. Order a Big Mac from Maccy D’s, a kebab from the local Turkish joint, pizza from Guiseppe down the street and a cut of prime steak from the Argentine place, answer the door in your underwear, combine the whole lot together, enjoy diabetes.
Thank you Hong Kong for keeping us Westerners fat while your amazing Asian metabolisms break that food down like Bruce Lee breaks limbs.
Speaking of The Big Boss…
13. Bruce Lee
Despite being born in Chinatown, San Francisco (thank you, Wikipedia), ol’ Fists of Fury was raised in Hong Kong and from there became a worldwide star.
To commemorate his untimely and still unexplained death, there is a bronze statue of him on Avenue of the Stars.
The dude is a total hero. No more needs to be said. If you haven’t seen Lee in action, check out Enter The Dragon and marvel at the notorious nunchuck scene.
Get onto LoveFilm or Netflix and add one of his movies to your rental list…the new Twilight cack-fest can wait. However, in order to do that, you need…
14. WiFi…And It’s Everywhere…Literally…
Just by switching on your WiFi device on any given street in the whole city, at least 10 different connections appear. No joke. We even managed to get a WiFi connection next to the Big Buddha statue, atop a huge mountain.
After spending 7 months in Australia, where free WiFi is rarer than having a koala coat himself in Vegemite, kick you in the nads and sing that annoying ‘Dya come from a land down under’ song in a Venezuelan accent – you can imagine my surprise to not only have completely free internet everywhere, but also super fast too.
And now I’m writing this from China, where there are all of four websites not blocked by the government (this blog being one of them) and you can imagine, I’m dreaming of a fast connection that gives me access to the book of faces and the tube of you (I am writing them in this way so that the Chinese government doesn’t also block joeysupertramp.com!)
While using that free McWiFi you are scrounging from that creepy clown who for some reason doesn’t show up at the McBirthday Parties anymore (thank Buddha), book a cheap-o flight to the rest of Asia because…
15. Where London is the Transport Hub of Europe, Hong Kong is that of Asia
Go to Hong Kong, experience the above 14 points (if you even made it this far) and then jet out to one of the other incredible, scary, bizarre and just downright amazeballs places that Asia has to offer. You can go the cheater’s way and grab a budget flight from airport island or you can do it the way it should be done, anything that moves in the general direction that doesn’t leave the ground, sharing with locals and farmyard animals alike.
Well, there you have it, Joey Supertramp’s exhausting and probably exaggerated explanation of why Hong Kong is the greatest city on Earth.
When you eventually plan a trip there, gimme a call, I’ll most likely be living there, overlooking the skyline, surrounded by free wifi, cheap beers and more adorable Asian friends than you can shake a well-priced, 7/11 economy brand stick at (available at all 7/11 stores, for a limited time only).