My first trip to Asia was to Hong Kong, in 2003.
I arrived at the Hong Kong International Airport (Chek Lap Kok) after 16 hours non-stop flight from Chicago. The flight path was going North, in an arch, with beautiful views of Greenland and Siberia, and coming South towards HK. I really enjoyed the journey and flying for the first time with a Boeing 747.
The new Chek Lap Kok airport is impressive, perfectly designed for the most efficient flow of passengers. You don’t even have to read the signage, and, voilà, in no time, you are boarding the double-decker bus to the city!
Hong Kong is stunning. From the first day. It is another world, a totally new world. First, you will notice the tall and very thin apartment buildings. Really thin! Once you get to Kowloon, the streets are narrow, aligned with small shops, restaurants, outdoor markets and street vendors. Big Chinese signage and ads increase the exoticism of the place. Everything and everybody is alive!
But there is order in the chaos. The transportation system is very efficient. Buses and mini buses crisscross the city aggressively and in time.
People like to go out to eat and meet friends. The restaurants are always full. Dim-sum is so yummy! The smell of roasted nuts and yum potatoes fill the streets in Kowloon. Live chicken in cages is sold on the street, unpacked raw meat waits for customers in mini-markets between apartment buildings.
Early in the morning older people practice Tai-Chi. Later in the evening, they dance in the parks!
In the weekends, in the Tsim Sha Tsui area, you can see groups of Filipino nannies praying or chatting together.
From the Kowloon Peninsula take the old ferry ride to the “Central”, across Victoria Harbor – an unforgettable experience.
A must is to take the tram (or hike) to Victoria Peak, travelling past multimillion dollar mansions and apartments – the most expensive real estate area in Hong Kong. From the peak, the view is breathtaking, especially at night.
Sha Tin is the place of the “Monastery of 10,000 Buddhas” that are watching you while you climb the steps to the “Man Fat Temple”.
Find your future and souvenirs at the Temple Street Night Market, HK’s most famous market!
The Lantau, Cheung Chau and Lamma islands offer an oasis of tranquility, with small fishermen villages, subtropical vegetation and hiking trails. On the Lantau island is the giant 22 meters high bronze Buddha Statue. Each island can be visited in one day trip.
Be aware of big, palm size spiders hanging from tree branches at your head level and snakes crossing your path!
When in Macau, you have a special feeling. You are, somehow, back in time, yet you are in the middle of the biggest gambling city of the world!
55 minutes with the Turbo Jet from Hong Kong. Visit the ruins of Sao Paulo, Senado Square and try your luck at the casino! Also the sweets from Macau are well-known and a nice gift home.
Cheap, one week tours to China can be booked from Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui.
I took two tours, one to Beijing and Xian, and another one to Shanghai, Wuxi, Suzhou and Hangzhou.
The “Great Wall” impressed me very much. You have to see it, to believe it!
Xian is a beautiful city, and, besides the Terracotta Warriors, the night markets are a visual, sound and taste adventure.
Suzhou, the Venice of the East, is famous for its canals. You still can see fishermen using trained cormorants to catch fish.
Photo © Trey Ratcliff / Stuck in Customs