When I first got off the train headed into Tsim Sha Tsui, I was taken by surprise. The amount of people hawking their wares and trying to lure you into some shop you didn’t care to see was overwhelming. Thankfully for me, I had a guide – a friend I met while traveling who had lived in Hong Kong for around six years. They took me around and helped me overcome the culture shock. One thing I do have to say is that for only English-speaking tourists, Hong Kong is an easy city to get around in compared to most of Asia. It has a cultural history of being a British colony, so most people speak English very well, and if they don’t, you can usually find someone to translate for you.
Anyway, after getting off the train, it was a culture shock. For anyone who hasn’t been to Hong Kong, saying that there are a lot of people there is an understatement. The throngs of people that greet you as soon as you get into the city is parallel to walking through Times Square on New Year’s Eve (or trying to). It is almost impossible to move, and you quickly get swept up in the crowd, which only adds to the ambiance of Hong Kong.
My first stop in town was the Rainbow Lodge, which is located in the middle of Tsim Sha Tsui. It was an amazing hostel that I would absolutely recommend for any traveler, as long as you understand it’s a little difficult to find. It was probably because I was still new to traveling at the time, but it took me a while to find. It was located on an upper floor of one of the thousands of buildings in the middle of Hong Kong. I wandered into a few wrong buildings before I found the right one. Despite this, and the hounding of people trying to sell me knock-off watches and god knows what else as I got lost in Tsim Sha Tsui, it was an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.
I finally located the hostel and moved into the giant group room with an adjoining shoilet (shower-toilet, for those of you who don’t know). This place was the epitome of Hong Kong hostels. At this point, it was time to explore the surrounding area a little bit. Walking back into the throngs of people and being swallowed by the city was really the best way to experience authentic Hong Kong. The people you meet and the ones that show you all the weird and quirky parts of it, even if they were just trying to sell you something, give you an amazing view of the city that may have been lost if you had tried to avoid the crowds.
Next, it was time for my friend to show me around. The first place we went was Stanley. Stanley is an ex-pat part of Hong Kong located on an island south of the main area of Hong Kong. This area housed a favorite bar of my friend’s parents called Smugglers Inn. This bar, historically named after the smugglers and pirates that inhabited the island, is one of the most unique bars I’ve seen in the 20+ countries I’ve visited. There’s small currency from all over the world stapled to every wooden surface in the bar with messages on them. It creates an almost unreproducible vibe that is unique to Stanley.
After a walk through the Stanley markets and a walk along Repulse Bay, it was time for a double decker bus ride back to the city. We headed to a remnant of the colonial era of England, which I highly recommend to anyone who hasn’t done it before. The winding roads take you through a mix of jungle forest and city views of the island. These views are a must-see while in Hong Kong.
Once back in the city, we explored around downtown and saw the Lippo Building, which looks like it has koalas hanging off of it when seen from a certain angle. There’s also a Ferris wheel, which allows you to see the entire surrounding area overlooking the bay.
If you ever find yourself in Hong Kong with nothing else planned, I highly recommend you just wander around the streets of the city. The hole-in-the-wall places I found while getting lost are some of the best things that happened in this country, even though there is almost no chance I would be able to find them again. After a few days of wandering around and taking in the sights, we were off to our next stop: Vietnam.
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