"You are going to love Hong Kong, Davide", I was told. "It's just like San Francisco".
Well, they were half right. I did love Hong Kong.
With over seven million diverse people living in a very limited space, this city has an incredible lot to offer. Because of its density, and because it cannot grow outwards, it grew upwards. So if I had to compare it to San Francisco - and really, do I have to? - the buildings would have to be at least 3 times as high. And half as thick. Enough to make an earthquake-weary mind such as mine, wonder how sturdy they could possibly be... and what if a Kaiju... oh never mind.
The view can be best enjoyed from one of its very large, very steep hills: Victoria's Peak. Perched on top of a beautiful lush hill, Victoria's Peak has a decent size mall, with a giant viewing platform on top. I could have spent most of the evening on it. On one side, the city.
When it come to party life, the city knows what it is doing. Bars, restaurants and night clubs stay open late, public transport is good, and taxis are very affordable. There are several party areas, depending on what kind of place you are looking for.
On my first night I was walking around Wan Chai. It was a Monday so it was pretty quiet. There were a lot of foreign looking ladies at the doors of many clubs that really wanted me to go in. "There is dancing", they said. Well, what kind of dancing, I ask, hoping for some good club with hip hop or salsa. "Girls dancing!", they said. So yeah, not the same thing. While Wan Chai has very diverse bars, they also have a number of night clubs, which seem pretty popular among western tourists and some expats.
Fortunately, I made a great friend in Hong Kong, Hui Ru, who volunteered to show us around to other party areas too. For example: Soho, an upscale neighborhood not far from the financial heart of the city, offers some of the most breathtaking views from its rooftop bars. Soho also has something I have never seen: a 800m long elevated pathway, made of walkways, escalators and ramps, all going in the direction of the commute, and all illuminated for the upcoming holidays.
Hong Kong is another city on a bay, like Sydney or San Francisco, and "on the other side" there is a lot too: Kowloon. There is a beautiful walk, that mimics the one in Hollywood. Lots of stars with hand prints on the floor, remembering and celebrating bygone and live Chinese actors, actresses and directors. From there, you may witness why Hong Kong is called the city of lights: every evening the skyscrapers of the city give a light show to remember.
Kowloon also hosts some of the best shopping in town. Me and my friends all splurged a little, since a lot of this type of fashion is hard to find in the States, or even back home, in Italy.
Of course, there is more to Hong Kong than the city itself. Lamma Island is a short ferry ride away. It is an interesting place to visit. Two little fishing villages, no cars (at all!), one long path between them, immaculate beaches. Great seafood restaurants. This place feels like it has been forgotten by modern civilization, and I really loved that. Except... oh wait... is that a power station??
There are a lot of temples all around Hong Kong. We only got to see a couple. One is called the ten thousand buddhas monastery. If you climb a very long stairway guarded with hundreds of bigger-than life gold statues of bygone bodhisattvas, you will reach a remarkably quiet monastery. The temple itself is very big and smells like incense. But there was more. There were many sections holding large and small statues depicting a buddha, and after seeing it all, I started to wonder if the ten thousand was an exaggeration at all (according to wikipedia, that number is actually over 13.000+ statues). Underneath the temple, there are hundreds or thousands of what look cells holding the ashes of devout people. It was something like a cemetery. And the bathroom... well that was haunted... with monkeys! Beware the monkey attack - reads the sign outside.
Have you ever climbed a pagoda? Now I have! It is a spiritual experience really. Each floor you pass, you recite your prayers, and free yourself of one type of sin. Until you get to the top and you are purified.
Finally, a vacation isn't a proper one until you go to the beach. And surprisingly, Hong Kong has a number of beautiful, well connected and nearly deserted beaches. Maybe because it was November, although it wasn't cold at all... or maybe because it was a working day. Or maybe the name Repulse Bay put some tourists off? hahah... Not that we complained. Having practically a whole beach to ourselves, that was a great cherry to top our vacation's cake.
We didn't stay the whole time in Hong Kong though... we ventured beyond the border to another ex-colony: Macau. I'll write about it later.