Around the World Trip: Hong Kong (Our Last Stop!)

*By Whitney*

China was the 11th (and last) country on our trip!

If you haven’t already, check out my posts on our adventures at the other stops: 

Timeline for Hong Kong: December 11th-17th

We flew from Bangkok, Thailand directly to Hong Kong. It was weird to be in a totally new part of Asia, outside of Southeast Asia. I couldn’t believe we were (technically) in CHINA! I say technically, because, well, Hong Kong was controlled by the UK for a hundred years, and from what I hear is a bit different than mainland China. So we kind of felt like we weren’t “really” in China. But we were, so it counts! (In the future we’ll have to go back to mainland China).

It was also weird to arrive somewhere COLD! I was in shock. It was around 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the evening and 60-70 in the day, but to me that was freezing because most of our entire trip had been 80-95 degrees! But we figured this would be a good transition before we got home to Virginia where it was even colder!

When we got to Hong Kong, we were able to take advantage of an airport lounge to have dinner (with a great selection of Chinese and Japanese food!) before we headed to our hotel. We had a bit of a trek to get to our hotel from the airport. We had to figure out their bus system, and their currency!

When we had originally booked our stay in Hong Kong, we were able to use hotel points to book a hotel in the Mongkok area (Kowloon peninsula), which is right in the center of the city in a great location. We knew we’d be arriving late the first evening, so we didn’t initially want to “waste” hotel points booking a night then, and we had just enough Hilton points for 5 nights, not the full 6 we’d be there. So we planned to just get an Airbnb for the first night, then head over to our Hilton hotel the next day. But, later when we were finalizing the trip, we discovered that even the Airbnbs in the city were relatively expensive, and all of the rooms were TINY! Like, as small as a closet basically. Just big enough for the bed. It really wouldn’t have mattered for just one night, but we didn’t want to pay a lot to stay in a ‘closet’ when we had the option to use different hotel points. So we actually ended up booking a different hotel for one night with Marriott points. We decided to book the first night on Hong Kong Island to be able to explore there a little bit, knowing that the rest of the time we’d be on the Kowloon Peninsula. But as I said, it was a bit of a trek from the airport, situated in the north of the city, all the way down to Hong Kong Island in the south.

Our First Hotel

We finally arrived at our Hong Kong Island hotel pretty late. It was an interesting “boutique” hotel. The room was really nice and trendy, and they had a lot of cool perks including a free minibar, a bar downstairs with a pool table, free coffee and drinks downstairs, a gym, self service laundry, and more! Sadly we were only there one night because it was a really cool hotel! Unfortunately, Jared had not been feeling well since we left Bangkok, but it was great to have a good nights rest in a comfy hotel bed!

The next morning, we were able to have free breakfast at the hotel, although it was kind of a weird breakfast selection, including some western (mostly European) food and some Asian food. I still can’t believe they eat noodle dishes for breakfast in Asian cultures, ha! After breakfast, we had to check out, but they were able to keep our bags for us until later that day so we could go explore the island before moving to our other hotel in Mongkok/Kowloon. In retrospect, we actually figured out it’s super easy to get from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island on the train system, so we really should have just taken our bags with us and gone to our new hotel, then gone back out and explored the island. But you live and you learn!

A Busy Day Sightseeing

We had an action packed first day trying to see everything on the island. Sadly, Jared really wasn’t feeling great, so walking around and seeing all the sights was tough on him. But we still managed to have a good time. Our first stop was taking the Peak Tram up to Victoria’s Peak, which was a really cool experience! Unfortunately, it was really cold and windy at the top, and we weren’t dressed very warmly (as I said, we had been in such warm climates before, so our wardrobe really didn’t fit the cold weather)! So we didn’t spend as much time exploring Victoria’s Peak as I thought we would, we just went to the observation tower area. But the views were stunning from up there!

After visiting Victoria’s Peak, we made our way to the Central area of HK Island. We saw a Chinese temple, some antique shops, lots of shopping malls and expensive stores, beautiful Christmas lights and decorations, the world’s longest escalator system (half a mile!), and lots of luxury cars. We found out that malls in Hong Kong are not like malls in Southeast Asia. No street food style food courts, and not as spectacular. They are big, but not as fun as SE Asian malls! Things are also so much more expensive! But overall we had a fun time exploring Hong Kong Island; it was a really cool place!

Our Second Hotel

After we got done exploring the island, we went and picked up our stuff at the first hotel, and moved to our hotel where we’d be staying for the rest of the trip. It was a bit of a pain lugging our stuff around on several different subway trains and walking a few blocks, especially since we had acquired so many souvenirs in Bangkok, adding to our luggage! When we finally got to our new hotel in Mongkok, it was lovely! We were staying at a Hilton Garden Inn in a beautiful room. It was a great place to end our trip! We don’t mind Airbnb’s at all, and have had some awesome experiences in them. But sometimes it’s nice to be in your own private hotel room, with nice amenities, a nice bathroom, and a plush hotel bed!

We were able to take advantage of free breakfast at this hotel as well, which really helped to cut down costs of food in Hong Kong. The hotel breakfast there was one of the best we’ve ever had. They made eggs and omelettes to order, had self serve waffles, plenty of coffee/juices/etc, and a buffet selection of American, European, and Asian foods! We definitely filled up each morning. We even tried some of the famous Chinese dim sum dumplings at breakfast.

Adventures Around Hong Kong

We were a bit lazy the rest of our time in Hong Kong, after our action packed first day. Jared still wasn’t feeling that great, and we were enjoying getting some extra sleep and lounging around our hotel.

Some of the things we did during the rest of our stay were: walk around Mongkok and down to the harbor front; check out the Symphony of Lights show at the harbor; shop at the Ladies Market and the Temple Street Night Market; try the ‘famous’ milk tea and egg tarts; visit the Hong Kong Museum of History; go to the Chi Lin Nunnery and gardens; eat at a Michelin rated Dim Sum restaurant; and visit the Kowloon Walled City Park.

We also were able to go hiking on Hong Kong Island in Shek O Country Park. There were several different awesome hikes we read about, and we hoped to do more than one, but it just didn’t work out since as I said, we were being a bit lazy. So since we only ended up doing one, we decided to pick the most popular one with the best views. We went on the Hong Kong Trail to Dragon’s Back and then down to Big Wave Bay. It was such a different side of Hong Kong instead of being in the hustle and bustle of the city. The views were incredible! I couldn’t believe how green everything was and how pretty the beaches were! We finished the hike at Big Wave beach, and even though it wasn’t exactly “beach weather,” being on the beach is always nice.

Overall we had a great time in Hong Kong. It’s a big city with so much to do. There was even more history we could have explored in other parts of the city that we didn’t make it to. But, I think by this time in the trip, after 5 months of travel, we had lost a little bit of our fervor for getting out and exploring every single day. Even though traveling is amazing, it can get a bit tiresome, and some of the excitement does wear off.

We were sad that our trip was coming to a close, but we were also excited to go home and see family for the holidays, with Christmas just around the corner. Since we knew the end was approaching, we started to shift our mindset to getting back to the states and getting back on a normal schedule (although, 3 weeks later, and we’re still not on a normal schedule because we haven’t started work yet, ha!).

Our Journey Back to the US

When it was time to leave, we had a pretty early flight. We were able to take advantage of the hotel breakfast once more, which was nice before getting on a plane for a long day of travel. We had our first flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo, then from Tokyo to Atlanta, and Atlanta to Roanoke. This was all booked on a single ticket with Delta using our Delta points. However, after we had already booked the trip, Delta changed its routes and was no longer servicing Hong Kong. But they still honored our tickets and put us on a Tokyo airline from Hong Kong to Tokyo.

We didn’t realize it, but this was actually a little complicated with our luggage situation. We had been using our bags as carry-ons during the whole trip, except twice when they said our bags were too heavy or too big and made us check a bag. But, for the last leg of the trip, I planned to check both our bags (since it was a major airline and an international flight with free checked bags) so that we could also have room to bring our 2 extra bags (a little bookbag and a reusable shopping bag) of souvenirs as carry-ons. However, when we arrived for check-in, they informed us that if we checked our bags, we would have to pick them up in Tokyo at baggage claim, then check back in with Delta for our next flight, as they could not transfer our bags for us to a different airline. This was problematic because we did not have Tokyo visas, so we could not go through immigration and get to baggage claim, we needed to stay behind security. I’m sure that there was probably some way to have it done, but we also didn’t want to mess around with losing our bags in Tokyo, or missing our connecting flight! So we asked if we could just bring our bags as carry-ons, and they let us. But this meant now that we each had 3 bags! ha! So I thought, okay, this will just be for the first leg of the flight. Well, no. Once we got to our connecting flight, it was too late and we couldn’t check our bags then, so we wound up having all of our bags (6 total) as carry-ons for all of our flights! It wasn’t ideal, but we didn’t get in any trouble and it was only a little bit of hassle carrying them around in the airport and finding a place for them on the plane! Jared was pretty mad at some points though that we had so many souvenirs to lug around, ha!

We had some long travel to get from Hong Kong back to the US, about 26 hours total! The part from Hong Kong to Tokyo wasn’t bad, about a 4 hour flight. The flight from Tokyo to Atlanta was a doozie at 12.5 hours! But we got through it by watching some movies, listening to some music, and catching a couple hours of sleep. The worst part of the trip was our 5 hour layover in Atlanta after having almost 17 hours of flying and minimal sleep! I thought we’d never get out of Atlanta! The weirdest part was that this was all the same day. We left Hong Kong early on the 17th, and even though we traveled for over 24 hours, it was STILL the 17th when we finally arrived home in Roanoke, Virginia! We saw two sunrises and two sunsets that day because we flew east from China to the US, where the day reset!

Back Home Again

Our long day of travel was quite the adventure, and we were so excited to finally arrive in Roanoke late that evening! My mom met us at the airport, and it was so good to be back there and give her the biggest hug! She also brought both of us coats because it was cold! There was even still some snow in the parking lot from a week or so before.

Once we were back, we slept great that night because we were so exhausted. The next day we woke up around 11am which is fairly normal for us, and we felt great! We were just talking about how we really didn’t have any jet lag at all during the trip. We are pretty good at staying up late, sleeping late, getting up early if we have to, and adjusting to various schedules, so we bounced back pretty quickly each time!

Now we are back home and enjoying our time in Virginia. There are some things about the U.S. you just can’t replace, and there is certainly ‘no place like home’! But, we had an amazing time traveling for 5 months, and we have already begun planning our next trip which will be to Europe in the summer!

Stay tuned for our last post wrapping up our entire “Around the World Trip”!

 

Insider Tips for Hong Kong:

  • Most people speak at least some English, so you can get around pretty easily. It helps to have Google and Google Translate though!
  • In Hong Kong they use “Hong Kong Dollars” as currency. This can be a little confusing because they still use the dollar symbol ($) but it’s a different currency than the US Dollar. The exchange rate is approximately 8 HKD to 1 USD.
  • I would recommend getting a Octopus card for public transportation. You can buy them at the major subway stations. There is a deposit to get one, but you get that money back plus whatever remaining balance you have when you turn it back in. You can use it on all types of transportation (trains, buses, ferrys, etc). It’s kind of like the one in London (Oyster Card). It’s pretty easy to get around on the trains. The buses are a little more confusing, but Google Maps helps. The small buses that only take 16 passengers are still a bit ambiguous to me. I think they have the price posted on the window, and usually just take cash. So it’s good to have some smaller coins and bills on you.
  • I would definitely recommend getting outside the hustle and bustle of the city a little by doing one of the many hikes in the area. Best of all, they’re still really not far from the city, so you can get to them by a train and/or a bus.
  • Some local favorites to try would be: dim sum (Tim Ho Wan was great and cheap too!); milk tea (I wasn’t a fan, but I really don’t like tea, so..); egg tarts.
  • Shop around when you want to buy souvenirs. Everything is basically the same at Temple Street Night Market and Ladies Market from what I could see. So ask about prices at a few different vendors before buying something, because you can likely get it much cheaper than the first offer.
  • Definitely check out the Symphony of Lights show from the Kowloon side. It’s at 8pm every night and worth a visit!
  • There’s lots of different options for getting up to Victoria’s Peak, but I thought the Peak Tram was pretty cool and not too expensive. Apparently the lines can get pretty long, so plan ahead. We waited maybe 30-45 mins. But it was way busier a couple hours before sunset!
  • Check the times for when the temples are opened. I thought they’d be like ones in Thailand that don’t really close, but we arrived at a couple too late in the evening after they’d already closed.
  • We loved the Chi Lin Nunnery! It was such a beautiful place. And we actually only got to go to the outside and the gardens, because as I said above we came too late and the nunnery/temple itself was already closed. But even at night the gardens are so beautiful and peaceful!
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