How do I know this?
Well, I love to travel and nothing stirs the butterflies in my stomach more than knowing I am about to visit a new country, or an undiscovered place in my own country. For the last five years I have undertaken an annual pilgrimage to Hong Kong and each year the familiar feeling of anticipatory excitement stirs within me. I will never tire of this crowded, intoxicatingly busy, thriving metropolis. I am hooked.
So why Hong Kong and why do I never tire of spending time there?
With a population of seven million contained within 1,100sq km (425 sq miles) Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. No surprises then, visitors from smaller cities (like me) may feel when in Hong Kong, an overwhelming sense of people closing in on you. But despite the constant flow of people wherever you go in Hong Kong, peaceful and green places are in abundance if you feel the need to escape. This contrast is at the heart of my attraction to Hong Kong. The busy hustle, bustle of congested traffic, exhaust fumes and people all seemingly moving at once, is counter-balanced by the choices of serene places, that provide a sense of solitude and a sanctuary of calm in this world city.
I love the profusion of people in Hong Kong. I am from Brisbane with a population of just over two million. But there are times when Hong Kong’s pace feels too much. A 45 minute ferry ride transports you to Lantau Island, where life is considerably slower and there are fewer people.
I also enjoy Hong Kong’s sense of order and the feeling of safety. They have one of the best (and easiest to use) transport systems in the world. This creates an efficient flow to move all those people and is an easy means of getting around.
On my first morning in Hong Kong, I was staying in mid levels (Central District on Hong Kong Island). Waking early, I could not wait for my friend to join me. Being a resident, I knew he wouldn’t share the same first time excitement. I set out on my own to begin investigating the city. I walked the narrow, winding streets in mid levels and stumbled upon the Man Mo Temple, on Hollywood Road. I had no map, just a sense of smell and an insatiable curiosity. The incense burning in giant cones suspended from the ceiling drew me in. This 18th Century Temple is an example of one of the many serene pockets hiding in this fascinating city.
My visits to Hong Kong are enhanced by friends who live there. A couple of ex-pats whose circle of friends I now call my own, allows me to immerse myself deeper in the everyday life and culture that is Hong Kong. I have also visited as a Tourist, staying in Hotels with companions from Australia. From these frequent visits, I have gained a familiarity with the place, even learning their mini bus system, hailing them like a local pro.
One close friend is a Cantonese local, born in Hong Kong. Thanks to her fabulous ability to translate, I have indulged in and learnt the real meaning behind some incredible experiences – many of them food orientated.
Hong Kong has culinary credentials. No matter what time of the day or night you can find somewhere offering a fabulous dining treat. An Australian friend and I had a few extremely late-night shopping expeditions. Unlike Australian retailers, the Chinese are keen sales people and the market places and department stores are usually open after 10pm. Despite it being almost 11pm the shops and streets were crowded with people. I am convinced the ocals don’t wish to return to their small apartments, (new Hong Kong flats average 11sqm (120 sq feet) in floor space,) so they stay out until it is time to sleep.
Food places are open all hours. Locals and tourists are eating late at night. In central we found cute bars and restaurants along Gough Street and ended up stopping in Soho for a delicious Chinese dim sum meal. Lan Kwai Fong (LKF to the locals), adjacent to Central, is the place to go and have an after dinner drink. It was close to midnight and the place was buzzing.
Hong Kong provides new discoveries with each visit. There is never a feeling of repetition or sameness. It is an addiction I will openly admit to, happily share and continue feeding.
After all, life should be full of no regrets.
About the author: Jennifer Johnston juggles pursuing her passion for writing with working part-time outside of the writing world. Favourite writing topics include travel, health and well being and fitness. She spends her week-ends (trying) to keep her three rowdy boys in line and finding time to search out new writing material.
Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter our next Travel Writing competition and tell your story.