East Meets West Meets Munsch

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

Landing in Hong Kong was one of the best things about my entire trip. I didn’t realize how ready I was for the big city, shopping, bars, clubs, culture, movies, restaurants, and the hustle and bustle that a big city has to offer. I hadn’t planned on visiting Hong Kong/Macau when I was planning my trip but like I said, not allowing for flexibility definitely does you a disservice since meeting new people and heading in new directions is one of the joys of travelling. Jean-Pol and I kept in touch after meeting in Borneo and it seemed like it was a great idea to head that way. Not only would he be able to show me around Hong Kong and Macau, where he lives, but I would be adding two more destinations to my list and could see some other friends, one who I had just met a few weeks ago in Borneo and a friend from boarding school who I hadn’t seen in 17 years. 

Hong Kong is a city I think I could live in, it’s the perfect mixture of east meets west, it’s China meets New York City and funny enough it even has a Times Square and a World Trade Centre too, albeit on a MUCH smaller scale. “Hong Kong is one of two special administrative regions (SARs) of the People’s Republic of China, the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China’s south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour. With a landmass of 1,104 km2 (426 sq mi) and a population of seven million people, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Hong Kong’s population is 95 percent ethnic Chinese and 5 percent from other groups. 

Hong Kong is frequently described as a place where “East meets West”, reflecting the culture’s mix of the territory’s Chinese roots with influences from its time as a British colony. The fusion of east and west also characterizes Hong Kong’s cuisine, where dim sum, hot pot, and fast food restaurants coexist with haute cuisine.”

I had very limited time to plan where I would stay and I was lucky to be able to have others plan my time for me. It was a great place to de-stress, catch up on sleep and hang out with friends so I’m happy I still accomplished a lot. The weather was unfortunately uncooperative so I missed out on a key sight, Victoria Peak which is a must see, weather permitting. Taking the cable car to the top and spending time there on a clear day/evening is not to be missed. The recommended time to visit is towards the end of the day when you’ll be able to see Hong Kong’s skyline and harbour both during the daylight and at nighttime.

I relied on the advice of my new friend Nienh when deciding where to stay in Hong Kong and chose to stay in Central District, specifically in Causeway Bay as it was closer to her and it is where more of the ex-pat culture is. The choices of where to stay are between Kowloon (on the peninsula) and Central District (located on Hong Kong Island) the former being more “old” Hong Kong with Temple Street and the night markets and Central where you’ll find high-end shopping, bars, clubs, more of a mini NYC. Both are very close to each other, easily accessible by the subway or the Star Ferry, which takes you across Hong Kong Harbour, something to also be experienced at night. In the end I profited by staying in Central District for the first three nights, Kowloon the last night and a three night stay in between in Macau.

I really enjoyed my time in Hong Kong, first with JP where we had a drink at the bar at the top of the Excelsior Hotel. Called ToTT’s, the ambiance is chill, loungesque and the view is to die for. I hear it’s especially a great terrace to be on when the weather is nice. Next we went to Lan Kwai Fong, the number one place to go in Hong Kong for bars, restaurants and clubs. Many buy their alcohol at the local 7-11 and walk around the area enjoying the joie de vivre, perhaps a better value than paying the exorbitant prices that the bars and clubs charge. JP found us an Italian restaurant that he loved and the pizzas were spectacular as were the martinis and the wine.

The next day it was raining and so our trip to Victoria Peak was cancelled, it just wasn’t worth the time and the cost when we’d get up there and see nothing. I’m sorry to have missed it but I’m sure I’ll have another opportunity. Instead I suggested the ever-touristy Hop On & Hop Off Bus. Personally, whenever I get to a city I don’t know I like to take it to get my bearings and to know where I’ll want to visit later. We chose Kowloon and this circuit came with a free return ticket on the Star Ferry. It was informative and in the rain it was a great way to see a large area that we would not have made it to otherwise. Both JP and the tour pointed out the famous Ladies Market where women can find lingerie, clothing, knock off handbags and shoes and also everything else you could want such as electronics, gadgets, toys etc. I vowed to go back after dropping JP at the Macau Ferry and I did return later that evening. I had about $80 CAD on me but I wasn’t planning on buying anything. About two hours later I returned to my hostel with several bags and not one cent left on me, to the tune of me eating in a restaurant and saying “I’ve got $21 HKG on me, give me whatever I can get.” TIP: I left my ATM and credit card in my hotel. But still, I went back the following day for a shirt and a dress and am proud to say I got them both for $25 CAD.

On the Wednesday I met up with my friend Pauline from boarding school who is from Hong Kong and it was so good to see her. She was 2-3 grades below me when I last knew her. She was the cutest thing as she and her friends would come into my dorm room and ask for advice looking up to me at my wise age of 18. Boy! She has grown up and even has a little girl, funny how the roles have reversed.

After a little more shopping and writing I ended up at the Happy Valley Racecourse with Nienh, her boyfriend Cory who I met in Kota Kinabalu (Borneo) and her friends from Chicago. We had a fantastic time, I bet some money and won a bunch too so I came home not having lost anything. You gotta love a city with a racetrack in the downtown core.

My time in Hong Kong and Macau sped by. I guess big cities can do that to you and it just isn’t the same without the intense experiences you get from trekking in nature and interacting with and learning from locals. Macau was in some ways more interesting to me as it still has some Portuguese influence.

The street signs are even in Chinese and Portuguese.

Macau has a beautiful old Portuguese town in Taipa and the juxtaposition between Asia’s Las Vegas and old Europe was certainly something I won’t forget.

JP and I spent some more time together and he treated me to the show he works for at the City of Dreams, Franco Dragone’s show, The House of Dancing Water. I’m glad I saw it, I am thankful for the opportunity but I do think it is more suited to an Asian audience. Sure you can see how Franco has also produced a Cirque du Soleil show or two but I felt it was a lot of filler and kitsch and not as much high quality athletics and performance. JP has seen it many a time and I don’t know how he does it but I’m glad I saw it.

I remember reading a while back in Conde Nast Traveler about the new Las Vegas in a place called Macau and I never thought I would visit it and experience much of what it had to offer. I’m so glad I did.

People speak less English in Macau then they do in Hong Kong and there seem to be dog-grooming shops on each corner. I really wanted to go in one and take a picture when I saw the cutest dog in the window but it was locked, perhaps to protect the dogs from puppy stalkers like myself. Accommodations are very expensive and for the most part are attached to casinos so it was very nice for JP to find me a place to stay with a friend of his. We ate at an incredible Italian/Asian restaurant as well as a Mexican restaurant in my neighbourhood and I spent one day exploring old Taipa on my own. I couldn’t help but laugh as four different wedding parties jockeyed for the best positions and places to take photos – everything so over the top. Peace signs anyone?

I still have so much to experience in Hong Kong. I never got to go on an authentic Chinese Junk (boat), and to take in Hong Kong from Victoria Peak. I’d love to go back to the terrace of the Excelsior’s ToTT when the weather is nice or stumble home to my hotel room from the Lan Kwai Fong district on a Friday or Saturday night. Hong Kong is a great place to visit with the person you love and/or a bunch of friends, it’s a fantastic city. I have to thank JP for inspiring me to come and visit him and for sharing more memories, ones to last a lifetime. Merci Jean-Pol for your generosity and being the best tour guide ever. Je t’embrasse et tout sera en vaut la peine. 

Hong Kong is definitely in my sights, this time with an empty suitcase. Ladies Market, watch out!

6 Responses to East Meets West Meets Munsch

  1. amazing!! glad you had a great time in Hong Kong and Macau. Did you get a chance to meet up with Danny in Macau? Looking forward to the next read 🙂

    Crystal Skjodt December 3, 2011 at 2:32 PM Reply
    • I did, great guy! Will likely be back in February so that time we’ll do it up properly! Thanks for the hook up bella. Xo

      juliemunsch December 3, 2011 at 3:54 PM Reply
  2. I’m spending two weeks in Hong Kong right now, and even that is not enough. There is just too much to see. Alright, maybe I have gotten a bit lazy also, but there still is too much to see! I will have to come here again…

    Jarmo @ Arctic Nomad December 6, 2011 at 11:35 AM Reply
    • I may be there in Feb…or April…or both… Lol. So eating those crispy pork buns. Yum!

      juliemunsch December 6, 2011 at 11:49 AM Reply
  3. I miss HK! I grew up there, but was born in TO.

    Love that you are a diver too…!! Recently got hardcore about it, and I can’t wait to dive in Asia. Where is your all time fave place to dive?

    Also, love your dad’s Paperbag Princess book.. Once of the loveliest books ever.

    Ace September 27, 2012 at 3:20 PM Reply
    • I loved diving in Sulawasi, Indonesia; some of the best muck, micro and pelagic diving ever. It’s an all-in-one destination. Thanks for reading. Where are you located now?

      Julie Munsch October 23, 2012 at 11:54 AM Reply

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