Hong Kong Is Totally Not China
Yes, it was returned to China in 1997 and has become its special administrative region since then but it's not China. And I believe it will never be.
If you come to China for a short trip and visit Hong Kong at the same time, it doesn't seem too different. Asian faces, Chinese characters and Chinese language are everywhere. Same difference. But if you end up living in China for a while and then go to Hong Kong, it transforms in a wink. The faces are still Asian but with much better sense of style (my subjective opinion), characters are different, more complicated (in China they were simplified in 1950s in order to increase literacy) and the language is not standard Mandarin Chinese but Cantonese, so Chinese themselves face a language barrier over there. And the most not Chinese thing is a double-decker. There are double-decked buses, trams and even streets – 11 biggest skyscrapers in Hong Kong downtown are connected with pathways that create a second street over the first one, which is great to avoid traffic and rain.
We got downtown on a night bus from the airport and set out to find our hostel. It's the cheapest accommodation in Hong Kong but it also has its own peculiarities. Finding a hostel is not a problem even if you haven't booked a room in advance. There are a couple of so-called mansions, which are basically 20-storey buildings with different stores, cafes and numerous hostels. A usual hostel room is approximately 9 square meters with a queen size bed, a shower and a toilet separated with glass wall, and free space of 1 square meter where you can put your luggage. Window is a luxury that requires extra payment. Nevertheless, it's an okay variant to sleep in, besides it's only about 45$ per night, which is really cheap for Hong Kong.
One of the first and most favorite impressions of Hong Kong is a ferry ride. Hong Kong consists of its continental part – Kowloon and a number of islands, the most popular among which is Hong Kong itself. Since the majority of cheap hostels are situated in Kowloon, we enjoyed the ferry right at least twice a day (besides, ferry is much cheaper than subway). The ferry ride costs only 2,5 Hong Kong dollars and takes about 15 minutes. But it also guarantees a view of super hi-tech Hong Kong skyline, where skyscrapers shine in the sun by day and show off an unforgettable light show by night, and a miraculously refreshing sea breeze.
The skyscrapers are a usual thing in Hong Kong, since land costs a fortune over there. Even apartment buildings are really tall and unbelievably narrow – some buildings are just 1 or 2 apartments wide. At the same time Hong Kong can boast a number of British style mansions and buildings, which are so dear to the European eye. There is a hop-on hop-off bus tour in Hong Kong but I wouldn't suggest it since the central part is so small that you can easily walk all over it in a day or two. And it also gives a possibility to stop by numerous open bars and cafes on the way and enjoy a cup of coffee. It's something that I found really enticing: the tables are inside but the front wall is actually a window, which is opened all the time. So you can enjoy your drink inside but listen to the hustle of the city outside at the same time.
Food is also quite interesting. First of all, there is a great number of street markets where you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables. I suggest trying guava and rose apple – they are quite cheap and delicious. And a lot of sellers will offer you to wash the fruit right away. There is such thing as Cantonese roast duck, goose, pork etc. It's usually served cold, with rice and plum sauce. You can see roast birds hanging in the windows of restaurants and cafés. Also Hong Kong is famous for wontons – they are dumplings stuffed with pork or shrimp and served in noodle soup. Newspaper clips and Michelin stars are the best indication for good food but also might mean that you'll have to spend at least 30 minutes to get a table. Also I'd recommend going to night market, where you can not only purchase souvenirs but also savor crabs, crayfish, shrimp, prawns, oysters and various other seafood in the open air. The more people eat there, the better place it is. BTW, it's true for all Asian street food places.
As for the places of interest I'd recommend Victoria Peak, which opens an incredible view of the Honk Kong harbor (in some places the Peak tram goes up at 27 degrees, so it is usually prohibited to stand in it), Lantau Island is famous for the Big Buddha statue sitting on the top of the mountain (you'll take a 20-minute cable road trip over islands, forests and sea in order to get there, there are even cabins with glass floor there), you can enjoy the 8 pm laser and music show at Kowloon embankment for the best view. Kowloon embankment is also where the Avenue of Stars similar to that in LA is situated. The most popular picture spots are a statue of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan's star. If you enjoy amazement parks, don't miss Honk King Disneyland or Ocean Park – combination of amusement park, zoo and ocean aquarium. Oh yes, Hong Kong is a shopping paradise, since it's a duty free area, so this is the place where you can see people queuing outside Chanel and Louis Vuitton stores. Weird, but some say it's Hong Kong's main attraction.
- Chinese characters – sings used for writing in Chinese – китайские иероглифы
- same difference – the same; no difference at all – одно и тоже
- to end up – to be in a particular situation, state, or place after a series of events, especially when you did not plan it – оказаться
- literacy – ability to read and write – грамотность
- language barrier – the problem of communicating with people who speak a different language – языковой барьер
- double-decker – a vehicle that has two levels for passengers or cargo, one deck above the other – двухэтажный транспорт
- to set out – to begin with some intention – отправиться, начать
- peculiarity – a strange or unusual habit, quality – особенность
- luxury – very great comfort and pleasure – роскошь
- skyline – the shape made by hills or buildings against the sky – горизонт
- skyscraper – a very tall modern city building – небоскреб
- to show off – to boast – хвастаться
- to cost a fortune – to be very expensive – стоить целое состояние
- mansion – a very large house – особняк
- enticing – attractive, appealing – соблазнительный
- hustle – busy and noisy activity – суета
- to savor – to enjoy the taste and smell of something – смаковать
- incredible – amazing, extraordinary – невероятный
- embankment – a bank of earth constructed to control water – набережная
- duty-free – without payment of customs duties – беcпошлинный
- to queue – to line up and wait for something – становиться в очередь, стоять в очереди
- weird – strange – странный, странно
- attraction – something interesting or enjoyable that people want to visit, see, or do – достопримечательность