So it has already been a year since I have moved to China. A lot has happened and life has been very busy. Last week though I went to Shenzhen for business to attend (and give) a training. I was able to swing it so that I flew in and out of Hong Kong which gave me a couple of days of personal time in Hong Kong for vacation.
I left on an unassuming Sunday and took a taxi to the airport. After checking in, I learned that my flight was delayed for three hours. This was particularly a pain because the delay made the flight fall in between dinner time. You would think a huge international airport like Shanghai Pudong would have an abundance of restaurant options- but in reality the choice is quite abysmal. In Terminal 1, you are pretty much limited to Ajisen Ramen (a terrible ramen place), Burger King, and a catch all “western” cafe. I boldly attempted the western cafe and had one of the worst meals of grilled salmon which was almost inedible. Not even a Starbucks or decent coffee shop- all generic Chinese shops which were awful.
Anyways after about four hours the flight finally did take off. I flew DragonAir/Cathay this time. No big complaints about the flight- entertainment was good, food was edible, and there were USB charge ports at every seat. I finally arrived in Hong Kong at about 10pm. After collecting my luggage and meeting my coworker in the arrival lobby, I met my “limo” service to Shenzhen. Hong Kong (while now officially under China) is considered “international” travel. This means Hong Kong people have their own passports, money, elections (for now), etc. Because of this, when I took the limo service from the Hong Kong airport to my hotel in Shenzhen we had to go through immigration at the border. Usually you can go through in the car, but this time for some reason the driver said it would be quicker if we got out of the car at the border and walked through the checkpoint. Anyways, after a couple hours of driving and standing in line at immigration, I arrived at the J.W. Marriott Shenzhen at about midnight.
The hotel was super nice. For some reason or another (probably because I arrived so late), they stuck me on the top floor on a corner room. The view was great all week from my room and the weather was unusually clear/sunny.
As usual, I won’t really go into the specifics of the business here. All-in-all the training went well and the presentation/demo that I gave went down without a hitch. As it was a week long summit, I did have a couple of days where I had some free time. One day we went to Huaqianbei. Huaqianbei is a huge electronics district in Shenzhen and is known to have just about anything electronic (fake or real) that you would want to buy. There was a huge 10 floor (or so) mall that we went up in that had every manner of electronics, ICs, connectors, etc. I bought an all-in-one Miniport adapter for my surface for a cheap 30RMB. I thought about buying some fake Beats headphones for about $32, but I decided to wait until Hong Kong to just get real Bose headphones. I also ended up buying a selfie stick- not for practicality, but for novelty.
The rest of the week was filled with the normal work routine. There were a couple of company sponsored dinners where we went to traditional Chinese food places. I was also quickly able to locate the Starbucks next to the hotel so I could get my morning Americano fix.
At the end of the week, it was time for me to check out of the hotel and head to Hong Kong to start my vacation. One of my coworkers was heading to Macau, so I shared an Uber with him to the Shekou Ferry Terminal (the ferries to Hong Kong and Macau leave from the same port). After arriving at the port and picking up my ticket (I bought it previously online), I bid farewell to my friend and boarded the ferry to Hong Kong. For the ferry ticket, I opted to pay about 20RMB more and get a “first class” ticket. This granted me access to the first class deck. I would say that it was worth the upgrade- there were about 15x less people in first class and made for a very pleasant/quiet journey. The ride was a bit rough towards the end, but overall not too bad. I got to look out the window at the great views of Hong Kong bay.
Once arriving in Hong Kong, I had to somehow get to Tsim Sha Tsui station in order to meet my AirBNB host. Hotels in Hong Kong are extremely expensive, so this time I opted to try AirBNB for the first time. I arrived at the station (by taxi) around 4pm and the apartment owner showed me to the apartment. It was a very good experience overall. The location was great (right in the middle of the trendy Tsim Sha Tsui district in Kowloon). I could walk virtually anywhere in Kowloon and the metro station was right outside. The apartment itself was clean and more than large enough to accommodate me. If I had a family it might have been tight, but for my means it was more than enough. This was the room I booked.
After walking around a bit, I decided to visit the iconic Victoria Peak. Victoria Peak is known for its breathtaking views of the Hong Kong skyline. The most popular way to get to the to peak is by tram. I took the metro to the tram stop and was greeted with a horrendously crowded tram station. The line was estimated to be about a two hour wait. Luckily, I had a backup plan and walked to a nearby bus station to take the bus to the top. The bus was somewhat of an experience- the road was very narrow and the drops on the margin of the bus looked downright treacherous. Still, after about 20 minutes I arrived at the top of the mountain. From there I siphoned my way through a shopping mall and bought my ticket to the observation deck. Again, the observation deck was beyond crowded and filled to the brim with loud Chinese tourists. I didn’t spend too much time here- about 15 minutes or so. I spent just enough time to snap some pictures and take in the view.
Coming back I had a bit of a problem. The bus, tram, and taxi lines were all about two hour waits. Luckily, Uber (at the time) worked in Hong Kong. After ordering Uber, I was greeted by a Mercedes S-Class about five minutes later to take me back to Tsim Sha Tsui. Once back, I had a quick sushi dinner and conked out for the night. I had developed a bit of a head cold so I didn’t want to push myself with a late night.
The next day I had a full schedule of hiking planned. I had read that Dragon’s Back hiking trail was a great way to escape the crowds in Hong Kong and a good chance to get some fresh air. I had developed a little bit of a head cold, so I stopped by 7-11 and picked up some Dayquil equivalent. One thing that you consistently notice in Hong Kong are remnants of the British influence in the area. At the convenient stores, you see western medicine, foods, drinks, etc…. definitely more so than Mainland China. The fact that I could walk into 7-11 and buy something as simple as Dayquil is a convenience that I do not have here in Shanghai.
I found this very helpful guide on how to get to the base of the hiking trail. Essentially I took the metro to one of the outlier stations (Shau Kei Wan) and caught a bus to the trail head. The following hike was very very refreshing. I love to hike- but in Shanghai there really are no good mountains nearby (not to mention that the air is normally filthy). Dragon’s Back was simply stunning. The weather was great and it was the perfect mix of uphill and downhill. It’s called “Dragon’s Back” because it goes up and done repeatedly (much like a dragon’s back). All throughout the hike there were awesome views overlooking the bay with water as far as the eye could see.
The entire hike took a few hours and was very relaxing. When tourists go to Hong Kong, they normally swarm around shopping malls. This is what made Dragon’s Back such a good experience for me- it was virtually deserted besides from some locals and the occasional westerner. It was definitely a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai city life. Instead of going to the beach front, I looped back to where I started on the trail and caught the bus back in town. After getting back to my apartment, I decompressed a bit and took a much needed afternoon nap.
After another sushi dinner, I decided to go see a movie in Hong Kong. Ant Man was showing and I really wanted to see it so I bought a ticket at Gateway Tower movie theater. I bought a special “D-Box” seat. From what I could gather, this means that the seat was special in that it vibrated and moved depending on what was happening on screen. After walking around a couple hours (and snapping a couple of great selfies by the harbor) I was seated and watched the movie. The overall experience was light years better than the experiences I had in Mainland China. Everyone was quiet, polite, and did not text. The moving seat legitimately was a good experience and added quite a bit of fun to the movie. I thought it was going to be gimmicky, but surprisingly it worked.
The movie let out late so I ended up getting back to my apartment and just conking out again around 11pm. The next morning I did a bit of walking around Tsim Sha Tsui. My flight did not leave until about 2pm so I had quite a bit of time to walk and shop. As my Bose headphones were at the end of their lifespan, I ended up buying a new pair of QC25 headphones for those long transpacific flights. At about 11:30am, I caught a taxi to the airport and flew back to Shanghai. Luckily, the flight going back was actually on time and I reached Shanghai at a very decent time.
Overall Shenzhen/Hong Kong was a good experience. Hong Kong has a completely different vibe than Mainland China and the people there have completely different mannerisms. I am glad that I could visit both cities and hope I get the chance to go hiking in Hong Kong again.