Day 1- Arrival
After traveling all night from my small city of Mokpo, I finally arrived in the bustling city of Hong Kong at around 9AM on the 31st. The plan was to meet my long time friend Kevin to celebrate New Years Eve in one of the top 10 cities in the world for this holiday. We had heard that the firework show and general ambiance of the city on NYE was something that was worth traversing the globe for.
So after a nearly 14 hour journey of train, flight, and bus I finally made my way through to the center of the city.
I was fascinated by the amount of ships and containers the riddled the bay. I was also trying to ignore the terror I felt while on the bus. In every country I’ve been to they always drive on the right side of the road, so you can imagine my surprise when our bus started to drive on the left. Perhaps the one thing that I noticed more than anything at first, was the smog that covered the city like a fog that engulfed all the sky scrapers in a dense grey. Not only was the city covered in thick pollution that seemed to never end, but so did my lungs. As soon as the plane landed I found myself with difficulty breathing and a nasty cough that could only have come from the terrible air quality. Needless to say my friend Kevin was also suffering from this, though he was worse off than me. At least I had built a bit of immunity from the Chinese dust living in Korea.
They phrase “let yourself get lost in a new country” usually has a positive connotation, but in my case now was not the time. My bus didn’t indicate the stop I was supposed to get off at and I ended up passing it. My bus driver then told me I should get out and walk back. The only problem was that I had apparently passed it 10 stops before and I can’t read Chinese. I found myself thinking back to my first few months in Korea and how terrified I was to venture outside because I couldn’t read any of the signs. This was the same situation except I now had a 10 kilo backpack and clearly looked like a tourist lost in the wrong neighborhood. After stopping in a super nice hotel I was directed to the underground and was even provided a map to help me find my way! This would never happen in Korea! Lucky for me when I arrived at my stop Kevin was waiting for me at the exit and we began our day.
Tsim Tsa Tsui- Helicopter and FOOD
We got pretty lucky that the the weather was perfect for exploring the city. The sun was shining, blue skies, a nice steady breeze, and the temperature not above 25 degrees. The conditions were perfect for a helicopter ride. Neither Kevin or I have ever flown in a helicopter before, so he made the executive decision to book us the 15 minute ride above the luxurious Peninsula hotel. As expected we had to drop about 2,000 HKD each for this ride, but neither of us would probably be returning to Hong Kong anytime soon. The hotel also was having live entertainment for guests because it was New Years Eve. The had an impressive hula hoopist(for lack of a better word), traditional drummers, and great singers just out front of the hotel.
While we waited for our turn for the helicopter we decided to search for somewhere to have dinner. We walked around the area in search of the famous “walk of stars” and many museums to see, but everything was being “facelift” aka under construction. The one thing we could see was the space museum, and the lighthouse. The lighthouse made for a great photo-op and the surrounding palm trees made me feel like I was back in Miami beach.
After a bit of sight-seeing, we stumbled upon a small, but busy, cantonese restaurant. We ordered some sweet and sour pork, spring rolls, and some fried noodles. I have to say, it was the best “Chinese food” I’d ever eaten. It was very reminiscent of the kind of Chinese food you would find in the malls in any USA food court, but much better.
Overall I found the helicopter to be a great way to see the sky above Hong Kong, but I also don’t think I would do it again. Maybe because I found myself getting a little nauseous with the movement of the helicopter. Also the thick smog makes it difficult to get clear photos.
Endless walking and disappointment
Having read online that Hong Kong was one of the top 10 places to spend NYE, I was excited to be able to experience it. What they didn’t tell you is that in order to find a good spot, you’ll have to book something in advanced or wait hours to get a spot to see the fireworks. Kevin and I roamed around the Causeway Bay Area for a good 3 hours trying to scope out a good area to spend our countdown. We went to “Times Square” the place where the ball drops, imitating the ball drop in New York City, but it was very crowded and there was no way you could see fireworks surrounded by buildings. We then walked over to the waterside and through the park just in front of the main area, with still no good view of the bay. Finally we gave up and it was getting close to midnight and we decided to go to the street in front of my hostel since it had a, terrible, view of the bay. I was surprised to see many other people crowding around the same street and doing the countdown just there in front of the highway. We watched the fireworks, well what you could see anyway which wasn’t much, and then both decided to go to our hostels to sleep since we were both exhausted. And that was my less than exciting NYE.