You all would be so disappointed in me. I had Starbucks in Hong Kong. I know, I know! But really, Hong Kong is such a modern city that every other store was an American or a global brand. I really hadn’t given much thought to Hong Kong before we arrived. I was only going to be spending a day there before flying to Beijing and I didn’t know what I was going to see or do. Hong Kong is so clean and modern, it feels like the United States. In the port area where we were there was a giant shopping mall, even nicer than the V and A Waterfront in Cape Town, full of designer stores and plenty of Starbucks. That was the first thing I saw when I walked off the ship—we had to walk through the mall just to get to the pier! Once outside, the Hong Kong Island skyline is all you see. Giant skyscrapers with logos for Samsung, AIG, and LG flashing at their peaks line the shore, mountains rising up behind them. It’s not like Cape Town, though, where there are a few skyscrapers and low-lying buildings running up to the foot of the mountain. In Hong Kong, all there is is skyscrapers! They cover the ground up to the mountains, and a few even climb up the mountain, towering over the thick foliage below. It’s unlike any city I have ever seen before.
When we got off the ship a few of my friends and I found the subway and took it to Sham Shui Po, a local market. While the area near the port looks like the United States, Sham Shui Po is a whole different world. It is a maze of streets between tall buildings, lines of shops on either side, and two more lines of shops set up on the street! Any space not taken up by a shop was full of people. I’ve never seen so many people in such a small space before. Each street sold something different too. There was a street dedicated to video games, a street for computers, cell phones, toys, food, bags and clothing… It was very neatly organized chaos. We shopped for a while and put our well-practiced bargaining skills to good use before eating at a restaurant called Eat Together, a small, crowded place down one of the streets that I would probably never step foot into in the United States. But it turned out to be so good! One long table runs down the center of the restaurant and everyone, strangers and friends alike, do just as the name says—eat together. We were the only tourists there as far as I could see. After eating some delicious rice, ham, and eggs (weird combination, I know, but you should try it) we left the Sham Shui Po market for Hong Kong Island. We took the subway back to the port, the ferry to the island, and then a taxi to a place called Stanley Market. It was closing, but by the time we got there, I didn’t even care. The drive there was worth the taxi money alone! The roads wind precariously around the mountain and below we could see beaches next to huge resorts. There is so much natural beauty—tons of trees and really green—but modern buildings and apartment complexes still perch intermittently on the sides of the mountain. If you ever go to Hong Kong, I highly recommend taking a trip over to the south side of Hong Kong Island. I wish I had had more time there. We stayed at Stanley Market for a while before catching the double-decker bus back to the ferry. I had always wanted to ride a double-decker! We sat on the top, of course. Once back at the pier we were so hungry and craving pizza—so we gave in and ate at the California Pizza Kitchen in the mall. Between the four of us we took out three whole pizzas and an appetizer! Clearly we had been craving some familiar food. Asian food is amazing, but when you haven’t had pizza in two months, it’s hard to resist. That night I packed for my flight to Beijing—and the Great Wall!—the next day.