How to Discover Hong Kong
Finally, the four-part installment of a trip I took back in what seems to be the Jurassic Period has come to an end. I hope you all enjoyed reading through each post, despite the time it took for me to roll them out. One of the most wonderful things about travelling through unfamiliar territory alone is the romance of it all, and the fact struck me many times throughout my time there. Yet, it was also not without opportunities for mental notes.
Do Some Research Beforehand
With every first visit to a country, it is advisable to get some background information on the place before making the sojourn, even if your intended itinerary is to wing it. So, get on good ol’ Google, crowdsource some tourism advice from your friends, scour various social networking sites for relevant tips, and read some travel weblogs written by people who have shared their own stories. You don’t have to emulate their paths exactly, but it at least provides a plan that is at the least conceivable.
Another way to explore a place is to arrange a meet-up with friends who are based in the country in which you wish to travel. I was lucky to have a bunch of friends based in Hong Kong, and I made sure to find time to catch up with them, at least over dinner or drinks. Granted, many of their recommended stops would largely hone your experience, but it is something in itself to go around a place outside of the default social setting in which the foundation of your friendship is accustomed.
One of the scariest travelling worst-case scenarios is having your immune system take a hit when you’re nowhere near familiar health care. So, make sure you have your supply of medication, supplements, and multivitamins to keep yourself in optimum condition. The days leading up to my trip – which was originally supposed to be a Hong Kong and China tour – coincided with the announcement of a new and scarier strain of Bird Flu that claimed stake in the mainland. Even though no official health advisory was made on Indonesia’s end, I decided to exercise extra precaution and stay in Hong Kong.
Just to be prepared, I packed a pill case containing five days worth of vitamin C (tablet and effervescent forms), flaxseed oil, fish oil, pine pollen, calcium, and zinc tablets, to be taken regularly over the course of my stay, then threw in some anti-histamine for good measure. I had been suffering from a cold on a monthly basis prior to my travel, and consuming them in Hong Kong left me in the best physical condition all year. Come to think of it, I could have just had a multivitamin deficiency, because I still haven’t had a cold since.
When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do
For an authentic walk-through of a new country, the best approach is through local eyes. While tourist spots are completely deserving of their reputation, having an itinerary filled exclusively with them will only result in a pitifully insular travel experience. Research the local mindset, and find places that have been made famous by their own people. Ask humble store clerks and owners of small businesses for the next recommended stop. Eat their dim sum, and enjoy a late-night dessert in a hole-in-the-wall establishment. Watch your travel trail get crazy… but remember to take your medication.
Use Public Transportation
Despite the efficient public transportation system, the population density of Hong Kong means that traffic is still an issue. The noticeable kind, not the minute-long drag between otherwise smooth journey. Travelling for twenty minutes via their trademark red taxi can ring up a HKD 120 fare, compared to the MTR rates, which only demand a tiny fraction of that. So, buy an Octopus, and use it for the ferries and stations across the country. The money stored inside doesn’t expire, so you can save the card for another trip.
Take Home Experiences, Not Shopping Bags
Whenever I go somewhere for the first time, shopping is not a priority. For me, it takes away from the time that could be otherwise spent immersing myself in the culture and ways of the place that is hosting me. Most of my travel money ends up going into public transportation, food, drinks, tourist fees, and my accommodation. The make-up of my personal souvenirs are almost always in the form of photographs. I will confess, however, that when I was waiting for my flight back to Jakarta, I found myself parting with HKD 519 at Page One, and leaving the shop with four books. Guilty pleasures can’t be all bad, right?
Remember to Have Fun!
When travelling solo, the thrill factor becomes all the more amplified. Take advantage of being able to take complete control of your allotted days. Enhance your life experience by collecting many memories of a wonderful time. Kick back, chat with shopkeepers, learn the stories of the oft-unsung heroes who prepare your food, and connect with other tourists who are also out on their own adventure. Let yourself believe that you live there, even just if it’s just for a moment, and allow your heart to break a little when you leave.
With that said, happy travels.