By the time we returned to Hong Kong, typhoon season was in full swing. We woke to overcast skies and cooler climes; intermittent bouts of pouring rain gave us some relief from the humidity. With a relatively low-risk T3 typhoon warning, we spent the morning pottering around Sheung-Shui before heading out for dim sum. On our little tour of the neighbourhood, we paid a short visit to Liu Man Shek Tong; this is the ancestral hall of the Liu clan, to which Laurence’s family belong. Strictly speaking, it was closed for renovations but we were allowed in to take a peek.
Located on the southern coast of Hong Kong Island, Stanley draws in a steady crowd of both tourists and locals to its famed street market and coastal promenade. As one of the oldest settlements on Hong Kong Island, Stanley’s rich history is studded with military coups and invasions and once upon a time was no stranger to the presence of 19th century Jack Sparrows.
Glitzy Macau is Asia’s answer to Vegas, but with a sprinkling of Portuguese colonial heritage thrown in to counter the prominent gambling scene. Opulent casinos dominate the skyline – with the colossal pineapple-shaped Grand Lisboa taking centre stage – whilst traces of the colonial era can be found scattered across the Centro Histórico de Macau, a picturesque UNESCO World Heritage site.
In bustling Kowloon, there is a market for everything, be it handcrafted jade trinkets, tourist tat, or exotic animals. Experiencing Hong Kong’s thriving street markets is a must; the atmosphere is mesmerising and haggling over cheap curios is rather addictive once you master the art of it.
When Monday rolled round, it was time for us to venture across Victoria Harbour and explore Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong’s second biggest island is a densely populated mass of skyscrapers, colonial relics and legendary landmarks, with a few peaceful green spaces thrown in for good measure.
Lion Rock is by no means the highest peak in Hong Kong, but what it lacks in height it makes up for in stellar views of Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and the New Territories. Though the humidity had crept above 80% and the scorching sun was well over 30°C, this was one of my favourite days in Hong Kong – and the cheeky rhesus macaques weren’t the only reason why!
Whilst many prospective visitors may get the impression that Hong Kong is simply a maze of bustling streets, overcrowded tourist hotspots and seemingly endless skyscrapers, any Hong Kong veteran can tell you there’s another side to Hong Kong just waiting to be discovered: secluded beaches, hiking trails and adventures off the beaten track await those who take the time to find them. Luckily for me, I had three such people to show me what is often dubbed as “The Real Hong Kong”.
Hong Kong is everything people said it would be, and more. It’s the physical definition of a cultural melting pot, seamlessly blending both Canton and Western cultures and identities whilst simultaneously teeming with more people than a place of its size should feasibly be able to contain. It’s a place where colossal skyscrapers tower over colonial legacies, where traditional temples and Starbucks sit side by side.