Finally, after months of traveling throughout China, it was time to breach the borders and experience another country altogether. Therefore, we spent four days exploring the amazing city of Hong Kong as well as the "Las Vegas of China": Macau.
The flight was only about two hours from Shanghai to Hong Kong, and we actually moved through customs pretty quickly. It was really cool to get another stamp on my extremely new passport!
From the airport we took a double-decker bus to our hostel. The public transportation system in Hong Kong is really easy, but it's not so cheap. Well, I guess it is cheap, but compared to what we've been paying in China for transportation it is a little expensive. Currently, the exchange rate for the HKD versus the USD is $7.7 HKD for every $1 USD. Our bus ticket was $33 HKD (from now on I'll be referring to prices with the "$" sign to refer to HKD).
The city of Hong Kong is really cool, and it definitely reminded us of NYC. Unlike Shanghai, everything is very close together. The streets are more narrow, but the cars actually stop for pedestrians! Now that I'm thinking about it, I didn't hear too many horns honking either.
Our hostel was located in an area called "Mong Kok" known for its plethora of cheap shopping. It was definitely an awesome location, however, our accommodations were pretty tiny. For example, in the bathroom, the toilet was so close to the wall that you had to sit sideways in order to use it! The owners of the hostel were extremely nice and helpful though, and the place was cheap!
We were on the fourteenth floor. Our room did not have a window (I think we lived in a closet), but below is the view from the walkway.
After attempting to settle in, my roommate and I went on a walk to explore Mong Kok!
At one point we found a street that reminded us of the Fake Markets in Shanghai. There were hundreds of tents filled with thousands and thousands of random "copied" products. From handbags to shoes to electronics, you could find anything. We were also happy that bargaining was allowed!
There was this one store that I absolutely loved! The only thing I bought was a black cardigan, but they had the funniest logo. I think it depicted us very well: "bella queen".
Hong Kong has really good food. We passed by this one street in Mong Kok that was lined with takeout food shops. The potato place had amazing french fries! Surprisingly enough I did not get sick once!
As the sun began to set, we watched the lights turn on. Mong Kok really came alive - there were people EVERYWHERE!
I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture below, but the signs were very low to the ground. If I reached up I could touch them!
The next morning, my roommate and I wanted to explore more of the city; therefore, we hopped on the MTR (the local metro) and traveled to our first stop: Kowloon.
Here's one of the funnier signs we say in Kowloon..
Hong Kong is known for its shopping, so we spent the day mall hopping. Don't worry, we didn't break the bank (although I wish I did!), instead we just window shopped. The malls were amazing though! Below is a picture of the escalators in the Festival Walk mall.
One good thing to note about the Festival Walk is that they really love tourists. In fact, if you go to a customer service desk and show them your passport, they'll give you a book full of coupons for every store! It was a shopper's paradise!
After the Festival Walk, we took the MTR to another area of Hong Kong called Causeway Bay. This is another big shopping area/mall that was just as cool; however, I noticed that after awhile it just became too depressing to simply window shop. I wanted to make purchases!
One of the things we really liked about Hong Kong was that it is very creative and colorful.
I loved this sculpture in front of Times Square (one of the malls).
More funny signs...
A familiar company!
Once we had enough shopping for one day, it was time to go the Victoria Peak. At the top of the Peak one can see the skyline of the entire city! We decided to go at dusk so we could see the city during the day and the night.
Before reaching the tram to get up to Victoria Peak, we had a brief little walk through the center of the city.
About a ten minute walk from the metro stop "Central" was the entrance to the Peak Tram.
If you can, I highly recommend buying your tickets before getting to the tram. There were a TON of people. Having already bought a ticket allowed us to skip the extremely long ticket line only to wait in another crazy long line for the tram. Fortunately it moved relatively fast.
The ride up the peak was really cool because the tram went up on a very steep angle. Once we breached the tops of the trees we could see part of the skyline.
The tram took us up to a building that had several elevators taking visitors up to the sky-view patio.
The escalator climb was a little dizzying, but the view was definitely worth it!
Here is a little map built into the railing that showed what each building was called and its location, etc.
It seemed like it took forever for the sun to set! There wasn't much to do on the Peak but look at the view. We waited about two hours, and every so often I would take another photo of the skyline. Do you notice it getting any darker?
Inside the viewing terrace there was a mall. Asia seriously thinks of everything. At their top attractions they always have anything anyone could ever need. This mall just so happened to include a smoothie place, so of course I bought one to try. So yummy!
The line to get back down the Peak was pretty long - I don't think there's any way to avoid it unfortunately, but eventually we were down in the center of the city again. Here is the night view!
Back in Mong Kok I was craving some sort of dessert. As we walked around we saw a magician performing in the street. What's cool about Mong Kok is that they close down one of the main streets in order to let pedestrians walk around safely.
Finally I found some really good dessert! For $30 (HKD) I bought a sundae platter with fresh fruit. I had the option to pick my flavor of ice cream, so I went with sesame - SO GOOD!
Another random sign..
Next stop: MACAU!!
To get to Macau (aka. the Las Vegas of China) is really easy and cheap. We took a one hour ferry ride from the port in Hong Kong to the ferry terminal in Macau - yes, we went through customs, and YES I have another stamp on my passport!
The ferry ride was pretty nice actually. Our boat was really pimped out with brand new entertainment and lighting.
In order to save on transportation costs, my roommate and I hopped on a bus to the Venetian hotel/casino. If you go to Macau, it's really easy to use the casino transportation system. Each casino has its own shuttle bus system that not only goes from casino to casino, but it also takes guests to the center of the city.
Also, you do not need to be a guest of the casino. They use the word "guest" loosely in that as long as you go to their casino you're allowed to use their shuttles. If not, just hop on one - there's no security that checks who uses their buses.
The Venetian was our first stop, and as you can probably see, their theme was Venice, Italy.
After awhile all casinos seem to look and smell the same, however, the Venetian in Macau had an amazing replica of Venice. There were gondolas and everything!
The place was huge and there were hundreds of shops! The picture below is dedicated to my best friend back in NYC :)
Recognize this scene?
After spending about an hour walking around "Venice" we decided to switch casinos. Across the street from the Venetian was the newly built Galaxy hotel/casino. Inside the Galaxy they had an outer-space-type theme.
Next we stopped at the City of Dreams (another casino and hotel). Below is a picture of a television screen that has a picture of mermaids pop up every few minutes. At the exact moment I took the picture, the mermaid disappeared. I was too lazy to wait to take another one.
Our next stop was downtown Macau!
Macau was originally a Portuguese colony until its official handover to the PRC in 1999. It currently operates as "one country, two systems" that mainly relies on gambling and tourism for its economy. You can see below some of the Portuguese influence in the buildings.
I loved all of the colorful architecture!
We even ran into an old cathedral in the center of town.
There was only one thing that I really wanted to see in the city of Macau, and that was the ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral. In order to get to the cathedral, we had to walk through a ton of people and stores. Did I mention how hot and humid it was outside??
We finally found the ruins! St. Paul's Cathedral was built in 1602 and was (at the time) the largest cathedral in Asia. In 1935 it was mostly destroyed by a fire during a typhoon; however, today it is considered to be one of the most popular tourist attractions in Macau as well as an official UNESCO World Heritage site.
At the top of the cathedral there was a group of middle school students who were interviewing random people. More pictures were taken..
One thing I really enjoyed about Macau was the fresh juice available. I had some amazing kiwi juice!
After a quick trip through the city, my roommate and I were exhausted. We slept the entire trip home, and once we were back in Mong Kok I treated myself to another dessert. This time I went to a frozen yogurt place that let you fill up your own cup of frozen yogurt and add whatever toppings you wanted. Thinking about it now, that dessert was so good! However, it did end up costing me $50 (HKD), but it was well worth it!
The next morning we woke up early to catch our flight back to Shanghai. We took the bus again, and on the ride to the airport I snapped some quick shots of one of the largest shipping ports in the world!
Finally we were on the plane (which was a little late to the gate). When entering the plane, though, we noticed that the air conditioner was releasing some chilled steam. It was coming from everywhere and was so weird that I even asked the flight attendant if the plane was okay. She laughed at me and said that it was just the cooling system because it was so hot in Hong Kong. I'm not sure if you can see the steam in the photos below, but it was crazy. What made the situation even weirder was that the airline was playing blues over the loudspeaker as people were entering..
Thankfully we made it back to Shanghai safe and sound! I do miss Hong Kong though - one day I will go back!