We woke up in Randy’s apartment to the sound of rain falling outside. The house was so quiet and cozy, we actually slept in for the first time in a long time! We got to work making some breakfast of fried eggs and yogurt and muesli (yes, we have converted to saying muesli instead of granola for the time being…no one in the rest of the world apparently calls it granola). We really missed waking up slowly and making our own breakfast. We usually get up and quickly head out the door to find something to eat, so having a fridge and a stove at our disposal was fantastic.
Randy woke up a short time later and we decided to go out to Kowloon, across from Hong Kong island, to check everything out. The Octopus Card had already become our best friend in Hong Kong. It is just a card that works sort of like a debit card and can be used for all modes of transportation (buses, ferries, subway) and also to purchase items from many establishments throughout the city, including grocery stores and 7-Eleven. We loaded up our Octopus Card and took the long network of escalators down to the water where we boarded the star ferry, the famous ferry between Hong Kong island and Kowloon.
Our first stop was the Avenue of Stars which is a walkway along the water with stars containing names and sometimes hand prints from various famous people from Hong Kong. This is comparable to the Walk of Fame in Hollywood although I imagine on a much smaller scale since I have never been. Among the names on the path, we saw Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. We admired the famous view of Hong Kong and continued our stroll through the Kowloon Park bird sanctuary and into the Tsim Sha Tsui area where we meandered through street markets and through roads lined with categorized stores. For example, one entire street was lined with only pet stores. Another had kitchen appliances and cookware, while another was full of flower shops and markets. It was all really well done and clean, and of course busy! I don’t think there is any way we would have seen everything we saw in the few hours we spent walking if Randy didn’t show us the way. Everything started to look similar and people were everywhere, so I’m fairly sure we would have been lost. As we started to wind down the tour, we found a dim sum restaurant which I would describe as a Hong Kong tapas restaurant. You order several small dishes, mostly dumpling style, and share them around the table. We let Randy do most of the ordering since he has experience in this matter and also speaks Cantonese. Everything we had was really tasty and it was a fun experience.
We found our way back to central and split up from Randy so that he could spend the evening at work and we went over to Wan Chai and Causeway Bay to check out some shops. On the way back, we discovered a grocery store with homemade double chocolate chip cookies that were to die for. We ate way too many of those while in Hong Kong.
The outlying islands of Hong Kong are highly recommended by locals and guidebooks, so we thought we would check one out the next morning. We decided on Lamma island, just a 30 minute ferry ride away, packed our day packs for a hike, and did our usual walk to the ferry terminal. On the way, we stopped at a small place Randy recommended for traditional stocking milk tea. This place was closed the day before and apparently is famous in the city for its tea. We took two to-go and enjoyed them on our walk. We luckily happened to arrive about two minutes before the ferry left for Lamma island, so we ran aboard and sat down next to a friendly British man who was traveling for a few weeks in mainland China and Hong Kong. He gave us some tips for mainland China and we talked the whole way until we docked at the island and we bid him adieu. The walking path around the island takes only about an hour to an hour and a half. While searching for the start of the path, we walked through a nice small town lined with fresh fish restaurants and small shops. We came across a stand selling these treats we had been seeing all over Hong Kong, so we had to try one. They sort of resemble a waffle but have egg shaped puffs protruding on both sides. It’s hard to explain, just look at the picture. They were really good and much better than we expected.
We soon found the start of the trail and began the walk around the island with gorgeous sea views and pretty rolling hills. The one disappointment was the coal plant on the island, which didn’t exactly add any beautiful character, but it nonetheless reminded us that we were in an industrial city. Although a sign was hand written in Chinese and we had no idea what it said, we decided to follow it and veer off the usual waking path to see if we could discover something new. What we ended up discovering was well paved but didn’t seem well used because the trail was covered with big spiders on giant webs. We were dodging them and ducking under the webs for about thirty minutes. It felt like we were in that movie Entrapment where Catherine Zeta Jones has to maneuver around laser beams to steal a painting. The trail finally opened up to an area where we had to worry much less about the spiders and we had some gorgeous views of the surrounding area. Our path eventually met up with the original trail and we continued to follow it to a nice beach with several feline residents and then to a temple before ending at the final village on the island where we would catch our ferry back to Hong Kong island. The path to the beach was also spider filled, so we were glad to be following another man who was taller than us. He walked along this path with great ease and never ducked or even stepped sideways to avoid a web. We were trying to keep up and follow his lead but we couldn’t understand how he was completely missing every one of these webs that were right next to our heads. John and I looked like crazy people bobbing around trying to keep our faces from becoming spider dinner while this guy seemed as if he was just walking in a clear open field. I guess he must be familiar with this path.
On the way down from the lookout point, we stumbled upon a beach near the path. I wanted to go closer water so I hopped off the path and started walking in the sand. It was at that point I realized there were a half dozen territorial dogs lounging in the area that did not take too kindly to visitors. All of the dogs started barking and running towards me all at once. I was terrified! John was still on the path and I saw him turn around to see this pickle I had found myself in. He picked up a big rock and was getting ready to throw it when the dogs stopped and turned around as I hopped off the sand and onto the path. Easily the most terrifying thing that had happened on this trip thus far…except maybe that bus ride up the mountains in India…or maybe that jeep ride out of the mountains in Nepal…
When we got to the village to catch our ferry, we found several fresh seafood restaurants. We took our time comparing menus and settled on a place that served us scallops, an amazing grilled fish, grilled spinach, shrimp, rice, fruit, and an awful Korean beer. The food was fantastic and only cost around $25 total for the two of us. We finished in time to catch the ferry back to meet Randy for dinner (yes, we know we already ate…but we had a very small snack with him as well).
We spent the evening enjoying the glowing Hong Kong streets and a 7-Eleven beer while we walked the streets. Yep, Hong Kong is one of those grand places where you can drink a beer in the streets. Buying alcohol at restaurants and bars is really expensive and often around $7 for a beer. If you buy it at 7-Eleven, it is more like $1-$2. We highly recommend the latter option if you want an alcoholic beverage during your time in Hong Kong.
Our last night at Randy’s house had sadly already come, so we spent the rest of the night hanging out with him and said goodbye the following morning. We weren’t ready to leave Hong Kong and Randy said it would be ok if we stayed longer except that he had two new couch surfers coming for the night and didn’t have room. We totally understood that and hadn’t originally planned on being in Hong Kong any longer than three nights, so we packed our things the following morning and set off with plans to meet up with Matt, the guy we met at the Butcher’s Club burger joint. He had the day off, so we met him for a lunch/coffee and then he showed us the climbing gym he goes to. We climbed for about two hours and John and I both sadly admit we have lost a lot of our strength since we stopped climbing regularly in January. Even though we felt weak, we had a great time climbing again and the facility was really nice. Afterwards, we grabbed some dinner and Matt showed us this awesome public balcony area with nice tables and chairs and great views of Hong Kong. We enjoyed a few drinks there (thanks again 7-Eleven!) and went back to Matt and Liam’s place a little further out of town to sleep for the night. Their place was really nice and they had a great rooftop patio all to themselves where they showed us their usual pastime of shooting an air soft gun (which John promptly broke…sorry dudes!) at empty PBR cans. We stayed up late and retired to their empty third bedroom with nothing but a hardwood floor. We took all our clothes out of our backpacks and laid them out to make a “bed” and slept half on the hardwood floor and half on our clothes. Needless to say we both had backaches in the morning but we didn’t care, we had an awesome time with Matt and Liam and are very thankful for their hospitality!
When we said goodbye to Randy, he told us to call him the next day because the couchsurfers he was hosting may only stay one night and if so, we could come back. We called him in the morning and he told us they were gone and we were welcome to stay for two nights until he had to leave Friday to visit his girlfriend across the border in Shenzhen. We were thrilled! We spent the morning having breakfast with Liam because he was off for the day. He’s a really fun guy to talk to and we felt lucky to have randomly met him and Matt. After breakfast, we left their house and walked down to the beautiful waterway filled with boats, hopped on a short ferry, and grabbed a bus to go back to central. The public transportation options never ceased to amaze us!
Once settled back at Randy’s, we hit the road again. This time, we were going to check out the famous Victoria Peak! The weather was finally clear and we were determined to catch some good views. We took the tram to the top of the mountain and spent close to two hours walking a loop at the top taking pictures and admiring the beauty of the city.