Waiting on the runway at Heathrow, we realised our trip was exactly 100 days long.
First stop – Hong Kong!
Extremely jetlagged and extremely overexcited, we had arrived! Hong Kong was a fantastic place to start the trip – different enough to feel we had definitely Gone Somewhere Else, but familiar enough that we could find a Starbucks fix when our hostel told us we couldn’t check in for another 4 hours… The famous city smog also helped give it a really mysterious, other-worldly atmosphere.
This was the first big Asian city of the trip, and the one we would go on to compare the rest to. Rob can tell you about the sights and the history, but I always focus on the feel of a place. Hong Kong feels high-powered and futuristic, full of sharp suits and even sharper skyscrapers. There are walkways in the sky and everything is neon. And there are people everywhere – Kowloon, where we stayed, is the most densely populated place on the planet. It wasn’t so noticeable over the weekdays, but once it hit Saturday, you could really tell. That’s something I like about travelling; you are constantly reminded that you are just one of millions, and millions, and millions of people on this Earth, all of them going about their lives with no awareness of yours, and you have no awareness of theirs. It’s definitely not all about you!
I will remember Hong Kong at night time. That’s when it really feels alive, rather than just a big city – when the neon lights up and the streets are still packed at midnight. We crowded the waterfront for the light show (a must-see, though not actually that impressive), spent hours weaving through the night markets and slurped noodles at teeny plastic tables. We also snuck into the world’s highest bar at the top of the Ritz Carlton, having been assured by our hostel that if you act like you know where you’re going, they’ll just assume you’re a guest. We felt incredibly scruffy – but it worked! And hey, posh people can be scruffy too, right?
I will also remember Hong Kong for getting hopelessly lost. Not while getting around – that was easy – but in shopping malls! You think you’re taking a short cut then 2 hours later, you’re still in there. They’re all indoors, they’re all absolutely spotless (as is everything in this city – I kept thinking how much they would hate the Tube), and they all have the same shops! It’s like some kind of never-ending hall of mirrors, with added Louis Vuitton handbags. Very confusing.
Hong Kong mixes it up too, though – something we were about to learn was typical in Asia, smooshing the very very old right alongside the very very new. We took the incredible cable car ride (Note: people from Everywhere Else – it’s not a gondola, it’s a cable car!) up and over the mountains to the Big Buddah. While we were slightly disappointed (if not that surprised) to find a Subway at the top, the beautiful Buddhist monastery behind was one of my favourite places of the whole trip. Early on to make such a statement, I know! But the sense of peace I felt there was something I hadn’t ever really experienced before. I didn’t know a place full of so many people could feel so calm. That tranquility and certainty is something I hope to find again in the future.
But first, we had a plane to catch, and I had a bridge to climb. Next stop, Sydney!