Hong Kong between typhoons

After spending two unexpected days longer in Beijing we were on our way to Hong Kong. HK was not on our shortlist of destinations, but we had a very good reason to make a short stop. During one of our dinners back home with Thomas and Charlotte, they told us that they were planning to go to HK at the end of August and because we were “in the area” we decided to meet up. They were planning to do an apartment swap with an aunt, so we had a free place to stay. That was an offer that we could not refuse, so here we are on our way to the first familiar faces during our world trip.

Hong Kong is in many ways the opposite of Beijing. Both are big metropolitan cities, but in many ways they could not be more difference. HK is the city of big modern skyscrapers, suits and extreme luxury on a very small piece of land. Beijing is spread over an enormous area and its character is determined by Hutongs, old temples and streetfood. So we had a little culture shock after we arrived on Hong Kong island. The airport express drops you off at the IFC mall, this super luxurious shopping mall is the transport hub for many metro stations and boats to the other islands. We definitely stood out from the crowd, since shorts, hiking boots and shabby T-shirt’s are not really part of the wardrobe of HK citizens, or at least not in the IFC mall. Despite this small detail we decided to head to one of the restaurants Thomas and Charlotte recommended us to have our first Dim Sum. The food was delicious, but on service level and friendliness the people at Tasty Congee and Wonton can learn a lot from their neighbors on the Chinese mainland.

At the end of the afternoon we agreed to meet Thomas and Charlotte at the pier where we would take the ferry to Lamma Island together. They had just finished their cooking class and were now experts in making wontons. It was so strange to see a familiar face after more than two months of traveling. One of the best things about HK is the Octopus card. This chip card can be used for all public transport on the islands, super easy and when you leave and hand in the card, you get your deposit back. The ferry to Lamma Island takes about 30 minutes and gives you the perfect view over the skyline of Hong Kong island and Kowloon. Lamma Island is very different from the rest of HK. It is known as hippie island and contrary to the rest of HK it has no skyscrapers, only small houses and restaurants. The apartment of Thomas’ aunt was small but big enough to house the four of us. It had everything we needed. Rents and house prices in HK are crazy, so the average living space is small. On Lamma Island you could clearly see that the island suffered during typhoon Hato and people were still cleaning up when we arrived. After dropping off our bags we decided to go back to Hong Kong Island to visit the night market and have dinner while catching up. We shared stories about our travels, Thomas and Charlotte shared stories on their first typhoon (apparently one of the worst in the last 10 years) and life in Belgium.

After the night market we went to one of the best viewpoints over HK at night, the Lobby Lounge at the Intercontinental. Thomas and Charlotte treated us on some fancy cocktails, while we enjoyed the view and the many little lights on the other side of the bay. What better way to celebrate seeing friends at the other side of the world?! After we enjoyed the last drop of our cocktail it was time to take the ferry back to Lamma for a good night of sleep.

The next morning we had breakfast at the Green Cottage in Lamma. They have really good juices and a big variety of food to choose from. After buying snacks and enough water we headed back to the ferry to Hong Kong island to take the metro and bus in the direction of Stanley beach. In the hills around Stanley beach you can do various hikes with really nice views on the islands. We decided to hike the Dragon Back trail in the afternoon. This is an easy hike and your biggest enemy is the heat and humidity of the HK weather. The views however were beautiful and it gave us the opportunity to discover another side of HK.

Back in the city, we decided to go to Soho. Soho is an area on Hong Kong island with a lot of restaurants and bars. Our kind of thing. We had some really nice DimSum at Ding Dim 1968. Since HK is crazy expensive, it was nice to have a table full of food for more reasonable prices. The DimSum was delicious! Just around the corner of the restaurant there is a really nice bar called Peel 45, here they have many delicious home brewed beers and really good imported beers. The beers and cocktails are a bit pricy, but that is something you have to get used to in this city. We had a great night! If we would have been on a normal holiday and not on a budget the whole time, this would definitely be the district where we would spend most of our time. We decided not to go back to Lamma too late, since another typhoon was heading towards HK and we didn’t want to risk that Pakhar would cause us to miss the last ferry.

Next day all the ferries were cancelled due to the Typhoon, so we were stuck on Lamma. Thomas and Koen woke up early to watch the Mayweather fight in one of the bars in Lamma. Apparently they were 3 hours early for the actual fight so they stayed away the entire morning. After their return we decided to have brunch at the Green Cottage and just have a relaxed afternoon. Koen and I had to pack our bags since the next morning we had an early flight. We decided to book an hotel in the city to make sure we would be on time. At the end of the day the weather was back to normal and the ferry was operating again. We decided to have dinner on Lamma and then go to the city to grab a last drink in Soho. We ended up in Andy’s Seafood restaurant where we had the best squid ever! It was so good that we ended up ordering extra. In HK live seafood restaurants are very popular so we wanted to try that as well. Our first choice was crab, but after finding out that a small crab was more than 60 euro’s we opted for plan B, some shrimp with garlic butter. Overall we had a really nice dinner.

Koen and I took an earlier ferry so we could check in our luggage at the in-town check in counters in the IFC mall, before checking in into our hotel. After meeting up in the IFC mall again, we headed to Soho to look for a nice cocktail bar. After a first round of cocktails we decided to have one more beer at Peel 45 since we liked it so much. Then it was time to say goodbye. At arrival in the hotel we had an unpleasant surprise. Our flight to Kunming turned out to be cancelled, because of the typhoon (which was clearly just some lame excuse of HK express since it was the only airliner that canceled a couple of flights). Of course the customer service was closed already, since they send the cancellation mails at 11.55 pm and the customer service closes at midnight. We had no clue what to do, since our luggage was already checked in. So next morning we decided to head to the airport to see if they could put us on another flight. Turns out that HK express is the shittiest airliner on the planet (it even got confirmed by some ground staff of the airport). They just cancel without offering any alternative. We believe that they were short on staff and just cancelled 6 flights randomly. So here we were, no flight and no luggage. Our only option was to book a new flight with an different airliner for the next day and to wait for our luggage. Obtaining our luggage took us six hours and caused a lot of frustration and irritation.

After going back to the city we decided to leave our main luggage at Hong Kong island and just take a small backpack to Charlotte and Thomas for another night on Lamma. Having our flight canceled sucked, but on the positive side it gave us another night in HK to do something that we had no time for during the previous days, watching the light show from Kowloon island and taking the star ferry. We also had a great time getting stamps from a machine on the streets, a truly great invention that makes lines in the post office or shop belong to the past. This was a good ending to an awful day.

Next day we took our final ferry from Lamma back to Hong Kong island. We made a final stop at the luxurious supermarket in the IFC mall before saying our final goodbyes and going to the airport. This time our flight left on time (thank you China Eastern) and we were back on the road with just the two of us for another adventure in China!


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