I’ve been feeling quite homesick of late for Sydney. Rather than wallow in all the problems living in Hong Kong makes one face I figured I would twist things around and look at the good stuff. There are a lot of great things about Hong Kong and often with the dilemmas of life we forget to reflect on them.
Here are my 10 favourite reasons for living in Hong Kong.
You knew this one would be on the list given how frequently I post about the happiest place in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong House of Mouse is a great place to go when the kids need to burn off energy or we are feeling a bit down. Mickey and his small theme park is only a short drive away, easy to access and is a tried and true way to lift the spirits (unless it is packed to the max with tourists). It might be small but there is something about that Disney magic that makes you simply want to smile and enjoy life for a few hours.
Typhoons cause much of Hong Kong to go into a state of excitement. These massive storms have the opportunity to all but shut the city down (with the exception of SoHo which runs Typhoon happy hour drinking parties) as people batten down the hatches when a big storm approaches. A T8 (typhoon signal 8) means most businesses shut their doors, taxis legally can’t drive you as they are no longer insured and MTR’s reduce their train frequency. Warnings are plastered on the TV and radio as people are told to use common sense and stay indoors. Historically typhoons have had a devastating impact on Hong Kong. Nowadays, as buildings are built to withstand typhoons and warnings are publicised everywhere most people get to enjoy a few hours or a day off work at home. For our family it ends up being quality family time while I peer out the window willing the storm to “bring it on”… can’t help it – it’s the geographer in me fascinated by the natural environment and the meteorological wonders on this planet.
8. Walking Trails
People are often surprised to discover just how many diverse and interesting walking trails there are all over Hong Kong. I have written about a few of them here before but my experiences barely touch the surface of how many more wonderful trails there are in this mighty city. Historical, natural and cultural walking trails for people of all capabilities are a fabulous way to realise how much more there is to this city other than its glass skyscrapers and dense concrete urbanisation.
7. Efficient Public Transport
Imagine a subway system where the trains operate at 99% efficiency or greater and during peak hours trains arrive EVERY MINUTE. Think it is impossible? Well then you need to come to Hong Kong where this is the reality of the train network (MTR). Don’t want to take a train? Then you’re more than likely to find a bus, or green mini bus, or red mini bus or even an old tram heading where you want to go. Want to leisurely float across the harbour? The Star Ferry will cost you a whole HK$2.50 (AU 0.34 cents) on weekdays for a short ride over to Tsim Sha Tsui. Feeling lazy and want to be driven around? No worries – compared to much of the world even Hong Kong Taxi’s are as cheap as chips. HK$22 (AU$3) flagfall and HK$1.60 (AU0.22 cents) per 200 metres after the flagfall period make taxis a viable alternative when the need or desire arises.
6. Street Markets
From fragrant wet food markets, cooked food markets, toy markets, jade markets, flower markets and more, Hong Kong has it all. There’s nothing to compare these markets to in Australia and New Zealand. They are full of colours, smells and personalities that make each market truly unique. You can enjoy the touristy and somewhat overly expensive Stanley markets, the over-priced and noisy Ladies Market with obnoxious vendors yelling “missy, missy”, the curiously interesting Wan Chai Toy Markets, the indoor Computer Markets in places like Sham Shui Po or one of the more subdued neighbourhood markets like North Point. You can explore the fragrant (and not always in a good way) and bustling wet markets full of fruit, veges, seafood, meats and preserved goodies or the cooked markets where cheap and cheerful (and often amazingly tasteful) restaurants buzz with locals eating good food in not so good conditions.
I live in a city where I feel completely and utterly safe day and night. I don’t even blink about walking down an alleyway day or night. I don’t fear being out late at night or catching a taxi home after midnight. Hong Kong has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Police are visible nearly all the time in a good and positive way. I’ve come to take for granted that safety and need to constantly remind myself that if and when we do move to another country I will need to be more diligent at night and remember not to walk through dimly lit parks.
4. Victoria Harbour
Sydney is the most beautiful harbour on this planet but Victoria Harbour (when the pollution isn’t present) is easily in second place. Hong Kong’s harbour is vibrant and full of amazing skylines. I am fortunate to live right on the harbour and I get to experience the fascination of the traffic that travel upon it as well as the contrast of day and night, not to mention magnificent sunsets! Not a day goes by where I don’t stop and watch as something new or different floats past the window or changes in the evening light shows. My lounge room window is an ever changing portrait of a beautiful harbour I will never forget as long as I live.
3. Chinese Culture and Language
I am immersed in Chinese culture and surrounded by the language. I love experiencing such a rich, interesting and often very unique culture right up close and personal. My children, despite going to an english speaking school, live and learn about Hong Kong and Chinese every single day. They appreciate the food, they experience the festivals and celebrations, they learn both Cantonese and Mandarin, they understand how to survive on the local streets and markets and appreciate how local people live. We’re not your typical expat family. Part of moving here was to give our children an appreciation of one of the cultures they come from and Hong Kong has lived up to and exceeded that. I have gotten to explore beautiful temples, understand the local culture and appreciate the identity unique to Hong Kong. I get to experience and understand this city in a way few New Zealanders do. I am honoured to be a part of it.
2. Location, Location, Location
If you had told me 6 years ago I’d have travelled to Borneo, India, South Korea or Taiwan I would have laughed at you. Those places seemed unrealistic and costly and I didn’t think I’d ever get to see them. I’ve been to all 4, and so many more places in South East Asia and beyond. Hong Kong really is a hub that gives relatively cheap access to holidays in interesting and diverse destinations. We haven’t even started to tap the number of places we can go and I’m itching to head back into China and see much of its hidden beauty and culture. With Hong Kong as my launching pad, I can (and will) make it a reality.
1. THE FOOD
Oh my god. Hong Kong is food heaven. It has almost everything. The restaurant diversity here is second to none. You know the local Cantonese food will be outstanding, and it is from the cheapest dai pai dong (hole in the wall food shop) to the flashiest Michelin restaurants. There are so many unique and creative local Chinese restaurants with great cuisine. It doesn’t stop there though. Asian food in general is fabulous here. You can hunt down outstanding restaurants for almost every type and style of ethnic or generic food your stomach desires and then some. Nepalese? Yep, Mediterranean? Yep. French? Yep. A classic Argentinian Steakhouse? Yep… Hong Kong has it all!
I’ve been told it would take something like 28 years to eat your way through all the restaurants in Hong Kong if you ate at each one once a day for either breakfast, lunch or dinner… When you think about that even with all the restaurants we have tried here we haven’t even touched the surface of eating our way through Hong Kong!
That’s my 10. Do you live in the fragrant city? What are the things you enjoy about living in Hong Kong?