Falling in love with Hong Kong

At  my previous visit to Hong Kong, it was way cooler than it was this time. I really, almost melted away in truly hot and humid weather this time. The haze over the town took away a lot of the clear air I also remember from my last visit. There was a reason for this hot and very humid weather beyond the season: an approaching tropical storm.  

Another thing different this time and that struck me, is that there seemed to be a lot more people around town this time: I believe mostly locals and Chinese. Tourists wasn’t far apart, but around the areas I went to, there was few to none when compared to last visit. 

I have indeed started falling in love with Hong Kong for its dynamics, choices and cleanliness. Hong Kong is known as one of the worlds most densly populated places, but it still doesn’t feel THAT crowded to me. Similarly to last time, I find local people of Hong Kong polite and helpful. The only time I experienced rudeness and pushy people, was as the doors opened at the Peak Tram to take us up to Victoria Point. People were actually pushing (hard) to be able to get on first, stepping on each other in the fight to get on the train first. I don’t get what was so important but when the doors opened, it was quite simply a «mayhem»! I believe these pushy people was not locals but other tourists. 

You could spend a week, a year or a decade in Hong Kong and never be bored once. Pulsing with energy and always evolving, it’s the perfect place to explore if you’re into people-watching, eating, shopping, hiking, partying, relaxing, art, history… or perhaps all of the above.

The annoyances of Hong Kong are pretty much the same as those in the tourist-areas of for example Bangkok, those hawkers trying to get you into their tailor shops for the tailor-made suit-bargain of your life. 

Whilst in Hong Kong, I was on the lookout for some drone-parts, but couldn’t find them anywhere in the area where electronics and gadgets are the thing. Eventually, I went into one gigantic shop, and even though they didn’t have the parts either, the sales man certainly went way beyond his call of duty to find a shop that actually DID have what I was looking for. And since it was some rides away by subway, he called and asked the other shop put it on hold until I got there. That I think is a service level which I do not find too often in for example Norway, nor in Thailand! Way to go Hong Kong: you can be really proud of some of your younger sales staff in some of your shops! 

Shopping - it’s a thrill as Hong Kong has no sales tax, no VAT. There is an amazing variety of shops and products found all across Hong Kong, some gathered together in certain areas. You may need to travel by subway to find the shop you like, but with a well working underground, a day-pass and very frequent departures, it’s not a problem at all - most can probably be found in Hong Kong. I do however recommend you to do some surveys and checking in advance of your visit. 

As mentioned in the previous travel bLOG entry, the prices at the International airport are slightly higher when compared to downtown shops. 

When booking a hotel in Hong Kong, I do have a great recommendation for you to remember: make sure you book a room which includes a hotel-SMART mobile phone, or a mobile WiFi-router. I have during my two last visits stayed at the Butterfly hotels, first time at Butterfly on Morrison, and this time at Butterfly Boutique on Prat Avenue. They are relatively clean hotels, reasonably priced (because in Hong Kong, you CAN pay way too much for accommodations), friendly staffed and FULLY air conditioned oasis in the sweltering city. The hotel I stayed at this time, like last time, was my personal choice. I love Butterfly hotels - great bed, clean sheets and rooms with a lot of various hard- /soft pillows. To be honest, I was upgraded to a higher room category during my stay this time. The staff was wonderful at check in, with great smiles and truly personal service. They even let me borrow a mobile WiFi router so I could use my OWN mobile phone on the go around Hong Kong! There is a HK$800 charge if you loose the router that you have to accept, but if you don’t plan on loosing it - it was a fantastic simple way to be online even though I didn’t have a local SIM card! 

I will be going back again to Hong Kong next year - make no doubt about it. But, I will time my next visit with the cooler time of the year. 

As you now understand, my opinion is that Hong Kong must be among the truly coolest places to visit: there are tons of history, new and old architecture, endless shopping at significantly lover prices than Norway, as well as the perfect town to do high-end luxury car-spotting! During my stay, I saw most of the top-end cars of the world - including the MB S500-L which I was chauffeured around in most of my visit. 

I can imagine that living in Hong Kong as an executive foreigner must be an extra-ordinary experience. At the low end of the scale, in a low end apartment, it’s probably not something to write home about. There have been some really interesting articles written in world-medias and online about a life living in the so-called coffin-apartments of Hong Kong. Go search for those articles online - I promise you they are interesting stories. 

On the other end of the scale, and in the life of very few Hong Kong professionals, living in a modern Hong Kong penthouse with butlers and maids, must be like being a movie star. The differences in classes and social levels seen around Hong Kong is fascinating. You see it in the streets, you see it in the malls and you see it on the cars moving people around. Just a little more than a month ago, we could read a story about the outrageous prices on property in Hong Kong. 

A luxury home in Hong Kong set a price record for apartment sales in Asia, even as the government seeks to tame property prices in the world’s least affordable market.

The penthouse duplex unit in Henderson Land Development Co.’s 39 Conduit Road project was sold for about HK$522 million ($67 million), or HK$105,000 per square foot, the city’s Sing Tao Daily reported Saturday, citing an unidentified person. 

Hong Kong subway-system is excellent: there are reasonable prices even for tourists (a 24-hour day pass costs only 69HK$ and gives you as much rides you can within 24 hours of first use). The amount of people continuously on the move with any of the subway-lines, is truly extra-ordinary. It’s literally a sea of people on the move: reminds me of those anthills I’ve seen in the forest. It’s also quickly evident that people are clearly obeying un-written, strict rules in the underground, keeping on a pre-determined side of the walkways for each direction of travel. 

When the temperatures outside were at the 40+ range during my stay, it was amazing to head down underground and almost go from street to street, from mall to mall, and continoue shopping. And when one area, one station, had been fully explored, you could just take the train to next station and continue the process all over again. Naturally, there are more shops above ground, but there is almost a whole another world found underground in Hong Kong. I find this almost complete underground-world mind-boggling, and very futuristic.  Also, I think subways like the one’s in Hong Kong are perfect - long, long trains with up to 10-12 carriages, maybe even more, quickly transporting several hundred passengers at any time…. and if you don’t catch one train, there is another one few minutes behind. This is appears to be a well-oiled system, almost like the blood rushing through the veins of our bodies, keeping the world’s most densely populated city alive.

The best experience and the main reason for this years visit to Hong Kong was to be a guest speaker on two major subjects at a hotel convention. Honestly, I was so nervous when I walked out on the stage, I actually thought I was going into cardiac arrest. But, both times as soon as I started on my prepared subjects, time suddenly flew and I think I managed to deliver as was expected. At least, I was very releived when I got a standing ovation at completion of my second presentation. Money aside, that was probably the best feeling I got during the entire visit to Hong Kong. 

During my visit to Hong Kong this time, there was one place I didn’t get enough time to visit last time and wanted to do this time: a visit to Hong Kong 100, and a snack at the coffee-shop up there. The view from their viewing floor is absolutely superb - even though the weather laid a cover of haze across the city. The insides of the viewing floor reminds me very much of Bangkok’s Baiyoke Sky viewing floor: with typical set-up scenes of local, historical value. My lunch at "Cafe 100 by The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong” was really made perfect by one of their staff: Jason. They had a great selection of dishes, including some really savory crepe’s. I quickly decided to try out one of these crepe's, with strawberries, blueberries, choclolate and whipped cream topped with a mint-leaf. Together with the spectacular views, it was absolutely a delicious treat. 

Then there was this thing about the weather this time: the really extreme heat and the humid weather. It was off course a part of the current season, but it got a little more extreme as a powerful tropical storm was approaching, typhoon HATO. As the day before rolled along, the news pretty much pin-pointed Hong Kong as very near the landfall-point of the tropical depression. It went from a category T1 in the morning to a category T3 by the late afternoon. The T8 signal was hoisted early the next morning, my scheduled departure day from Hong Kong, as I woke up. Torrential rains already hammered my hotel window and the glass breathed like a monster's chest. A few hours later, a category T10 typhoon was announced and that category hadn’t been used since the ferocity of ­typhoon Vicente back in 2012. Also, Hato would apparently miss the city by just around 50 kilometres. 

2017 08 23 Hong Kong-Bangkok-IMG 2620

At least 320 flights operated by Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon and Hong Kong Airlines, scheduled to take off or land between 6am and 5pm on Wednesday, have been cancelled. The storm could be at its peak during those hours. Hundreds more flights to and from the city, and across the ­region, were also expected to be cancelled due to Hato. “Wind speed and direction are severely impacting flight operations, and are forecast to do so throughout Wednesday regardless of the typhoon signal level,” Cathay Pacific said as it announced today’s cancellations.

Airport closed in periodes, schools and shops were closed, subway services was halted and people prepared for rain and flooding, strong winds and fallen trees. As the winds intensified, people started gathering in the lobby of the hotel to see the commotion. Naturally, I was one of them. I have been through many hurricane-filled days in my time at sea, but never had I been able to witness this on land and so close to the epicentre. 

After looking through the lobby doors for a short while, I decided that this was something I really wanted to experience fully. Perhaps not the smartest thing I’ve done in my life, as broken trees, debris and other heavy items flew through the air.

Stepping out on the sidewalk outside the hotel, I was immediately soaked wet by rain which I had never seen or experienced before. The winds blowing through the narrow streets between all those high-rise buildings was torrential, and the sound created was utterly deafening. So much air was pressed in those narrow streets, making them like a the narrowest part of a funnel - thus increasing the speeds. The sounds, the winds and the torrential rains that just kept on coming, and coming, and coming - was .... you know, I find no words that can properly describe the experience. According to media, windspeeds upwards to 200 km/hour was recorded that morning. 

For the rest of my life, the thing I will remember the most is not the rain by itself, but deafening sound created by HATO. My walk around Hong Kong lasted for about 3-4 hours, and as the winds clearly got weaker, I got back to the hotel for a hot shower and check-out. 

My stay in Hong kong was over and it was time to head back to the airport. 

This visit to Hong Kong had been one really amazing visit. I felt very much that the end of my stay here in Hong Kong this time ended like the fireworks at the end of New Years Eve. With a gigantic melt climax! 

2017 08 23 Hong Kong Typhoon Warning copy

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