Hong Kong

Out of all the cities that are on our list to visit this fall, Hong Kong is one that topped the list as somewhere we couldn’t wait to explore. From its skyscrapers and busy streets filled with traffic and markets to its beautiful mountains and scenic promenades on the harbor, Hong Kong is truly an incredible city. It’s the only city this fall that we chose to do a food tour in, which speaks to the abundance of food options that it has. It’s a city that you could spend days walking around in and never get bored. There’s something on every corner waiting to be seen. The people are kind, friendly and helpful. Their way of life is similar to the West, so it’s easy to slide right in to the rhythms of the city. Visiting Hong Kong is easy as long as you’re okay with the heat and humidity.

Hong Kong is small and large all at the same time. The part that you think of with its cityscape is not that large compared to many big cities of the world. The area of Hong Kong that most people picture is Hong Kong Island and Kowloon (the peninsula connected to mainland China). But the territory itself is actually made up of over 260 islands scattered throughout the South China Sea. With over a week to spend here, we were excited to be able to explore the city as well as visit some of the areas and islands outside of Kowloon and HK Island.

For those of you wondering about the HK protests and what is was like being there during them, no we didn't ever run into any protest rallies. We did our research prior to arriving and determined that as long as we avoided the specific areas they were taking place in then we would be fine. The only downside was that we did feel the effects of them, which we didn’t expect. Last Friday (October 4th), the protests turned fairly violent and led to a lot of vandalism throughout the city, especially to Hong Kong’s Metro System (the MTR). As a result of events that occurred on Friday, the MTR shut down completely on Saturday and started running limited schedules with limited lines and stations open throughout our time there while they made repairs and tried to prevent further damage. If you've ever visited Hong Kong, you know the city prides itself on its public transportation system that runs like a well-oiled machine. It’s efficient, convenient and easy. So when the MTR became unavailable, the city kind of shut down at some level and we struggled to find alternative ways to get around.

Thankfully, Hong Kong has an excellent public bus system that we learned to utilize, but it was still a struggle at times. Things didn't necessarily always go as planned, but we made adjustments and were still able to see so much of this beautiful city.

One of our first days there, we visited the island of Lantau. It is the largest of the islands that make up Hong Kong, but it is surprisingly underdeveloped compared to Hong Kong Island. The airport and Hong Kong Disneyland are on it, but in general the island is made up of mountains with pockets of development throughout it. The day we visited, we took a cable car up the mountains to an area called Ngong Ping. This area is known for the Po Lin Buddhist Monastery as well as the Tian Tan Buddha or “Big Buddha” that sits on top of a hill. While there, we took a bus to a small fishing village call Tai O where we felt like we took a step back in time and saw life in a more simple way with people still relying on fishing and agriculture (and definitely some tourism if I’m being honest) to make a living.

As I mentioned above, we did a food tour on Hong Kong Island. We loved getting to try the local specialties and visit places that we probably wouldn’t have found without our tour guide. We ate lots of dim sum, loved the deliciousness of Malaysian sponge cake, enjoyed wonton soup from a Michelin starred restaurant, tasted egg tarts, drank sugar cane juice, and discovered one of our new favorite treats: egg puffs (specifically the chocolate chip kind!). Food tours are such a fun and informative way to learn about a city, and we are so glad we could do one here.

We spent several of our days walking along the streets lined with skyscrapers and apartments. We visited markets with fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, souvenirs and knock-off bags and purses. We visited Victoria's Peak to overlook the harbor. We strolled along both the promenades. And we enjoyed taking in all the sights and sounds of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island both day and night.

We made the final stop of our international tour of Disney Parks by visiting Hong Kong Disneyland. Because of the protests, tourism has been down a lot in Hong Kong. Unfortunately for Disney (but fortunately for us), the park was pretty empty by Disney standards. We loved running around the park and riding all of the rides with little to no lines. It was decorated for Halloween, which added to the fun because this park really knew how to get in the Halloween spirit.

On a different day, we took an hour boat ride to Macau. Similar to Hong Kong, Macau is a Special Administrative Region within China. The area was a Portuguese territory until 1999 when it rejoined the PRC under the same “two systems, one country” agreement that Hong Kong is under. Macau was really interesting to explore as it has a lot of history and culture with much Portuguese influence. What was most interesting about it is that it known for it’s casinos. According to one article we read, at this point, Macau’s casinos bring in more money than Las Vegas! Crazy, right? We really enjoyed visiting the historic sites throughout the city, and at the end of the night, we watched a water and fire show outside the Wynn Casino, which was really entertaining.

Our last day in Hong Kong, we went to the New Territories in the northwestern portion of Kowloon, specifically the area of Ping Shan. In 1993, Hong Kong’s government started setting up Heritage Trails that guide you through important cultural sites. The trail we visited took us through the New Territories to see some of the historic sites from the Tang Clan who moved to the area in the 12th Century. We explored Ping Shan and visited several temples and other important buildings. It was interesting to learn about the history of the area compared to the new skyscrapers and apartments located not too far away.

Overall, our visit to Hong Kong was wonderful and somewhat challenging at moments. Hong Kong required us to make more adjustments than we probably would've wanted to make, but it was okay. Throughout this trip, things have honestly been really easy for us. Situations that should have fallen apart have simply worked out. There have been times that we were running late and afraid we were going to miss something, but we’ve made it somehow. Time and again, I have seen the goodness of the Lord blessing us in ways that we don’t deserve by allowing things to work in our favor. Our time there was just a reminder that life isn’t always going to go as we have planned. There are good days and not as good days. And that’s okay. You just have to get up the next day, reevaluate and start again. In Hong Kong, I was reminded about the importance of keeping my eyes on Christ. When circumstances aren’t going my way, I must remember to see the bigger picture and recognize the things that are eternal in life. Setbacks and frustrations aren’t something that I want to deal with but they’re part of life, and if we want to make it through this imperfect world then we have to remember that. We must remember that above all there is a plan and a purpose that is greater than our own.

From the get-go, Perry and I said that we only wanted to do this adventure if we were supposed to. And the Lord made it very clear that we were (see our first blog post entitled “You’re doing what?!?” for reference). So for each day, we’ve prayed that somehow, someway we would glorify Christ through this even if it meant just acting like Jesus to someone who needed it that day. And that prayer goes for the easy days and the frustrating days. It’s easy to be be positive and grateful when things are going well. It gets a little more difficult when you think you might be stuck on the wrong island in Hong Kong for the night. But even in that, God is good and faithful. I firmly believe that He has been faithful before and He will be faithful again. And honestly, I often need to be reminded that my life is near-perfect compared to so many in this world who are suffering and hurting: my students at Wright who fear deportation, the Kurdish families who are fleeing violence, the protesters in Hong Kong fighting for their rights, and so many more.

So for today, I’m thankful for this life that for some crazy reason I’m blessed to live. I’m remembering to trust a faithful God in the midst of any and every circumstance. And I’m praying for those who are in the midst of the battle and struggling to keep going. May we all come to see the heart of our Father who loves us and has a plan for us all always.


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