After two and a half months in Southeast Asia, it was late March and that meant only one thing for me – almost Sakura time in Japan. I hadn’t booked much in advance, but I’d booked my flight to Japan while I was in Singapore at the very beginning of my trip. I knew it old be high season for tourists, so I wanted to get my flight locked down. I decided to fly from Hong Kong, figuring it would be easy to get there from last anywhere in Southeast Asia, and also because I had a couple of friends there I thought it would be cool to see. I’m so glad I did because Hong Kong turned out to be a great bridge between Southeast Asia and Japan, and I had the best time catching up with Tadhg and Sarah Jane.
Tadhg and Sarah Jane were kind enough to put me up while I was in town, and they kept me busy with incredible Michelin star dim sum restaurants, horse racing, cool bars and bustling night markets. A bit different to what I was used to on the backpacker trail!
They live in an area called the Mid Levels of Hong Kong Island, a perfect place for exploring. It is easy to get lost in the multi-layered city, but thanks to the escalator running all the way up the middle of the city, I could find my bearings eventually. I spent most of day one on a hunt for warmer clothes, as drizzly Hong Kong was a good 10°C colder than Southeast Asia, and I knew Japan would only get colder.
Once I was done getting lost in the city during the day, I met Sarah Jane and Tadhg for delicious dim sum at Din Tai Fung, a Michelin Star restaurant in Central Hong Kong. From there we headed to the Happy Valley races, which was such a fun night out!
Hong Kong is a towering a built up city, but nestled right in the middle of the island is a flat expanse, where the Happy Valley race course sits. Wednesday is the big night here, where people pay the cheap and cheerful entrance fee and place bets on the six races of the night. Not being a seasoned horse racing expert, I was straight onto Whatsapp to my brother for tips. He had plenty, but being the wuss I am, I was putting the crappiest bets on. Eventually he convinced me to put a big chunk on a horse called Unicorn to win in the last race. The beer and winning streak made me cocky so I went for it. Unfortunately, my luck ran out and the horse didn’t even place. Still, I had such a fun night and the atmosphere was amazing.
We finished off with a beer in a local bar, where they were serving Murphy’s on draft. Had to have one. It wasn’t bad either…
The following afternoon I decided to escape the city below and head up to Victoria Peak for a view over Hong Kong Island. I took the funicular up to the peak, which was a novelty but quite touristy. I decided to beak away from the crowds a bit and walk the 3km loop around the top, and then make my way back down to the city on foot. It was a nice walk and a great way to see the city from above.
At night, we took the ferry over to Kolwoon, part of Hong Kong attached to mainland China. Tadhg and I grabbed a couple of happy hour cocktails at Harlan’s, one of the rooftop bars overlooking the harbour, while we waited for Sarah Jane to finish work.
We ate at a place in Kolwoon called One Dim Sum, which was one of the best meals I have had while travelling, in terms of taste and value. Seriously, if you go to Hong Kong, eat there. Be prepared to wait for a table, but it is worth it. They even have good veggie dumplings and amazing dessert buns.
After dinner we grabbed a couple of cans for the road, as you do, and wandered around the night market on Kolwoon, full of weird and wonderful things.
Once we’d had about enough of that we pitched up at one of the many street food restaurants, with their tanks of live fish and still scuttling crabs on display, and settled in on the little plastic stools and ordered a round of Asahi. I’m not really sure how it happened, but one moment it was about 10pm and we were splitting a bottle of beer between three of us, and the next it was about 2am and we were looking for a taxi home. At this point, the streets were by no means empty and the city was still buzzing as we headed back to Hong Kong Island and called it a night.
It was a short but sweet visit to Hong Kong. Anyone who loves great food, drinks, people watching and a good night out – this is the place. The next day, I gathered my stuff together and headed to the airport, ready for my flight to Tokyo and the Japan leg of the adventure.