City Trips, Travels

Exploring Hong Kong 2014

H

ong Kong has always had a special spot in our heart, and especially for Kate. Five years ago she fell head over heels in love with the place and we even considered moving to HK after our travels. This time, we therefore decided to go in depth investigating the possibilities of living in HK.

Sadly, Hong Kong is a pretty expensive town, so how could we try it out without losing half our travel budget? The solution: housesitting! Stroke of genius! Thanks to housesitting we could stay in Sai Kung, HK for free for three weeks. We only had to take care of the home and dog of the owners. Pretty good deal if you ask us. Read all about it here on our blog about housesitting in Sai Kung.

The second time around, Hong Kong remains an awesome city. It has to be said, HK is a really costly city. If you want to move here, you better get a well paid job (which is not easy here) and size down your living arrangements. Supermarkets are often more expensive than in Europe. So living in Hong Kong is not exactly a cheap option. But, if you do manage to land that job and can live with a miniature version of your appartement/house, the city has a lot to offer. Furthermore, nannies are relatively cheap here so it is ideal for bridging those baby years. You lose some square meters, but according to most of the expats we meet, you gain a lot in terms of quality of life. Who’s in? The last few days after our housesit we stayed at the place of Belgian friends who are living and working in downtown Hong Kong and their expat life sure looked pretty sweet.

Hong Kong is a true metropolis that has a lot going for it and never fails to amaze. A lot of people only think of the high skyscrapers, but if you look beyond those, a whole new world opens up. Or do I have to say worlds? Hong Kong is both Western and Eastern at the same time, a fascinating mix. in which you literally can get lost. In two months time both Christmas and Chinese New Year are vigorously celebrated.

This vertical city, on the sea and surrounded by mountain peaks, has something for everyone. You can spend all your cash in one of the fancy shopping streets or flashy shopping centers, but you can also comb through one of the trendy neighbourhoods with small shops and fun little stores (e.g. Tai Hang or PoHo). You can eat your fill around every corner with steaming baskets of dim sum (the speciality of HK), little Cantonese restaurants or typical dai pai dong food stalls, but you never have to look too far for any type of cuisine. Stroll from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, ride the extensive metro (MTR) or the cheap old fashioned tramways, or even better, take a Star Ferry and take in the beautiful skyline from the sea for only 25 Eurocents.

When you stay somewhere for a longer period of time, you get the opportunity to check out the lesser known corners and local spots. We went to have a look in the Kalsa Diwan Sikhtemple (Tip: if you are travelling on a budget, you can (almost) always have great free Indian food at a Sikhtemple and get up a close with a fascinating religion). We visit the Catholic St. Michael’s cemetery – facing the Happy Valley racecourse and ringed by skyscrapers – where we found a few casualties from the WWI battles around Ieper, Belgium. We also visit the Chi Lin nunnery, the Nan Lian garden, the Lin Fa Kung temple, etc…

Watching the Christmas shopping madness, the crazy Christmas photoshoots and the massive season’s greetings on the skyscrapers are great fun too. We also have a bit more time to hang around and take it all in, this way Kate manages to get a whole bouquet of free temple flowers (at closing time), while Maarten was busy snapping up pictures of each incense stick. For a further blog on the sights and joys of Hong Kong, you can also have a look at our blog Hong Kong 2010 (only available in Dutch but you can have a look at our 2010 picture gallery here).

If you are not really drawn to big cities, one of the greatest draws of Hong Kong is the surrounding natural splendour. You can hike here until your hiking shoes are worn down, and chill in the sun on beaches until your bikini’s colours fade. You can get fresh air in little fishing towns (e.g. Sai Kung) , camp and BBQ on the beach in nature reserves. Mountains, forests, wetlands, beaches, water, boating, sea kayaking, sailing, fishing, windsurfing, hiking, shopping, eating, skylines, horse races… Whatever you want, HK has it.

And if that is not enough? Mainland China is only a one hour metro ride away, and you can be in the casino’s of Portuguese colonial Macau with a short ferry ride. To top it all off, the whole of South-East-Asia is virtually in your backyard.

A perfect mix for Kate, were it not that during the summer it gets really hot and humid here. It also remains to be seen how Hong Kong’s further integration in mainland China will turn out.

Take a look here for our pictures of 2014 and here for our pictures of 2010. Fancy a bite of Chinese fare while in Belgium, have a look at this blogpost here.

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We love exploring, writing stories, housesitting, but especially love having no plans, enjoying small things, travelling and eating. So that's how we now live.