Hidden Parks and Egg Tarts in Hong Kong

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When I was gearing up to travel to Hong Kong for the week off work for the Spring Festival (also known as the Chinese New Year–these holidays all have several names which can be extremely confusing), I would tell co-workers and friends where I was headed. Every time, they would exclaim, “Ohhhh shopping!” To which I would respond by shrugging and saying, “I guess I might do some shopping…”

As soon as I arrived in Hong Kong, I understood why the majority thought I was set on retail therapy. I could not walk a single, overcrowded block without running into a mall. It was heavenly. And also very dangerous for my wallet. Instead of whittling all of my time away in Zara and H&M, I made a point to wander outside and see things that I can’t find in Beijing.

The humid, salty sea air and the ferry boats that shuttled both tourists and local commuters alike were special treats unique to Hong Kong. I enjoyed every second of the lush, green parks crammed in between skyscrapers and traditional food like dim sum with a new Australian friend.

I met up with a friend and native Hong Kongian (totally made up word) who accompanied me to The Victoria Peak and mouth watering sushi. I also spent time with my roommate, Katie, who was visiting her uncle in Hong Kong on her way back the The U.K. It was a bitter sweet way to end our adventure together as roommates.

While my 9-person dorm was less than ideal for rest, I found my holiday as relaxing as ever and Hong Kong is definitely one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited.

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Enjoying a traditional Hong Kong meal of Dim Sum

A dragon dance in the mall for CNY. Rub his nose for good luck!

Ferry ride

Ferry ride

Tram ride

Tram ride

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Taking the Peak Tram to the Victoria Peak

Taking the Peak Tram to the Victoria Peak

Victoria Peak & astounding views

Victoria Peak & astounding views

Trying egg tart for the first time

Trying egg tart for the first time

Drum decorations

Drum decorations

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Glass floored cable car to see the Big Buddha

The Big Buddha

The Big Buddha

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People burning incense for prayers at the Po Lin Monastery

People burning incense for prayers at the Po Lin Monastery

Discovery Bay on Lantau Island with Katie

Discovery Bay on Lantau Island with Katie

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The Year of the Snake

IMG_1244Another New Year’s Eve celebration?!

Apparently there is a second chance at a new year if you’re in a foreign country that uses a lunar calendar. Since China follows the lunar calendar, the first day of the new year was February 9.

I had heard comparisons between the grandness of Chinese New Year and Christmas in the United States, but from what I saw, the two are utterly incomparable. For starters, fireworks are the main attraction during the Chinese New Year (CNY) and last for two weeks. Two full weeks of completely sporadic, exploding chaos. Without any apparent restrictions on fireworks, Chinese locals buy huge boxes filled with fireworks and set the entire thing on fire, rendering any unsuspecting passerby subject to inflamed flying bits of firework remains. Yes, it’s a little scary, but exhilarating at the same time.

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My friends and I spent the frigid Friday night leading into the CNY wandering through the restaurant/bars surrounding Houhai Lake, staring in awe of the thousands of booming pyrotechnics, and narrowly avoiding the exploding boxes.

It is also a week of mass traveling throughout China, with millions (literally, 10 million) of Chinese families venturing across Asia to spend the CNY with their family in their hometown. With plans to travel to Hong Kong for the week I entered the CNY optimistic and excited for [another] new year.

Favorite Things

Here are some of the wonderful moments that filled my days last week.

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1. Solana Mall: Sometimes it’s nice to see “normal” things, like a mall. I never thought I’d be so excited to see American Eagle! It was a wonderful day walking around the courtyards that were illuminated bright lights on [super fake] trees with friends.

2. Jason Mraz in Beijing: While on the subway with my roommate Katie, we were appreciating the musical delights of a random guitar player who was hoping for an appreciative and generous audience. As he ended one Chinese song, he transitioned into a tune that sounded oddly familiar. As Katie began jokingly singing the beginning to “I’m Yours,” he actually started singing the words too! Although his Chinglish interpretation of the words was less than perfect, Katie and I squealed and sang along excitedly. We definitely received a few more stares than usual, but we were so surprised to hear Jason Mraz that we didn’t care.

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3. Rainbow Dumplings: I had heard great things about this rainbow dumpling restaurant and finally got to try it this week! The restaurant, Baoyuan Jiaozi Wu, served dumplings that had been boiled in eggplant and other foods to dye the outside. It was a fun way to break up an otherwise mundane work week.

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4. Inappropriate Shirts: There’s a store in my favorite area of Beijing that sells graphic T shirts with random depictions of, apparently, flashing. I can’t imagine a store in the U.S. selling clothing that is equally hilarious or inappropriate.