I have been here for about two and a half years now. During this time, I have been through phases of mental fatigue related to living in a foreign country, feelings of isolation and bouts of homesickness. But the good news is that it is not all bad. One phrase that has snuck into my vocabulary is “We wouldn’t be doing this if we were in Melbourne!” to which Panda’s response is always to roll his eyes, given that he has often been the more homesick of the two of us.
I know every time we go back to Australia that there are certain things we wish we could bring back (Fresh Air? A Woolworths store? My doctor and dentist?!) but there are other things that we have grown accustomed to in Hong Kong .
It’s more complex then a shortlist, but if I had to narrow it down to my five favourite things;
1.Public Transport (P.T) :
Living on Hong Kong Island we are spoiled for Public Transport. We have trams, buses, mini buses, taxis, trams and ferries. P.T. is excellent value for money, services are regular and best of all, they’re clean and well maintained, as are the stations.
The Octopus Card is used for ticketing and can be used on all forms of transport, except cabs. It can be easily topped up at the Mass Transit Railway stations (or as we call it here, M.T.R. stations) or at one of the many gazillion 7/11 stores around.
The last time I used P.T. in Melbourne, I ended up missing a train despite being at the (unattended) station 20 minutes early. There was an issue with my Myki card and I wasn’t willing to travel without a ticket. As there was no one at the station to talk to and I couldn’t resolve the issue in time, I ended up missing the train and then had to wait at the isolated station for another 25 minutes. The words “This would never have happened in Hong Kong!” spewed forth from my mouth as I saw the train departing without me, making me appreciate Hong Kong public transport even more.
2.The beautiful sceneries:
On my first trip to Hong Kong, I had no idea how many beautiful sceneries Hong Kong hosts. My impression was that it was all city sky scrapers which is far from the truth.
It was while we were waiting at the A12 bus stop outside of the Hong Kong International Airport that I turned to Panda and asked “Hong Kong has trees and mountains?!” He looked amused as he explained that yes, Hong Kong has many trees and mountains.
Australia has many natural wonders also, but I like that in Hong Kong there are water, mountain and city landscapes all in very close proximity. I look out my window and I see boats cruising along the harbour, I see the mountains on Kowloon side staring back at me and the iconic bright city lights and neon signs. Our nightly walks are by the water while weekend strolls are through the hills of Hong Kong. How can you get bored with that?
- Public Facilities;
While some people might like to talk about the great night life scene in Hong Kong, I am a quiet koala who likes to spend her time at libraries and strolling the local parks.
The day I first felt like a resident was not the day I arrived or got my visa; the day I felt like a real resident was the day I got my library card.
There a many small libraries here but the jewel in the crown is the Central Library in Causeway Bay. 12 floors, most of which are available to the public, jam packed with all sorts of learning resources in both Chinese and English. It is every book worm’s dream.
Parks are like little oasis’s in the city that break up the concrete jungle. They are clean and well cared for. My favourite park, Hong Kong Park in Admiralty, even has fish and mini tortoises making the park their home!
Parks are a hive of activity. For some, it’s a place to practice tai chi and exercise, a place to read or socialize with friends and for kids, a space to shed some energy after school.
Bigger parks like Victoria Park hosts many activities during the year such as Lantern Carnivals or flower markets, making them important places in the festive calendar for the community. I am sure many memories have been made in local parks during Hong Kong’s history.
(Victoria Park – top, Quarry Bay promonade – bottom)
We have so many festivals throughout the year in Hong Kong. While I don’t even understand the significance of them all, it does give the place a celebratory tone throughout the year.
Just some to note;
January 1st- “Western New Year” : Usually there is a countdown and fireworks display over the harbour and if the weather cooperates, it’s dazzling.
Chinese New Year: This is the “real” New Year in Hong Kong. Once Christmas has passed, the city seamlessly transforms from Christmas lights, to glittery gold and red decorations. Animals start to appear everywhere; this year there were dogs for the year of the dog.
Street corners are adorned with brightly coloured fruits, and flower markets blanket local parks during this time as well.
C.N.Y is an interesting time to be in Hong Kong. Even if you don’t follow the tradition, it is hard not to feel the joy, it’s infectious!
Mid-Autumn Festival: if coming in to Autumn is not exciting enough (I hate summer more than I can express!), we get to celebrate this special time of year with free lantern carnivals and eating moon cakes. If you are brave, you can wear a flashing fluorescent Minnie Bow on your head because you are in Hong Kong and Hong Kong does not bat an eye lid at an adult wearing such head-wear. I can tell you this from personal experience!
Christmas: Yes, Hong Kong does Christmas too and because no one can out decorate Hong Kong, the Christmas displays are amazing.
These are just the annual events. Throughout the year there are always other activities so it’s easy to find something to do, and because every where is so accessible, it’s easy to get there.
One notable thing about living in Hong Kong is the overall convenience.
Shopping centres and supermarkets are not in short supply on Hong Kong Island. In fact, I have a supermarket under my apartment building so I don’t even need to leave the building to do grocery shopping. Perfect for those crazy rainy days we get during the wet season.
There are many restaurants in residential areas making it easy to grab a quick meal on the go or if you are lazy like me, just Deliveroo it!
Part of Hong Kong’s convenience is due to its small size. After living in such a spread out place as Australia, it definitely alters your view on what is “too far away!”. A one hour drive to work feels pretty standard in Melbourne, but one hour commute to work in Hong Kong- now that is way too far!
Of course all this convenience is good but can it be too good? Definitely! You can get so used to it that you become a tad lazy because everything is so close and accessible. When things are run so frequently and efficiently you can begin to feel impatient when things don’t run the same way when you go back home. Funnily enough, it’s during these times when we go back to Melbourne that Panda and I will end up saying to one another ” we wouldn’t be waiting this long in Hong Kong!”
Have you been to Hong Kong? What are some things you enjoyed about the “fragrant harbour?”