I’m in Hong Kong again, which is hands down my favorite city in the world. I’ve visited it well over a dozen times, and I don’t think there’s a city I’m more passionately familiar with than Hong Kong (I get lost in New York despite the “grid” system, yet I could guide you around Hong Kong with my eyes closed).
I get asked all the time why I love Hong Kong so much, and I have a hard time explaining it. So I figured I’d step back and kind of explain what I enjoy when it comes to travel, and frame that in the context of Hong Kong.
To me there are two kinds of destinations — “Google Images” destinations and not “Google Images” destinations. What do I mean?
I think it’s summed up pretty well in this scene of the movie The Guilt Trip, where Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand are standing in front of the Grand Canyon and say “wow, look at this, I always wanted to see the Grand Canyon” and then after an awkward pause say “so, um, how long are we supposed to look at it?”
I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, but I certainly get the same feeling about many other destinations and landmarks. The idea is that I get as much out of the destinations by looking at pictures of them on Google Images as I do by “experiencing” them.
Here’s a personal example, and I know many will disagree with me — I’m not a huge fan of Paris (I don’t dislike it, but also don’t go out of my way to visit). The Eiffel Tower, for example, “does” nothing for me. I get as much out of looking at it on Google Images as I do looking at it in person. Again, I realize many love Paris and will disagree with me, but that’s the beauty of travel — we can all be into different things.
So what do I like to do when I travel? I love:
- Wandering aimlessly and getting lost.
- Sitting at a Starbucks and observing locals, from the way they walk to the way they socialize.
- Anything with nice views of things with “moving” parts. I’m a sucker for views.
What I don’t generally like to do while traveling is:
- Museums. I’m just not a museum person, and if I want to read about the history of a place I’ll do so online.
- While I like food (who doesn’t?), I’m not someone that connects to cities through food. In other words, I don’t have to go to a different “local” restaurant every night in order to feel like I’ve experienced a city (which may have more to do with the fact that I’m usually asleep by dinnertime no matter where in the world I am).
I guess what it comes down to for me is that I love cities with “vibes.” If I can spend 90% of my time walking around and observing people I’m happy.
So why do I love Hong Kong so much?
First of all, Hong Kong is just such a gorgeous city. As far as I’m concerned Hong Kong has the most beautiful skyline in the entire world. Even though I’ve visited well over a dozen times, I literally get giddy every time I arrive in Hong Kong and see the Hong Kong Island skyline from The Avenue of Stars.
Typically when I land in a foreign city I’m tired and just want to sleep, but last night upon landing I was genuinely excited about seeing The Symphony of Lights… as I am every time I land in Hong Kong.
It’s a lights show every night at 8PM and while it’s touristy as hell, it literally makes my face light up every time. I feel like a six year old watching the Cinderella parade at Disney World.
Similarly, while it’s touristy, the view from Victoria Peak leaves me in awe every time.
But what I really love about Hong Kong is the vibe — it’s one of the only cities in Asia I could actually imagine living in. You have parts of Kowloon where you literally feel like you’re in the middle of China, while you take the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island and feel like you’re in the cleanest, most modern city in the world.
I don’t know, I realize I’m all over the place, because I can’t actually put into words why I love Hong Kong. And I think that’s actually what makes travel beautiful. If I could put into words what I loved about it so much, then it could be experienced “virtually” and there would be no need to visit.
But there’s something about Hong Kong that leaves me feeling energized, that leaves me feeling like I’m missing out on life if I’m not out in the streets. And every time I leave Hong Kong I get that empty feeling in the pit of my stomach like I’m leaving home.
Am I crazy? Can anyone relate to that general feeling, be it about Hong Kong or another city you love? Which city do you feel most passionately about?
And while I’m asking you guys for advice, here’s another request. I know a lot about what to do in Hong Kong, but really don’t know the first thing about where to eat. Do you have any favorite restaurants in Hong Kong, regardless of the type of cuisine they serve?
(In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not Asian)