12 Hours in Hong Kong

You may not have realized this yet, but we are borderline insane.

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Our Cats: “You’re leaving us again?”

I haven’t shared much about this trip because the overwhelming consensus is that a lot of people just don’t get it. And there isn’t really anything to get… We flew 19 hours to Hong Kong, explored for 12 hours (mostly in the middle of the night), and then flew back to the U.S.

The main purpose of the trip was to take advantage of cheap airfare and frequent flier promotions in order to earn miles towards future trips (and yes, a 19 hour flight gets you QUITE a bit of miles), but a lot of the point was also to see Hong Kong.. a place we have never been before.

Before our flights, we actually spent quite a bit of time on prep work. We had NO idea what the trip would actually turn into and as much research as you can do, there isn’t a ton of information on what to do in Hong Kong between the hours of 1am – 6am.

We had a short bucket list and printed out directions everywhere. We also made sure to have the names and addresses of places both in English and Mandarin. We typically do this for all trips, but since we were going to be short on time, we made sure we had our plan down.

We then flew from Kansas City to Phoenix (had an awesome meal in the Phoenix airport [not something I say often]), and then from Phoenix to Seattle.

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Barrio Cafe at PHX

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Barrio Nachos: Beef with sauteed mushrooms, garlic, onions, jalapenos, spinach, cream, chorizo and bleu cheese and “fresh Mexican farm cheese”

We then spent the night in Seattle. Our friends taking the trip with us live here and it was fun catching up, playing Frozen board games and feeling giddy about the insanity in front of us.

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On Saturday, our flight didn’t leave until almost 2pm. Since we were only spending 12 hours there, we didn’t have a hotel booked in Hong Kong and so we didn’t really need much of anything. I just brought a backpack and it was mostly filled with stuff for the flight (books, headphones), essential toiletries (toothbrush, hairbrush) and a sweatshirt.

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The appropriate use of your allowed quart size ziploc bag of liquids

We lucked out and on the flight we had 4 bulkhead seats in a row. This was pretty much key in curbing insanity. We got a few meals, watched a couple movies and napped, but a majority of the flight was spent catching up, playing card games and well, abusing the free alcohol in Economy Comfort policy. I’ll admit the last 5 hours or so were a bit tedious.. I was starting to panic that I hadn’t slept enough to be awake the next 12 hours…. But it was fun and I’ve worse flights. Far. Worse. Flights.

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Then something I rarely ever experience happened. We actually landed early. Instead of getting in closer to 8pm, we arrived and were off the flight by 7pm. No checked bags = no wait! So we head over the Airport Express (train) station that is inside the airport. They do have machines to purchase tickets, but if you skip those and go to the counter, they offer group rates on 4+ (but this does require talking to someone who may or may not have ANY idea what you are trying to say).

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We took the Airport Express to Kowloon Station, but since it was dark out we really couldn’t see anything. We then took a taxi from Kowloon Station to the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. Typically I would recommend just walking.. but by the time we got off the plane, bought tickets and took the train ride to Kowloon, we were pushing 8 pm when the  Symphony of Lights starts, so we didn’t want to risk taking a wrong turn.

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The Symphony of Lights was number one on our bucket list. It is a laser light show projected on and from the buildings that make up Hong Kong’s skyline. When you are on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, you are in Kowloon looking over Victoria Harbour at the Hong Kong skyline. I’ll have to admit that the actual Symphony of Lights was just okay, but the skyline itself was INCREDIBLE. Absolutely gorgeous. This point was the first time since stepping off the place that we actually had a second to stop and breathe and it was a bit surreal to realize that, holy crap!, we are in Hong Kong.

The light show is only about 15 minutes, so afterwards we bought tickets on the Star Ferry to take us across Victoria Harbor and into Hong Kong.

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A lot of people take the ferry DURING the light show, but we were really close on time that we probably would have missed the show during boarding.

The ferry was a quick ride and a little rickety, but we still in awe of the skyline. It was neat to look out from all sides of the boats while in the harbor and to see the vastness of all the buildings completely surrounding us.

When we docked and got off the boat, we were off to bucket list item #2: dim sum.

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The restaurant we chose, Tim Ho Wan, the Dim-Sum Specialists, is actually the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred eatery. Even more awesome, is that it is actually located IN the International Finance Centre Mall, a stop on the Airport Express. So, if you are taking the Airport Express train from the airport and don’t get off on the Kowloon station like we did, then this is your next stop. Convenient!

However, this is where our research failed us a little bit. Tim Ho Wan was open until 9pm, but they had stopped seating closer to 8:30. Rats… but thankfully they offered us take-out 😀

The staff showed us the contents of 3 Styrofoam take away containers and asked if we wanted them. Uh, SURE! We bought them. No idea what they were.
We were able to find some general seating on the 4th floor of the train station, so the 4 of us huddled around our Styrofoam containers savoring every morsel to come out of them. I’m just sad I didn’t take more than a single photo.

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Up first: Baked bun with BBQ Pork. SO good. This is their pride and joy from what I gathered from other online reviews, so I’m really happy this happened to be in the random assortment that we bought. This pork bun is forever setting the bar for Dim Sum to me. Tasty, warm, delicious. All things awesome. (top box in the photo)

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Source: http://www.openrice.com/en/hongkong/restaurant/central-tim-ho-wan-the-dim-sum-specialists/61957

Second: Deep Fried Dumpling Filled with Meat. Slightly more unconventional compared to what I’m used to. The dumpling was heavily saturated, but so so good. Others in our group weren’t as wild about this one, but I adored it. (bottom box in the photo)
The third box: Pan fried turnip cake. This we had no idea what it was. Slightly gelatin in consistency, but no discernible taste. It was good. The box was demolished, but only later research led us to figure out what it was. I wouldn’t get this one again, but only because the first two items were THAT good.

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Source: http://www.openrice.com/en/hongkong/photo/central-tim-ho-wan-the-dim-sum-specialists

So, we were disappointed that our timing didn’t allow us to get a seat, but we thoroughly enjoyed our food. We failed on our mission to get true dim sum, but I guess that just means we need to come back!

After our meal, we snagged another taxi and made it over to the Victoria Peak tramway. For Hong Kong $40 ($5 in USD), the tram takes you up to 1,811 ft which is the highest mountain on the island. It was a STEEP ride.

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At the top there are a ton of stores and shops and then an observation deck (Sky Terrace 428). This view was stunning. Having just seen New York in June, this view makes the Big Apple seem so paltry. It absolutely pales in comparison. It was also here that I realized I need to invest in a better camera.

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We spent a good hour on the Sky Terrace. Victoria Peak was the end of must-do items on the bucket list. So, what next? A bar. Which is fair, since at this point it is pushing closer to 11:30pm/midnight.

We take the tram back down the mountain and then walk over to Lan Kwai Fong. Lan Kwai Fong is a bar district that is geared towards expats. Mostly everyone here spoke English, which was nice and so we walked up and down the couple of blocks and checked out a few of the bars.

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One pretty sure-fire way to guarantee you never leave HK.

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They also had a couple 7-11s in the area. International 7-11s are notoriously awesome (as far as I’ve seen) at being an awesome place to pick up cheap, local snacks and even cheaper alcohol. The backpack came in handy as we stocked up on lots and lots of snacks and drinks.

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Around 1:30 am, the bar area started to get a little sketchy. We took a taxi back to the Hong Kong Airport Express station at the mall that we were at earlier. Unfortunately the station was locked. The good news? Hong Kong has no open-container laws. So, we camped out on the steps of the mall with our drinks and snacks and played card games until the station opened at 5:30 am.

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These were awful. AWFUL.

We bought our return tickets to the airport (and even were able to check in for our flights at the train station) and then crashed hard on the train back to the airport.

We used our flier status to check out Virgin Atlantic’s Hong Kong Clubhouse and got some free breakfast and then pretty much slept the 4ish hour flight to Tokyo.

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We only had about 2 hours for our layover in Tokyo. However, the entire trip was made because of this:

AUTOMATED. BEER. MACHINE. Yes, we raced. Plus a small spread of sushi and other food. And showers. It was a good 2 hours.

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Then we boarded our flights and I slept almost the entire way back to Seattle. I used a lounge at Sea-Tac to work for a few hours and then we boarded a flight to Chicago. We spent one night in Chicago with family before then heading to Berlin, which you can read about here! (We also had impeccable timing, because as we arrived in Berlin, we heard the news about the protests starting in Hong Kong).

Phew. So was it worth it? DEFINITELY… but I think my butt is still a little sore 🙂

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