Travel Rule #27: You’re Worth It! My 30th Birthday Trip to Hong Kong

Turning 30 seems like a big deal when you’re facing it head on. It looms ahead, constantly threatening you all through your 20’s. “Better have your life sorted out by 30!” “How’s that career going?” “How many kids?”

So, we decided to enter into our 30’s in style for both our birthdays in 2016. We each got to pick anywhere we wanted to go and anything we wanted to do. This is tougher than it sounds, but thanks to some cheap airfare and the magic of points and miles, we are both going to do exactly what we want. I (Paul) decided I wanted to have high tea (aka afternoon tea) at the Ritz Carlton in Hong Kong. Pretentious? Yes. Over the top request? Yes. Something I would never have dreamed of doing? Yes. So, did we do it? Yes!

There was airfare which was “mispriced” when purchasing in Brazil. This conveniently allowed us to fly in business class to Hong Kong for around the cost of economy (which is all we would otherwise been able to afford). American Airlines business class, while not over-the-top amazing, is still a perfectly solid way to travel halfway around the world for some tea. (Note: AA has awesome milk tea on their HKG flights)


Obligatory picture of feet stretched out and champagne.



Star Ferry crossing Victoria Harbour

Hong Kong really is a magical place.


First stop upon getting in? Michelin starred Tim Ho Wan for dumplings of course.

We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, used our diamond status for a suite upgrade, and had a wonderful view of the harbor. Breakfast each morning was an awesome buffet unlike anything you find in the states. Spicy congee for breakfast, yes please!

Symphony of Lights from our room? Yes, please!

Symphony of Lights from our room? Yep!

So, how about the whole “purpose” of the trip? Well, the Ritz high tea was good, I guess. It wasn’t as lavish as I hoped, though everything was certainly decadent. The view might have been the best in Hong Kong, which is saying something, and probably the only reason I’d recommend it otherwise. So, we snacked, enjoyed a few drinks, then headed off to explore.


Note to self: Bring wide angle lens next time.


Get. Into. My. Belly!



Night markets are sort of a dying breed in Hong Kong, I’ve been told, slowly disappearing as a relic of the past. Not dissuaded, we went out and tried every type of street food we could get our hands on: some was amazing, some didn’t fit our tastes, but the experience is still worth it.


Food crawl. A few of my favorite words in the English language.


Despite looking empty, there was a crowd of people out on Sunday night.

Hello Kitty… #templestreet #hongkong #travel

A video posted by Hi! I’m Courtney! (@1struleoftravel) on

With such a short time in Hong Kong, we decided to stop by the Big Buddha on the way to the airport. Riding the ferry from downtown through the harbor to Lantau island almost made it worth the trip. Stepping onto the ferry from the hustle of the concrete jungle and stepping off on the island is a complete shock.


Watching civilization disappear…

Big Buddha didn’t disappoint: it was big. What did disappoint is that is was closed due to ice on the steps. Somehow we ended up in Hong Kong on the 9th coldest day in history, go figure. The morning news said there were locals who were out searching the hills for snow as it’s so rare. Our plan to then ride the Ngong Ping Cable Car* down to the airport also shattered when it, too, was closed due to ice. Looked fun, but guess we will just have to go back! (*You can reserve tickets ahead of time for the cable car. Wasn’t an issue for us but we heard horror stories of long lines. Refunds when it’s closed, however, take a loooong time).


See that guy on the steps? He works there and was using a hoe to scrap ice off the steps. No tourists that morning allowed.


No Big Buddha for you!


Not sure it was the place or the wind that gave us the chills.

Some quick thinking, and some lucky timing after losing our ride to the bottom, meant we could catch a bus and a quick taxi to the airport with time to spare. The bus ride down to Tung Chung was quite the adventure through the winding roads of Lantau but was clean and comfortable otherwise.

And then it was over. The rushing, the disarray, and the sense of missing out on our final day seemed very fitting with reason for the trip. My 20’s were gone and I’m not entirely sure what happened. not having accomplished nearly all I thought I would have by then. However, sitting in The Bridge, one of the Cathay Pacific lounges at Hong Kong, while sipping champagne and thinking about the future, I couldn’t help thinking that maybe turning 30 isn’t so bad after all.

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