After Vietnam, we sailed to Hong Kong, where many of the students took a ferry directly across the bay to do a little Macau gambling at the likes of the Venetian, MGM Grand and the Wynn. While I had just done the Macau thing two years ago, SVV and I opted to kill some time in Hong Kong instead. After all, the ship’s locale could not have been more perfect: We occupied a dock at the Ocean Terminal, right beside the Star Ferry and the hydrofoils to Macau and directly across from Hong Kong Island.
Many of the students didn’t even get out of the mall attached to the terminal before plopping down with their computers and logging onto Skype, as it was the first place since leaving Canada in August that Internet was abundant and—most importantly—free. Hong Kong has added 390 free public hotspots around the city, which is an extreme convenience for the connected traveler.
We’ve been chasing summer around the world, and even though it’s Thanksgiving in a week, it still feels like it should be July. So seeing Christmas decorations all over Hong Kong was a bit disorienting. Still, given that Toy Story is one of my all-time favorite movies—and also that we’ll be home in less than a month with barely enough time to get into full-on Christmas mode—I was pleased to see Woody, Buzz, Hamm and all their friends donning Santa hats and decorating the Victoria Harbour waterfront.
Because the ship only docked in Hong Kong for two full days and one night, we stayed behind and made our own way to Shanghai versus taking the weekend to sail up there on the M/V Explorer and losing valuable sightseeing time in a new city. But do you know how ridiculously pricey hotels are in Hong Kong? Even on Hotels.com, we couldn’t find anything for under $600 the night we would need accommodation in Hong Kong, no matter what part of the city we searched in. (Note: Apparently November is high season there, and weekends are even worse.) I was freaking out thinking we might be sleeping on the benches at the airport overnight, but in the end, I was able to cash in some loyalty points from the Gold Passport Program to stay at the Hyatt Regency in Tsim Sha Tsui, a money area for being in the middle of all the action. And the views from our 15th story room weren’t shabby either.
We had planned on making it to both the bird and goldfish markets that afternoon, but one full day in Hong Kong (as we had spent the previous day on Lantau Island) is not nearly enough time—it took us just that long to all the shopping we wanted to accomplish on Hong Kong Island alone—and the markets close relatively early. So after checking in at the Hyatt just after dark, we took the metro up to Mong Kok and perused the Ladies’ Market, which runs all night, instead.
While the city is pretty intense during the day, it’s even more alive with people and lights once the sun sets.
We spent a couple hours picking through the stalls at the market and eating a dinner that consisted of street food before returning to the Hyatt and geeking out on the Internet until late into the night. (When your Internet is extremely limited at “home”—i.e. on ship—you go a little crazy with lures of unlimited bandwidth and high-speed Wi-Fi connections when on land.)
Before flying to Shanghai the next day, we stopped over at Luk Yu Tea House for some early morning dim sum in celebration of Josh’s birthday. His partner Kurt was in town from Sydney for the occasion, and while I had originally thought I wouldn’t like such heavy Chinese fare at 9am—I’m more of an eggs Benedict or gingerbread pancakes-for-breakfast kind of girl—every last thing we tried was delicious.
In retrospect, I wish SVV and I had decided to stay in Hong Kong a bit longer—it’s such a fascinating, vibrant city, and two days and change is barely enough time to see much of the urban sprawl at all—but I’m glad we took advantage of every last minute of our brief time there (per the norm).