The festive season in China, unlike what I am used to, is a little different. In December, instead of Christmas Eve dinners and Christmas lunches, it’s business as usual and that’s basically how I spent it. However, in January (or February depending on the lunar calendar) it’s a different story. January is when the festive season really begins, this is called Chinese New Year where we get two weeks off of work.
Much like back home, Chinese people usually take this time to visit their home provinces in China or travel with their loved ones. And much alike, foreigners also take this time to travel; leaving Shanghai in a state of temporary shut down.
Originally I had my heart set on visiting an island in the Philippines. I had the desire to be near the beach and soak up as much sunshine and vitamin D as I possibly could; since it is winter in Shanghai and we won’t be experiencing heat any time soon. However, that dream of visiting the Philippines had to be put on hold when it was clear that the place I had in mind wasn’t fitting into my budget. Note to self: book tickets early when there is a national holiday in China.
So I had to start getting realistic about my vacation choice, this led me to Hong Kong. I have to admit, I didn’t know much about Hong Kong besides the fact that it has its own Disneyland. Which I didn’t get to go to because the tickets were more expensive than anticipated, they even cost more than the Disney in Shanghai! So if you’re ever on a budget like me, a great substitute for Disneyland is a resort called Ocean Park. This theme park is actually older than Disneyland, however with its expansion and it’s constant effort to stay relevant, it’s a worthy opponent. With lots of cool things such as a grand aquarium housing lots of different sea life, including penguins; and cool rides such as cable cars, which not only let you see a birds-eye view of Hong Kong Island but also transport you from one part of the resort to another, called Thrill Mountain. Here you can find many different rides for thrill-seekers like me. My favourite was a roller coaster called the Hair Raiser. And let’s not forget the pandas!
Hong Kong has many outlying islands, there are over 200, all of which comprise the Kowloon Peninsula. Much like Shanghai; Hong Kong has a very efficient transport system. Among the usual modes of transport, there are also ferries which transport you from one island to another. Note to self: bring more flat shoes, unless you plan on teleporting from one place to another.
Lantau Island is the biggest island in the Kowloon Peninsula and is famous for housing Hong Kong Disneyland. It is also known for the Big Buddha, which is a statue which symbolises the harmonious relationship between people, faith and nature. Furthermore, if you’re a lover of all things shopping, this is the perfect island for you. However, since I was in search of some sunshine on a quiet beach, I opted to go to Lamma Island. Going to this island reminded me of growing up in a small town or neighbourhood where everyone knows each other by name and eating at a restaurant feels like going to your extended family. It is a community of different kinds of people who come from different parts of the world, where the language of communication is support, humility, and English.
The beauty of having more than one island to choose from was being able to visit as many as I could. Cheung Chau Island, also known as “Dumbbell Island” was a sight for sore eyes. Much like Lamma, Cheung Chau is idyllic, making you feel like you stepped into a different time. However, Cheung Chau is different from Lamma due to its busy fish market, drawing in both Hong Kong locals as well as tourists. And if you’re planning on going to see the caves, make sure to wear comfortable shoes; I definitely shed a kilogram walking up those inclines! P.S: don’t wear a skirt, trust me on this!
Even though I found Hong Kong to be quite similar to Shanghai, it is unique in its own way. I am glad that I was able to find some sunshine and to think it was only three hours away from Shanghai!