That Wandering Giant

Months ago when I booked my flight to Vietnam, I noticed that one of my layovers on the way there would be in Hong Kong. I’ve always been intrigued with the hustle and bustle atmosphere of that metropolis, so I decided to extend that layover into a full day and then just continue onto Vietnam right after. One day is all I wanted to explore a bit, as I didn’t want to venture out too far because Hong Kong can get quite expensive. But before I can start that exploring, I had to endure a 15 hour flight from Chicago to Hong Kong. 15 hours! Thankfully, I had a window seat so I was able to rest my head to fall asleep and absorb all of the dramatic views in the sky.

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Flying over Alaska.

The downside of the window seat was that eventually when I had to use the restroom, the two passengers sitting next to me were forced to abandon their comfort zone to get up and let me out. I only had to get up once during the whole flight and I made sure to do it while they were both awake. If either of them were sleeping, I would of felt too bad and just stayed put to the point of where I was seconds away from wetting my pants. Besides the screaming baby (why is there always a screaming baby?) that sat a few rows ahead of me, the flight went pretty smooth. Welcome to Hong Kong!

Hong Kong

So here I was at HKG…now what? I did ZERO research on Hong Kong because I was only going to be here for a day, so there was no point. I claimed my luggage and started walking around. My initial plan was to go the city hub, find a hotel or something, and venture out and take some photos. However, just trying to find my way out of the airport was a task in itself! I saw a few stands that sold train tickets to the city and back. Perfect! I went to the nice ticket-lady at the stand and said to her “Hi, I need your help.” I told her how I just wanted to go to the city, find a hotel, spend the night, and then comeback tomorrow.

20130613-171446.jpg She said a roundtrip train was the best way but I should book a hotel first. “Where should I do that?” I asked. This lady was extremely friendly but shame on me, her accent was so thick I could barely understand her English. She apparently gave me directions in the airport to go book a hotel but it was all so jumbled up. I even asked her to repeat what she said and I still couldn’t comprehend it enough. “Okay thanks!” From there I went off into the midst of the busy airport to find a hotel or tourist station. Everything was in Chinese and the English that was posted wasn’t very clear, but for a moment, I forgot all about my troubles when I spotted a McDonalds near one of the gates. My saving grace. Time to “chow” down. See what I did there? By the way, in this country a number one is a chicken mcnugget meal, not a big mac meal. That’s a number 7. Who knows why?

This will sound a bit strange but I enjoy the thrill of being lost in a foreign country. Finding your way amongst the unfamiliar back to your home is an adventure in itself ready to unfold. Also add in the fact that I wasn’t really lost, more like lost in translation. I asked many of these friendly locals, where to book a hotel, but it was just too difficult to understand them. Eventually when I found the hotel booking desk, I couldn’t understand them either! I went straight back to the ticket-lady at the train stand and bought a roundtrip ticket. “Did you find hotel?” she asked. “Yup.” I responded. That was a blatant lie. I decided to just go to the city, and find a hotel on my own.

I took a 24 minute train ride to central Hong Kong, otherwise known as the Soho district, known for it’s entertainment venues, cluster of unique restaurants, and lively street culture. Once I got there, I took a free shuttle to a Holiday Inn Express. How did I know to take this specific shuttle to this Holiday Inn? Let’s just say I may have overheard a couple on the train saying they were going to a Holiday Inn, so I may have followed that couple the whole way. Casually of course.
20130614-232525.jpgThat plan eventually backfired when the nice hotel receptionist lady told me they were completely booked for the night. I wasn’t worried though, there had to be other hotels or even hostels within walking distance. I tried two other nearby hotels which were completely booked too. It was starting to get really late and the Soho streets grew quiet and grungy. The numerous alleys that veined between the tall, crowded buildings were dark and sketch. I was carrying my travel backpack and small bag around. I was a walking target for pick-pocketers. I’ve never been a victim of being pick-pocketed {knocks on wood}, but if there was any place where I thought it would happen, then it would definitely be here. All these Chinese symbols and Asian everything reminded me of ninjas. Ninjas are stealthy. Pick-pocketers are also stealthy…and I’m a horrible person.

The Soho District at night during the late hours.
The Soho District at night during the late hours.

I suppose I had “Help me I’m lost” written all over my face because soon enough a gracious local came up to me and asked if I was lost. “Actually, kinda. I’m just looking for a hotel for the night.” This nice guy pointed me in the right direction to a hotel he knew that still had a vacancy or two. Every local that I have encountered has been extremely friendly. This might be the most friendliest place I have been to yet! Such a bold statement because I have met some pretty nice people around this world, but here it just seems like everyone wants to help you. Even when walking these streets in the late hours, I didn’t feel the slightest of danger because everyone had a cheeriness on their face and gave me the right-of-way whenever I walked past them. That friendly local held the answer to where I would stay for the night, at the SoHotel.

I did a little exploring that night and the following morning. First thing I noticed: I tower over everyone! Secondly, I’m not a fan of Chinese food but the food here was smellin’ so gooooood!
Not good enough for me to try it though. I promise you all that I will be eating a bunch of weird stuff over the next few months anyways. While roaming the condensed streets of Soho, I came across some interesting things.

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The next afternoon, I took a taxi back to the train station and then trained it back to the airport where I boarded my connecting flight through Guangzhou, China. Can’t tell you how to pronounce that and I can’t tell you where exactly in China that is.

Guangzhou, China.
Guangzhou, China.

Remember that I did zero research for this. Eventually, after spending the night in the city there, I finally boarded my last flight and arrived in Ho Chi Minh City – my new home for the next four weeks. 🙂

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Author: Adventure Born

I'm Daniel. A cereal lovin', traveling machine from Michigan on a solo journey around the world, documenting and sharing my unexpected tales from abroad. My aim is to inspire people like YOU to discover your very own adventures. The world is truly too big not to explore it!

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