Hong Kong has to be the best place in the world for the ‘stopover’. There’s enough things to do to entertain you for a few days, but also has a little something else that I tend to go a little nuts for… day trips. And Hong Kong day trips rule.
There’s nothing that excites me more than being able to wake up in one bed, explore an entirely new city and, if you’re lucky, culture, and then go to bed in the same one from which you woke. No packing up Beasts, no lugging said Beast, no baggage storage as they won’t let you check in yet.
Hong Kong’s got Macau and Shenzhen in the day trips category. Macau’s had me intrigued for years, as has Shenzhen… well, it’s just Chinese history in general. We have Japanese history done to death at school, which quite frankly, although I do love Japan, has a history (before the 1930s) that doesn’t quite grab me. China had its glory years when Europe didn’t, and their system of trade with the West and how it’s influenced their cities has always been a bit of a mystery for me.
Not that I really approached these cities as an historic crusader. A culinary one, perhaps. Shenzhen, just over the border on the ‘Mainland’, is known to Hong Kong residents as their own bargain shopping paradise. After getting our visas on the border (much easier than anticipated and not worth the worrying hours on TripAdvisor forums) we partook in some bargaining fun – not that Amy enjoyed it much. She much rather preferred the banter at Hong Kong’s Night Market, not so much the “lady… missy… Prada… Gucci… DVD movie?” I had to whisk her away for more dim sum before she totally cracked, only for her to be confronted by her first squat toilet. We spent the rest of the day happily getting massaged and fed at Queen’s Spa, a luxury complex with massages around… $10. Really can’t complain.
But Macau was a real surprise packet. They’ve kept their Portugese charm without it feeling fake, often in that run-down ramshackle way which is Portugal to a tee. Of course we got lost at one point, but that part was a highlight, seeing the winding streets with washing out the windows and old men without shirts preparing delicacies as diverse as custard tarts and spring rolls. And the casinos were a welcoming diversion – they were far enough away from the Old Town, but entertaining for two Aussies who haven’t yet been to Vegas.
At least on our last day we were able to put together a rough idea of the region’s history at the Hong Kong Museum. It filled in the gaps as to why Canadians seem to have all sorts of passport priorities (they helped liberate them from the Japanese) but not so much on the 1997 handover – the last couple of exhibits were as if they’d cut-and-pasted the info straight from legal documents, afraid to upset the Mainlanders.
So we visited China, sort of. I may have visited not a single Olympic nor sports site (Happy Valley Racecourse opened again for the season in a week’s time) but for a Beast-less trip, I can’t complain. And neither does my new wardrobe.