Hong Kong

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness" - Mark Twain

It is near impossible to go away travelling and not have your mind opened to scores of new ideas and ways of life. The juxtaposition of the different places we have visited has polarised the individual cultures that we have been fortunate to encounter. A clear example of this happened last week when we moved from the tranquillity of Fiji to the mayhem of Hong Kong.

Negotiating intense public transport, classic tourist points and obscure food made up a lot of our time. Going to Stanley in the South of Hong Kong island was one of my favourite excursions. It was one of the few places where you could see the British influence and this picturesque market town was a great escape from the main city.

The architecture in Hong Kong is not presented in a grandiloquent way but simply through size and stature. Thousands of incredibly high buildings packed tightly together with an unspoken acknowledgement of its own gravity is enough to create a slightly domineering effect. Impressive in one sense, it lacks poise and eloquence in another. Getting lost in the city has again made me realise that it's the idiosyncrasy of home which I value more. Black and white Tudor buildings, cobbled streets, crumbling Roman walls and a lazy river provoke much warmer feelings than the intimidating, grey and antisocial background I often found in Hong Kong.

The food is not something I discountenanced but it will take me longer to fully adapt to the Asian cuisine while I still have a bit of a hangover from America. The fun game of Chinese roulette gave us some interesting meals but without wanting to demean this culinary genre, most meals fall into two general categories: meals with rice or meals with noodles. Having made this initial decision you move into the more varied meat section which on a good day has a wider choice of four: chicken, pork, beef and shrimp. These eight meal choices weren't sufficient to sustain me for all three meals so I often retreated to the global safe haven of McDonalds. McDonalds shares a love/hate relationship with travellers. On one side you are cheating the system and not fully engaging in local culture (although you will find the majority of the locals in there) and on the other side it represents guaranteed 'decent' food, cheap prices and free wifi. On most occasions I unashamedly fell into the latter category but on every day I risked my health on at least two street food meals.

The first two nights we couchsurfed in Kennedy Town, in the West of the city. On the second two we stayed in the infamous Chungking Mansions. This was recommended to us by a couple in Fiji and while they said it was terrible they also said it was a must to do. We decided to overlook the terrible part and decided to stay in this rabbit warren in the heart of Kowloon. Home to over 120 nationalities, the place is constantly full of activity and people. When we arrived at the airport with all our items intact and with our health in relatively good order, I can look back and call it a positive experience!

It was enjoyable to explore the city and no doubt I will return to it equipped with a more cultivated perspective. Next stop is Vietnam.

Idiosyncrasy - A peculiarity
Discountenance - To show disapproval