Pheromones. A chemical substance produced and released in the environment… (Especially a mammal) affecting the behavioral or physiology of its species. In layman terms, pheromones are chemicals sent from one body to another, and are used to communicate attraction, danger, marking territory, and claiming a mate – within one species.
Now. Hong Kong. The Pheromone. Hong Kong has a very distinct “pheromone.” Hong Kong. Who would ever think to say I love the smell of those city streets? Hong Kong. I love the smell of these city streets. Hong Kong must have my genetic pheromone taste.
We left Manila and headed to the airport on Monday, November 14th at 11:30 pm. Our flight departed Tuesday at 3:40 am. We laid over in Taipei, Taiwan (again). Then went straight on to Hong Kong. We landed in Hong Kong at 8:50 am. With no sleep. Each flight was only an hour and twenty minutes and we only had one hour in between flights. There was no time for rest.
When landing in Hong Kong, we instantly felt it. Both of us. That Hong Kong vibe. The Hong Kong Pheromone. And is it STRONG. The second you step off the plane simplicity is the name of the game. Everything is so easily mapped out and accessible for you to start your HK journey before you even exit the airport. Terminals are clean, trains are fast. We grabbed our bags and about 30 yards away went to currency exchange to exchange our Filipino pesos to Hong Kong dollars. At the currency exchange you can also buy a China Mobile data plan. Ten days of unlimited data runs only $80 HKD.
We proceeded on to the next inquiry desk and picked up our prepaid Octopus cards and MTR map. The Octopus card is GENIUS. Pure simplicity. You load up your card and use it on every metro rail, tram, bus, vending machine, and even entry to the horse races. No dealing with nickels and dimes or ATM PIN numbers here.
The trip on the MTR from the airport to our hostel on Hong Kong Island probably took two hours in total. That's with getting all of our HK necessities, luggage, and walking. We stayed at Yessin @ Causeway Bay on the island for the first four days.
When we got to our hostel we were too early for check in. So we showered, changed, and headed out. Again, NO SLEEP. But who could sleep in Hong Kong?!?! With those Pheromones…
We headed out and rode the tram to the mid-level escalator. The transportation system here is just spectacular. The maps are simple and precise. Everything is CLEAN; they have done it. They have mastered mass transit. This is precision with public transportation. United States, take notes.
Hong Kong is a combination of the steep city streets and tramways of San Francisco meet the Wall Street of New York City. In Asia. WITH hiking…. Monkeys. AND clean bays. I mean, come ONNN... my little travel butterflies. They were a fluterrin’. Ladies and gentlemen: SHE’S BACK.
We stayed out that first day until well into the late evening. Again. NO SLEEP! Who can sleep in Hong Kong?! It's like nothing I could have ever imagined. Time Square is shut down entirely to pedestrians. Each district and alleyway is paved beautifully just for you. Just for your enjoyment and pleasure. Everything smells of foreign spice… of pheromones ;)… and roasted duck. It's amazing. Who ever said they don’t like the smell of China? I LOVE the street smells here. We wandered about every little alleyway we could find. Tiny fish markets and butcher shops are everywhere. And CLEAN! Guys. They. Even. Have. Kale. Come on, Hong Kong!
Hong Kong’s culture runs thick through the scents of the city streets. Every ten yards you are completely swept away with a new foreign smell of duck, waffles, and spices I can’t even name. The spices run so rampant in Hong Kong I actually shuttered and rubbed my eyes from random spice burn (several times) while walking through the streets. The people are incredibly friendly and incredibly helpful. Though English is not prevalent, it is still easy to get around. Smiling is a universal language – especially at local restaurants. These restaurants have the concept of service industry down. Turning tables. You often won’t get your own table in Hong Kong. That takes up too much space. They know how to turn tables in here. Every meal you’re served is in a hurry. Their hurried energy motivates you to eat in a hurry. Even the street vendors. ESPECIALLY the street vendors.
Mong Kok is one of my favorite parts of Hong Kong. It’s not located on the island, but on the mainland. And this is where you will find the most authentic culture of Hong Kong – and some of the cheapest food we ate. In retrospect, we should have stayed here in Mong Kok for our mainland stay, rather than staying in Kowloon near the harbor (as this ended up being a wee bit ghetto). We stayed on the island four nights and mainland for three. Thousands of people crowd the streets of Mong Kok. You find some real interesting people here. Typical western etiquette is unknown, unexpected, and undelivered.
The cost to travel Hong Kong is essentially like we are back in the states. The cheapest meals we found were $3.50 each – and that’s hunting for a deal. Beers run $5.50 and up. In USD, guys. And when you're traveling for two years - that's a lot. But the $3.50 local meals are the bomb. I'm actually a newfound fan of authentic Chinese food. I never thought I would see the day - I can’t stand American Chinese food. But American Chinese has got it all wrong.
Venture out of your comfort zone. Eat at the local Chinese duck eateries, walk for hours through Hong Kong neighborhoods, stray away from the tourist lines. Hong Kong’s pheromones are intense, unique, and appealing. If you’ve got an appreciation for spice and culture like me, you’ll find the scents completely irresistible.