There’s no escaping it – Hong Kong is a city of excess and sensory overload. Here are the top things that will undoubtedly cross your mind when you first arrive.
5. The air!
There is a distinct moment in time that marks your transition into the Fragrant Harbour. It’s not getting through customs or finding the train out of the airport. Rather, it occurs after that train ride, about halfway up the staircase out of the train station.
As you cross the threshold between air-con and no air-con, you’ll feel warmer and warmer when – BAM! – you’re blasted by a wall of thick, suffocating air.
Yes, the goddamn Hong Kong humidity.
This humidity will hang over you like a wet blanket as you feel the last of your oxygen drain of your lungs, leaving you hyper-ventilating like an astronaut with a breached spacesuit. You run up the rest of the steps hoping the feeling subsides… but it doesn’t.
With average humidity levels of around 80%, even the best of the best can be easily taken down. Some seem to handle this rude awakening better than others, though it likely means they’re just better at keeping a poker face.
As you debate whether you should call it quits and leave Hong Kong altogether, pools of sweat start to build under your armpits – pools that you quickly realize will never dry thanks to the humidity.
If you’re like a delicate creature like me, you may find yourself writhing on the floor wishing for a swift death.
4. There are a lot of people
For this article’s sake, let’s say you mange to survive by some miracle and finally catch your breath. You’re on street level when you feel people brushing past you left, right, and center. You look up and realize, holy guacamole, there are a lot of people around. One or two of them may even call you a ‘gwai lo’ (literal translation: ghost man, non-literal: foreigner) for blocking the damn street with your luggages.
Depending on where you are and the time of day, it could be nearly impossible to navigate through the sidewalks with your bags and luggages. You’re pretty safe if you stay on Hong Kong Island. But Kowloon, maybe a place like Mong Kok? Now that is not an experience I would wish upon my worst enemy.
3. Is that a cockroach…?
You start to trudge towards the safe-haven that is your hotel, until you hear a sharp crunch under your boot. You freeze and reluctantly look down. If you’re lucky, then you stepped on a broken beer bottle. Otherwise, it’s very likely you just crushed a cockroach, you cold-hearted scum.
Unless you arrive in the winter, you should be mentally prepared to cross paths with armies of cockroaches in the streets of Hong Kong. I’m pretty sure the humidity helps them breed or something, but I’m no cockroach expert, so don’t expect a deeper hypothesize from me.
This is hopefully the only time I’ll write about bugs on this site.
2. McDonald’s is really cheap
You continue down the sidewalk when you notice across the street is a store with really long queues. It’s McDonald’s.
No matter where you stay, you will inevitably come across a neon sign with the good ol’ Golden Arches. In a city with a light-speed pace of life, it’s no surprise to find fast food as a common staple.
I highly suggest stopping by a McDonald’s, at least to check out their menu, which includes green tea ice cream, the best CHICKEN WINGS you will ever have, lemon tea, and items you never imagine they would carry. Some burgers, like the McChicken, can be had for about $1USD. A few select meals are as cheap as $3USD.
Screw your health. You’re in Asia.
Fun fact: McDonald’s in Hong Kong do DELIVERY.
1. 7-Eleven sells beer?!
You’ve now excreted more sweat than you have in the past decade and you see that your hotel is only one more block away. But you need a break. You need to rehydrate. So you dash into a 7-Eleven and… there’s beer?!
Undoubtedly the most important revelation of your day, 7-Eleven sells cheap beer and, yes, you can legally drink in public. There’s tons of brands to choose from, with Blue Girl and Heineken being my top picks, and also wine and coolers for those with a different palette.
In the rare case that you’re not a drinker, convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Circle K carry more Asian beverages than you can ever hope to try. I recommend any Vita drinks, particularly their Lemon Tea.
You deserve a cold one too for surviving thus far, so cheers.