A year in the Orient: Lessons Learned

  1. It is possible to sweat from your shins. And your knee caps. And your elbows. Just about anywhere you can think of has the ability to sweat, when it’s 35 degrees at 7am and you’re walking, you just have to accept “sweaty” as your permanent state of being.
  2. Jet lag sucks. I can cope with being tired, I can cope with being awake, but I can’t cope with being starving hungry for lunch at 4am. Set your watch when you hit the plane, sleep as much as possible and avoid caffeine!
  3. Silence is a virtue. Not until we arrived in Japan did I realise that I hadn’t heard nothing for a long time. The constant noise of Hong Kong quickly turns into white noise and it doesn’t bother me at all. Tokyo is a sprawling city meaning that the suburbs are quiet, I couldn’t believe how silent it was and how fresh the air felt. I don’t miss silence when I’m in Hong Kong, but I sure do appreciate it when I’m not.
  4. Take the back alley. The business of Hong Kong means that a 5 minute walk can easily turn into 15 just because of footpath congestion and the zombie like pace of 300 people looking at their phones. If you don’t mind the smell, the back alleys can turn a 10 minute walk into a 3 minute walk, and they provide the most authentic Hong Kong experience – you never know what you might find!

    Back Alley Barber Shop

    A barber’s shop built into a back alley in Mong Kok.

  5. The weather doesn’t mess around. Usually sunny and bright, Hong Kong weather can turn in an instant and the T8 signal (Typhoon signal) can be hoisted at short notice. This weekend we have had a record breaking T10 causing several deaths, shortly followed by a T8. Don’t ignore the signals just because it looks safe outside, the streets are full of unsecured debris.
  6. People will fly 6,000 miles to come and see you. It’s true and we’re very lucky to feel so loved.
  7. Cantonese is the hardest language known to man. We lived in our first apartment for a whole year and still only had a 1 in 5 success rate trying to communicate our address to taxi drivers before having to show it written down. In Mandarin Chinese each phonetic sound has 4 different intonations possible which change the meaning completely. In Cantonese, there are 9. Suffice to say I won’t be fluent any time soon.
  8. The view doesn’t get old. I just can’t help being wowed crossing from Lantau to Kowloon or taking the star ferry across to Hong Kong island. You can’t get bored of the sights.
  9. Connecting in Beijing is a terrible idea. Book a connecting flight through Beijing with extreme caution, you may have to change terminals, go through security again and customs, and immigration without a visa. Best avoid it.
  10. Democracy is precious. For all the complaining we do about politicians in the UK, we are highly protected. Hong Kong is approaching a period of turmoil as the handover to China marches ever closer and injustice is happening. While relatively safe, Hong Kong is experiencing gradual eroding of autonomy and without intervention and protest, the future looks bleak for Hong Kong citizens.

Read about the difficulties faces by Hong Kong here. Thinking about coming to visit…? Search for flights here.

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