-February 26, 2015-
It's about 11 pm local time when I land in Hong Kong. I'm tired from nearly 20 hours of transit and lost a day due to time zones. My original plan was to sleep in the airport but my couch surfing host (who kindly offered to host me last minute because my initial host fell through!) insisted that he wouldn't let me do that.
So here I am in a foreign country where I barely speak the language (I studied Mandarin Chinese but they speak Cantonese in Hong Kong) at night with a huge backpack and I get in a taxi and realize I have no idea where my host lives.
Rookie mistake. Luckily I had enough sense to write down my host's phone number and I hand it to my super sweet cab driver who calls and is able to sort out where to take me. I tip my driver nicely and get out on an empty street somewhere on Hong Kong island. It's now around midnight.
I'm surprised when I hear a guy call my name. Surprised for two reasons: one, he looks nothing like his profile picture and two, because he has an Australian accent. We shake hands and walk to his place while getting to know each other. He quickly explains that he has an accent from living in Australia in his 20's but he was born and raised in Hong Kong. When we get to his place I'm immediately blown away by how awesome his bachelor pad/office is. At this point I ask him what he does for a living which he doesn't directly answer.
"A little bit of everything" is the response I get.
The next morning I am amped up with excitement and wake early. I have a quick breakfast of ramen and milk tea then catch the subway over to Kowloon peninsula. The subway is fast (and surprisingly cheap) and has me in the thick of the city in minutes.
With it being early morning I decide to start with a couple markets including the flower market and goldfish market. They're beautiful but of course I have no need for fish or flowers so I continue walking south on the peninsula.
While walking I accidentally stumbled across one of the things I was told to avoid in Hong Kong: the protests. This main boulevard is blocked with barriers and on the other side are campsites set up right in the street. At the borders are police and several news teams in case anything happens.
The street is still accessible to the public so I enter. Throughout there are signs demanding peace and democracy. People are in the streets having passionate but civil discussion. This is nothing like any American protest I've seen (I'm looking at you Westboro Baptist Church).
Midst the tall buildings I come to a tiny temple dedicated to Tin Hua, the goddess of seafarers. I didn't foresee any sea travel coming up in my life so I didn't pray but it was still a beautiful temple. The garden outside also provided for a perfect place to nap in the afternoon sun.
Continuing south I finally come to the end of the peninsula which features the Avenue of Stars, a boardwalk akin to Hollywood boulevard featuring famous Chinese actors. I snap a picture of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan's stars then chill along Victoria Harbour. This is the perfect place to watch the sunset and then enjoy a light show in the evening.
Once the show is over I catch the ferry back to Hong Kong island and meet up with my host for dinner. He takes me to a small restaurant near his apartment and immediately the owner comes out and starts speaking to him excitedly. We're ushered to a table which is quickly covered with bottles of wine, whiskey, and sake.
"What's going on right now?" I inquire, confused why our table is being filled with alcohol for free.
My host smiles sheepishly. "I'm kind of a local celebrity."
"Oh, so like you come here often?"
"No, I'm a celebrity as in I'm on tv."
I don't even have time to react when the owner begins chatting up my host more. My Mandarin is useless in this situation as I have no idea what they're saying. When the owner finally steps away I ask what they were talking about.
Shyer than ever he responds, "He asked if you were my girlfriend."
"And what did you tell him?"
"I told him 'not yet.'"
We laugh and get totally toasted while enjoying my favorite Chinese meal (hotpot!!) and become fast friends. It's the perfect beginning to my trip.