Media has an amazing power to influence people's perception of any given situation. I was keeping my eye on different countries' media coverage about Hong Kong protests and riots before my trip to the city. All of those media outlets were painting a rather different picture of the situation. In Singapore, the picture of the situation in HK was painted very dark and grim and it was generally advised against going. I had to do a lot of explaining why I am not afraid and why I have decided to go during such scary times. In the UK however, the government did not advise against going - if anything they called for the usual vigilance when travelling.
Why did I decide to go? First and foremost I planned (not bought the tickets yet) this trip before anything had happened and HK was still its usual charming self. Secondly, by the time I got around to actually book flights and accommodation, everything had dropped in price making it cheaper than anticipated. Thirdly I don't believe in living with fear and after living trough everything bad that has happened in London in recent years, these little peaceful (I know, I know it got out of hands a few times) protests and demonstrations are not going to scare me and to be honest, one has to be incredibly stupid to get caught up in these events.
There are some disruptions to the transport system however they seem to be doing everything in their power to keep the city rolling. Airport express is not stopping at every station, but it is still running between the airport and Hong Kong station. Airport to city direction is very straight forward, but going city to the airport, you are only able to board the train when you show a valid air ticket which isn't a problem at all.
Central is the main CBD area of HK and is the heart of the city. Lots of tourists and expats alike are roaming the numerous restaurants and bars in the area after business hours. This part of the city reminds me a lot of NYC with its narrow streets, highrise buildings, grimy smells and people rushing around. It is almost like a NY put into Asia to see what would happen.
I adore the mixture of modern and traditional. While you can take very modern doubledecker buses or MTR trains, Hong Kong island has kept its old trams. No air conditioning, by far a smooth ride, but it's something you have to try. All the other cities I have been to may have one or two old trams running for the sake of tourists, but in HK they have kept the whole fleet.
Tsim Sha Tsui - Avenue of Stars
Avenue of Stars is magnificent and nicely developed harbour promenade with world-famous views across the harbour to Hong Kong Island. If you time your visit well (I stumbled on it by accident) you can catch a light show called A Symphony of Lights. It happens daily at 8 pm and according to Wikipedia is the world's biggest light show with 42 buildings being part of it.
I was lucky enough to stumble upon something else when walking along this promenade. The handrails on the sides of the promenade were covered with thousands of origami swans as well as some pigs as part of the HK protests. I don't know how long they were there before I saw them, but by the next day when I walked past again, they were taken down - every single one of them as if they never existed.
Mong Kok is a very busy shopping area and the best place for finding good deals on electronics among other things. Of course, finding a good deal is not as easy as it sounds. While I was shopping around I was unable to find the things I wanted much cheaper than in Singapore or the UK for that matter.
Turns out the key to good deals is https://www.price.com.hk/. This website lets you find shops with no signs and in random buildings. For instance, I got one of the gadgets I was looking for from a shop in, what looks like a residential building, 20th floor. No signs, no nothing. The website or app for the mobile is not very easy to use unless you speak and read Chinese. I was juggling between Google Translator and the app to get the addresses and conditions for the shops.
Mong Kok and generally Kowloon area was the one where I saw the most signs of the conflict between Hongkongers and the police. Lots of posters, stickers spraypainted slogans and broken traffic lights.
Nam Sang Wai
Not as a typical tourist, I like exploring remote areas as well. Nam Sang Wai is a scenic walk and close to the Chinese border and with amazing views over Shenzen skyline. It is by far your typical Hong Kong but definitely worth the visit.
Lugard Road is a free alternative to the Victoria Peak viewpoint but offers as amazing and famous views of HK. Just a tip here, if you decide to go to Lugard Road by Uber, the furthest they can take you is by Victoria Peak. Lugard Road, as opposed to the navigation software, is not accessible by car. My Uber driver made a wrong turn and ended up on a narrow private road where it took him a very stressful 15 min to turn around. Just go by foot from Victoria Peak, you save yourself a lot of time and headache.
A stone throw away from Mong Kok station, Goldfish Market is unlike anything I have seen before. There are lots of shops with an incredible amount of different fish for sale.
Lion Rock Park
A hike not for the fainthearted, Lion Rock offers amazing views over what is most accurately described as concrete forest. A typical sight of what HK is about if you leave the commercial buildings and tourist spots aside. Not for the fainthearted, because on our way back down we came across a sign what advises against going to the Lion Rock from that path. At times very steep and dangerous climbs were enough to make my legs hurt for days. But once down safely, I don't regret going.