I was pretty excited about Hong Kong, I had read that it would not require me any visa, but I never met or talked to a Moroccan person who has been to HK, therefore I was mentally ready for some surprise at the airport, the excitement was mixed with fear and anxiousness, I calmed myself thinking that worst case scenario I would just take the next flight to Thailand if ever I would get stopped from entry. but when I landed in Hong Kong, passing through customs was a breeze, not a single question, with a passport like mine this is unusual. I pondered at how amazing the feeling is to just show up and go to any place in the world.
My week in the urban jungle
From the skies I haven’t seen any skyscrapers yet, “Is this really Hong kong” I thought, maybe I wasn’t sitting on the right side.
At the airport, the gates opened and a lone traveler, me, not expecting anyone on the other end, headed out to the bus station. Good looking people everywhere, somehow made me feel safe. A good change from being over cautious as back in mainland China. I pulled out my phone to see a screenshot of a message my host had sent me on Couchsurfing. It definitely wasn’t easy directions to follow. I decided to take it step by step. First I hopped on E33 bus to its terminal, “Tuen Mun Central”, not knowing what would be awaiting me there, In the station only double decker buses were parked. How genius of the first person who thought about the concept. it could be an architect who said why not build a second floor on this thing! after I double checked with the driver I was on the right path to my destination.
When I sat in the first row on the second floor, I felt like the driver only with no wheel on my hands, no stress but rather a tripod I fixed looking through the front window, my backpack next to me kept falling at almost every brake. People looking at me with amazement and utmost curiosity.
This two hour ride was enlightening, I had no idea, Hong kong was a tropical city, it was beautiful, mountains everywhere, green forests from each side of the highway. it was lively green, the green you would imagine when you have Hawaii in mind. The opposite traffic that was on my right reminded me of Tokyo. Only this time I could feel how this city suited my laid back personality. I`ll explain later .
Not being used to the new bus dimensions costed me a couple of head bumps, I looked at my host message again, “What the hell is a light Rail ?”, I thought trying to decipher every word. I decided to go with the flow, the crowd led me to what seemed to be a tramway station. I looked at the first map I spotted there and thought I would never figure it out, then I moved to another one a few feet away, this was bigger so I scanned for ”San Wai Station”, then I hopped on the next coming train. A while later I realized that I was going on the opposite direction.
When I finally reached ”San Wai station” I immediately called my host on the first phone booth I saw. ”Hello Shawn it’s Yassine. I just got to San Wai station”. I said, ”Ok good but I will get home until midnight, I told you”. My mind blanked then I remembered that he mentioned something about 12 am in his message. I must have skimmed through it thinking he meant midday. Honestly, I wasn’t mentally nor physically prepared for this, but my positive mindset quickly snapped me out of this unfortunate situation. I went to a mall I had previously noticed from my train ride. the quest was to find a McDonald, I had 7 hours to kill and I had no battery left to wander around, however, once inside I found out that I could only use it for no longer than 20 minutes everyday, luckily I still hadn’t finished my book Vagabonding, I can’t stress enough how this book can shift anyone’s thinking to not only think that long term travel is possible but it is necessary.
So there I was, between smiling because of inspiring stories on my book and smiling because of the Cantonese on my ears, the people gathered in a different fashion here. while the younger generation were using it as a library, the older one was using it it as a gathering/celebration place.
Exploring HK was a bit challenging giving how far I stayed from the center. ”Tuen mun” was almost 2 hours away. the train rides were however filled with stunning views outside the windows and stunning women from the inside. Shawn and I discussed my plans over last night’s dinner, he gave me names of things to do which I noted down. When the next morning arose, Shawn cooked us breakfast, an omelette with cooked cabbage and tomatoes plus a green sauce I would taste for the first time called wasabi.
He took off around 12pm and I had to be out of his place as well because he only had one set of keys. An inconvenience I would have to adapt to for the next few days, after all that is what vagabonding is all about, you have to expect uncomfort. I Got off at MRT Central station then followed some signs and asked people for directions to the The Peak, their English impressed me. ”This is my place to be” I thought. Waiting for the peak tram, the queue was crazy long and leaving it didn’t seem like a bad idea but I didn’t know any better option at the time. In front of me was a pretty girl I didn’t have the courage to talk to, lame excuses took over my mind, worrying about making everyone else uncomfortable.
Once at the top, the view was breathtaking. Endless skyscrapers trapped in a jungle of mountains and a river from behind. the same river I crossed a few hours later to get the Victoria harbor from Kowloon side, The star Ferry was the way I did. with no itinerary or exact destination in mind, I decided to get lost between compact buildings that puts the dense population into perspective. I moved further to Mongkok where the night markets are then I went back to the harbor to watch the symphony of lights that would starts at 8pm. Still thinking about that girl and how I could have spent the day with her if I just said hi maybe. The light show was impressive, but being alone makes you feel low sometimes, and that was one of those times.
I’ve been speaking to a local girl who offered to host me through the Couchsurfing website, we agreed to meet at her university campus. I got off at the same MRT station as if I was going to see the horse races. I was still feeling low, passing by beautiful girls constantly but having the nerve to approach none. I stopped to wait for Riley, already knowing she was an average looking girl gave me a chest pain. then a girl comes and says hi to me, -“Are you Yachine?”. -“yes, who are you”. -“Im Riley’s friend”. The new girl wasn’t any cuter and so my chest pain didn’t get any better. We spoke for a while then more people joined, an awkward american exchange student and a non speaking English mainlander. “wow this can’t get any worse” I thought. I was sure they could read it in my facial expression.
When Riley came the catastrophe completed. The image I had in mind was at least 5 times better than reality. Looking back it now, I find this so funny, but it’s wasn’t the case back then. We went to their campus cafeteria by bus, totally disconnected while looking through the window fancying the idea of doing exchange sometime in the future here. I didn’t order anything claiming that I had a late lunch. I wanted to make it as uncomfortable as it could be. I didn’t speak the whole time, when I did it was one word answers to their curious question about my trip. they probably thought I was the weird one. We then moved to ”Mongok”, which I already explored the previous day, I thought about leaving and going solo for the rest of the day, but I thought :”Let’s see where how this will end”. they suggested to go to those Japanese photo booths,I agreed since I haven’t tried that during my trip in Tokyo, then we went to a trivia/games bar, without ordering anything, we sat and kept playing Jenga, until it was time for me to catch the last train home.
The plan was to explore more of Hong Kong island, the walk from “Central” to “Causeway bay” was longer than I thought looking at it on a map. Tall futuristic buildings with bridges connecting one another, surrounded with green gardens had my camera battery dying faster than ever. I randomly went to what looked like a stadium from faraway, there was an anime convention taking place, one like Comicon, I am not a huge fan but I know people whose lives would be changed after seeing such a show. I later learned I was at Hong Kong Museum of Art.
O continued my original walk and stopped at Causeway bay, the New York time square Asian twin, I loved it, it seemed like I was in slow motion compared to the crowd. I checked out their multi-level malls then I took a tram back to “Central”. The ride was amazing that I felt like I was in a movie. I was about to meet Ringie, the cutest girl I have met since I started this trip, she said to meet her at Starbucks after she is done wih her art class, when I walked in, it turned out her class was actually in Starbucks and was taking more time than expected. I waited an hour before she could leave her group and sit with me. We talked a bit about our lives then walked in Lan Kwai Fong, she showed me the cool clubs to go to, and a European side she in love with. I had a date with another girl an hour later. I knew Ringie was cuter but I didn’t leave her hanging and I thought I might meet Riley another time, I accompanied her to the metro where I waited for the other to come. Another disappointment was about to take place. Here is the thing, there is good online dating sites and bad ones, this girl was from a bad one which I deleted after this encounter. Her teeth were messed up, her face was not as cute as I thought, those damn fake picture, she was fit and everything but after meeting Ringie, she seemed below average. Also the fact that I was more sexual with her over text than with Ringie, then add that making out with her pushed me to ignore my superficial thoughts. She led the way to a Cantonese restaurant where I had one of the best noodles I have ever tasted. I stood up and headed to the bathroom while looking for a back exit. I spotted two workers smoking right outside and went back to the table. We went for Shisha where her friend joined, then for a few drinks at a bar. I had paid the first after being tricked by her when she went to the bathroom leaving the check to me, When Jen met her third friend she totally forgot about me. Totally drunk,they were going to a club while I was following them like a dog from behind, I was actually after the money I spent, I didn’t like the girl from the start, and I wasn’t ready to be screwed over in Hong Kong dollars by her.
I had a host waiting for me in Kowloon that night. So after the metro closed I had no idea how to cross from the Hong kong island to the other side, I had heard there was mini vans for that. I took a taxi and asked him where they are, the old driver was very helpful. (Lesson learned: In Hong kong you can trust taxi drivers). He spoke very little English but got out of his taxi and made sure I was going my destination. When the mini van dropped along with an other passenger, he knew I was an alien, I showed him the address then I told him I was couchsurfing, his eyes opened the widest after hearing more about the concept. He showed me the right building after calling my host for me, she came down, opened the door and showed me where I would sleep. “Thank you so much and sorry for being so late” I said before I crashed in her leather couch. next morning i saw her parents waking up early.
I woke up by Cantonese dialogues, I wish I could stay sleeping until afternoon but my couch was in the living room and this was her parents place. Another guy was also couchsurfing there, we barely introduced each other before I left to see a friend I was Couchsurfing with back in Seoul, he was also on his Asia trip, I learned he was in town because Shawn my first host here told me he had a Tunisian guest coming, given the small percentage of Arab travelers in general, I asked him if his name was Marouen. Confused, he nodded yes, so I sent him a message to meet up, To see the big Buddha which is located in Lantau island, we first took the metro then hopped on a bus that climbed up the mountain, an alternative of taking those expensive cable cars, the view was truly breathtaking, I could feel a peacefulness in the air. there was wild cows straining randomly, they looked scary to me, just because they had they were brown like bulls, Marouen told me about his recent crazy hiking experience and how his host lost the way and got off path up the mountains, they ended spending a night there.
When we parted ways I headed to chungking mansions to look for a hostel, I had previously inspected the place the day before to prevent looking confused this time and avoid attracting scammers. While I was waiting for an elevator a guy came up to me and told me about his deals, the price was cheap so I went for a look and took it, it was so creepy, so I knew I should forget about bringing any girl home, I left my small backpack but I kept my passport with me, something I never do when I would be staying in hostels. I met Angie at night in Wan Chai, we went for sushi, even though I don’t eat it. it was her favorite food I didn’t mind giving it a second chance.
Wan chai was the red light district of hong kong, unlike Lan Kwai Fong, this was a place where girls chased guys, another one of those of moments where I would feel like I am in a movie. Angie told me about her year off and her “Aiesec” experience which was soon about to end before coming back to the boring life in Toronto. After hearing about her story, a new idea of living abroad was making its way in my mind.
I went back to Shawn’s place before he left to work, I would spend the my last two days here. He had recommend me to see Cheung Chau island, so I took a ferry from the Victoria harbor and 30 min later, I wandered around with nothing preplanned, I found myself at a beach where I met two girls who asked me to take a picture of them, I asked them what I could do here, they gave me a bunch of ideas. The first was to rent a bike and stroll around the whole island and to check a cave at one end of the island. I got a bike for an hour and recorded the whole ride , one hand on the handle the other holding the camera, no go pro, just my heavy canon. Once at the cave, I met another two girls from Shenzhen, one was cute so I got her “wechat” to meet her later at night and have dinner back in Central. “It’s the best beef noodle place in the city” they said,we then took the MRT to causeway bay where I got to be their guide.
Luna agreed to me after sending her a message on couchsurfing, a Chinese who was on an internship in Hong Kong, she was cute, however I suspected it was plastic surgery, I spent the rest of the day with her, in central then in Sheung shau where we randomly met my host, I was sure she looked extremely sexy to him, she was one of those girls you wold be struck by her attractiveness after a quick look, but when you spend too much time with her you start looking at the flaws. I got along with her though, and if I definitely see her again if I had more time, she loved traveling and told me about her trip to Thailand and koh phi phi, this helped me have a sense of familiarity that would serve me when I would be there. We went to the avenue of stars near the victoria harbor at night, I couldn’t believe it was her first time. Luna was very impressed by how much I know the city after only one week since I would always correct her directions when we took the MRT. This always happens to me, I would meet the coolest people in the last day or two of my trip which makes me hate having booked flight ahead of time.
Day 8, Wednesday
This day was supposed to go smoothly since I only had a flight to catch, but to my surprise. I was told I couldn’t board because my name was not on the list, I looked over my booking and thought what could possibly go wrong, the dates were right, there was only one airport in the city.
I showed the agent my phone with the screenshotted ticket, but it changed nothing, she explained that I had canceled my booking then subtly asked me to move to the side to let others passengers check in, I put my backpack on and went looking for a telephone to call my credit card company and know what was going on, but I didn’t succeed on reaching them so I had to go to a cafe and read the email, the email I probably skimmed through 3 months ago.
Laziness can be really costly sometimes. My flight from Hongkong to Bangkok got cancelled by mistake instead of a flight from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur. I was so mad at myself. I walked around the airport going from airline to airline asking them about the cheapest deal, I had read on travel blogs before that waiting for the last day can get you ridiculously cheap flight, but that wasn’t the case so I looked on Momondo and skyscanner and finally found a decent deal with Air asia. the flight was 5 hours away and while sitting in front of my computer a guy in his late 30s open his facebook on the computer next to me, and started small talk with me, he had worn out dirty clothes and hipster look, even though I wasn’t feeling like talking, I didn’t want to be rude and listened to his stories. he asked me for 20$ Hk$ because he didn’t eat for a day, the white man had been in the airport for days, we went for a walk and met another guy who’ve been stuck in the airport for a few days as well. I felt quite grateful that I was leaving this place in a few hours.