On our second day in Hong Kong we woke up bright and early. I was really fascinated by the view outside our window. The mountains behind us were covered in some sort of structures, but from far away I couldn't tell what they were. We were due to meet another Couchsurfer in a few hours, but we decided to try walking as far as we could. Hong Kong in September is hot and sticky. It was around 8am, but after a few minutes of walking my hair was sticking to my face and my clothes were clinging to my body. The Chai Wan area was dead that early in the morning. There was almost nothing on the road save for a few pig carcasses.
After walking a bit up the hill we realized what all the little buildings were. There were thousands of small graves all along this mountainside. They seemed to extend forever and I couldn't see where they ended. I'm sure it was rude, but we decided to walk amongst those graves to see the view. They were very plain and many looked neglected. There was an old man acting as a guard of sorts and I could feel his eyes on my back as we walked further and further away.
We met our guide for the afternoon at Wong Tai Station. After he took us to the most amazing dim sum place that I will never find again, he led us to Wong Tai Sin Temple. This afternoon is when I would start to notice some interesting things about Hong Kong. I was very interested to learn all I could about Hong Kong/Chinese relations and to see what people who lived there actually felt. People seemed to fall into two groups, avoid the topic whatsoever or outright hatred of the mainland Chinese government. Wong Tai Sin Temple is a popular attraction for mainland Chinese tourists and here I would hear the first of many "Watch your stuff. Mainlanders will try to steal it" stories. There was such an open hostility towards mainland Chinese from Hong Kong people. I don't really feel like this is the space to get into my opinions about China's governing of Hong Kong, but I left that trip armed with a lot of new opinions and knowledge.
Anyway...Wong Tai Sin Temple. Yes, this place is touristy. However, something being touristy doesn't mean it sucks. I liked how lively it was and how people weren't there just to take pictures, but to actually use it as a religious institution. The garden is filled with turquoise walkways alongside a small pond with all that staggering Hong Kong architecture surrounding it. I think we liked it more than our new acquaintance expected because he seemed a bit rushed to get us out of there!
Next he took us to the Diamond Hill area to see the Nan Lian Garden and the Chi Lin Nunnery. This turned out to be another lesson of 'don't judge something before you try it'. I had been warned that this area was all new, had no history, and was only built to be a tourist trap. I had no plans on visiting this area, but I didn't have the heart to tell our new friend that I thought his plan was bad. And you know what? We had a great time. That area is beautiful. Sure, Nan Lian may be brand new, but it was cool to see a Japanese style garden that still had obvious Chinese influence. Same thing with the Nunnery. That architecture wouldn't be out of place anywhere in Japan, but it was done with a Chinese influence. I'd probably skip it if I went back to Hong Kong, but I would tell anyone to visit if they have the time on their schedule.
On the other hand, sometimes an attraction looks like a bad idea to you because it is. I have no idea why we decided to go to the Avenue of the Stars. Maybe it was the view? Maybe it was to see Wong Kar Wai's and Maggie Cheung's star? Avenue of the Stars is the worst kind of tourist trap. The view of Hong Kong Island is stupendous from that side, but there were so many people. So many people. The statues were odd. I'd skip this place if you ever find yourself wanting something to do in Hong Kong.
We ended up making a mad dash to Victoria Peak to try to catch the sunset. We had the worst time finding the tram station. We initially were going to take a bus, but couldn't figure out where the correct bus stop was. We wandered around for at least 15 minutes trying to figure out where to go. When we finally got to the tram station and saw how long the line was we decided to just screw it and take a taxi. Best decision ever. It was about a 15 minute ride up a jungled mountain in the backseat of a luxury sedan. We were missing the sunset at the Peak, but we were enjoying the views from the taxi. We got to the top as the last rays of pink left the sky and a purpley blue settled in. Unfortunately we got there way too late to attempt the walk around the peak so we headed to the free Peak Galleria. Ugh, I can't even describe that skyline. There's a reason it's so famous. There's a reason the ruling British tried to keep the mountaintop all to themselves and banned locals from living there. I've seen a decent amount of skylines by now, but Hong Kong's is truly special.
After looking at how crowded the buses were going to be we decided to spring for another taxi back down to Central Station. After an entire day of walking, we were beat. It was time to head back to rest for another jam packed day.
One thing we did not knowbefore we came is that Hong Kong's currency isn't government produced and controlled like the most world currencies. A few major banks in Hong Kong produce the currency so all of the bills have different banks and different designs. It was fun to try to get all of them! I know that the Peak Tram is supposed to be historic, iconic, blah blah, but I haven't met anyone whose gone on it that said it was worth it. We also chose to forgo the Peak Tower because were told the views weren't much better for the price. And if you do decide to stay at the Y-Loft during your vacation, there is a really great noodle shop that's dirt cheap right behind the outside elevator. No one there spoke English and they were a bit rude, but the food there was great. Afterwards we walked to the closest 7/11 and grabbed some Tsingtao before we limped back to our rooms.