I only had 36 hours (8pm on June 8th to 8am on June 10th) in Hong Kong which required me to plan strategically and sacrifice sleep. As I checked into my hostel, I met a person from India and another from Japan. Together, we went to the Temple Street night markets.
As the sun set, the city began to come to life. Hong Kong’s vibrance surprised me as much as the tanks of live fish at restaurants in the market. The cultural preference of fresh food and the lack of disdain for meat resembling its living form were evident.
The next morning I woke up early and explored Victoria Harbour and Tsim Sha Tsui. I returned to the hostel briefly and a fellow traveler from Germany joined me to continue exploring.We went to Victoria Harbour, Kowloon Park, the Haiphong Temporary Market and rode the Star Ferry across the harbor to Victoria’s Peak. After returning to the hostel, I meet a group of about eight foreigners. We were all from different countries, but formed friendships instantaneously.
My time in Hong Kong was short yet transformative. Exploring the city on my own was empowering. I had complete control to ensure my experience was everything I wanted. Most people spoke English, so communicating with locals and other foreigners was much easier than I anticipated. I knew people in Hong Kong spoke English due to its history, but was surprised by the number of foreigners that were fluent in English. Despite English being their second language, their English was comparable to mine. The quality of my conversations with non-native English speakers showed me the importance of integrating language into all levels of the American education system. Such reforms would foster the growth of global citizens who can not only speak other languages, but also connect with other cultures.
Asian culture is much more direct than American culture. There are different social guidelines, so actions perceived as rude in America are common. This made ordering at restaurants intimidating, and I was often startled by people walking close to me or cutting in line. Within hours, I adjusted and became less passive.
Making so many new friends in such a brief time showed me how easy it is to connect with other humans. A shared love for travel was enough to form bonds that I will hold dear forever. Spending the night with such a large group required me to relinquish some of my control. I had to balance trusting them enough to let them plan the night and staying alert to ensure my safety. My desire to travel has become less about the places and more about the people.