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Visiting Hong Kong in 2023

This year as I was making my way back to Canada, I returned to Hong Kong. I have family in Hong Kong, and I'm actually a permanent resident there. So going to Hong Kong is quite easy for me as I have family to rely on and other conveniences like unlimited length of stay and what not.

However, it's not quite always my favourite place to visit. Those of you with family in other countries can probably understand the sentiment. I always feel like visiting Hong Kong can be a chore. I need to visit X family member, have dinner with Y and Z family member. And then there's a group dinner with ABC - a family friend. The list of these tasks goes on especially if you still have lots of relatives in Hong Kong, and long time family friends of my mom's and dad's.

Luckily, my Hong Kong relatives are all great people. And not having to travel with my parents and following them around like a little toddler this time during my visit to Hong Kong really helped make this trip 10 times more enjoyable.

And of course I also got to show my partner around my childhood city! Which was honestly the best part of this trip :)

The last time I was here was 5 years ago. At the time, I went for a close friend's wedding. So I didn't really get to see much of Hong Kong beyond shopping malls and eating.

This time, I had about 4 weeks all to myself. And I was 100% going to make the most of it.

It was the first time ever that I got to go to a lot of the touristy spots in Hong Kong, not just shopping malls or local neighbourhoods because my parents only know that area very well. I got to visit temples just to see them (as opposed to just paying respects), parks, small towns and other really interesting architecture that's been preserved over the years. I explored neighbourhoods I've only ever heard of by name, but never been to. I saw things that appeared in movies that were typically "Hong Kong".

And I had a blast.

Not only was I worried about relatives at first, but I was also worried in general about the entire environment of Hong Kong since there was another political shift. I was worried that the people around me would be very opinionated about the issue and would try to push it on me.

But they didn't. In fact, no one did. As always, I felt like everyone just went on with their lives as usual. Like nothing had ever happened before. Whether it's because they accepted it or just simply wanted to move on, I'm not sure. I just remember a time when Mainlanders were looked down on a lot by Hong Kongers. Tons of covert discrimination, which I'm sure still exist - but I no longer hear badmouthing like I used to from those around me. Of course, I think people are still annoyed by them. For example, my partner and I went on a bus towards Wong Dai Sin. A family of mandarin speakers (presumably mainlanders as they are usually the only ones speaking mandarin in public, and it was a national holiday so naturally lots of mainlanders visit) got on the bus and just spoke really loudly like it was their own home. People were clearing their throats, clearly trying to tell them they're too loud. But these mandarin speakers just kept going. No care in the world. Not getting the hint. But generally, I think everyone just learned to co-exist. Sentiments have definitely somewhat shifted there.

People also generally seem more relaxed?

Hong Kong has always been a fast-paced city. That's what it felt like to me. There are no other cities that run escalators as fast as the subways. Like dang, the escalators are running marathons on their own with each other!

But you used to definitely feel like amongst the people too. Crossing the road meant you had to be 5 steps ahead of you'd be in everyone's way. And you'd probably get stuck in the middle if you were too slow. Perhaps I had lived in Asia for awhile (Canada makes people more lazy and slow) this time and didn't really feel like the people were rushing around as much. Everyone seemed to have slowed down quite a bit.

Perhaps a result of an aging population too? Who knows.

Hong Kong has definitely changed when it comes to real estate development.

My family has mostly all moved out to the New Territories, and you can see even more development on the way in these parts. Stations that used to only have villages and houses are now being converted or mixed in with upcoming high rises. Even already pre-established townships are getting more high rises.

I hear housing prices have started to drop, though it still remains high for locals comparable to their cost of living.

Previously well established areas like the Hong Kong Islands have also seen change, but not in a good way. As I rode past many streets that used to fill up with store after store, it was a bit heartbreaking to see many of them - rows and rows of them - all just empty and abandoned. From what I hear, rent skyrocketed in those areas and lots of business either closed down during COVID and never returned or they moved to cheaper areas entirely.

I still think Hong Kong is very tourist-friendly. It's safe. The food is generally clean and delicious (trust your gut and don't enter somewhere you might not feel comfortable with). There is a great mix of nature and city, if you know where to go. But unfortunately I do think the surrounding areas outside of Hong Kong have become more of an attractive place for even locals to spend their money instead. Food is MUCH cheaper and the quality of eateries have improved tenfolds in most of Guangdong. If you had the correct visa, there is no reason not to go and have similar amounts of food for less.

I was there when there was a holiday specifically in Hong Kong only. I expected places to be crowded, but there really wasn't that many more people than a normal weekend out. It's possible people chose to stay home, but much more likely that people are choosing to visit China to make their money go just a bit further.

As there are still so many unique places and foods in Hong Kong, I certain hope the city gains more traction with tourists and its own locals again soon.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

All my previous worries had been very quick debunked. It's safety level is on par with Japan, though some areas are notably more sketchy of course. Nothing a little vigilance and being on higher alert cannot fix. Though I do generally blend in, making the target on the back of my head less prominent. Though there are huge populations of foreigners still scattered about, and locals are no strangers to them. Afterall, most many Hong Kongers hire home helpers to take care of elderly or the young, mostly from the Philippines - so seeing foreigners and hearing English isn't something that causes head turning or seal clapping. The political climate seemed to have... buried itself, mostly.

And all in all, there are still so many unique little fishing towns and temples that make the Hong Kong skyscraper landscape so unique. I highly recommend everyone visit before they may one day disappear.

Have you visited Hong Kong before? What were some of your thoughts on the city? Let me know!

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