Alright, my friends. It’s time for the long-overdue conclusion to my Asia vacation series. If you’re just tuning in now, you can read more about our time in Bali here, Singapore and Phuket here, and Phuket (Part 2) here. Sorry this has taken so long to get posted; I’m working on a little freelance side project right now, which has been taking up a lot of the free time I’d normally spend blogging!
Today I’m sharing a recap of the final leg of our trip: Hong Kong and Shanghai. It’s a lot of ground to cover in one blog post, but I promise I won’t drag it out. So let’s get right into it. Warning: Since I’m not splitting this into two posts, this is going to be a long, long post! Stick with me!
We arrived in Hong Kong in the late evening, and the plan was to go to our hotel, freshen up, then go grab dinner in the Wan Chai district (which is basically the “party district” in Hong Kong). Our plans got slightly delayed when the hubs accidentally left his phone—the only phone with international service we had with us—in a cab. Thank God for the Find My iPhone app, and thank God for kind people who are willing to help out. The woman who got into the cab after us found the phone, grabbed it, and when the hotel called it for us, we were able to arrange a time to meet her the next day to pick it up. It was seriously the biggest relief to know it wasn’t totally lost. We still were able to check out Wan Chai, had a few drinks and grabbed dinner at a local Chinese-style diner.
The next day, we headed to Nan Lian Garden, a beautiful Chinese-style garden in the middle of the city. It’s a tranquil little spot, and made for some pretty photos. Next door is the Chi Lin Nunnery, a large Buddhist temple with a ton of really ornate statues of Buddha and other goddesses but unfortunately we weren’t permitted to snap and photos of those.
From there, we met the woman who found our phone. Seriously, she was the nicest person and told us she had recently lost her phone in Korea and got it back, so there was some kind of phone karma at work.
We then headed down to the Avenue of the Stars, which is basically Hong Kong’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It’s right on the harbor and they have stars and statues for all their famous actors and actresses. We only knew a handful, but we obviously had to snap pics with the Bruce Lee statue.
After that, it was time for SHOPPING. Let me just tell you: Hong Kong does not mess around when it comes to shopping. We walked around what was easily one of the biggest malls I’ve ever seen (it puts Mall of America to shame). And just in general, I swear there were high-end stores like Chanel and Dior on every other street corner.
My focus wasn’t on clothes, though. I was all about shopping for Asian beauty products and skincare. Before we left the States, I did tons of research about various Asian beauty and skincare brands, and I had a page-long list of products to check out.
I hit up a Sasa store first, which is sort of like an Ulta, where I found quite a few items on my list—along with some fun extra items. But there were a few products I couldn’t find; thus, I proceeded to drag the poor hubs to various other Sasas (they’re also on practically every street corner) as well as a ColourMix, also another Ulta-like store. Ultimately, I still couldn’t find the couple of products I absolutely was dying to try—so I ended up ordering them online when we got back home. I’ll be doing more blog posts in the near future about my makeup and skincare purchases!
After several hours of makeup shopping, we headed back to the hotel, grabbed some snacks and cocktails at the hotel’s happy hour, then took off to the harbor front, where we boarded an evening boat cruise around the harbor.
Hong Kong also doesn’t mess around when it comes to its skyline. It was the coolest, most interesting nighttime skyline I’ve ever seen. The buildings are all lit up with crazy designs, and it made for some stunning photos.
From there, we went to check out the Temple Street Night Market—a ginormous bazaar full of all these vendors selling souvenirs. We’re talking everything from Chinese-themed trinkets to selfie sticks to knockoff designer apparel and Beats by Dre headphones—all at really cheap prices. Let’s be honest: It was mostly junk, so we only bought one little gift to take home with us.
On our last day in Hong Kong, we headed up to Victoria Peak. Overlooking the entire skyline, this is easily the top tourist destination in the city. The best (and most fun) way to get there is by tram, which goes up 1,300 feet on a really steep track. We didn’t spend a ton of time up there, because—let’s be honest—you can only take so many photos of the skyline. But it’s definitely a must-do if you’re in Hong Kong.
From there, we went to find the Central- Mid-Level Escalators. A friend told us about these escalators, as they aren’t necessarily a tourist attraction—they’re an actual mode of transportation for locals. They are the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator system, stretching over a mile and rising more than 440 feet through streets built on a pretty steep hillside. The escalator is only one-sided – so it either goes up or down, depending on rush hour. There are stairs on the other side, which you can use if you’re going in the other direction. We didn’t ride them the full mile, as we didn’t have the time. But we ended up getting off the escalator in the city’s SoHo district, which is an area known for dining and nightlife. We grabbed some drinks and food, then walked back down to the bottom of the escalator and grabbed a cab back to our hotel to catch our early evening flight.
Except, that flight never happened … at least not that night. We had been sooooo very lucky the entire trip to not have any travel issues. That luck changed for our flight to Shanghai. We got the airport and saw we were delayed a few hours. We figured, no biggie. They eventually boarded us, then the pilot got on the speaker and told us due to weather in Shanghai, we were not able to fly out that night. (We called bull on that one, because the hubs’ friend lives in Shanghai and told us it was beautiful and clear.) At that point, it was really late. They ended up bussing us 45 minutes to a gross hotel with the hardest bed I’ve ever slept on, then picking us up in the morning and bringing us back to the airport—where our flight was delayed again.
We finally took off 17 hours after our originally scheduled departure. By the time we got to the hubs’ friend’s house where we were staying in Shanghai, we had lost nearly an entire day of our trip. Such is life, I guess.
That evening, we went to the most delicious Chinese restaurants I’ve ever been to. The hubs’ friend is fluent in Mandarin and ordered a giant feast. From fried frog legs to lotus root to amazingly spicy chicken dishes and more, it was so incredibly good. We then walked around his neighborhood, the French Concession—a part of the city that was once owned by the French. It’s a super cool area, and actually reminded us a lot of Lincoln Park in Chicago. There’s lots of shops, bars and restaurants, and really quaint architecture.
We capped the night off by picking up a 6-pack of local beer at a drug store, then enjoying a few cold ones on folding chairs the store puts outside its entrance for people to do just that. It was the strangest set-up I’ve ever seen, but the hubs’ friend told us that old Chinese men will sit around and drink outside drug stores like this all the time.
The next day was our action-packed tourist day. The hubs’ friend let us use his driver, which so incredibly helpful since the city is not very English-speaking-friendly. As an aside, it’s pretty common for Ex Pats—especially those who do pretty well for themselves—to have drivers, and they’re often paid for by their company.
We went to the Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower first, which is a strange-looking tower that stands about 1500 feet tall. There’s an observation floor 860 feet up, in the top “sphere” of the tower. You can walk around the perimeter of the sphere to get a 360-degree view of the city. It was super cloudy the day we went, so unfortunately the view wasn’t great. Immediately below that observation floor is a second observation area – but this one has a glass floor. You can walk on the glass all the way around the sphere. It’s the freakiest feeling because your mind thinks that at any second, you might go falling to the ground!
Our next stop was Shanghai Old Town and Yuyuan Garden. Old Town isn’t actually old—aside from the fact that it’s located in an area that used to be part of the ancient walled city of Shanghai, back in the 17th century. Now, the architecture is all reminiscent of the ancient Chinese style, but it’s filled with restaurants and shops. It’s also where Yuyuan Garden is located. It’s a huge Chinese garden that has been around since the 1500s. It’s full of beautiful buildings, ponds, bridges, rock gardens and Chinese plants. We were on a pretty tight schedule so we passed through it quickly, but it was very picturesque and peaceful.
Our driver also took us to a traditional xiaolongbao restaurant in Old Town. If you’ve never had xiaolongbao—which I hadn’t—it’s a type of dumpling that’s not only filled with meat or vegetables, but also hot broth. Apparently you’re supposed to poke a little hole in the dumpling to let some of the broth out, but we didn’t’ realize that and just popped them in our mouths … burning the hell out of our tongues!
Our final stop of the day was Nanjing Road, one of the world’s busiest shopping streets. We stopped at the “Fake Market” – which a shopping area three stories tall and full of vendors selling fakes. Fake designer purses, fake iPhones and electronics, fake high-end shoe brands, fake watches, you name it. The hubs’ friend told us that the fakes are pretty much the best you can get – because all of these companies make their products in China to begin with. So while you’re buying a fake, it’s possible it’s made at the same factory as the real deal.
I honestly wish we had more time there beyond the hour we spent. We ended up with two North Face jackets that are such good copies, you’d NEVER know the difference, as well as a few electronic items. And you were able to barter to get really good deals.
For our last night in Shanghai, the hubs’ friend took us to yet another incredible restaurant, this one a Hunan-style restaurant. It’s an incredibly spicy cuisine, but insanely delicious. We ended the night checking out some clubs and nightlife in The Bund, which is the waterfront district in Shanghai.
Our last day in the city was spent relaxing before catching our evening flight home. We arrived back in L.A. totally jet lagged—which lasted a good week before we felt normal again. I read that for each time zone you cross, it can take a day to recover from jet lag. Considering we were 15 hours ahead in China, it ended up being about 1 day of recovery for every 2 time zones crossed.
It was hands down the best vacation I’ve ever had, but it was by no means relaxing. The amount of stuff we crammed into those 14 days was ambitious, but I’m so glad we were able to do it all. We hope to make it back to that part of the world again to spend more time in Thailand, see Beijing and the Great Wall and visit Japan.
With that, I can finally close the book on the Asia vacation posts. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our adventures, and maybe got some ideas for a trip of your own. Now, back to regularly scheduled blog programming!