Over four years ago when I was in the thick of college researching and trying to learn everything about NYU I came across this thing called the International Studies Program. A required class for juniors that sends everyone abroad for spring break, all expenses paid? casual. I somehow managed to finish my application essays, get in, study here for three years, and then all of a sudden I was a junior getting ready to go on this trip that I had ogled over what felt like many years ago.
The destinations for this year was Lima, Peru, Lisbon, Portugal, and Hong Kong. Although I was terrified of the long flight time (16 hours nonstop!!!) I decided to go to the places most unlike anywhere else I've been to, and with what I assume has the most costly ticket. Even after staying up all night and taking a melatonin, I only managed to get five hours of sleep on the flight there and woke up every hour on the hour like clockwork. Absolutely terrible for my sleep schedule, but on the bright side I had the time to watch Dunkirk, Shape of Water, Call Me By Your Name, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, and The Lion King— plus I took some ridiculous notes to pass the time which I'll share one of these days.
Despite the terrible sleep, and dry air cabin skin, I was nothing less than elated as we drove from the airport to the hotel through the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen.
Once we arrived at the hotel, we spent the rest of our time just walking around, scoping out the neighborhood, and waiting for our friends to arrive on their flights. Next day I was up bright and early and spent some alone time walking around and sneaking into as many little hidden places as possible before our day officially started.
We kicked off our first full day in Hong Kong with the most incredible cable car ride I've ever been on— I mean it's the only cable car I've been on, but I think this will top any cable car I might ride in the future. It goes over the water and over the hills (small mountains?) and various islands before ending at Lantau Island, where we went to see the impressive Buddha statue.
We got off at the end and stopped for a quick lunch...
Worked on our tai chi a little bit...
Made a new friend or two (water buffalo roam around the island and are so unfazed by people. Such cuties.)
And then we slowly but surely made our way up to the statue, but only after having a full-blown photo shoot on the stairs and occasionally blocking everyone else. The picture of Paula and Hector on the ground still makes me crack up. Hanging with people who are willing to #doitforthegram is the only reason why I actually have great photos of myself on this trip (unlike my five months abroad :/) and I'm so grateful. !!!
We also had a chance to check out the monastery below but had to rush through because we spent too much time taking photos during the day. The whole island is so beautiful, if you're in Hong Kong I highly recommend that you make your way to Lantau.
We finished the day with an (underwhelming) dinner at Jumbo, a restaurant that floats on the water. While I wasn't a fan of the food— or really any food, I think the traveling and time difference caused my appetite to disappear— they had a Chinese dragon dance that was a hoot to watch and one of the dragons gave me an adorable stuffed animal that's currently sitting on my bookshelf.
Next day we headed out to observe how Hongkongers do their shopping, in different contexts. We visited a wet market, a shopping mall, and a traditional Chinese medicine shop. I love the photo of the woman yawning because that's exactly how I felt while trying to adjust to the 12-hour time difference. Also, the retail industry in Hong Kong is absolutely bonkers. There's a mall on every corner and when I say mall I mean MALL. Like massive malls that you could get trapped in for days if you took a wrong turn. Middle school me was in absolute heaven, really took me back to my mall rat days haha.
We spent our evening at Victoria's Peak really taking in the city from above. What really baffled me is how Hong Kong is so much city, but also so much greenery. A lot of the land is protected from being developed on, so the contrast between the two is stark. The peak is beautiful at night, but I would love to go back during the day or at sunrise or sunset for a whole new experience.
After the peak, I spent the night in a robe, ordering room service and taking a bubble bath while listening to the Call Me By Your Name soundtrack (VIsions of Gideon gets me every. damn. time. ) The next morning I decided to be extra and head up to the hot tub on the roof of our hotel before breakfast.
Palm Springs who?
THIS is hands down my favorite photo because our poor friend Alejandro was never with us because he's not in the same section as the rest of us, so we took this /fire/ group pic and I photoshopped him in so he wouldn't feel left out. The things we do for the people we love.
The buildings in the back are apartments and I cannot imagine living in a place so densely packed. Hong Kong has a huge housing issue and is incredibly expensive to live in.
After a morning of hot tubbing and photo shooting, we finally did something else academic which was our company visit. The goal of this class and trip is that we learn about the region and industry and then we are able to go and make our own observations and meet with the company we're working on to learn their process be able to better provide recommendations to them. Our company was the MTR which runs the subway system in Hong Kong and is considered the best metro system in the world. They gave us a presentation and then we toured one of their newest subway stations that's near completion. If you can't tell, my favorite part was definitely wearing the helmet and safety vest.
It was our last night in Hong Kong so naturally everyone went out to the clubbing district #LKF4ever. After basically taking over the club, loitering outside once it closed, and going to McDonald's, I found myself sitting on the edge of the pier with these two lovely people, talking literally until the sun came up. Inbetween packing and getting ready for check out the next day (or really in a few hours at this point) I only had the chance to catch one hour of sleep, but it was beyond worth it to enjoy the company of these two.
I love a good yellow taxi, but all the taxis in Hong Kong are red and I couldn't get enough of them.
Our flight was in the evening, so for our final day we spent it haggling for souvenirs at the Ladies Market and stopping for every photo opportunity, as per usual.
Before heading to the hotel to board the bus to the airport, Hong Kong decided to send us off with a sunset that's beauty really couldn't be captured. I really can't express how grateful I am for the ability and opportunity to travel so early on in my life. Hoping to see Hong Kong again and more of Asia soon and I can't wait to see where I end up next.