1 week in China


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 1 WEEK IN CHINA

At the end of 2016, between 2 jobs, I have decided to take some time off and have a trip in a country that had been in my bucket list for longtime: China. Since the country is huge and the time available is not, I narrowed down the choice to 2 main cities: Shanghai and Hong Kong. Result: a great trip with fantastic memories. China is a strange world, completely unique in its way. Visiting China made me realize that this country is the future of the world, for several reasons it is so futuristic, for others it still has a long road to go. Before starting the adventure to China, there are some things to consider:

  • As you know, anyone willing to travel to China needs a visa. The application is quite demanding, as it requires a travel itinerary, flight details, and accommodation. However, the process will be very quick, and in 4-5 days time the visa will be ready.
  • Apart from Hong Kong, the English language is an unexplored territory for most of Chinese people. If you wish to travel there, you might be patient and express yourself with body language or using google translate.
  • Moving around China and Hong Kong is extremely easy. The public transportation is highly efficient and easy to understand. Plus it is very cheap compared to the service level.
  • If you expect a cheap travel, then you are in the wrong country. Even though the currency is weaker than EUR or USD, prices are quite high in terms of accommodation. Regarding accommodation, you need to be ready to stay in very confined spaces, as rooms there are extremely small.
  • In terms of safety, Shanghai and Hong Kong are very secured and easy travel solo. I had the chance to do this trip with the best trael companion ever, but during this time I realized that most of the neighborhoods are with no criminality or threat, therefore – especially as a woman solo traveler – the trip will be completely stress free.

DAY 1: VISIT SHANGHAI

Shanghai is a huge contemporary city, a urban jungle with  very high skyscrapers and wide roads.The air is extremely polluted and there is not a lot of greenery around. The roads are packed with people walking fast or taking ages to take pictures in any single corner. People are not very friendly, they try to cut you at the lines, they spit on the floor, and they are pretty noisy. Nevertheless, it is a great place to visit and enjoy some Chinese city life. Some areas are very interesting and give you an overview on the Chinese past and future. Ancient temples, huge skyscrapers, delicious food, busy bars and restaurants, great stores. Two days there will be good enough to give you an overview of all these things. The first day can be dedicated to the main tourist attractions.

  • The visit can start in a  traditional area where you will find the Yu Garden and Bazaar. This is a beautiful pedestrian area, with traditional Chinese houses and beautiful stores selling souvenirs, handcrafts, and delicious food. You can have a tour and take the opportunity to taste some delicious local food. Afterwards you can visit the beautiful Yu gardens, with its pavilions, halls, rockeries, ponds and cloisters. Although located in the city, the place is very peaceful and great for a cool wander.
  • After a quiet time, time go back to the craziness..and which better place than Nanjing road? This is a huge avenue surrounded by massive shopping malls and stores. If you love shopping, this is the place to be. You will spend the whole afternoon there going from a store to another; and even if you don’t buy anything it is interesting to see what the Chinese market can offer.

Considering that you will be victim of the jet lag, the first day will end like this, with no hurry and in complete relax.

DAY 2 : VISIT SHANGHAI

  • The second day in Shanghai can start with a nice walk at The Bund, the famous waterfront of the city from which you will be able to admire the view of the big Shanghai skyscrapers. On the other side, you will admire classical and baroque buildings. All this during a nice 1km walk.
  • After a lunch stop near The Bund, you can take the subway again and head to the Jade Buddha temple, a beautiful temple with several artistic treasures inside.
  • Once your visit to the temple is over, you can go for some shopping or visit the Jing’An temple. I did another great thing: as a special fan of the TV series “Friends” , I read in an article that someone decided to create the exact replica of the Central Perk, so I had to go and check by myself. The Friends Cafe is located in the Hongkou district, a quiet residential area with some nice cafes. This small cafe is indeed a replica of the Central Perk, a cosy beautiful place with comfortable sofas and “Friends” broadcasting all day long. For a huge fan as me, this was like a dream come true.

My staying in Shanghai lasted only 2 days, but if you have more time you can stay longer and keep on enjoying the wonders of this city.

DAY 3: VISIT HONG KONG

On the 3rd day I took an early flight and after 2hrs I landed in the amazing Hong Kong. Amazing is the right adjective, because Hong Kong is absolutely out of any expectations. I was not expecting this city to be so wonderful and so different from any other city I have visited. For some aspects, Hong Kong has many similarities to Singapore, like the waterfront, the huge buildings, the dynamic atmosphere. Although, Hong Kong has more green spaces and large roads. Hong Kong is formed by hundreds of islands, some of them (like Hong Kong island or Kowloon) with skyscrapers, traffic, busy roads; others (like Lantau) more laid back, with sandy beaches and green mountains. You can do everything in Hong Kong: sightseeing, shopping, sunbathing, trekking…the city offers any kind of leisure! The food is also a delight: restaurants and street food, all offering a wide range of Chinese and Asian food. As in Shanghai, moving around is very easy, thanks to the modern  and affordable transportation system: you can easily take subways, buses, or ferries. Differently from Shanghai, the communication will be easier, as people speak English quite well and are more friendly and smiley. I stayed in Hong Kong 5 days, but if I have had the chance I would have stayed longer.

On the first day in the island you can have a nice walk in the busy roads of Kowloon, long streets of huge shopping malls and restaurants. These roads will head to the coast, where the Clock Tower, the Ferry pier, and the Garden of Fame are. You can first look at the celebrities commemorated in this garden (among all, Bruce Lee is probably the most famous worldwide), and then go towards the Clock Tower area and the waterfront, from which you will face Hong Kong island and  the most stunning view in the world: the water with the huge Hong Kong island’s skyscrapers on the horizon. Be sure to be there at 8pm for the unforgettable light show: hundreds of skyscrapers playing light shows in the rhythm of music. An unforgettable show and view to start your staying in Hong Kong in the best way.

DAY 4: VISIT HONG KONG

The second day in Hong Kong will be dedicated to the unique Hong Kong island.  If you stay somewhere else, take a ferry to get there and start exploring the city with  a great view on it from Victoria Peak. To get to Victoria Peak; you need to take a funicular that will take you  on the top of the island. The journey to the funicular is pretty interesting, since you will have to pass through enormous luxury shopping malls. The amount of luxury stores in Hong Kong is unique in the world, the amount of money circulating in that island must be incredible! Shopping malls and luxury stores are the main business over there, it is something that you cannot believe if you don’t see it! And you will see a big part of them before going to the funicular to Victoria Peak. The ride in the funicular is pretty amazing, but nothing compared to the fantastic view once you are on the top: the entire island will be in front of you in all its splendor, with the sea and the hundreds of huge skyscrapers. The skyscrapers of Hong Kong are unique in the world, extremely high and extremely narrow. From Victoria Peak they all look like toothpicks.  The smallest one is probably the highest one in Europe. The height is really absurd! From Victoria Peak you will see all of them in different angles. From there you can indeed take one of the trails and, while walking through a nice forest, admire the buildings in different locations. This is an experience that I suggest to everyone, you cannot go to Hong Kong and miss Victoria Peak!

After the trip to Victoria Peak, you can take the funicular down and head to the heart of Hong Kong island. While entering in the neighborhood of Soho, you will find yourself like a tiny person surrounded by skyscrapers and long roads. The area has a special charm, and you can enjoy your time there with a delicious lunch in one of the several restaurants over there.

After lunch, you can continue your wandering through the crazy area and end up in the mid-level escalators. This is the longest outdoor covered escalator in the world.Plenty of people take these escalators everyday to commute to work, but what was at the beginning a transportation for resident has become an attraction with bars and restaurants around. The mid-level escalators is formed by 20 escalators with a total length of almost 1km. You can hop on and off there at several stops, each of them including several points of interest. In order to enjoy it at its best, I did the entire escalator on the way up and took standards stairs on the way down and stopped in the points of interest. At the end of the escalators you can then go left and visit the An Mo Temple, and end up in Upper Lascar row, an old area with small and traditional shops.

After this amazing day, you can chill out in Soho or have a beer in The Beer bay, a small kiosk near the ferry pier that sells beer at a very cheap price, and that is full of people after work.

For dinner, Hong Kong has a huge variety of restaurants and street food, according to your budget. In the kiosks in the streets you can taste some Chinese and Asian food at less than 10 euros, although for the first time I would suggest you to experience a Michelin starred restaurant. It is true that Michelin starred restaurants are known to be delicious and quite expensive (consider that Hong Kong is the place with the highest number of Michelin starred restaurants in the world), but in Hong Kong you can find the cheapest one in the world. Tim Ho Wan is indeed popular for its delicious dim sums, and you can taste a bunch of them for less than 10 euros, therefore an experience that you cannot miss!

DAY 5: VISIT HONG KONG

On the 3rd day in Hong Kong, it is time to leave the crazy city life and go for a nice escapade in the nature. Although Hong Kong island is famous for its busy roads, shopping malls, restaurants, and skyscrapers, there are also more quiet and restful areas for the nature lovers. One of those is certainly the Dragon’s back. The Dragons Back Trail has been named the best urban hike in Asia by TIME magazine and has opened up the worlds eyes to what wonderful trekking opportunities beckon in Hong Kong. The trail is around 10km but it will pass very quick because of the several things to see. The landscapes are breathless: flowers; trees, huge forests, everything surrounded by the blue waters. The trail is not very difficult, it goes uphill and downhill but anybody can do it, and after 10km of beautiful scenery, it will end up on a sandy beach packed with surfers.

The trekking at the Dragon’s back will take the entire day. In the evening, you can chill out in Temple Street, a busy pedestrian area in Kowloon island with a night market and tons of street food.

DAY 6: VISIT MACAU

One of the advantages of being in Hong Kong is the opportunity to take a fast ferry and in 1h time you can be in Macau. Obviously I couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit this special former Portuguese colony. Macau is indeed special in its own way: on one side the city is crowded with enormous casinos, on another side the city center takes you back to Portugal, with its narrow streets, its small houses, its ancient churches, its direction signs in Portuguese.

Since the ferry stops at the southern part, I started exploring Macau in the casino area. This is a Chinese version of Las Vegas, but probably even crazier. Consider that Macau hosts the biggest casinos in the world, each of them can be a city by itself.  I opted for the biggest casino in the world: The Venetian. This casino is an exact replica of the city of Venice, with its canals, its squares, its gondolas, you will feel like you are in Venice…and everything indoor! What has been built in The Venetian is simply more than absurd, it is a huge project of billions and billions of dollars, but it is worth a visit! From The Venetian you can pass to The Parisian, a replica of Paris, with its squares, its stores, and the Eiffel Tower. Both of these casinos are incredible, something that escapes to human’s imagination! If you have more time you can also visit the other casinos, otherwise you can stick to those and then head to the city center.

As I sad before, the city center recalls Portugal: narrow streets, Portuguese restaurants, and ancient churches. The most popular one is the Ruins of St Paul’s church. First constructed in 1580, St. Paul’s Church caught fires in 1595 and 1601. However, reconstruction started in 1602 soon after the church was burnt down. Completed in 1637, the church became the biggest Catholic Church in East Asia at that time. Unfortunately, a violent typhoon hit Macau in 1835 and the church caught fire for the third time leaving its glory a history. According to historical materials, St Paul’s Church, built with white stones, had a grand vaulted roof. It had three magnificently decorated halls.

From the ruins you can go up to the city fortress, and enjoy the beautiful view on the whole city. After visiting the fortress you can go down and simply enjoy a walk in the streets of the city center.

Make sure to take the ferry back before 6pm in order to have a discounted rate for the ferry. For the night in Hong Kong, you can visit the Ladies Market in Kowloon island, a special night market selling items for women.

DAY 7 : VISIT HONG KONG

On the last day in Hong Kong, I have decided to explore another famous island: Lantau. Lantau is famous especially for the statue of the Buddha, one of the biggest ones in the world. You can get to Lantau through the subway, and, thanks to its location next to the airport, it is often a destination to do just before taking your flight back home.

From Lantau subway station, you can reach the Buddha either through a funicular either through a bus. The Buddha in Lantau is definitely worth a visit: you will need to climb a lot of stairs, but eventually you will be able to see the huge statue closer, while enjoying the beautiful panorama.

Just down the Buddha mountain is an interesting temple  full of special decorations and flowers all around.

From the Buddha area in Lantau, you can take a bus and end up in Tai O, a remote part of the island famous for its fishing village. From there you can take a 20mins boat ride that will take you around the floating fishermen village , and further in the sea to admire the white and pink dolphins. At the end of this beautiful ride, you can stop at the village and have a walk around, while tasting delicious food from the street.

From Tai O, you can take a bus to the ferry terminal and get back to Hong Kong, or get back to the subway to head to the airport. The visit of Lantau is definitely one of the best way to finish the unforgettable trip in Hong Kong.

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Categories: China | 1 Comment

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One thought on “1 week in China

  1. Spereira

    Thank you for sharing in letters such amazing and unforgettable trip. Thanks to your advice and experience, I learned to be a better traveler. There are no enough words to describe the pleasure that I had sharing this trip with you, definitely the best co-traveler ever.

    Keep posting that I will keep reading

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