I had a brief yet intense fling with Hong Kong. For nearly a year, I visited Hong Kong every three months. My visits were short, sometimes just a day or two, but oh how I enjoyed the bustling warmth of Hong Kong. I always wanted to stay longer, but alas I could not, for I was only visiting Hong Kong to get my Chinese visa. Yes, I was using my visits to Hong Kong as a way to renew my tourist visa every three months and ultimately get my work visa to stay in China. Nonetheless, I fell in love with Hong Kong and its bustling energy and in the process I came face to face with Big Buddha and some shifty eyed fortune tellers.
My First Visa Run
When I decided to detour from teaching English in Taiwan to Shanghai, my first stop between the two was Hong Kong. The company I was working for bought me an all-expenses paid trip to get my visa. Since China requires a visa, even for tourists, I had to get a visa in Hong Kong before I could go to Shanghai. I arrived in Hong Kong and immediately went to the section of the airport where you can buy an expedited visa to China. It was a hassle, as I had to fill out paperwork, and wait until the next day for my visa to be ready.
Luckily, the company I was working for also paid for my accommodation, which meant I could spend the day exploring. They also happened to pick the cheapest accommodation available. I stayed at the American hostel in Mirador Mansions. Mirador Mansions is a haven for backpackers, and it’s supposedly safer than the nearby and more infamous Chungking Mansions. However, I would recommend solo female travelers use caution if staying at Mirador Mansions as I had a man follow me back to my hostel and knock on my door late at night. Luckily, the rest of my time in Hong Kong was relatively safe.
One of the first things I noticed about Hong Kong is just how many ex-pats there are. Due to its colonial past, Hong Kong has a bustling ex-pat community and is also very English-friendly. The energy of Hong Kong also reminded me of New York, another city I love very much. On my first visit I checked out Hong Kong’s Time Square, walked around Victoria’s Park at night, and wished that I had more time to see more. Luckily, I would be back.
Getting My Visa Run On
After I got my tourist visa, I traveled to Hong Kong every three months for almost a year until I finally got my work visa. On one of my visa runs, I had a five hour stop-over in Hong Kong before I had to go back to Shanghai. I didn’t want to spend those five hours in the airport eating dim sum, so I hopped a bus and went to Ngong Ping to see the Big Buddha. If you have more than a four-hour layover in Hong Kong I highly recommend that you see the Big Buddha. There is a bus right outside the airport that takes you directly to Ngong Ping. Once you arrive at Ngong Ping, you take a gondola lift where you can see the Big Buddha and strike a pose. Five hours gave me just enough time to see the Big Buddha and get back to the airport just in time to catch my flight back to Shanghai.
My Last Visa Run – Fortune Tellers and Temple Street Night Market
The last time I went to Hong Kong on a visa run was to finalize my paperwork and get my work visa for China. Luckily, I had almost two days to spend with Hong Kong this time. One of the first things I did was spend the evening strolling around Temple Street Night Market, one of the oldest street markets in Hong Kong.
Temple Street Night Market is known for its nightly market with Chinese opera singers and fortune tellers. Fortune tellers congregate in an area around the market, and you can see dozens of tents set up with fortune tellers beckoning to tell you about the future. I have always loved fortune tellers, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to have my fortune told.
The first fortune teller I stumbled upon was an old lady with shifty eyes (that should have clued me in to her trustworthiness). The shifty eyed fortune teller used the power of tarot cards to divine my future. She had me select cards from her tarot deck before she carefully spread them out.
“You have strong and handsome boyfriend,” she said. I laughed. While I did have a boyfriend, at the time of my visit our relationship was in distress.
“The cards say you going to be a very rich woman. Lots of money.” She smiled, as I saw her eyes shift back and forth, as if looking for her next customer.
“That’s great,” I laughed nervously.
“Yes. Lots of money and happiness,” she smiled, her eyes continuing to shift back and forth.
I wanted to hear more about my future, but I was beginning to have a bad case of buyer’s remorse. I also had a sense that the fortune teller did not speak good enough English to clue me in any further.
“Yes. Lot of money and happiness. Super strong boyfriend.” She repeated.
After realizing she had no more to say, I smiled and left, wondering if I should ask the old fortune teller for a refund.
Despite the lackluster experience with the old shifty eyed fortune teller, my love for Hong Kong and all of its characters remained. The bustling metropolis has remained one of my favorite cities ever since – shifty-eyed fortune tellers and all. After my last visa run, I even returned to Hong Kong once more and brought my mom with me for the ride.
Stay tuned for Traveler Tidbits – Hong Kong, where I give recommendations on what to see and do in this marvelous city.