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Hong Kong and Macau

My first trip to Hong Kong was for a New Year’s Eve celebration to ring in 2015. After seeing the ceaseless flurry of activity in the energetic city and only managing to see a few of the main attractions, Hong Kong became my preferred connection airport. Anytime that I was transiting through the area, I tried to schedule a long layover here in order to get the chance to go see a few more things. While the city is famous for its beautiful skyline which does not disappoint, there is plenty more to see and do around the enormous city. Below are a few of my favorites from the several stops in Hong Kong. Another draw is that Macau is only a quick ferry ride from either downtown in the city or from the airport. Whether visiting for a few hours to a few days and no matter how many times they have already visited, this city has something for every traveler passing through.

-Lan Kwai Fong- this notorious walking street filled with over 90 bars and restaurants in the middle of the Central district covering only a few small blocks, is one the premier destinations for nightlife in the city. Although there are quieter restaurants to enjoy a glass of wine on weeknights, there are plenty of loud and rowdy bars offering jello shots and other discounted drinks. On NYE the streets were crammed with an internationally diverse crowd of merry makers and the area became louder and more chaotic the closer the clock got to striking midnight. With the cheap drinks and a fun open atmosphere, it is not surprising that even on normal weekends LKF is a legendary spot for revelry. The night after NYE, I met up with some other friends also passing through Hong Kong and we saw a dance mob take control of the street. We made our way in close to the center of the circle to get a better look and moments later I found my way to participating in the dancing thanks to a timely shove from my buddy that landed me directly in the middle.

-Victoria Peak- probably the most famous vantage point for seeing the city, Victoria Peak offers beautiful views of the bay and the massive skyscrapers in every direction. It gets quite filled with tourists but offers breathtaking views of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and Victoria Harbour. The lines for Peak Tram up the steep hill, which is actually the world’s steepest funicular railway, quickly gets long. It is best to go early to miss the crowds or accept them and go at sunset to catch the glimmering rays reflecting off the numerous buildings in the valley below. Any time of day though, this is one of the best attractions in the city.

-Order Dim Sum- this famous dumpling dish is very popular in the region and available all over the city. It is typically served by itself or with other dishes in steamer baskets or can be put on little plates to go. Dim sum are stuffed with a variety of options ranging from barbecue pork to shrimp dumplings and generally are fried or steamed. This Chinese speciality was originally served as a breakfast or brunch dish, but can be ordered any time of day all over Hong Kong.

-Cable Car to the Big Buddha- for short layovers, visiting the Tian Tan Buddha is one of the easiest yet still definitely an impressive introduction to Asia. Cable cars sweep you up and over the mountain range taking you out to the massive bronze statue, the "Big Buddha." I missed this on my first two times to the city because it is close to the airport and the goal was typically to get downtown as quickly as possible. Finally on the third trip, it had made the top of the list and I was finally able to make it out to the mountain. When I visited, it was much colder in the elevation and winds than expected so I ended up getting a giant furry Russian style hat to stay warm on the ride out. After exiting the gondola, the Buddha was only a short hike up a mountain. At the top waits a sweeping 360 view of the surrounding mountains and sea, which was well worth the 268 stairs to reach the statue.

-Visit the city parks- In a metropolitan city this large it is needless to say that it is teeming with people and finding your way through the maze of skyscrapers can be challenging at times. There are busy street markets to explore, massive shopping centers, and historic shrines scattered throughout the city. However, in the midst of all this city bustle are several peaceful and well-kept parks. The first time I stumbled upon one was when turning a wrong corner while rushing to the train station. I never would have guessed that the quiet little oasis was on the around the corner in the heart of the concrete jungle. Later I googled what parks were in the city and found that there were actually several in the area and three well-known ones Hong Kong Park, Victoria Park, and Nan Lian Garden that were all easily accessible by public transit and offered quiet reprieve from the chaos of the city.

-Ferry Ride- a short 45 min ferry ride from the airport or an hour ferry from downtown takes you directly into the center of Macau. I took the ferry from downtown in the city port on both trips over and upon arrival at the port in Macau, there were taxis and buses available to provide transport downtown. However, we learned from other passengers on the boat that the casinos all offered free transit for anyone going to their hotel for gambling which was half the reason we were going and immediately started our day off at the tables.

-Casinos- Macau is famous for being the Las Vegas of the East and it feels a bit like stepping on to the Vegas strip with the massive Wyndham and MGM glittering fronts welcoming you in. Although I am not a huge gambler, it was fun doing a casino shuffle and jumping around the different buildings to see a bit of the town while also getting in on the action. Kristi settled in at one of the casinos once she started a winning streak and by the time we left, she had actually ended up winning enough to pay for her whole NYE trip!

-World's Highest Bungee- while my friend was busy winning big at the tables, I continued exploring the city and eventually headed over to the Macau Tower. Before arriving I had heard that the Macau Tower was home to the World’s highest bungee jump. Stretching 764 feet high, jumpers simply put out their arms and enjoyed the free fall for several seconds before being caught and bouncing back up. It looked terrifying and I knew I had to do it. Unfortunately, I did not make a reservation ahead of time and there was no free spaces available for that afternoon. A few months later though when I was passing back through the city traveling with a co-worker who was a fellow adrenaline junkie, we both went back over to Macau in order to make the jump. By the time I was finally suited up, strapped in, and standing on the ledge, it was all smiles before taking the exhilarating ride down. For any adventure seeker, Macau is a definite stop!

Currency: Hong Kong Dollar and Macanese Pataca (HKD is widely accepted in Macau).

Drink: Milk Tea also referred to as 'Pantyhose Tea' that is a mix of black tea and condensed milk and filtered through a cloth bag resembling pantyhose.

Food: Dim sum or How Gar (the steamed shrimp dumplings) are certainly a must try, but there is a wide assortment of Chinese cuisine including sweet and sour pork or wontons that are also fantastic.

Electric Outlet: Type G (British) and Type D (Indian) sockets. However, some hotels have American outlets and many adapters are left at hotels that can be borrowed or purchased cheaply.

Visa: Required- not required.

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