Editor’s Note: On the Expedia UK blog, we love to highlight the voices of Expedia customers and avid travellers, people who love travelling as much as we do, people like Oneika Raymond. Today, we’re sharing Oneika the Traveller‘s story, all about how she fell in love with Hong Kong. Read on for what Hong Kong meant to her.
It just so happens that I travel. A lot. My feet, forever itchy, have taken me through nearly 100 countries on 6 continents; I have passport stamps from destinations as disparate as Ecuador and Ethiopia, Malta and Mongolia.
I thus get asked about my travels. A lot. The most frequent question I get, naturally, is how I afford it all, which I happily impart, because I love to help people live a similar lifestyle. However, the second most-asked question almost always elicits an inward groan:
“Of all the countries you’ve been to, what’s your favourite?”
It’s a perfectly valid question, of course, but most frequent travellers will tell you that choosing their favourite country is a bit like asking a parent to choose their favourite child— complicated.
Because the truth is that I really can’t pick just one. I love different aspects of different places for different reasons. There are cities that simultaneously infuriate and intoxicate me (like New York City), and others that have a certain je ne sais quoi that makes me internally beam (like Paris).
Then there are countries that I’ve found visually stunning (like Bolivia), or extremely interesting on an intellectual/historical level (like Egypt).
And of course, there are other places I love not because of their sights, but because of a chance encounter, an experience, or a life lesson learned there (far too many places fall into this category to name).
You can see how this gets difficult.
A better question, then, is to name a place that’s important to me, a destination that I treasure or hold dear. That I can answer without hesitation or reflection: it’s Hong Kong.
My connection to the Asian city runs long and deep— primarily because it isn’t just a city I’ve breezed through on vacation. Hong Kong is actually a place I called home for a good amount of time. It was so nice I went to live there thrice, my three stints adding up to a five year stay.
Hong Kong is special to me for reasons both superficial and profound. To start, the 263 islands that comprise it are aesthetically impressive.
From the gravity-defying skyscrapers of Central, to the verdant mountain peaks of Lantau, the region is a study of contrasts and juxtaposition. The quiet fishing village of Tai O, for example, has absolutely nothing to do with the frenetic pace of the shopping district of Causeway Bay; the densely packed streets in Mongkok bear no resemblance whatsoever to the wide open spaces found in the New Territories.
Of course, as a girl who grew up in a major metropolis, the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong inevitably captivated me most. One of my favourite things to do was walk the streets of the busiest districts at nightfall, dodging the crowds and observing how the neon signs adorning the buildings cast a hazy glow on the pavement.
And culturally, there’s no place more interesting or stimulating than Hong Kong to me. The intersection of Eastern and Western cultures is still felt strongly there, even with the end of British colonial rule in 1997. The result is a melting pot of English and Chinese language, design, tradition, and fashion. Food, too: you’ll just as soon find yourself seated at a pub for bangers and mash as at a traditional dai pai dong for a bowl of noodles.
But then, Hong Kong touched me on a deeper level as well. It’s the place where I truly came of age as an adult and grew professionally. I made close friends and even met my life partner there.
It was also a city of firsts: it was in Hong Kong that I lived on my own for the first time, ran my first race, went on my first hike. It was in Hong Kong where I truly stretched myself for the first time, embarked on a journey of walking left when I wanted to go right, and of saying yes when I wanted to say no. It was in Hong Kong that I actually learned how to be resilient, resourceful, and deal with being very very far away from the life and people I had known before.
With all that said, I’ll never really know why Hong Kong made such an impact on me– why it was the catalyst for so much growth and change in my life. But I guess that doesn’t really matter. Because what truly matters is that the city will forever have a special place in my heart, and I will forever consider it home. This I know.