Here I am sitting on a plane en route to China. My stomach all cramped up from the butterflies that filled my stomach. The thoughts about missing everything that is going on back home scares me even more (#fomo). Besides me, my mother is excited for the next few weeks she will be back in the country she called home till her teenage years. Seven years ago, l’ve visited China, but my thirteen year old self hated it because I would much rather be home than to be surrounded by swarms of mosquitoes and smoke everywhere I go. However, I came back from the trip as a different person. To see the small town and village that my parents grew up in made me realize how fortunate I am to grow up in a country where there are many opportunities to succeed. A lot of things have changed in seven years, including the economic state of China. They’ve grown exponentially and continues to grow. Now seven years later, I am now back in China for a semester to study abroad. Never have I thought that I would be studying abroad in Hong Kong. It’s not the usual European study abroad experience, but it will be just as exciting. There’s so much to see and so much more to learn about this side of the world. I am going to miss my friends back home in New York and The District. I am nervous for what is to come, but I am excited for this new experience in a city like Hong Kong.
Day 1: January 4, 2017
It was still dark out, and I was up and out of the hotel room we were staying in for the past week to catch our bus to Hong Kong. My mom and I was visiting her home town, a small town in the providence of Guangzhou in China, before we made our way to Hong Kong. We took the 7 a.m bus from there and arrived at the Shenzhen Bay Port at approximately 10:00 a.m. There was hundreds of people going through the port, so definitely be careful and conscious of your personal belongings (especially phones and identifications). (Note: It is required that you go through customs whether you are going from and to Hong Kong to China even though Hong Kong is now a part of China.) It took about 40 minutes to go through both the Chinese and Hong Kong customs. Once we got through the boarders, we were on Hong Kong land. There was about another hour drive before we get to Kowloon, Hong Kong (main district of Hong Kong). The bus was stationed at Prince Edward (太子) Street, which was right across from Metropark Hotel Mong Kok, the hotel my mom was staying in (they have two other locations: Kowloon and Causeaway Bay). It’s a pretty affordable hotel in comparison, to others options around the neighborhood because the real estate in Hong Kong is really expensive.
Once we checked into the room, we headed down to the second floor of the hotel for lunch. When you are in Hong Kong, you just always tend to have dim sum (点心), which are small bite sized portions of food served in bamboo steamer baskets (like Spanish tapas). Dim sums are usually served with tea, which you can choose once you get seated. The dim sum was pretty good, but it wasn’t anything I haven’t had before.
After lunch, we took a taxi over to the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). We could’ve definitely taken the MTR (Hong Kong’s version of the MTA) over to campus, but since I had a huge suitcase with me, it would’ve been difficult to carry that around the station. The drive there wasn’t bad, thankfully there wasn’t any traffic getting there. Once we got to the entrance of the university, the cab driver asked one of the security officers by the front where my hostel was. The cab driver stopped right in front of the hostel, so that was helpful because it would have been tragic trying to drag my suitcase downhill. I am living in the International House (i-House), which is where most of the international students tend to live. Honestly, I wanted to cry when I got into the room. It was disgusting to say the least (okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but it’s pretty disgusting). I left my luggage in the room before taking the train down to IKEA with my mom.
There is a shopping center located at Shatin (沙田) with an IKEA, which is two train stops away. We shopped for the basic necessities (comforter, sheets, pillows, towels) and other knick-knacks that would be nice to have. After the shopping trip at IKEA, we walked over to the shopping center across from IKEA to meet up with my friend from D.C. who is also on exchange here at CUHK. We were all going to head back to campus to drop off the things we’ve purchased before getting dinner. We made a stop at Gong Cha, a bubble tea shop inside the shopping center we were in. They had a variety of different drinks, but I opted for the Passionfruit Green Tea with Jelly, it was only $20 HKD ($2.5 USD)! It had a really strong passionfruit flavor, which I like. I’d definitely like to try out some of their milk tea options.
We headed back to campus, and I had to wipe down the bed frame and desk with some disinfectant wipes. We set the bed up, and my mom insisted for me to stay in her hotel tonight since my roommates still haven’t moved in yet. I had no idea who they were, so she just thought it would be best to stay with her for the first night. It was getting pretty late by the time we finished setting up everything, so we ended up getting dinner at the restaurant at the Victoria Harbor Restaurant in Metropark Hotel once again. After dinner, we called it a night since I was going to have to wake up early tomorrow for orientation.
Day 2: January 5, 2017
All of the exchange students for this semester is required to attend the orientation which gives us information about the university as well as the resources (health center, counseling) available for students to use. There were about 460 exchange students this semester, coming from all over the world, with a majority of us from the United States. The orientation lasted till 12:30 p.m. Then a group of us from the same home university headed down to this fast food shop close to the university’s metro station called Maxim’s MX (美心). Maxim’s MX offer popular Cantonese roasted barbecue pork, duck, or chicken over rice, along with other options on the menu. I got the soy sauce chicken with roasted bbq pork, and a iced lemon tea for a total of $48 HKD (~$6 USD).
After lunch, we headed back to take the campus tour. The student ambassadors took us around Central campus, which is where the library and most of the science academic buildings are location. Then we took a walk around to the Benjamin Franklin center, where three of the more popular canteens (cafeterias), bank, supermarket, and barber shops are located. Once the tour was over, I went back to the academic building for my academic advising session (which it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know already).
For dinner, my friends and I went to Shatin to try Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) a popular Taiwanese restaurant known for their xiao long baos aka soup dumplings. We were seated immediately, even though there was a slight crowd out in the front when we arrived. We ordered their popular xiao long baos, dumplings, and scallion egg fried rice. I didn’t think much of the meal, the sauce that complements the dumplings were amazing and full of flavor. The soup dumplings were kind of disappointing, it was good, but it wasn’t anything mind blowing. The total came out to be $101 HKD per person (~$13 USD). Afterwards, we went to the usual bubble tea shop that is located in the mall Gong Cha and I got the usual Passionfruit Green Tea with Jelly. Then we called it a night since we had to get up early tomorrow for Lantau Island.
Day 3: January 6, 2017
Day 4: January 7, 2017
For today, the university has arranged a welcoming lunch and a city tour for the exchange students this semester. We first started this day off with lunch at The Mira Hong Kong, which the administration praised that it was going to be “the best Chinese food” you will ever get in Hong Kong. I thought the food was decent and nothing spectacular, but the service was definitely 5-star worthy. The selection of food was a western approach than authentic Chinese cuisine, but it was a cool experience overall.
After lunch, we hopped onto a coach bus that as going to take us to a tour to the Peak and Stanley Market. The tour guide on this coach bus was incredibly boring in comparison to Roger, the tour guide from the first bus we took. Once we made our first stop at the Peak, my friends and I went over the first tour guide to ask if we can follow his coach bus. He made a joke that the lady on the tour bus was going to kill him if he takes us from her, but he asked the lady and she was fine with that. As we were going to our second location (Stanley Market), he kept the group engaged and picked on my friends and I since we were newcomers on his coach bus. Once the ‘tour’ was over, the coach bus took us back to campus. We didn’t have much time to explore each of the location, so I definitely want to come back another day to spend more time at the Peak and Stanley Market.
Day 5: January 8, 2016
All we do is eat…
This day, I went down to Causeway Bay with a some friends to get some school supplies at Muji before class begins the following day. We stopped by Law Mark Kee for lunch which was located in this shopping center mall at Causeway Bay.
This place gives off the vibe of vintage Hong Kong Char Chan Teng (Tea Restaurants) in the 60’s or 70’s.
Nothing on the menu seem to draw my attention, so I ordered Scallion Pancakes Beef Wraps. It reminded me of something I had when I was younger. It has a familiar taste to it, but I wouldn’t get it again.
After lunch, we wanted to find this bubble tea place called KOI Thé. We took the MTR to Wan Chai but before we got there, found this frozen yogurt place called Llaollao.
We finished the day by going to Mong Kok to try some street foods, definitely hit up Sai Yeung Choi Street, and the street food vendors will be located somewhere around there. We headed back to campus to prepare for class tomorrow.