Rana Gidwani, Business Economics and Entrepreneurship, Class of 2015
To me, becoming a local involves four things: being comfortable with your bearings, having the ability to get to where you need to be, finding your favorite haunt, and knowing exactly where to find the hidden gems. In the last two months, all of these have become a reality, and I can comfortably call myself a Hong Kong local.
Central HK (seen from ICC)
1.) Being comfortable with my bearings:
I feel like I have the map of Hong Kong and its surrounding islands burned into my memory. Exploring Lamma Island and finding my way back to Kowloon, or hiking through Cheung Chau Island and making my way to the Little Great Wall have forced me to learn the geography of the area. Needless to say, I can probably give a tour of Hong Kong to a foreigner and build them the optimal itinerary depending on their time frames. At this point, Hong Kong feels like home.
2.) Having the ability to get to where I need to be:
Using both the MTR and bus systems to make my daily commute, it’s safe to say that I know where to go and how long it takes to get there. For example, if you wanted to get from Mong Kok to Hung Hom with a quick pit stop for food in Tsim Sha Tsui, I could tell you comfortably to take the Red Line (towards Central), and to give yourself at least 45 minutes, accounting for the pedestrian traffic on Nathan Road and the chances that the moving walkways on the East TST transfer tunnel have stopped. I could also tell you to make sure to stop at Choux Creme next to the 7/11 in the TST MTR Station for dessert and grab yourself a quick strawberry cream puff for the road. Then hop on the Purple Line towards Hung Hom. Hong Kong’s public transportation system is practically flawless, and getting around is a breeze. After two months of perfecting the art of using it, the system has made me feel more like a local than anything else.
Wonton Noodle Soup
3.) Finding my favorite haunt:
This is a tough one. It’s kind of like asking someone what their favorite movie or song is. But, if I had to pick one, I’d say the noodle soup restaurant in Sheung Wan, right next to work. This place is so authentic that even if I wanted to write out the name, I would need to find a way to type out Chinese characters. This place gets PACKED at lunch time, to the point where sitting down with strangers is a common occurrence due purely to the lack of seats in the restaurant. However, I’ve become a regular. When I walk in, I’m greeted with a warm smile and I don’t even need to order. The waitress already knows my order of Wonton Noodle Soup and a glass of cold water (hot water is the standard here). And for the price of only HK$27 ($3.48), it’s a steal!
4.) Knowing exactly where to go to find the hidden gems:
Man Cheung Po Natural Infinity Pool
Exploring the outlying islands of Hong Kong has been my favorite pastime, and as a local, finding out places to go becomes a regular occurrence. One place in particular really stood out to me. As a group, six of us went to Lantau Island for a hike to the Man Cheung Po Natural Infinity Pool. It started off as a rainy morning, which made the ferry ride to the island that much more exciting. When we finally arrived to the island, we were greeted by a 1km long bridge that led us onto the island, which was covered in green mountains and fog. Pictures couldn’t do this place justice. When the rain picked up again, we were in the middle of the jungle on a mountain, overlooking the ocean; the views were breathtaking. We finally made it to the top of this mountain after taking random turns, trails, and staircases, and we were struck by a gorgeous waterfall that flowed into a natural infinity pool created by a dam. It made everything worthwhile. Swimming in the cool water after that arduous hike was only topped off by the incredible views of the ocean and surrounding mountains and jungles. I’d say knowing where these hidden gems are located is the best part about being a local, and having the time to explore them makes all the difference.
I’ll definitely be sad when I leave Hong Kong; two months just isn’t enough time. Although I’ve seen and done so much, I still have plenty of places to see in the city and islands still on my list. The week that I have left here won’t let me accomplish everything, so I’ll have to pick and choose what I want to save for when I return to this beautiful city.