Travels to Hong Kong & China
Master’s Scholarship to Hong Kong and China Travel Report – Charlotte Duval
I first want to thank Mr Carson Wen for his generosity when awarding me this scholarship, which gave me the amazing opportunity to travel to Hong Kong and Beijing for almost 2 weeks. I also want to thank University College and especially Mrs Louise Watson for giving me the opportunity of applying to this scholarship, even though I was an Erasmus exchange student at Univ in 2018-2019, reading the Diploma in Legal Studies, as part of an Erasmus exchange with Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas in Paris.
I felt very privileged to experience the life in such an inclusive college during a year and I felt very lucky to go on this trip!
I started my trip in Hong Kong, where I stayed for 10 days, then went to Beijing for 4 days and finally stayed in Shanghai (not in the context of the travel grant) for 5 days as my best friend is studying there, before going back to Paris, where I live and study this year, on 31 August, full of memories and nostalgia!
Hong Kong (12 – 21 August)
I stayed at Bishop Lei Hotel in mid-levels (a fact about mid levels which chocked me is that Cantonese people could not live there when Hong Kong was a British colony, as it was seen as a place for the upper class only), which is an area on the hill behind Central (which is the business district where all the big skyscrapers are) on Hong Kong island and therefore is really pretty as it overlooks the island. I had the chance to stay at the 25th floor and could enjoy the view on Victoria Peak! There was a swimming pool on the 1st floor of the hotel where I went twice, from which the view of the skyline was literally breath taking!
It was very easy to reach the hotel from the centre because of the mid-levels escalators that link Central to mid-levels in a couple of minutes only, without having to climb all the steps! The escalators go down from mid-levels to Central in the morning and their direction changes everyday at 10.30 am. Someone told me that this is much criticized as it is nurturing the inequalities in the city because it is mostly used by wealthy expats living at mid-levels who go to work every morning at Central and who come back to their privileged housing in the evening.
Hong Kong is impressive when you first arrive there because of its originality, compared to other big cities such as Shanghai or New York. Hong Kong is an addition of more than 200 islands! It is very luxuriant and hilly, which makes the city unique, as there is a big contrast between modern massive skyscrapers and hills surrounding them. In terms of historical heritage, I preferred Beijing because there is much more historical sites to see but I think Hong Kong is very relaxing as you can do hikes there and go to the beach very easily. It made me want to live there in the future.
What I did during my stay in Hong Kong that I highly recommend:
On Hong Kong Island:
– Hiking around Victoria Peak: better to go early in the morning to avoid the crowd and the heat (take the peak tram to go up there)
– Going to the Pier at Central to enjoy the view over Kowloon (which is facing Central) and to watch the Central skyline
– Going to the parks of Hong Kong island: Hong Kong park (where there are many amazing exotics birds), Zoological and Botanical Garden (to see monkeys)
– Taking a ride on one of the little cute tramways that are so typical from Hong Kong!
– Man Mo Temple
– PMK: a big building where many local designers work and sell their creations!
– Yick Cheong building: packed accommodations in the East of HK island. Quite far from the centre but quite impressive
On the other side of Hong Kong Island, at Kowloon and Mongkok:
– Walking on the promenade at Kowloon, the avenue of stars, and enjoy the view of Central, and go up in the Peninsula Hotel to enjoy the view from there
– On the avenue of Stars at Kowloon: watching the light show projected from Central in the evening: it is really worth it!!
– Taking the Star Ferry, which is as cheap as the MTR, from Kowloon to Central, to enjoy the view of the skyline by night!
– Mongkok: visiting the different markets (flower, birds, fishes markets, Ladies’ market (where to buy souvenirs but be careful as there are a lot of counterfeited products)), Temple Street market (souvenirs, many restaurants, many people, lights) which is opened from 6.30 until midnight.
– Lion Rock Peak: it is a three-hour hike in total; the hike is really worth it because you have the best view over Hong Kong from the peak! I did the hike on my last day in Hong Kong and I found it fabulous!
Going to beaches:
I went to Sai Kung beaches for a day: A must in Hong Kong! If you have time, enjoy the beaches because it feels so good to be away from the crowd of Central and very refreshing when it is 40°C! It is also very convenient to access them. Sai Kung beaches are apparently one of the most beautiful beaches in HK.
Access: From Hang Hau MTR, take the 101M bus to the terminus. Then take a taxi (100HKD) or another bus but they are not that many during the day, to Sai Wan pavillon. Then it is a one hour hike to Sai Wan beach. There are 4 beaches but I only had time to do the first one because I wanted to enjoy my time and I met an English couple there with whom I spend the afternoon. Just behind the beach, when you go to the pathway on the left just before crossing the bridge that leads to the next beach, there are AMAZING rock pools with waterfalls.
Way back home: from the little restaurant at the beach, book the boat back to where you took the 101M bus: It is so worth it and it is not that expensive (around 150HKD).
Trip to Lantau island: cable cabin Ngong Ping 360° to go on top of the hill: visit of the Big Buddha and monastery Po Lin
– Lamma Island: have a walk and enjoy the beaches
– Exhibitions: I went to the museum of history of Hong Kong, which is very interesting; and a non permanent exhibition of Murakami!
– Macao to enjoy the beauty of its Portuguese architecture!
Meeting people all around the world!
I loved this Hong Kong trip so much because I did so many different things there and I loved the fact that you can go to the seaside and that you can do hikes and be surrounded by nature very easily, escaping the crowd of the city centre. I thought I would be alone during my trip but I saw and met so many people there so I found it very enriching.
I saw Calvin Liu from Univ, who is now in third year in English literature, a couple of times! On my first day in Hong Kong, we had dinner at Yung Kee, a very good Cantonese restaurant and we had a typical Cantonese dish called shao wei which is goose served with rice. It was delicious! We then enjoyed a drink at the rooftop bar called “Cé la vie” and I made fun of the name because it is French but it is not written correctly (the correct way would be “c’est la vie”).
On Tuesday 13, I met Anaïs, a French friend from middle school who is doing an internship in Hong Kong. It had been 6 years not seeing each other so it was quite fun to meet her there! She introduced me to many of her friends who are also doing internships there and who are mostly French. We had drinks at a bar called Pastis which is where all the French people gather in Hong Kong! It was weird because I did not feel abroad at that moment. Apparently French people represent the biggest expat community in Hong Kong.
On Wednesday 14 August, I went to Sai Kung beach and I met an English couple from Derbyshire! It was nice spending a part of the afternoon with them! We went to the rock pools together and took the speedboat and the MTR back together! We exchanged our email addresses and I promised to send them this travel diary when published.
On Thursday 15 August, I met a French guy from Marseille when I was visiting the Big Buddha on Lantau Island. He was blocked in Hong Kong for three days, where he was only supposed to do a flight connection to go back to France from Australia! He was finally happy to discover another city but wanted also to go back home quickly as this was not planned!
On the Friday 16 August, Anaïs organised a house party on the rooftop of the building where she lives and she invited Calvin as well, who had a lot of fun, being surrounded by so many French people!
On Saturday 17 August evening, I went out with Anaïs’ friends and bumped into some of them on the Sunday, so I visited Man Po Temple and PMK with them!
On Sunday evening, I had dinner with Jeremy Lam who did in 2018-2019 a visiting student program in law at Saint Catherine’s College and his girlfriend, Valerie Kwok, who is reading a law degree in Univ (but who I first met during this trip in Hong Kong!), as well as one of Anaïs’ friends. We had dinner at Din Tai Fung and had a lovely time! We promised all to meet again at Univ ball in June 2020!
From Hong Kong to Beijing
I took the new fast train that goes from Hong Kong to Beijing in only 9 hours, crossing the whole Chinese country from South to North (around 2500k!). I have known a Chinese family living in Wuhan for 6 years now and they made me the surprise of joining me in my four-day Beijing trip! They jumped in the same train as me at Wuhan station and surprised me in the train while I was sleeping! Such an emotional moment!
Beijing (21 – 25 August)
I spent only 4 days in Beijing this summer but I spent one month there in August 2018 for a Summer School of Chinese language at PKU University so I did not visit all the main touristic sites again. But here are definitely places that you have to visit (that I visited last year and that I visited again for some this summer) when you go to Beijing, and there are many (compared to other cities like Hong Kong or Shanghai which are less ancient):
– The Great Wall (there are different sites from where you can go on the Great Wall)
– Summer Palace (next to PKU University! Rent a little boat for 1 hour to enjoy the site from a different perspective!)
– Tian’AnMen Square
– Forbidden city (and the park behind called Jingshan park in order to have an incredible view over the Forbidden city)
– Sky Temple (Tiantan in Chinese)
– Beihai Park
– Houhai lake (one of my favourite place in Beijing, do not hesitate to walk around the 3 lakes and avoid the crowd)
– The Beijing Hutongs (which are neighbourhoods of little grey houses that are typical from Beijing; they are a few in Beijing, one of the most beautiful and peaceful ones might be the Fangjia Hutongs)
– Panjiayuan (which is a big market where you can buy many things such as typical Chinese furniture, stones)
– PKU University campus: walk around the campus and see the very beautiful pagoda, see the West door entrance which is a big attraction for Chinese people as the sign on the door was written by MaoZedong himself, eat at one of the different canteens
– 978 Art District
– Wangfujing street (which is like the Chinese Champs Elysées)
I love Beijing so much! I had the opportunity to discover it quite deeply in 2018 and I was delighted to go back there again! PingXin, who is studying at PKU University as a law DPhil student and who is the husband of Yubin, who will be a visiting student at Univ in Michaelmas 2019, came at the train station to welcome me and accompany me to PKU University where a room in a hotel (which is inside the university) was booked for me (lucky me!). He was super kind and offered me to show me the city and to help me with any issue encountered!
I thus spent my Beijing trip with “my Chinese parents”, Xiaodi and Zhoufan, and their eight-month old child called Hadou who I met for the first time, as Xiaodi was pregnant when I visited them the year in 2018 in China! We went to the Sky Temple, the Summer Palace and Houhai lakes all together and we went to typical Chinese restaurants with some of their friends. What I love about Chinese restaurants is that they are very convivial as you share the dishes! Before going to the Sky Temple, we had Beijing hotpot and it was particularly delicious!
Food and Bars
– Tsim Chai Kee (at Lan Kway Fong): very good and cheap noodle soup, very popular restaurant
– Yung Kee at central on Wellington street (very animated street): we had a typical Cantonese dish called shao wei (goose speciality served with rice)
– Canton’s Dim Sum Expert in Kowloon (the restaurant does not look that nice (classic in China) but the food is very good)
– Din tai fung (chain; speciality to eat is xiaolongbao which are like dumplings with soup inside)
I could not resist to go to some non typical restaurants because there are so many in Hong Kong as it is very international but they are of course more expensive than Cantonese restaurants.
– Burger Circus
– Maison libanaise (Lebanese restaurant)
– Uma Nota (Latin American restaurant)
– La Piola (Italian restaurant; unlimited buffet when you have a drink)
– Many rooftop bars in Central such as Cé la vie
– Pastis: French bar (where all the French people meet apparently), French music; it was fun but I did not feel abroad at all!
– DiVino Bar
– Ichu (ladies’ night with free drinks for ladies on Tuesdays)
– Félix: bar on top of the Peninsula hotel
– Ozone: world highest bar in Kowloon
– Salon n°10
– Dragon Eye
You should definitely try out:
– Beijing Roast Duck (the best but very expensive restaurants are Quanjude and DaDong; I have been in DaDong in 2018 with Chinese people and it was a great experience! less pricy but super good, go to Deyuan Roast Duck Restaurant)
– Chinese hotpot which is like a fondue where you cook meat and vegetables: try the chain Haidiliao Hotpot which is very good (it is better to go there with a large group of people)
– You should eat for breakfast the Beijing crepe called jianbing, which is also typical from Beijing
– Baozi which are filled with meat or vegetables that Chinese people eat for breakfast and for snacking
– Really good Sichuan restaurant: Zhang Mama
– Wudakou is an area near Tsinghua University and PKU University where there are many restaurants and bars and which is quite appreciated by students
– What I love about Beijing is the hidden bars in Hutongs such as The Great Outdoors and Tiki Bungalow in the Fangjia Hutongs. Also go to bars in Beiluoguxiang next to the Fangjia Hutongs and go to Nina, Mai Bar or Fang Bar.
Political Situation Regarding the Hong Kong Protests
This trip occurred in a particular context because of the Hong Kong protests occurring since March 2019. I arrived in Hong Kong on Monday 12th August in the morning and some protestors started blocking the airport in the afternoon for 3 days. I got lucky to land in the morning and did not encounter any perturbation when I arrived but I met 3 different persons the following days who were “blocked” in Hong Kong and could not take a flight back home because of the protests.
About the protests happening in the centre, I only saw a few protestors during the week but I did not see the big walk happening on the weekend because it occurred in Wan Chai, in the East of Hong Kong Island. I was only at Central at that moment so I only saw a crowd of people taking the subway at Central to go to Wan Chai. I however talked with French students living there for 6 months who saw the protests but without ever being involved in them. It seemed to me that the topic is very sensitive, especially when talking to Hong Kong people and obviously when I went to Beijing afterwards.
I have never felt in danger during my trip even though the protests were happening at that time. I only felt the sensitive climate going on but I think it is very different when you are only a tourist in the country and not living it from inside.
Buy a subway card to use public transport (MTR, bus, ferries in HK which are very cheap and nice because you have a nice view over Central): called Octopus card in HK.
Buy a sim card for your stay in order to use internet.
Wear a hat and stay hydrated, especially during Summer and especially in HK where it is very humid.
There are many of beautiful hikes in HK (Dragon’s back, Maclehose trail) but it was too warm in August in my opinion to walk more than 2 hours in the sun as it was approximately 40 degrees all day.
Eat Chinese food! Western restaurants are way more expensive in HK and Beijing than typical local food and Western food is often disappointing (maybe less in HK which is way more international than Beijing).
Chinese people eat often the same kind of things in the morning as for lunch and dinner so do not be scared of eating pasta and meat in the morning rather than a croissant!
Be careful with counterfeited products! There are many fake markets in both HK and Beijing.
Always keep the address of your accommodation written in both English and in Chinese because taxi drivers do not always speak English.