Those of you who have either: a)been reading this blog; or: b) lived in Seoul in the winter will be aware that it is Very Cold here. Snow-on-the-ground-for-weeks cold. Takes-your-breath-away cold. Frozen-fingers-without-gloves cold.
Last year, I coped with the shock of my first real winter in 11 years by writing a lot about how cold it was, whining a lot, and escaping with my family for two weeks to Thailand. A couple of weeks in steamy Bangkok and Phuket did wonders for my mood and my outlook. Unfortunately, this year, due to a number of factors beyond our control, we did not book a Christmas getaway, which resulted in my mood and outlook not having wonders done for them. I will leave it to your imagination, Gentle Reader, as to what that looks like on a daily basis. (I should add, that, when I moved to Arizona with its nearly endless sunshine and warm, sunny winters, I was stunned to discover what a pleasant person I could be in January and February, so you can just imagine what I'm like right now.)
It should come as no surprise to you, then, that when I suggested we spend our upcoming Lunar New Year holidays somewhere warm, MrLogical agreed with alacrity. Although the actual holidays are only three days long, they translate into a 5-day long weekend, which - to my way of thinking - was more than ample time to travel
After juggling our three schedules, checking flight costs and times, hotel availability, and reading far too many reviews on TripAdvisor, I finally booked a trip to Hong Kong, after which I immediately began second-guessing my decision. This was because, while TripAdvisor is 99% awesome (real advice, real people, real input,) it is 1% overwhelming for someone like me, who takes something like hotel bookings
Every time I started to click 'Book,' I began to second-guess myself. I envisioned us trapped in a nightmarish hotel full of monstrous concierges, sneering bellboys and rock-hard beds, pitifully waving our iPads around the lobby trying to log onto the WiFi because it would turn out that I'd not noticed that this particular hotel probably didn't offer WiFi in the rooms**, but only in the lobby, and which would turn out to be 'really slow' instead of 'lightning-fast!'(actual descriptions from actual reviewers.) I saw us wearily traveling for hours on trains just to get to the nearest Dim Sum restaurant or tourist destination due to my poor hotel choices. ( Of course, my choices were relatively limited anyway, since all the really smart people had booked their holidays in Hong Kong back in October-but I digress.) Finally, after a certain amount of anguish, I did the cyber-equivalent of closing my eyes and sticking a pin in a map and fatalistically booked us flights and a hotel.
Once I'd done that, I immediately felt better, since it was more or less out of my hands. But then - because I am an inveterate planner - I got busy deciding what we needed to do. Had I simply confined my research to reading TripAdvisor comments, I probably would have been fine, but -never satisfied - I began soliciting opinions from human beings. Our friend T, who had been to Hong Kong twice, recommended that we go to Macau while we were there, which we decided to do. Just as I was about to book a tour, another friend told me that she had not included it in their itinerary because they had heard it was just a big Casino. My mother reminisced about High Tea at the Peninsula - although I question whether MrL and Son#2 will wax equally enthusiastic. Points of agreement by all included some sort of a Harbour Tour, a trip to Victoria Peak, and a visit to the Temple Street Night Market, but others suggested Lantau Island, the Fishing Village, and a Pink Dolphin Tour were must-dos.
Have any of you been to/lived in Hong Kong? What's really worth seeing and doing? What's overrated? We'll be there during the New Year's Celebrations (Dragon Parade, but not the Fireworks) and plan to try and see that, but otherwise, we're open to suggestions. I'm not a shopper (and besides, Seoul is full of high-end retail) so not interested in malls or shopping centers, although outdoor markets are on the list. Historic/Cultural/Natural things are more our cup of tea.
I should also be perfectly honest here for a moment: if I travel to Hong Kong and do nothing but sit on a park bench for 5 days and appreciate the fact that the temperatures are above freezing, I will return home a satisfied woman.
But I'd love to hear what you have to say anyway.
*It is entirely possible that MrL and I - with our Asian upbringings - have been in or through Hong Kong before, but, if so, neither of us remembers it.
**We are a very wired sort of family, so this is an important issue. Even more so because we're traveling with a teenager.