A Travellerspoint blog

Weeks 49+50 - The End

Last two weeks (10 days) of my year in HK. What a year it’s been.

sunny 32 °C

Huge thanks to Dr and Mrs Holliday for awarding me the Nick Holliday Travel Scholarship, in memory of their son Nick who was a geography teacher at KES. He was an avid traveller, explorer and climber, and died tragically in a climbing accident doing what he loved. The Scholarship helps fund the travels of KES students who aspire to travel, which I am sure Nick would be very proud of.

Posted on 30th July 2021

It’s exactly one year since I left for Hong Kong. No idea how; I still remember saying goodbye to everyone and getting ready for a year away so clearly, as if it was yesterday. I’ve never been away from home for anywhere near this long, and it was weird being back. At the time of writing I’ve been home for three weeks, having landed on the 10th July before quarantining at home for 10 days. When I got home from the airport it genuinely felt like the whole last year was a dream, almost a sense of disbelief. One plane journey and just like that, the people and surroundings that I’ve seen and interacted with everyday for a year have just gone from my life. Just like that. It was strange for the first few days being at home. Then I was back into the swing of normality, as if nothing had happened. If it wasn’t for the souvenirs I’ve brought back and the friends I’ve made, I genuinely would’ve thought it was all a dream.

It’s been such an incredible year. I’ve explored, learnt, made friends for life. I’ve worked full-time for a year, I’ve done my own tax forms (with lots of assistance). I’ve gained so much invaluable life experience, having to deal with all sorts of people and learning to adapt to a constantly changing work environment (rules in school fluctuated loads due to HK’s Covid regulations). Lots of people said to me how it’s a shame I haven’t been able to travel around SE Asia and visit places like Thailand and Japan. Whilst I get what they’re saying, I wouldn’t call anything about this past year a ‘shame’. I got to know HK so well that now, I could probably get to any destination without a map (or Uber). I can’t speak highly enough about it as a place, both to travel around to and to live in. There’s so much to do, and the best thing is that you can do it all in one trip, given how close everything is together. Of course there’s the upmarket restaurants and malls that make HK expensive, but it is possible to do it cheaply. Public transport is a blessing - cheap and reliable - and some of the things I enjoyed the most about this year have probably been the hikes and beaches, which are free to do.

Sorry it’s taken three weeks to write this. I didn’t forget about writing, I’ve just been occupied with helping around the house, sorting stuff out for uni, but I’ve been adding to this entry whenever I could. Here’s my last one and a half weeks in HK to finish off the year.

NOTE: we broke up on Wednesday 30th June, so I’m calling the Thursday to the Sunday Week 49, and then the week after up until my flight on the Friday is Week 50.

Week 49 (1st - 4th July)

Friday 2nd July was a really fun day. Played in a football tournament against schools from across HK (I think 21 in total?). Each school fielded a 7-a-side team of teachers, and it was done in Euros format so each school was drawn as a Euros nation. We got given France, and ironically got knocked out on penalties in the round of 16 just like the real tournament. Really fun day, although playing was uncomfortable at times due to the 32 °C heat and intense sun. Played at pitches in Tseung Kwan O, which is the furthest east point of HK and quite isolated. Probably the most grass I’ve seen anywhere in HK, and it’s next to a film studio and a bridge that is absolutely massive but doesn’t really connect to anything. People say that other than the football pitches there’s no reason why you’d ever need to go to Tseung Kwan O.
Euros football tournament for teachers across HK

Had a junk (boat party) on Saturday. Went to Clearwater Bay which was beautiful. Because it was the weekend there were loads of other boats there. Dread to think what the ocean bed in that area looks like, in terms of how much rubbish has been thrown down there. Spent the day enjoying the sun, eating and drinking, and playing around on inflatables.
Clearwater Bay junk

Brunch at Duddells on Sunday, one of HK’s top rated dim sum restaurants. It’s Michelin starred and very pricey, but honestly it was quite underwhelming and definitely not worth the price tag. I guess with stuff like dumplings, rice rolls and wontons, there’s only so much you can do, so it’s hard to make it worth the amount they were charging. The unlimited duck and pancakes was very nice though.

Week 50 (5th - 10th July

Monday was one of the best days of the year. Spent the day in Sai Kung, which is where the rock pools/waterfalls that I visited in October are. It’s easily the most beautiful part of HK; the town has a holiday feel to it and the seafood is amazing, whilst the beaches there are unmatched. There is a country park there which is gorgeous, and after you hike through it, you arrive at a set of beaches that are secluded and private. We had breakfast at Little Cove, apparently the best breakfast place in HK, before getting a taxi through the country park so we could hike to the beach. The weather was perfect, and as it was a weekday it wasn’t as busy as it can get on the weekends. The hike was just over an hour, and when we got to the beach we turned left and walked up the river to get to the rock pools.
Sai Kung pier and country park

We spent about 3 hours at the rock pools, cliff jumping and swimming. The weather was actually perfect. 32 °C and a completely blue sky. There were only 4 other people there when we arrived - on the weekends you can find over 20 people there easily - and when they left we had it to ourselves. It’s like a place out of a film; the water is blue and crystal clear, and there are ledges around the edge to leave your things and sit. The cliff is a very good height too, so jumping from it is popular. It was basically our own freshwater pool for the day.
Sai Kung rock pools

After the rock pools we got the boat back to the town. The boat journey was beautiful; we could see small islands that we’d never seen before as they’re only accessible by boat, but the highlight was the UNESCO Geopark. It’s a protected area and the islands are really cool; they’re formed out of a special rock that looks like lots of individual thin pillars/columns of rock combined together. Very unique sight and impressive to think that’s how they naturally form. Had dinner at Cheung Kee Seafood Restaurant - fresh scampi and prawns - before heading back.
UNESCO geopark and seafood restaurant

On Tuesday we had another junk, this time in Sai Kung. Weather started well but it started getting stormy in the afternoon. This boat was the same as the first junk we did in June, so there was wakeboarding and kayaking included. There’s a beach out on an island that is only accessible by boat. I kayaked there and it was gorgeous - the sand was clean and it was untouched by litter. I’d brought snorkelling goggles with me, so decided to have a look around the large rocks that were just offshore. I was glad I didn’t walk around them beforehand: there were over 50 sea urchins attached to and around them. Never seen them before in person; they were quite scary, jet black in colour with spikes that sort of wave around slowly in the water. I think that if their spikes impale you then you need to go to the hospital ASAP, as in some instances the venom is so much that it can kill you. There were also some cool tropical fish swimming around the rocks, brightly-coloured with stripes, but I was too fixated on the sea urchins to watch them for too long.
Junk; view from the private beach and wakeboarding

Wednesday was lunch at Samsen, a popular Thai place, followed by drinks in the evening. Went to a rooftop bar called Nine Dragons, which is in TST so it looks onto the Island. Spent a while up there taking in the skyline. Even after being there for a year I could still appreciate how incredible it is.
Samsen and Nine Dragons

Thursday, the last full day, was lots of packing. I had a last-minute panic when I realised that my suitcase, which was weight-capped at 23kg, weighed just over 30kg. In the end I paid for additional check-in luggage, which was £50, which isn’t bad considering that the fee for overweight luggage (my other option) would’ve been $160USD at the airport. In the evening we had dinner at Pici, a very popular pasta place, before having some drinks on a rooftop terrace in the International Finance Centre. It wasn’t as fancy as it sounds; there’s a Shake Shack there that has rooftop seating, so we just sat there with some bottles. We chatted about our best memories of the year, our plans and thoughts for the future, and it was a nice way to end it.
Pici, and drinks on the IFC

And onto Friday. Flight was at 8pm so we only had up until lunchtime to do stuff. Decided to go out for lunch to Chaiwala, an iconic Indian place in town, before heading back. On the drive back from town I made sure to take in as much of the view of the city as I could, as I’m not sure when I’ll next be back in HK. The skyline is honestly something else.

My housemaster was very kind to drop me off at the airport. We said goodbye and that was pretty much it, my Hong Kong experience finished. Checked in through security, got some food. Boarded the plane, slept for most of the 13hr journey. Changed over in Amsterdam just like the journey to HK, and then a 1hr flight from there to Birmingham and I was home, landing on Saturday 10th July.


I was very lucky to get this job offer and be able to spend a year in HK, especially with everything going on at the time. In April and May, I was unsure if I’d even be able to go to HK, as the situation there was so bad. I’ve loved it all the way through and as I said at the start of this entry, I’ve gained so much invaluable life experience, having lived away from home and worked full time for a year. When I got there everyone was a stranger and everything was new, but I enjoyed getting to know the people there and finding my way around the city. It’s an opportunity most 18 year olds don’t get, so I’m very grateful for it.

I still can’t believe it’s been a whole year. This time last year I was sat in the HK Expo centre, waiting to be tested having just landed. I started this blog partly for the KES Travel Scholarship, but also so that my family could keep up to date with what I was doing. I’ve enjoyed writing it, and what I’ve realised is that I’ve recorded pretty much everything that has happened this year. Not only the fun stuff, but I’ve written what the COVID situation was at the time and how it affected me, as well as small details and anecdotes that I’ll have forgotten by now. I think it’ll be really interesting for me to read back through this in a few years. It’ll allow me to relive this year and remind me of the fun stuff, but also of what it was like to live in a country that was one of the first to be affected by COVID. The restrictions were much stricter than here in the UK, and the police would fine you without hesitation if they caught you breaking them, such as for not wearing a mask outdoors in 33 °C heat.

I also lived there in a time that is being described as a huge transitional period for HK (and by some as the end of HK). When I arrived, the national security law was around a year old, and despite only being there for a year I could see what was happening. People were scared, the news would cover significant stories such as Jimmy Lai being jailed and Apple Daily being shut down, as well as anti-Beijing protesters being detained. You’d find cries of protest in discreet locations, such as written on the back of bus seats or etched onto windows. But it was clear that the people there were frightened, and listening to stories from people who had been there for many years, or who had been raised as south-east Asians, reinforced that. (Westerners weren’t too badly affected, as they tend to not get involved with the politics there anyway). People said things to me like ‘be careful of what you say, anybody’s phone can pick up what you’re saying’. I have a feeling that when I do visit again, probably in a few years time, it’ll be so much more authoritarian than it already is. Not trying to end my last entry on a dark note, but it would be wrong to portray HK as a perfect and trouble-free place when there is so much going on beneath the surface.

I’d like to wrap everything up by saying thank you to Ms Ferguson and Mr Connor for awarding me the Nick Holliday Travel Scholarship. It helped me out massively throughout the year, as you can imagine in a place as expensive as Hong Kong. Many thanks also go to Dr John and Mrs Jenni Holliday for creating this scholarship opportunity in the first place. Not only is it extremely generous, but I think it’s a fantastic idea as it encourages KES students to go out and explore parts of the world they might otherwise be hesitant or unable to. This has been without a doubt the best year of my life, and as obvious as it sounds, it has acted as an eye-opener for how much there is to do and learn when you explore new parts of the world. If you’ve made it to the end of this, thanks for reading and I hope you found it somewhat worthwhile keeping up to date with what I’ve been doing, mostly what food I’ve been eating. I’ve been making the most of it, as I’m aware that when I go to university, the cold pasta and ready meals won’t be quite as glamorous.

Signing off for the last time,

Posted by David Zhao 10:55 Archived in Hong Kong

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