Traveling Hong Kong at 18 vs rock ‘n roll Hong Kong at 28

Travel wasn’t affordable 10 years ago. For the same price, I had a chance to choose between two things:

  1. a big traditional 18th birthday (Debut) with heavy pink dresses, bad smelling hair spray, a chance to introduce your teenage boyfriend to society, hundreds of visitors (mostly friends of my mom’s) and of course, the spotlight. To be 18 means crossing the bridge of early adulthood and it deserves to be celebrated.
  2. Traveling Hong Kong: it’s close to home, it’s young adult friendly, it’s a travel trend for first-time Filipino travelers.

I chose the latter. I told my mother I don’t want to have a big party. I want to go to Disneyland and take selfies with Mickey Mouse.

Of course I didn’t have selfies. Front cameras weren’t a trend at the time. It was the mandatory scenic view picture with you smiling awkwardly that was a hit.

Who said my mother will let me go by myself? Of course not. 2006 was a the year of women and child trafficking boom and no parent in their right minds would send their children traveling alone.

I had to be accompanied with the whole household for my debut and it sucked. Not that it ‘sucked’ sucked but there was something about Hong Kong that a girl like me crossing adulthood should explore by herself.

And I figured that all out last week when I went to Hong Kong again after 10 years.

It wasn’t the sex and drugs rock-n-roll-kind-of-thing. It was being re-acquainted to a city you thought you already knew. That kind of rock ‘n roll.

A good friend of mine who has a 4 year old daughter went to Hong Kong Disneyland and asked me: “Trish, do you think Garie will remember all these when she grows up?” 

I am not a mother yet but I am pretty sure a 4-year old will not remember unless you show her the pictures.

But if you ask her if she has memories of what she did in Disney after 10 years, she will not remember a thing.

As for me, I remember everything. I wasn’t 4. I was 18! I remember how I struggled to go out of the hotel room and break my mother’s itineraries for us.

Now that I am 28, I had all the freedom to do what I want: explore the streets without fear; to be simply there without following a timeline.

When I was 18, food was a thing to fill my stomach. The idea was to be full, not to understand what I put in my mouth nor have a great cultural dining experience.

At present, I am very conscious about what I eat. Before I dig in, pictures of how it was cooked and the ingredients used would flash in my head and when I take the bite, it all comes together in a symphony of goodness. There is something interesting about the unhygienic but delicious food culture in Hong Kong.

During my 2006 visit, we were sharing a bus with 2 other families and that’s how the idea of travel friendship came about.

That’s how I understood what meeting people from other countries meant. I honestly don’t remember them now because we had nothing to talk about.

We just sat there, ate and watched our parents talk. It was a party of awkward children crossing puberty and none of us knew how to start a conversation.

At 28, I am already a master of conversation starters. For the past three nights that I have been meeting people from different walks of life, I didn’t invest a single sweat.

This is a city full of expats, yes. But I understood why they wanted to live here: there is a feeling of belongingness that the city is offering you for free.

It is embracing you with all its heart. You can be whoever you want to be in Hong Kong and nobody will give a fck.

Hong Kong transcends cultural and language borders — this is the most beautiful discovery I was able to feel and experience.

I don’t remember how much allowance my mother gave me but in 2006, Hong Kong dollars (HKD) were at 7.5 for every 1 Philippine peso.

This, I have vivid memories of because I converted a lot in my head. That was my way of “spending wisely.” Year 2016, HKD went down to 5 but I am more aware of how expensive Hong Kong is now than before.

Regardless of the conversion rate, it wasn’t my money that I was spending in 2006 — I could hardly care. Now that I have a job and working my as* off everyday, a bottle of beer for $85.00 HKD is too much.

The train fares are crazy expensive, too! Nonetheless, the locals have a sense of life that will make itself agreeable around them. For example, the taxi drivers all have smartphones.

Not just a smartphone but a Samsung Edge S7, the latest model which I am no way incorporated to. I can’t imagine how much we spent traveling as a family in Hong Kong 10 years ago — it could’ve reached hundreds thousands of pesos.

It’s safe to say that Hong Kong has created a very successful economy in the world.

And man, the airport. I felt like a stranger the moment I entered. I don’t remember taking too many buses and trains INSIDE. I have no memories of it being that huge.

The only thing that didn’t change was people are still incredibly rude. Not that it’s a bad thing but I am being observant on how the hospitality sector of Hong Kong is not so hospitable at all.

It’s a very unique trait of the city that people learned to exist and make their way around it. After all, nobody cares what you do.

There is a big “we accept you” concept happening in the city and it really is beautiful. It is one of the cities where you can say, “I can live here” easily.

Do you believe there is a difference in traveling a country/city at a certain age? I would like to hear your thoughts! Let me know what you think by leaving a comment on the box below. 😉

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  1. My mom would want us to visit HK with my three boys then. Weve been always waiting for the perfect timing when all my boys could remember the trip and the plane ride.
    Now, we are still planning it and it seems we are to defer it again as my youngest now is only 10 months and surely he wont remember a thing.

  2. Hi Trisha. Like you, I went to HK when I was 18. My friend and still my best friend today, we lied about who we will going with, with both our families thinking we were going with the other family. It was just the two of us. It was one of the most memorable experience I had.

    I agree with you on two things. Food and everything else are so much expensive that I have already made up my mind that HK is not in my list of destinations unless I need to. I love the food and if it is Cantonese food I want, there is Guangzhou which I have been to several times.

    As for being rude. I have since come to learn that this is merely nothing more than cultural differences, so I don’t take it personally. 🙂

  3. It was a great decision to choose point 2 to celebrate your debut, though you’re with your family. After a decade, lots have changed but it looks like Hongkong still gives a timeless charm in you. Though close to the Philippines, I’ve never been to Hongkong and your line, “feeling of belongingness that the city is offering you for free” are just the right words to convince me to go there sooner. 🙂

  4. HK looks pretty amazing. I have never visited but I might do it in the future. Ofcourse when you’re visiting places on different ages, the experience isn’t the same. When you’re little, everything looks like a big city. With you values as being an adult you even see the people different, don’t you?

  5. I think you’re totally right about travel being different in your teens and when you are an adult. I went to Paris when I was 16 on a school trip and I liked it but I didn’t really appreciate it. When I went back when I was in graduate school, I appreciated it so much more. I would love to visit Hong Kong and try the delicious food!

  6. Yes , I do think that you look differently at things at different ages. Reminds me of my own life. I live on the Canary Islands now after I have been here on holidays from when I was 17 on a regularly base. My family moved from Germany to Tenerife in the early 80s , that made me come back at least 3 times a year. Now reading your great article makes me aware of how I look different at the island over the decades. The first ( younger) years were night life orientated , never miss a party ! Now it is more the beauty of nature what I love most of the same place. As we get older we ‘adjust’ priorities , don’t we ? This was very entertaining to read !

  7. Yes! There’s always a difference when you travel at a certain age. Your previous state would be different from the current state as well with the circumstances that were there as well. When you travel without your family and just with pals or go backpacking, you get to bond and know yourself better. When you travel with your family, you bond interpersonally and intrapersonally. 🙂

  8. I loved your story. I am from Venezuela but I’ve lived in different countries. Nonetheless, I have never had the chance to return to any of those countries. Your story made me wonder if I would feel the same if I go back to any of those places right now.

  9. I am sure that choosing the option to spend your debut abroad is indeed one of the nicest things you have done and had taught you a lot. Glad that you have learned so many things on your second visit in HK! Nothing is much cooler to travel all at your expense than shouldered by our parents but of course, if someone would initially offer to pay everything, why not?! lol but really, you got a good share of an article here. 🙂

  10. I have always wanted to go to Hongkong but somehow always my trip gets cancelled. Your post just makes me to try once more. Hope this time I finally get to visit Hong Kong.

  11. What a beautiful place. Hong Kong is always on the top of my bucket list! Would love to see it soon!
    Thank you for sharing the amazing experience and inspiring photos!

  12. One of my dream places I want to visit here in Asia. For sure lots of money we need to save for this travel since food and other stuff are expensive. By the way, I love you tattoo, very visible and “girly” 🙂

  13. Hey! What a wonderful feeling to be back in a country after 10 years! I have been to HK too many times and I’m so over it! Like you, I would like to visit other countries this time! The less explored places and less congested areas. I find HK too small already, also Macau and Taiwan, which is why I been exploring other countries instead. I am glad that you like it there though. It is one of those places you should visit while in Asia. Just not too often since the area is way too small and tight for me! As for the rude attitude, I do agree that it is cultural difference and perception of Philippines. Ignorance exists everywhere, so do not take it personally. What I would do is just shove it off my shoulder and move on to the next one! Hoping to achieve South America trip soon. Cheers!

  14. Age really is a factor I believe or the personality that comes along when reaching a certain age. When I was 12, I hate travelling to my province. I only want to stay in the house, read and play videogames. But when I turned 20, I get excited to go to our province, I can now appreciate the scenery, the exotic and the culture. I believe its about perspective from and age can change that. Nice post miss Trisha! More power to you 🙂

  15. Hongkong will always be my favorite city! Been there twice. This year I celebrated my birthday there during the winter season. Hongkong made my dream possible to wear Winter clothes! LOL

  16. I don’t usually visit the same spot twice, however you’re post inspired me to check again the places I’ve been to and see it on a rather different perspective this time. I haven’t been in HK but your post can really be of great help if given a chance to be on the place. 🙂

  17. I’ve never been to HK but I would love to. I’m the around the same age as you so I expect a great experience! I hope that people are not rude though! x

  18. Hello! I am just wondering, if given the chance would you like to revisit after ten years again? 🙂 This is one of the places wherein most Filipinos plan to go to but not me. Anyways, great post! HK changed, you too. Miss you!

  19. There’s a highly big gap in traveling at a certain age. Back when I was young, I’d only travel to take photos of the top tourist attractions of that certain place but when I grew older, I’ve discovered that no matter where you are, it would be the stories you get to hear, experience, see and taste that you’ll crave to look at when you travel.

  20. You are basically my spirit animal Trish! I could go on explaining that but I won’t cause I will sound too fangirl-ish haha. you just made me want to go straight to Hong Kong and not go to Disneyland 🙂 ps hope to see you soon again.


  21. Yes, I think there is a difference when travelling to a city/country at a certain age. And maybe that difference is because of how you changed over the years. I think looking back and realizing how you’ve changed is one of the best feeling.

  22. This is a sincerely interesting read. I haven’t traveled that long and I still don’t have these kinds of realizations, but it made me think how years and experience will make me a different person compared to who I am now today.

    I’m curious about this sense of belongingness you feel in Hongkong. In the several places I’ve been to, I think unconsciously I’m also looking for this one but haven’t found it yet. Hongkong wasn’t in my travel list, but it is now. 🙂

  23. Reading your story made me think how beautiful it is to observe, look at things at a different perspective, and then come to a realization. And yes, I also believe that age affects how you see a certain place. After all, “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are”. – Anaïs Nin

  24. Reading your story made me think how beautiful it is to observe, look at things at a different perspective, and then come to a realization. And yes, I also believe that age affects how you see a certain place. After all, “We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are”. – Anaïs Nin

  25. I love this one. Though I’ve never been to HK yet, and don’t know when should I be going, I think this story of yours will make me remember when the time I’m going to visit especially those buses at the airport, I would surely say, I wish I had visited decades ago LOL. Well, I’ve heard though of so many expats there, with which I think the city is widely open for everything, that excites me.

  26. I share the same sentiments when my family and I visited Singapore. I wanted to explore but my mom warns us to keep close. Haha hope to visit Singapore again but hopefully I get to explore the city as much as I wanted to. Thank you Ate Trisha for sharing 🙂

  27. Not just traveling but everything about life I guess, they are different from when you remember them when you were younger. Before, I didn’t know what the old people meant when they say that I was too young, and that I didn’t know anything. Now that I’m a little bit older, I have come to understand what they meant by that. They weren’t being condescending, they were telling the truth.

    Things tend to be a lot different when you’re an adult especially when you’re no longer spending the money of your parents but your own.

    Anyway, I haven’t been to Hongkong. I hope I’d get to visit there soon.

  28. Working in Macau for a couple of years now had also given me the chance to explore HK whenever i want. It even felt more like home than Macau. The locals are simply welcoming. Not in a hospitable way us Filipinos are accustomed to, but the way you perfectly decribed it; they just don’t give a fck. The expats are incredibly friendly and for me best thing would be meeting a bunch of them and getting a hint of their diverse cultural background in one city. My dream’s to travel the world and I guess HK is a good dry run.

  29. It’s impressive to see how our perception of a place changes through the years. I’ve been to Istanbul (Turkey) when I was 15 with my parents and it seemed so huge… I’d love to see how it would look like now, after 16 years and after many other big cities I’ve visited. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  30. I’m so glad I clicked on your blog while randomly browsing the net for travel-related advice. I’m about to leave for Hong Kong in a few days (taking up my masters for a year), and it’s my first time being away from my comfort zone for so long. I’m quite reserved, so I’m worried I might not make enough friends or get to try new adventures while I’m there. (God, help me!)

    I rarely ever leave comments on websites, but I’d like to let you know that reading about your adventures inspired me to enjoy life more – especially now that I’m about to embark on a new adventure of my own. I know it’ll take more than just a day of binge reading your blog for me to have a total personality overhaul, but it certainly did help.

    Thanks, Trisha! Looking forward to reading more about your adventures!

    – a 24-year-old business graduate from that university along Katipunan

  31. I remember not liking Hong Kong the last 2 times I went (both when I was still in HS). I went with my family and did the usual touristy things like The Peak, Avenue of Stars, Disneyland, etc. Both trips didn’t really leave a mark on me.

    I am now part of the working class but I bugged my mom to bring me along with her on her business trip last June because I wanted a “free” trip. I remember how expensive HK was and that didn’t change so I was looking forward to not paying my hotel room this time. I was alone for the most part as we only met up for late dinner, so I had my day planned out to my liking and suddenly, HK was much more attractive. I didn’t realize that they had amazing views before (skyline vs mountains in the background <3) and the most happening neighborhoods (SoHo, Central area). Thank god I walked around with free mobile WiFi provided by our hotel so I didn't have to deal with rude people that much because I agree, that is still an impression that lasted.

  32. i love the fact that author’s experiences in Hong Kong at different ages highlight the growth, independence, and appreciation for the city’s unique qualities.

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