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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. 😉

Ras Bahadur Rai

Tuesday 6th of June 2023

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.


Sunday 2nd of October 2016

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.


Wednesday 24th of August 2016

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


Friday 8th of July 2016

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!


Wednesday 6th of July 2016

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.