In the last ten years, I’ve traveled all over the country, and that means I had to pack a lot of suitcases. I used to never pack enough. Then, I started autocrossing, and packed too much.
Of course, when you’re driving across the country, you can stop at a Target if you forgot your deodorant. Hong Kong was going to be quite the experiment in packing, because while I had lived in China, it is also a major metropolis colonized by the British, and far more advanced than Hangzhou. That being said, it’s still technically China, so I figured my previous experience wouldn’t be rendered totally useless.
In anticipation of this trip, I went to Target and diligently bought everything I thought I’d need. I was adamant about packing certain things, and I miiiight have overshopped those items, but I am happy to say I was not wrong (on some of it, at least). In the end, however, I was very happy I brought some of the things I had learned about back in 2006.
For anyone that would travel to Hong Kong, my top three things to bring from the States are:
1) Wet Ones
When you are out and about, surrounded by meat hanging out all day in 85* September humidity and thousands of people, you want to be able to wash your hands and face at a moment’s notice. Or perhaps you want to clean the seat on which you will sit, or the utensils by which you will feed yourself. A travel-sized packet of Wet Ones to the rescue! I went through about 40 sheets in eight days, and while nothing is a true substitute for washing your hands with soap and water, they’re a great in a pinch.
I remembered this from China: The bugs are assholes. They’re different out there – not necessarily bigger, but vicious and aggressive, like a starving mother trying to get the last crust of bread to feed her children. Or in my case, starving, invisible gnats that chew the hell out of my legs and leave me bruised, itchy, and miserable. (By the way, it’s been two weeks since I’ve been back in the States, and I’m still itchy).
A short vignette: I lived in China with a group of students from URI, including my friend Linda. The first night there, I went to bed, and was awakened very early the next morning by someone screaming my name, running down the hallway. Linda had been bitten by a gnat on her eyelid as she slept, and it had swelled so much, she couldn’t open it. It was itchy, painful, and bruising. After a full day of nursing her, and commandeering a Chinese friend to speak for her at the infirmary, the swelling subsided with the appropriate meds – after another day or so.
Let me tell you. Those fucking bugs – they’re tiny and black, and you don’t even notice they’ve bitten you. You brush them off absentmindedly, and it’s only later, when your are so itchy and swollen you can’t walk ten feet without stopping to scratch, that you realize you’ve been attacked. It looked like I had someone put out cigarettes on my body.
3) Phone with removable SIM card capabilities (4G CDMA or GSM phones)
I’m normally one for being cut off from the world (unless there’s WiFi somewhere or something) when on vacation. I’m exactly where I want to be, with exactly everyone I want to be with – I don’t need to talk to the real world. So while the idea of buying a SIM card in Hong Kong seemed a bit foreign to me, I’m glad I did. For $118 HKD (~$15.25 USD), you can buy a SIM card that will give you 5gb of data that’s good for 8 days. It was incredibly useful for checking maps, figuring out times for the ferry to Macau on the fly, and finding decent restaurants within the vicinity. You can also download an app that will scan Chinese text and give you an approximate translation. I’m all for roughing it, I’m all for being in a completely unfamiliar environment, but sometimes, you really do just need a bit of help from the Internet (plus, you’ll probably have a decent camera on your phone – two birds with one stone!)
4) Honorable mention: Debit card with no ATM fees: You’ll get a much better exchange rate at any of the city-wide ATMs than you will in the airport, hotel, or any bank. If your debit card has fees (like one of mine does – $11 USD per transaction!) but you want the better rate anyway, take out a good amount of money to make the fee worth it.
I realize these are not mind-blowing. I realize anyone with a bit of common sense could figure out the last two. These were the things I was most thankful to have, and going back, I’d not be caught without these things. What are your travel must-haves?