East meets West in Hong Kong.
As a former British Crown Colony, Hong Kong celebrates both Western holidays and traditional Chinese festivals.
In fact, all of the former Western holidays continue to be official holidays here save one – the Queen's Birthday. It was replaced by Chinese National Day, which was not a holiday here before the Handover in 1997.
Christmas in Hong Kong
Just like in the West, schools here shut down for two weeks at Christmas and one week at Easter – as well as one week at Chinese New Year.
But if Western holidays are celebrated here, they have taken on some distinctly Hong Kong style characteristics. Christmas is a good example.
Instead of having quiet family gatherings at home, most people in Hong Kong head out into the streets to look at the garish Christmas decorations, with many people wearing Santa Claus hats and carrying noise makers (see above).
Or they head to posh restaurants or hotel dining rooms or pubs or karaoke lounges, where the atmosphere is more like New Year's Eve than Christmas.
And, because the day after Christmas – Boxing Day – is a public holiday here, the parties can go on all night.
How I Spent Christmas 2011
My Christmas in 2011 got off to a late start.
Following lunch, I rode my bicycle to town and then took the train to my gym in Shatin. I lifted weights for one hour. Then I did spinning, followed by kickboxing, which we do to music. Then I made my way to Mongkok – which reminds me a bit of Times Square in New York City, but without the theaters or the crazy people.
I arrived at the Neway Karaoke Box at precisely 7 pm – things get off to an early start in Hong Kong. I was among 15 kickboxers and friends, our kickboxing teacher, and three dogs to stuff ourselves into a little room. We complained that it was too small for 15 people, but were told that at 8 pm we could move to another room that was a bit larger.
All You Can Eat Buffet
There was an all you can eat buffet – you loaded up and took your food back to your room on trays like you used use at school. Included were salads, sushi, hot dishes, hot pot, ice cream, and desserts, and some of it was surprisingly good.
The Belgium Waffles topped with chocolate were recommended by the manager, and he was right. They were fabulous – and much better than any of the waffles I have had at five star hotels during my recent travels in China and Southeast Asia.
The only thing missing was turkey and all the trimmings.
We spent the night gorging ourselves, drinking, feeding the dogs, singing, waiting to sing, and occasionally getting up to dance or practise our kickboxing moves to music.
A couple of people left before the MTR stopped running at midnight, but most of us stayed until the wee hours.
There was a mass exodus at about 4 am. When I said that I was going to take a taxi home, a fellow kickboxer thoughtfully said, “Save your money. Don't waste it on a taxi back to the New Territories. It will cost you a fortune. We can wait until the MTR starts running and you can take it home.”
So three of us stayed behind, leaving at between 5 and 5.30 am.
What Was Included
I'm not sure how exactly it worked, but it was some type of all inclusive package. We basically had a room that could hold 15 people (and three dogs). In addition to an all you can eat buffet, we had an unlimited supply of soft drinks, 18 bottles of beer, and three bottles of Jack Daniels.
My share came to HK$450 (less than US$58). I think that those of us who drank alcohol paid a bit more than those that didn't. And to me that represents excellent value!
When I got to Sheung Shui, I went to McDonald's for breakfast – I don't think it's good to sleep without eating following an all night session like this. As a result, I didn't have a hangover when I woke up a few hours later.
However, I was completely and totally wiped out. I didn't want to do anything. And two days later, I'm still recovering.
The moral of this story is, if you're going to be up all night signing, eating, dancing, and drinking – get some rest before hand. The last thing you want to do is spend three hours at the gym!
Where: 688 Nathan Road, Mongkok, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Telephone: (852) 2383 3381