Once I had finished the mandatory Project Based Learning in Multimedia Engineering, I thought about the possibility to finish the last two subjects of my degree abroad. Hong Kong CityU University accepted my proposal and I started my last degree studies there.
Nothing will be more Hong Kongese in these times than finding a protest on the first subway station where we had to stop. We saw black dressed people with gas masks running, screaming and skipping every security check. The situation was strange by itself, but the thing got better when a woman helped us to reach my accomodation safely. This was my first impression of Hong Kong: unexpected chaos but secure. As a foreigner, every Hong Konger tries to help you to be safe and avoid the conflicts, that's so nice by their part.
I took the first weeks as adaptive time for me, it was my first time living alone and also abroad; I was living in Sham Shui Po, a very local neighbourhood where not everyone can speak english, so it was a bit tricky to have dinner around my accomodation. Luckily I met some local friends able to speak english, like the receptionist -Ken- which ended being a really good friend of mine, and also Derrick and James, two nice guys who were the baristas of the coffee bar in my accomodation. Every day I had the breakfast there and started the day talking about music taste, people, travelling or anything with them.
During the first days, it was a bit strange to be alone in the other part of the world. It made me to think about a lot of things that we have in our daily routine that we don't realise how important they are. Your family, your house, your local food, your friends... But sometimes to keep growing is need to leave your comfort zone and start a leap into the void. In this void I found the friends who were going to go along with me during all this adventure: an italian girl, two spanish boys, a few dutch, some belgiums, one crazy austrian and a big group of germans. And damn, they filled that void with adventures, experiences and a really great time together, meeting them and discovering Hong Kong!
Hong Kong is such a nice 'country', full of people of every part of Asia, lets you to meet new friends of any part of the world and explore not only the Hongkongese culture, also a wide range of cultures. I'm saying 'country' between quotes because right now is an 'Special Administrative Region' (SAR) of China. Even the Hongkongers say they have two different government system for one country, a fact that is a bit contradictory. It's a difficult matter to discuss and to conclude something...
But don't let yourself impress thinking Hong Kong is not a safe place. Maybe right now isn't the best moment to visit this beautiful country, but is a really safe place. I've never felt insecure or in problems these 5 months there, I met a lot of new Hongkongers friends and everyone tries to help you if you're in trouble. One of the experiences I enjoyed the most was playing football with people from every part of the world. Playing with and againts Africans, Americans, Europeans or obviously, Asians, really made me appreciate how good is our spanish football. Seriously they enjoy a lot just watching a spanish guy running trying to avoid de defense, and that makes me happy!
Philippines, meet the contrast
The first trip we did was Philippines. We stayed in Manila for 4 days, and maybe it's not the best place to enjoy the beaches and the nice weather, but we discovered that the citizens turn crazy when they see an european just walking there. We took a lot of pictures with people of every age and they were so nice and polite! Manila is the place where probably you can be a bit scared or feeling insecure about the people because how they look like, maybe thinking they are not trustworthy. But really, every Philippino I've met is so nice, simpathic and honest, he won't give you any reason for not trusting him. You will see the contrast of the richest people there and the poorest
This picture was taken in Taal Volcano, it's a volcano that it's inside an island and that island is inside another island, inside the island of Philippines. Yes, it could be a bit mind blowing to understand it 😅 In case you want to visit it, they have a bus service from Manila and it's just 1 hour and a half. Everything it's very cheap, in case you get lost you can pay 1 hour taxi for less than 14€. We stayed in Z-hostel, a really good hostel with a lot of young people that can help you in anything. Also the staff was very helpful recommending us activities and things to do around. And also, it's very cheap.
Thailand, nightlife melt into the nature
Well it depends so much which place of Thailand you visit. We stayed in Patong (Phuket), the southest-west side of Thailand and we spent the last day in Bangkok. Patong is the capital of party in Thailand in my opinion. Is where all the foreigners go to just lay in the beautiful and white sandy beaches and going for a drinks later. Thai massages, house surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving, jetski... you can do whatever you can imagine here! Personally I won't recommend to do any activity related with animals, because my guesses are they are not well treated even if they tell you they're.
The top activity here is visiting PhiPhi Islands and James Bond island. These two are different activities, if you would like to visit both I'll recommend to get a single tour that includes both, it will be cheaper. The tour normally includes a visit around some incredible islands from 9 am till 5pm (when the sun sets) with food and drinks included, around 30€. Take some sunbathing and please, respect the nature and don't let the human footprints fouls those awesome islands. Take your litter with you and don't be an idiot. Thanks 😊👌.
Japan, where tradition and technology mixes in one
Another trip we enjoyed a lot was Japan. We booked the flight 7 hours before the plane took off, so we packed all our clothes very quickly and headed to the airport. The first city we went was Osaka, a beautiful and lovely place, full of neon lights and advertisements in every building. It's impressive, being there feels like being in a film, surrounded by people very different than you, the street markets, the weather (compared with Hong Kong it's way better, less poluted and you can feel a breeze of fresh air); it's an environment you'll need to live it to understand it.
This area of Japan is more traditional than Tokyo, so it will be a bit more tricky to communicate with locals speaking english. Don't hesitate to ask anything to a young japanese, they will be a bit shy at first but will try to help you. You have to understand that you're in a very respectful and traditional place in the world; so don't expect to find people as open and outgoing as spaniards 😉
South Korea, reaching the most respectful society I've ever met
And the last stop but not least: South Korea. Wow, what a country. We visited it in a really cold season (for two spanish guys at least), the last week of november with -6ºC. We were sheltered with at least 3 or 4 layers of clothes, with tshirts, hoodies and a jacket. The bars and restaurants are very well equipped, as you can imagine. The air quality it feels very clean, as Japan for example. But compared with Hong Kong, this had a terrible and heavy feeling with no breeze of fresh air, feeling it really poluted. Maybe I can sound a bit dramatic talking about the air quality, but once you have experienced a bad air quality, you can compare the rest and evaluate by yourself 😂
But c'mon, I've never seen anyone respecting each other such as this in my life! They are so respectful, giving the things with two hands and lowering their head, as sign of respect. Or bowing everytime they sya goodbye. As a spanish guy this shocked me a lot, we are used to give the other person two kisses in the cheeks, or hugging, but they won't do that anytime! It seems that they don't like so much the physical contact, so it was a matter of getting used to it...
Seriously I love South Korea. Maybe the people are more open than japanese, but as you can imagine, they're still a bit reserved. We were staying in Hongdae, a neighbourhood full of university students, so it was easier for us to meet new friends there. Actually, we made a group of South-Korean friends there and it was incredible! They explained us their traditions and different ways to bow in differents seasons of the year or to show more respect to others: the more you bow, more respect you're showing.
A bit of history...
We also learnt that South-Korea was the land of a big war (called the war of Korea); Korea was a Japanese settlement (grantled by British) in 1910. But once the Hiroshima atomic bomb was exploded by EEUU in 1945, Japan surrended and EEUU occupied the area of South Korea. In this moment the URSS and EEUU accorded to divide Korea in 2 parts: North and South. 5 years later the Second World War was ended, North Korea (helped by the URSS headed by Stalin in that moment) invaded South Korea. The situation was not easy at all: SouthKorean army was retracted till Pusan, the South-Eastest corner in Korea, and the northkoreans were occupying most of the land. So the ONU and northamericans tried to defense this attack, heading directly to Seoul (the Northest-west part of Korea) by sea, breaking and splitting the North-Korean army in two parts. With this way, it was possible to join with the SoutKorean army that was located in Pusan and restore South Korea.
Since that, EEUU signed a Non Agression pact with North Korea and South Korea, until a final peace agreement is reached. This final peace agreement it doesn't have reached yet, so theorically Nort and South Korea they are still in war.
Just remember Gang-sa-ham-ni-da (thank you in Korean), and try to be as respectful, silent and polite as possible. For surviving ing Korea, you can also use Chué-son-han-ni-da (I'm sorry) and An-yeong-ha-se-yo (hello or goodbye).