It seems a distant memory now, but you may remember from my November 2018 post that I had a wonderful week on my own in Hong Kong. It’s taken me an age to get around to writing this post (simply because I took so many photos that I’ve not had time to sit down and go through them all deciding which to put on this blog), and lots seems to have happened in Hong Kong since my trip, with the protests frequently cropping up in the news. But here, finally, is my round-up of all the things I did. I had been to Asia before (to Japan), so I was prepared for a bit of a culture shock, and quickly got used to being there. I found it an easy city to be in – I felt very safe (safer than I would in London, actually), it was full of interest, and very cheap and straightforward to travel around. I definitely recommend it, and if you decide to go then here’s what should be on your itinerary, in no particular order…
1. Food tour
I began my trip with a brilliant food tour to introduce me to some of the city’s best cuisine. I was keen to avoid some of the less appetising-sounding local dishes (duck tongue, chicken feet or snake blood, anyone?), so after much research and deliberation I opted for a tour of Tin Hau with Secret Food Tours. This was a great choice, as it included six different food tastings (all generous portions), as well as a couple of temple visits and lots of fascinating insights into the local culture from our excellent guide, Michael. I’ve had severe dim sum withdrawal symptoms since getting home!
2. Victoria Peak
Victoria Peak alone is worth going all the way to Hong Kong for. The views of the harbour and the city’s tangle of skyscrapers are breathtaking. There’s a weirdly shaped shopping mall plonked on the top, and there’s a viewing platform at the top, but to be honest you don’t really need to go up there to enjoy incredible views. Follow the ‘Morning Trail’ on Harlech and Lugard roads and you’ll get all the photo opportunities you could wish for.
I got the bus up to the top and the tram back down, which seemed to be a good way to avoid queuing. The hillside is so steep that you need to cling on prevent yourself from tumbling down the carriage!
3. Star Ferry
Hong Kong’s iconic Star Ferry connects Hong Kong Island with Tsim Sha Tsiu, a journey that takes about five minutes and gives you wonderful views of the Hong Kong skyline. With a full fare priced at $2.60 – 26p!! – you can do the journey as much as you like without worrying about the cost. (They also do longer sight-seeing tours around the Harbour by day and night, but I didn’t get round to this.)
There are also junk rides around the Harbour, but again, that’s another thing I didn’t have time for (this time!).
4. Light show
Every night at 8pm there’s a laser light show set to music along the waterfront. To view it, you’ll need to get across to Tsim Sha Tsiu (another great excuse to get the Star Ferry if you’re staying on Hong Kong Island, like I did). I think I failed on the light show front, because I could see it but couldn’t hear any music, so I obviously picked the wrong place to watch it!
5. Lantau Island
Lantau Island was a real highlight of the trip for me, and the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s where the airport is (the infamous Kai Tak, with its notoriously alarming approach, is now disused), but it’s also where you’ll find the village of Ngong Ping and its famous Big Buddha.
I also visited a traditional fishing village called Tai O…
…walked a short mountain trail, which I had completely to myself…
… and had a breathtaking cable car ride back down the hillside.
6. Riding on the tram
Back on Hong Kong Island, trams run east-west and the full fare for the entire route is about 26p. They take a while, as there are lots of stops, but go to the top deck and get a seat at the front and you’ll find it a great way to watch scenes of local life as you trundle through the city.
7. Mid-level escalators
Hong Kong is very hilly, and for ease of ascent they have installed escalators/travelators that make a good diversion when you’re wandering around Central.
There are lots of good glimpses down different streets as you go up, and you can hop off at intervals along the way to take photos.
8. Traditional shops
You can lose hours in Hong Kong simply wandering around looking at what’s for sale in some of the traditional shops, most of it unidentifiable. The surreal thing is that very close to shops like Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany’s, there are whole streets devoted to shops selling things like this.
Another interesting kind of shop sells paper offerings for burning in temples. The shoes you can see in this photo are actually made of paper, and I also saw paper cars, aeroplanes, handbags and lots of other things!
On the area around Hollywood Road, there are lots of antiques shops and market stalls.
There are loads of temples around the city, and their traditional architecture results in a photogenic juxtaposition of old and new.
You can just wander into any of them, and they don’t mind you taking photos. I loved the heady aroma of incense and the sounding of gongs when people came to leave an offering. Man Mo is a good one to visit if you want to aim for one. The weird net-type things hanging from the ceiling are in fact huge coils of incense slowly smouldering away.
10. Chi Lin Nunnery
This place isn’t as old as it looks, but it was a peaceful place to wander around and I enjoyed, once again, the juxtaposition of old and new architecture.
11. Nan Lian Garden
Adjacent to the Chi Lin Nunnery, this peaceful garden is a lovely calm place for a walk, and also has some fantastic opportunities for yet more old versus new photos.
12. Maritime Museum
Hong Kong’s history as a whole is pretty tied up with all things maritime, so the Maritime Museum is a good place to go to get a sense of its past. It’s on the pier next to the Star Ferry and has three floors of interesting exhibits ranging from 18th century paintings to models of modern tanker ships. The views of the Tsim Sha Tsui skyline are wonderful, too. It costs $30 (£3) to get in.
13. Space Museum
Across the harbour there’s an odd-looking building housing the Space Museum, another good place to spend a rainy hour or two. In general I’d say it was pitched a bit too young for me, with lots of interactive exhibits clearly aimed at school kids, but it only cost $10 (£1) to get in, and I had some time to kill before heading to the airport.
14. Temple Street Night Market
There are LOTS of markets in Hong Kong, and the Temple Street Night Market is one of the most famous. I spent an hour or so wandering through the stalls, and bought a few souvenirs.
15. Rooftop bars
Another thing Hong Kong does very well is rooftop bars. Every last building in Hong Kong must have fabulous rooftop views, and there are plenty of good places to sit and admire them. This was Piqniq, which looks good on Instagram but the food (presented in little picnic baskets) was disappointing.
I got the bus to Stanley so that I could see a bit more of Hong Kong island. It’s a nice little seaside town, and easy to get to when you feel like escaping the city for a bit. [I’m running out of steam writing this post, and I can’t think of anything much else to say about it!]
17. Repulse Bay
I was fortunate to be able to see Repulse Bay both from the land – I got the bus there at the same time as visiting Stanley – and also by boat from Aberdeen boat club, as I was invited on a boat trip/picnic one day by my friends in Hong Kong, which was a splendid day out.
From the shore it was another nice seaside town, and the beach was surprisingly empty!
18. Happy Valley Racecourse
Last but not least, this famous racecourse was right opposite my hotel, and I spent an enjoyable final evening there with friends, placing tiny bets on the horses and enjoying the unusual sight of a racecourse plonked down amidst towering skyscrapers. Wednesday evening is the time to go during the racing season, and it only costs £1 to get in.
- Time zone is GMT+8
- Get an Octopus card, which you can use to pay for public transport, museum entry and a few other bits and pieces
- Plugs are the same as British ones, which is handy!
- Currency is Hong Kong dollars – move the decimal point back one, e.g. $100 is £10
- There’s lots of free wifi in public places e.g. malls, ferry, museums etc
- I stayed at the Dorsett Wan Chai Hotel, which overall I was happy with. Make sure you ask for a room with a view though, as for some reason mine had frosted glass so I couldn’t see out.
- It’s a 12-13 hour flight from the UK. If your flight is leaving late on your last day, you can check in your luggage at the main train station and it will be taken to the airport for you.
- I booked airport transfers with Hong Kong Shuttle