Hong Kong – a concrete jungle of skyscrapers, with their mesmerising lights reflecting in the night sky. I went to Hong Kong and Macau this summer, and after travelling to the Portuguese reminiscent city of Macau, spent the remaining days exploring Hong Kong and discovering the best things the city has to offer. Hong Kong is made up of ‘Central’ or Hong Kong Island, and the Kowloon Peninsula on the mainland with the Victoria Harbour in between. There are three main outlying islands around Hong Kong – Lantau, Lamma and Cheung Chau, which are perfect for day trips.
If you have time and budget constraints, these are the top things to do!
Lantau Island – Ngong Ping 360, Po Ling Monastery
Lantau Island is one of the main outlying islands and has some popular beaches and walking trails. The Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car is an easy way to travel to the Ngong Ping village, as well as to enjoy the scenic landscape from an altitude. You can even opt for the glass-bottomed cable car. The starting point for the cable car is near Tung Chung MTR station. Getting down at Ngong Ping, you can walk through the tiny village and also see the Po Ling Monastery and the Tian Tan Buddha, the world’s largest seated Buddha statue. The Cheung Sha beaches at Lantau offer the longest stretches of sand in Hong Kong.
Tip: Hong Kong International Airport is situated on Lantau Island, so visiting this island on the day of your travel to or from Hong Kong Airport is a convenient option.
Lamma Island is perfect for a day (or a half day) trip to just unwind, laze on the beach and spend a day away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It can be reached by ferry from Central Pier. Lamma Island has a couple of quiet beaches – the Hung Shing Ye and Lo So Shing. There are also a few walking trails around the island, which are enjoyable as it is a car-free island. The two main fishing villages Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan have some authentic seafood restaurants, cafes and quaint shops.
Tip: It is best to visit on weekdays, as it is a popular retreat among the city dwellers, being just half an hour away and can tend to get quite crowded on weekends and holidays.
Temple Street Night Market
This is the perfect place to spend an evening shopping for souvenirs, trinkets and cheap gadgets. It is walking distance from Jordan MTR station in Kowloon. The sellers lay out their wares and open up the stalls early in the evening, but the crowds start coming in after 8 p.m., and the street soon gets turned into a lively flea market, with goods ranging from clothes, electronics, antiques, Chinese Tea Ware, and even tiny stalls of fortune tellers. The street food here is also popular, mainly at Woo Sung Street, and it includes fresh fruit juice, noodle bowls and good seafood.
Tip: Bargaining and haggling is the norm here, and the sellers often start with a high price, expecting you to bargain.
Museum of Tea Ware
The Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware is a unique museum that houses an exhibition of Chinese tea ware and porcelain, preserved right from the 11th century. There is a display of the artefacts with information about the history of tea in China and videos showing the various customs and rituals in the ceremony of preparing and drinking tea. The museum also holds frequent demonstrations and tea gatherings. Flagstaff House, which houses the museum, is the oldest colonial building in Hong Kong. It is situated inside the grounds of Hong Kong Park and is walking distance from Admiralty MTR station. Be sure to keep a little time to stroll around the beautifully maintained Hong Kong Park, which is hard to believe is in the middle of the crowded city!
Tip: It’s free, so it’s perfect for everyone who’s on a tight budget!
Taking the Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak is one of the must-do things in Hong Kong. The tram ride can have long queues and crowds, but the view from the top is breath-taking. It’s the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island so the entire Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong skyline can be seen from the peak. The peak is also accessible by road. There are several restaurants, a shopping mall, as well as Madame Tussauds on top. But the view of the harbour from outdoors offers the best experience for those of us who prefer nature over shopping malls!
Tip: The perfect time to go is during dusk, when you can experience the transition of the city, with all the skyscrapers lighting up in a unique style.
There is a large Thai settlement in Kowloon, near the Kowloon Walled City Park, and there are innumerable Thai food restaurants around this area. Feel a sudden urge to eat cheap and authentic Thai food? You can fulfill this wish without having to travel all the way to Thailand!
Things that can be skipped:
When travelling to a new place, we want to explore and experience all that the place has to offer. However, most of the times we cannot fit in all the things we want to do given the time and budget constraints, and sometimes end up missing out on the best things, while visiting some mediocre places that to be honest, we could have skipped altogether. Here are some of the things that I felt would have been better to skip in my trip to Hong Kong.
Ocean Park is one of the oldest amusement parks in Hong Kong, and includes animal shows, roller coasters and rides. It is well-maintained, but the rides are quite tame compared to most of the adventure parks around the world. Add to that the crowds and the scorching heat, especially in summer, and the park feels quite overrated and avoidable. For people who do want to visit it, half a day is enough to cover the whole park.
Symphony of Lights Show
Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights is a free light and sound show at Victoria Harbour. Buildings on both sides of the harbour participate with their lights on full display and occasional laser beams into the night sky. However, it does seem a little hyped up and overrated. It lasts for a short fifteen minutes, with the narrative being either in Cantonese, Mandarin or English depending on the day of the week. So if you do choose to attend it, be sure to check out which days they play it in your preferred language.
Lantau Island is also famous for the Citygate Outlets, a shopping mall known for cheap deals on well-known brands. However, the prices are quite high despite the discounts, so unless you’re a shopaholic, it won’t hurt to skip it.
All in all, choose the places that fit your tastes, preferences and budget and you will be sure to have a wonderful time in this vibrant city of lights!