LOCATION: Hong Kong, Hong Kong
It’s the dead of winter here down under, and I for one am envious of the northern hemisphere already experiencing warm summer days and balmy nights. However, warm weather isn’t that far away considering that Hong Kong is already experiencing sun shinning days and can easily be done as a short city break, both as a stopover on your way further afield or as the destination in it’s own right. There’s plenty of shopping options to keep even the biggest shopaholics occupied, however, to spend your entire time shopping when there is so much more to Hong Kong would be an outright shame. With so many outdoor adventures, city views and uniquely Hong Kong experiences to be had, you can definitely get a good feel for this cosmopolitan city in a short time frame. So if you really want to experience Hong Kong more like the locals do, why not add these sights, sounds and tastes to your Hong Kong itinerary for a more rounded Hong Kong experience.
See the best view of the City Skyline
The best view of the city is definitely from the top of Victoria Peak. Not only do you get an expansive view of the city skyscrapers,you can also see the lush green jungle below and the sea extending out on both sides of the Peak. The tram ride up is a bit of a circus though, with people cramming in to get the best spots by the windows on the right of the tram, as well as the ridiculously fast speed the tram goes at an almost perpendicular angle, it costs HKD$40 (adults) for a return ride up and down so it didn’t break the bank. Alternatively you can hike all the way up (for free) to the top of Victoria Peak, which is considered a moderate trail that will take around 3 hours. On a side note, it’s pretty rare to get clear days with no clouds or fog so keep an eye on the weather and make your decision on the day whether to pay for the extra cost to go all the way up to the Sky Terrace 428 observation desk, as on a day with low visibility you won’t see much.
Ride the heritage Star Ferry
The Star Ferry makes crossing the strait between Kowloon and Hong Kong island the best value for money tourist thing you can possibly do in Hong Kong. You not only get to ride on these heritage boats, but you also get the best seat for up close and personal views of the harbor and it’s skyscrapers. The ferry is also cheaper than using the subway and you get a much nicer view. A one way journey will set you back only HKD$2.50 (Mon-Fri non public holidays) or $3.40 (weekends and public holidays), and there are two ferry routes linking Tsimshatsui with Central, and also Wanchai. In addition to the ferry services, the Star Ferry recently launched the only licensed harbour tour which runs day and night.
Leave the city behind and head to an Island
Hong Kong occupies the tip of a peninsular that links it to mainland China, with the remaining territory made up of a large chain of islands. The most popular Island is Lantau Island, where you can either take a bus (cheapest option) or ride the Ngong Ping 360 cable cars all the way to the foot of the Giant Buddha and Po Lin Nunnery. There are also has many hikes (which are also free) around the island including the short ‘Wisdom Path’, which traces a series of 38 wooden steles (upright monuments) containing verses from the centuries-old Heart Sutra that are shaped in an infinity symbol; or you can hike the longer trail to Tai O, the last of the traditional stilt fishing villages in Hong Kong. Another great island to visit is the laid back Lamma Island, which is a short ferry ride from Central, and also has many easy hikes with views over the seas and back to Hong Kong Island. One side of Lamma Island has retained a very traditional Asian fishing village feel, whilst the other side (the one the ferry arrives and departs from), could be mistaken for a European fishing village! Be sure to try the seafood and the sweet tofu here!
Fill your belly with Dim Sum
And I mean fill your belly with Tim Ho Wan Dim Sum. It’s the only Dim Sum restaurant to have a Michelin Star, and is probably the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world. They have expanded with five locations around Hong Kong (and many abroad including one opening soon in Melbourne), but all branches get busy around brunch time so aim to arrive early around 9:30-10am to get a table without too much of a wait. You also need to have everyone in your party present before you’re seated so make sure everyone is there on time! Be sure to order a serve of their signature dish the Char Sui Bao (Baked bun with BBQ pork), there’s nothing else like it!
Experience ‘Little Manila’ in Hong Kong
Hong Kong employs a large number of Filipino domestic workers, so many that they make up the third largest ethnic group in Hong Kong. So come Sunday when they have their sabbatical day off, they flood the city streets and set up camp for the day in every and any open space they can find. The down town areas of the central business district especially are transformed into groups of loud chatting, laughing and singing groups of thousands of predominantly female Filipino’s. Many of these women have been living and working in Hong Kong for years (some more than 20 years) to supper their families back home in the Philippines, and it’s quite a sight to see them all on mass relaxing, playing cards, eating and singing karaoke and just enjoying their one day off in the week. It definitely changes the usually business-like and busy atmosphere of the CBD, into a lively and jolly market atmosphere spilling out onto the streets of Hong Kong every Sunday!
For many cities, at face value you’ll only see the usual tourist spots, shops and food outlets; but if you can scratch the surface and ask a local, they’ll sometimes let you in on some absolute gems in the area. In the case of Hong Kong, I’m pretty lucky that Siu On’s family is from here and let us in on some great things to do (once we did the usual touristy stuff), that we otherwise would not have done, especially the many hikes on the different Hong Kong islands. However, watch this space as I’ll be publishing more off the beaten track Hong Kong things to do; or better yet, subscribe to The Travelleur in the side bar and you can have notifications sent directly to your inbox.
Happy travels everyone!
Photography by Jelena Stipanicev.