Frequently compared to Singapore, we were curious to visit Hong Kong and see the comparison for ourselves. I was expecting skyscrapers and concrete, but you felt extremely close to nature and I love the way they have built the city around the water. With easy to navigate public transport, views that take your breath away and a buzzing nightlife, we absolutely loved our trip to Hong Kong and can see why this work-hard, play-hard city is thriving today. Phil aptly describes it as the New York of Asia, an eclectic mix of Asia meets West.
Hong Kong is known as the West’s gateway to China or the ‘Pearl of the Orient’. When it was ceded to the British after China’s defeat in the first opium war, the land was carved up into three main areas; Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. Together these three areas make up the different areas of Hong Kong where you can find traditional ‘wet markets’ alongside Michelin star restaurants and luxury shopping malls fusing east and west. It sits as a special administrative region which enjoys a high degree of autonomy under China since the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997.
On arrival at the airport which is on Lantau Island, we followed signs to the airport express. At the ticket counter we bought a single way ticket (although I’d recommend a return) and an Octopus card with a credit of HKD100. The airport express is a quick 25 minutes to Central and from there we caught the MTR to Admiralty to locate our hotel. The MTR covers most major areas of town and is frequent and affordable.
Taxis are another way to get around Hong Kong. Taxis are all red except for Green Taxis which cover the New Territories and blue taxis which cover the journeys from the aiprot and around Lantau Island.
There are a number of hotels in Hong Kong to choose from and in terms of location it is really based on preference. We chose Ozo Wesley for its great reviews and central location and would definitely recommend it. Hotels in Hong Kong are generally more expensive than other cities and I imagine this is due to the space. Read my review here.
After a quick checkin, we decided to catch the tram to central area. Catching the old-fashioned trams around Hong Kong was one of my highlights, particularly with the warm weather we had – it was a perfect and novel way to see Hong Kong and great for sight seeing.
That afternoon we visited the Mid-Level escalator which starts above Queens Road Central. This is the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator system – around 800m and up into the steep hillside of Hong Kong island. It is not one continuous escalator but a series of escalators and moving walkways connected in places by footbridges and exits. It is easy to take a break, grab a bite to eat/drink and then continue up. We stopped at Mak’s Noodle renowned for its wonton noodle – when in Hong Kong.
From here we walked along Hollywood road which houses temples, a backstreet flea market, antique shops and art galleries. We walked until we go to Man Mo Temple – a beautiful temple paying tribute to the god of literature (man) and the god of war (mo). This is the oldest temple in Hong Kong and worth a visit. As you walk in the smell of incense overpowers you with giant incense coils hung on the roof to burn by worshippers.
Trips are always made sweeter by catching up with friends. Alan and Clemence Day, my brother’s close friends have been in Hong Kong on and off for the last 5 years. With their 2 dogs and gorgeous 8-month-old daughter Rose, they make family life in Hong Kong look very easy and appealing. It was great to spend some quality time with them and see the city through their eyes – thank you both for your awesome hospitality and for showing us around so well.
That night we revisited Soho area with them and their friends for dinner at La Vache which is quite an establishment. They only serve entrecote steak and pomme frittes in true French style. With a rolling dessert trolley, lively music, joyeux anniversaries for every birthday (there were quite a few) and generally a great atmosphere – this is a great spot particularly with a bigger group. From here, the bars of Soho are plentiful so you can take your pick, we opted for cocktails at Bar Medusa and then a nightcap or two or three at Bobby’s Rabble. Overall a great first day in Hong Kong and easy to see why everyone says there is so much happening here.
On Saturday we visited the famous Victoria Peak. Riding the peak tram is a scenic way to reach the top. This is the world’s steepest funicular leaving from lower Peak Terminal on Garden road in central area and takes about 7 minutes to summit. Once there you can walk the circular route for wonderful, postcard views of Hong Kong Island and over to Kowloon. I could have spent more time wandering this beautiful area and a definite must when in Hong Kong. You can also reach via taxi. From here we visited Causeway Bay, the main shopping district of Hong Kong. We opted for a quick lunch at Minh & Kok, serving Thai and Vietnamese style bites. It sits on Paterson Street, Fashion Walk home to stylish eateries and boutiques.
Hong Kong means ‘fragrant harbour’ in Chinese and this is one of the things I loved about the place, everything centres around beautiful Victoria harbour. On a gloriously sunny day, there is no better mode of transport that transport on water, so the Star ferry to Kowloon was another highlight. You can use your Octopus card or buy tokens at the machines inside the ferry terminal – for these you will need cash. With the Star Ferry you can also do a harbour tour or the Symphony of Lights tour. On reaching Kowloon side, we walked along promenade and avenue of stars to the InterContinental. I had booked for high tea at Nobu – a real treat where we could take in the stunning harbour view over Nobu’s signature Japanese afternoon tea set, a selection of ‘umami’ (savoury) and sweet Japanese treats (wrong country I know). It was a lovely way to escape the hustle and bustle. The Peninsula is another must for high tea apparently.
There is a lot more to see and do in Kowloon particularly the markets; flower market, goldfish market, ladies market, temple street market etc. but with such great weather we decided to hop on the ferry to central and then grab a quick taxi ride to Kennedy town. We’d heard this was an up and coming area with new eateries and bars popping up on every corner.
We went in search of Little Creatures brewery, an Australian craft brewery and one of Phil’s favourite pale ales – Phil opted for the tasting paddle and I went with their crisp cider. They also serve delicious looking snacks and food. After a quick walk around Kennedy Town, we caught the tram all the way home to our hotel ending another great day in Honkers.
On Sunday we had planned a beach day at Sai Kung with Alan, Clemence, Rose and Brendan. Located in the New Territories, Sai Kung is famous for its floating seafood market. From the harbour area, we caught a green taxi to the national reserve and from here, did a 45 minute hike down to the beach (easy and mostly downhill). I don’t think this is something we would have done without Alan’s know how and what a recommendation it was. There is a little cafe on the beach but it is best to take some supplies and cash with you. When you get to the beach it is a good idea to book the boat back to ensure you get the timings right. We opted for 5pm so had a few hours to lazy the afternoon away and enjoy watching Rose have her first swim in the sea. This was a perfect afternoon, the speedboat back being an absolute highlight and I think even more special because it was so unexpected.
I am always in search of great rooftop spots and Hong Kong is not short of them. We visited Wooloomooloo, Wan Chai which was close to our hotel and had enviable views of the city skyline by night – a great way to end off our trip to Hong Kong. Other rooftop recommendations include Sevva and Ozone to name a few. As we got to know the area around our hotel a bit better, we came across a few great restaurant finds – Beef & Liberty Burgers, Rempah Noodles and Habitu to name a few. Hong Kong is definitely not short of foodie spots.
With a bit of time the following morning, we made a quick trip to Repulse Bay – another spot to get away from the hustle and bustle and easy to reach. It’s a scenic route getting there and home to some great coffee and breakfast spots lining the beachfront. With beautiful coastal scenery and easy-accessibility from the city, Hong Kong is home to many outdoorsy activities – I would have loved to squeeze in a hike such as Dragon’s back.
All too quickly but feeling content with our time in this great city, we headed for the airport. A handy thing to know is that your Octopus card can be refunded at the customer service desk on arrival at the airport. All in all a wonderful long weekend in this vibrant city full of contrasts and contradictions. We were expecting more of a concrete jungle and while nature is not necessarily integrated into urban life, it is everywhere – as are unparalleled views, top eateries, trendy bars, history and new age all bundled into the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ that is Hong Kong.
“Life in Hong Kong transcends cultural and culinary borders such that nothing is truly foreign and nothing doesn’t belong” – Peter Jon Lindberg
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