Visiting a new city is a very different experience for everyone. Different people will want to see and experience different things. The discussions and debates can be endless, although one thing for sure is that everyone is looking for their version of a great experience! And that’s where Hong Kong is different. Hong Kong has so much to offer from so many of those perspectives, and the big problem is, many people around the world don’t realise this as yet! When I speak to people about Hong Kong, it seems as though people see some of the beauty, but not all.
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, so it is technically not part of Mainland China.
Hong Kong is not part of Mainland China, and a lot of countries can enter visa free for short stays. Hong Kong is fairly small in terms of area compared to the huge population it has, and a result what you see is a huge amount of tall skyscrapers. Hong Kong is made up of a number of Islands, with the main 3 being Kowloon Island, Hong Kong Island and Lantau Island. Although Hong Kong is known as a huge concrete Jungle, amazingly there are a huge amount of beautiful landscapes and trails as well. All of the islands are connected quite well and form the whole territory which shares a land border with Shenzhen of Mainland China. Hong Kong has its own currency, the Hong Kong Dollar (HK$)
Although Hong Kong has a fairly small area, it is quite densely populated and has stunning natural beauty.
Transport in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is served by a fairly big international airport, which is connected very well throughout the world. Although it is so crowded and busy, transport is managed very well by an excellent public transport system which includes trains, buses and ferries. The taxis are also very well regulated. Each and every single one of the red car taxis that you see will have the drivers name and registration on the dashboard, and will always use a meter. The best thing about this is that the taxis are not overpriced and you can actually use them unlike most other big cities.
Public transport in Hong Kong
The Hong Kong metro is one of the best metro systems in the world. It is very safe at all times, quick, easy to use, air conditioned, very well cleaned and covers an immense part of all the islands, especially all the areas you would want to visit as a tourist.
How it works?
Hong Kong’s metro card is called the Octopus card, which is available at metro stations. This is similar to London’s Oyster card and Istanbul’s Istanbulkart. All you do is pay a small fee for the card and load credit on it which you can use for most public transport like trains, buses and ferries. It works with a touch upon entry and exit, and all entry points will have a machine with a screen which will also show you how much you have left.
IMPORTANT: The Octopus card is also accepted at a wide variety of other places like 7/11 grocery shops and certain tourist attraction entrances.
What’s to do in Hong Kong?
One of the most famous attractions in Hong Kong. This a peak which has sweeping views over quite a bit of Hong Kong’s beautiful skyline. There is a viewing platform towards the top with a few levels on it, along with a pathway that runs from the bottom all the way to the top. This is a public viewing point and has no opening or closing times, and is free of charge.
Victoria Peak in the early hours of the morning.
IMPORTANT: The Victoria peak gets VERY busy! At almost any time of the day it’s full of visitors, and to enjoy it the most I strongly suggest you take the following into consideration:
If you can, it would be great to visit early in the morning, during the day, at sunset and also at night. Each of these different times will give you hugely different experience as since it’s such a huge area, the sun shining from different angles gives you a very different effect every time. At night you can also see all the lights from the city in the surrounding darkness which is spectacular!
How to get to the Victoria Peak
The norm is to use the Peak Tram which is located at the bottom, and I strongly advise against this! At least not for the way up. There are long queue’s even before the tram starts operation at 7am (It closes at 12 Midnight). Waiting in the blazing sun for long, and going up to the peak which will then already be full of crowds will not be a very nice experience.
The trick is this! Take the metro to Admiralty MTR station. Outside any of the exits, there will be lots of Hong Kong’s very decently priced red taxis. Jump in and say “The top of Victoria Peak please” 😉 Sit on the left side of the car, put your window down and get your camera ready as you enjoy the views that start to get better as you ascend to the top. The taxi will drop you off at the taxi stand which is located on the bottom floor of the Peak Galleria Mall. This is a mall that’s located next to the Victoria Peak. Once you are at the mall, go to the top floor, and there will be a stunning terrace which you will very likely have to yourself.
Next to the Victoria Peak is a mall, the and this is the view from the top floor.
This view from the terrace is NOT view-able from the Victoria Peak itself, but can be viewed from the Sky Terrace 428. After you enjoy this, walk outside to the Victoria Peak platform which you now have reached with no queue’s at all. The platform is designed quite beautifully, but it’s also important to walk on the pathway which is there. This path can be hiked from the bottom, although I don’t recommend you doing it, but rather save your time and energy on a proper hike like the Dragon’s Back trail, Kowloon peak or Lions Rock.
Sky Terrace 428
As you finish spending as much time as you want in the area of Victoria peak, it’s important to remember that the Sky Terrace 428 opens at 10am. This also gets quite full so it would be great if you can be there at exactly 10am. The cost is HK$23 which you can pay with your Octopus card if you want. A lot of people may tell you to avoid this because of the entry fee, do not listen to that! The Sky Terrace 428 is such that it has a completely panoramic view of a very large part of Hong Kong. Is it worth HK$23? Absolutely!
The Sky Terrace has a small entry fee and is a bit less crowded that the Victoria Peak.
The view from the Sky Terrace is 360 degrees and almost every side has stunning views.
Mongkok is a maze of narrow streets with lots of shops and street markets. It can get quite packed on weekends, especially around lunch time. In the night, there are lots of bright lights in lots of different colours.
Tian Tan Buddha
This is a big statue of Buddha that is located on Lantau Island. It on a high point with nice views of the area around it. You can get to it by cable car or bus from the closest MTR station.
Nan Lian Garden
This is a large 3.5 Hectare classical Chinese garden that has water features, lots of different plants and trees and lots of wooden structures. It is located very close to the Chi Lin Nunnery.
Although I did go to both of these places, the security guards did seem a bit agitated with my photography equipment so unfortunately I couldn’t get the pictures I wanted.
Chi Lin Nunnery
This is a large Buddhist Temple complex that was built in 1934. The temple has a lovely design and is worth checking out since it’s so close to the Nan Lian Garden.
When you look at pictures online of Hong Kong, the first thing you will notice are lots of tall buildings, and those famous Hong Kong looking ships! Victoria Harbour was a huge part of Hong Kong’s history, and the views are stunning from almost any angle of it!
Hong Kong was actually built around the Victoria Harbour.
Sky100 Observation deck
The Sky100 Observation deck in located in Hong Kong’s famous ICC building. There are viewpoints in tall skyscrapers that I have been to in almost every city in the world that I have been to. Some of which are even higher than floor no.100 at this one, but not ONE of them could come close to how beautiful this one is. Why? The entire floor no.100 is the Observation deck, which has full floor to ceiling windows in every direction. Combine the height you are at with its super location right in the middle of Hong Kong and you have tremendous views from every direction!
Entry fees are HK$ 188 and it is open from 10am to 9pm (Closes at 10.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays).
IMPORTANT: Only go when the air quality is good! On a nice sunny day with clear skies. It would be a waste if there was any form of cloud cover or mist. Also, there are lots of seating and free WiFi.
The Sky100 Observation deck is on floor 100 of the ICC building, and takes up the entire floor so you have views from every direction.
How to get there?
Fortunately with almost everything in Hong Kong, it is connected quite well to the Metro. It is located on the 100th floor of the ICC Building, which also has the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in it. Go to the Kowloon MTR stop and follow the directions to the Ritz-Carlton. You will eventually reach the Sky100 ticket counter which has a very funky entrance which has a stunning dark feel with blue light. You will then reach a very fast lift that will take you up to floor no.100.
IMPORTANT: There is a cafe at the top, which is a little bit pricey, but you can check out the menu if you want, get a nice seat with a view and see if it works for you like it did for me 😉
If a coffee will make the view better then why not? 😉
And if you are REALLY enjoying the view why not add some chocolate eclairs as well 😉
Tsim Tsha Tsui
This is an upmarket area with lots of upmarket shops and nightlife. The Tsim Tsha Tsui Promenade also has a lovely walking area at the edge of the Victoria Harbour and also a light show. Music plays at the promenade and the buildings across the harbour are lit up in rhythm to the music. This is the main area in Hong Kong which has the most amount of people throughout the day and night.
IMPORTANT: Do not go out of your way for the light show, it’s not that spectacular, although if you are in the area at the time, you can check it out.
Causeway bay is known as Hong Kong’s “energetic retail heart”. From upmarket malls, upscale restaurants and the Hong Kong Central library nearby, it’s a nice area to check out at night as well.
The Dragons Back trail
Voted by Time Magazine as the best hiking trail in Asia. The Dragon’s Back trail is a must do for anyone who is able to, and that would be almost anyone. There is literally no technical climbing at all, and it’s just a roughly 2hr walking path with gorgeous views that lead to a stunning beach, the Big Wave Bay. You actually don’t need any form of fitness at all if you take it slowly and hydrate properly. I would advise you to do it on a sunny day with clear skies, although the sun will take its toll on you, this will be your reward:
The Dragon’s Back Trail was voted as the best trail in Asia by Time Magazine.
A quarter way to the top on the Dragon’s Back trail.
How to get to the start of the trail: Take the MTR to Shau Kei Wan station. Outside the station, there is a bus stop. You need to look for bus no.9. Even if you want to be double sure, as you get into the bus, just ask the driver “Dragons back?” and he will gladly give you a thumbs up and even tell you where to get off. The bus stops right at the start of the trail, since it’s so popular. From there it’s a roughly 2hr one way hike to the beginning to the end, which will take you to Big Wave Bay, which is a stunning beach with all the scenery from where you hiked, now all behind you. There are shops at the end of the trail with food and refreshments, which you can enjoy on the beach. When you are done, at the entrance of the Big Wave Bay (Where you will complete the trail) most buses will drop you at the closest MTR station.
At the highest point of the Dragon’s Back Trail.
Day trip to Macau
Macau is known as the “Las Vegas of Asia” and just like Hong Kong it is technically not part of mainland China and therefore has its own port of entry with its own visa requirements, which also allow many countries Visa free entrance.
How to get to Macau
Fortunately it is just a 1hr ferry ride from Hong Kong. Ferry’s leave from Sheung Wan ferry terminal in Hong Kong and take you to the Outer Ferry terminal in Macau. Schedules can be viewed online, although advance purchase is not required. They have a very organised system in place with a waiting list to put you in earlier ferry’s if need be.
What’s to do at Macau?
Gambling! Gambling and more gambling! There is more to Macau than just that though. The Ruins of St Paul is a remaining from the 17th century. The Macau tower has quite a lot of activities like a nice viewpoint and the World’s highest bungee jump as well. Buses and taxis are also available for transport. Although it is close to Hong Kong, the feel of Macau was very different. English seemed to be a bit of a problem at most of the shops in Downtown Macau. If you love Casino’s you could stay a few nights, alternatively just a day trip to see and experience Macau would be perfect.
As much as I toured Hong Kong, there were still so many things which I would have loved to do but did not get to. If possible I would strongly recommend you look into the following:
Lions Rock (A short steep walk up an amazing viewpoint over the city)
Kowloon Peak (A hr hike to a peak with excellent views of the city)
Ocean Park and Disneyland (Hong Kong’s amusement parks which would ideally require a full day each)
How much time do you need in Hong Kong?
As many days as you can with a minimum of 4 full days if you want to move at a high pace. I would personally say having 7 full days will be perfect, bearing in mind all those 7 days will be touring with all the amount of different attractions Hong Kong has to offer.
Is Hong Kong expensive?
Expensive is a very relative thing. The short answer is: YES.
There are not too many budget hotel options available in Hong Kong and although there are lots of beautiful options in the 4 and 5 Star Hotel range, they do tend to get a bit pricey. Street food is quite cheap, but restaurants and other shopping seemed quite pricey to me, but of course if you look hard enough and plan well enough, none of this will affect you.
If you prepare your itinerary, maximise your time, use public transport and watch your food bill, Hong Kong wont be nearly as pricey as people think it will be. That’s how it worked out for me.
There are some stunning 5 Star hotels on the Victoria Harbour.
Where do you stay in Hong Kong?
Public transport is such that you can almost stay anywhere and won’t be a problem! If you can get a hotel in Hong Kong Island or Kowloon Island that will be great, apart from that, any hotel near a bus or metro stop will be fine.
Hong Kong is EASILY one of the most dynamic cities in the world. It is safe, beautiful, and very easy to travel everywhere through its world class public transport system. Although Hong Kong may not be the cheapest city in the world to visit, it’s amazing how such a small area has such a vastly different landscape and feel despite all being so close to each other. With Hong Kong’s history and culture added to that, I believe there’s definitely something for everyone to love, no matter what it is you are looking for in your travel experience.