As I sit on the flight to Bali, I find myself reflecting on the last four days in Hong Kong. How can I describe its atmosphere, sights, smells, energy and diversity?
Hong Kong is like everything and nothing you have ever seen before. It’s an ultra modern city with its soaring skyscrapers, light and laser shows, amazingly efficient public transport systems and wide ranging free wifi availability. However, it doesn’t take long to discover its duality.
Architectural leviathons in glass and steel are sharply juxtaposed against the grubby, laundry festooned, highrise apartment blocks into which the majority of residents retreat at the end of the day. Pungent street markets selling everything from fresh fruit and live fish to cheap T shirts trade in close proximity to the rarified air of Louis Vuitton and Prada, while the remnants of Hong Kong’s colonial past vie for attention with its Chinese heritage. Hong Kong is, in short, a study in contrasts.
Despite its indesputable ‘seedier’ side, visiting Hong Kong is an amazing cultural experience. There is so much to see and do that only having a few days means being selective as to which attractions you visit. There is Disneyland Hong Kong for those who are young (or perhaps just young at heart) or a visit to one of the many museums and art galleries the more historically minded. We chose the road more travelled and spent our 4 days in this frenetic but fascinating city making sure that we saw all the ‘de rigueur’ sights. Here’s my recommended list, some of which will be covered in more detail in later postings, so keep checking 🙂
1. The hour long harbour cruise. It’s a great way to orientate yourself and see the sights as you wait for check-in time at your hotel. Great to just sit and experience after a long haul flight.
2. The Temple Street Night Market. Great for authentic street food and souvenir shopping … open from 6pm every day. A real taste of the sights and smells of Hong Kong.
3. The funicular railway (also known as the Peak Tram) up to the Peak. If you’re on a budget, forget paying to go to the observation deck and instead go to the top floor outdoor garden of the Peak Galleria shopping centre where almost the same view can be enjoyed for free.
Also, don’t buy a return ticket but instead make sure to catch the No 15 bus back down for amazing views.
4. The giant Buddha at Ngong Ping 360. Amazing, but make sure you wear comfortable shoes as there are a gazillion steps up to it. Also be sure not to miss the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddha’s in the monastery complex. It’s amazingly beautiful. It’s also a great place for lunch. Make sure you book on line before you go to skip the queues!
5. One or several trips on the Star ferries that have been transporting travellers across the harbour between Kowloon and Hong Kong island since Victorian times.
6. Take a scenic bus trip (take the No 6, 6a, 6x or 260 bus from Exchange Square bus terminus ) to quaint Stanley village to escape the crowds. A great market and interesting waterside restaurants for lunch.
7. Take a ferry from Pier 5, Central to Cheong Chow island. Despite the crowds, this picturesque fishing village with its narrow streets tiny homes is well worth the trip for lunch and a few hours exploration.
8. See the light and laser show from the Avenue of the Stars. An absolute must for any first-timer in Hong Kong.
This is what we did and although we walked until we were literally ready to drop, it is only a tiny selection of what Hong Kong has to offer. Whatever you chose to do in this crazy, crowded, wonderful city, suspend judgement and just enjoy Hong Kong for what it is. It’s well worth the effort!
TOP TIP: Buy an Octopus card for each traveller at the airport. It can be used on almost all forms of public transport and saves both money and time when travelling. The HK $50 deposit can be redeemed together with any unused funds at the airport prior to departure.