Hong Kong captivates your senses from the moment you step outside. Blinking advertising covers dozens of skyscrapers along the bay. Layers on layers of towering apartment buildings cover the horizon. Honking red taxis interrupt conversations in Cantonese, English, and Mandarin. Swirling aromas of dim sum and roasted meats escape restaurant kitchens and penetrate the dense air. Hoards of people brush alongside you without a passing glance as they stream out of apartment buildings and into metro stations, office buildings, shopping malls, and luxury cars.
Hong Kong is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever seen. More crowded than London, more culturally diverse than NYC, more designer storefronts than Paris and more luxury cars than Monaco.
For our first stop on our extended honeymoon/we’re in denial we’re adults/celebrating the end of long distance/life break we found affordable flights to Hong Kong en route to SE Asia. Although we hadn’t intended to visit Hong Kong, the idea was too enticing to ignore once we realized it was an option. After just four days in town I won’t pretend to be an expert, but I’ll share how we chose to spend our short time in this chaotic yet captivating city.
We hopped on the Star ferry to get to Hong Kong island from Kowloon for less than $1 per person. We rode the world’s longest covered outdoor walkway system in the world, the Century-Mid-Levels escalator from the shopping malls along the water through the foodie paradise of Soho to the residential hillsides. We walked back down and stopped in to see the monkeys and meerkats at the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens.
Another day we joined the 360 Lantau Land and Sea Guided Tour and explored the historical Tai O fishing village, saw white dolphins on a boat cruise, hiked up to Big Buddha (home to second biggest in the world after Taiwan) and admired the Po Lin monastery in Ngong Ping Village.
We meandered the stalls of the Temple Street Night Market, the early morning Flower Market, and daytime Ladies Market in Mong Kok neighborhood. We took the fast ferry to Cheung Chau island, a fishing village devoid of car traffic where we rented bikes and explored the markets and temples on wheels.
Back on the mainland we finally stayed awake until 8pm on our last night in town to watch the nightly harbor light show. Just in time to say goodbye to Hong Kong in style before heading to Hanoi, Vietnam.
Know Before You Go:
- Purchase an Octopus card at any MTR (AKA metro) station for use on the subway. Bonus, you can also use it at hundreds of places as a form of payment (ie convenience stores, the post office, even Starbucks.)
- Hong Kong also has Uber which we used upon arrival to get to our AirBnB.
- Take the Star ferry or metro between Kowloon/mainland and Hong Kong island in less than 10 minutes.
- We dropped into the Kowloon Visitor Center near the Star ferry terminal on day 1 for friendly and helpful local’s advice to create our itinerary and book a tour.
Where to Stay:
- We stayed on Kowloon side (mainland) in Tsim Sha Tsui urban area (abbreviated by locals to TST) in an AirBnB. Be prepared for tight quarters in this packed city. The housing problem is well-documented and very real for locals. As tourists you have the luxury of booking a hotel room with more space. We preferred to stay in a central neighborhood and compromised with the space.
Where to Drink & Dine:
On Tsim Sha Tsui side we enjoyed:
- N1 Coffee & Co. – Delicious coffee and Western-style breakfast to break up the Asian cuisine
- Canton’s Dim Sum Expert
- From Us With Love – local desserts
- On Hong Kong island we enjoyed:
- Grassroots Pantry – healthy vegan and vegetarian dishes
- Try the local delicacy, roasted goose, and other treats on Wellington Street (we joined the crowds at Wah Fung) in Soho district