From big Buddha to the traffic lights and skyscrapers, dive in a mix of United Kingdom and China, with a feel of Manhattan.
Just a few years ago, in 1997, Hong Kong became a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China after being a colony of the British Empire.
This is what has made of Hong Kong a remarkably interesting cultural mix, a city in which you will find signs in English and Chinese, British supermarket chains, local chinese traditional food stores, vehicles driving on the left as in England, and motorbikes that would cross the limits of any European law. Dive in this city, let yourself get lost and discover the best of Hong Kong.
Costs: medium – higher than the average in Asia, accommodation can be expensive but food is cheap.
Currency: HK dollar
Vaccinations needed: none. Do not drink water from the tap to avoid getting sick, as well as drinks with ice cubes.
Visa: as opposed to Mainland China, visa is not required for most nationalities to enter HK.
Language: Cantonese chinese is the official language, as well as English, which is widely spoken.
Safety: Hong Kong is safe for all kinds of travellers. Watch out for pickpockets like in every crowded place.
Transport: fairly affordable, including taxis and uber
Here are the 5 things you should not miss in Hong Kong!
1. The Big Buddha – Tian Tan
Not tired enough after a 12 hour flight without sleep thanks to two ladies fighting, I took a taxi straight from the airport to the Big Buddha and climbed the 268 steps to get up there and feel tiny. It was impressive and worth going, and there’s other things to do around, like temples or cable car that brings you down the mountain to Tung Chung train station! I didn’t do this, as I could not take my luggage with me to the other side of the cable car. But luckily, I could find a luggage storage facility and I could climb up the Buddha with free hands.
Tip* If you want to visit this part of Hong Kong, I highly recommend you do it before or after your flight (if you are traveling by plane), because this is in Lantau island, where the airport is, but far and separated from the city. It would take around 2,5 hours to get there from one of the main stations, Sheung Wan station. Only the bus from Tung Chung station (in Lantau island) is already one hour. This is the reason why I decided to take a taxi, as they are quite affordable and I preferred to avoid the public transport hassle just after landing. I did the way back by public transport, and I can tell you, be ready for a bumpy ride if you take the bus!
There are several bus lines stopping by the Big Buddha and you can buy a ticket at the bus stop or bus driver.
2. Victoria peak
Victoria peak is the top of a mountain in Hong Kong island, just behind the financial area and all the skyscrapers. The traditional way to go up the mountain is taking the tram (peak tower station), but be aware there may be a very long line to get your ticket, so be sure to buy your skip-the-line admission here, or take a ride with an uber like I did. At the top, you will find a shopping mall (yes, up in the mountain, welcome to Hong Kong), here you have some overpriced activities and stores, and you can have a drink or dinner with a nice view without paying for visiting the rooftop which was nice, but not worth the price since the view one floor lower, was almost the same and for free.
3. Ladies market
This market, located in the area of Mong Kok, in the street Tung Choi, is open daily since the afternoon until night (normally from 12:00 – 23:00 but varies depending on the demand). Here you will find all kinds of things, from souvenirs to fake bags and complaints, and you can bargain the price and make it probably 4 time cheaper than the “original” price.
Around this market you will find as well a lot of shops and busy streets to wander around. Best way to get there is by metro, with the red or green line to Mong Kok. If you are at the Hong Kong island side, you may first take the “star ferry” from Sheung Wan, which is also a nice and cheap experience with a cool view of the skyline from the water.
4. Shopping Malls everywhere!
I went to dozens of shopping malls, and no, I wasn’t looking for anything! You could cross Hong Kong like a monkey in a jungle, not putting your feet on the ground! There’s an extensive system of tunnels which connect the buildings and allow you to walk above the busy roads, and through buildings which may be banks, offices of international companies or expensive hotels, and often host a shopping mall on the first floors, as well as food courts. Do not try to find a spot to eat in the financial area around 12:00, because all the workers from the offices will be doing the same… and there isn’t place for everyone!
I find it quite interesting how you can walk across the city going through tunnels, although, following google maps was a challenge, as roads and walking tunnels are not clearly differentiated. But, if you are there during summer when humidity can reach levels of 99%, you will appreciate this, a lot.
5. Waterfront: Lung Wo & Sun Yat Sen memorial park
Enjoy the breeze of the water walking along the waterfront in the nice parks, leaving behind the crowdedness and modern buildings. A place to breathe and have your own space, looking at the other side of Hong Kong, less modern but as well filled by skyscrapers that give home to the more than 7 million inhabitants of the city.
Tip* In December 2017, when I was last there, there was a free and fast working wifi so I could enjoy working from the park. Hopefully this is still the same when you are there and you can enjoy catching up with your work or social life!
Good to know:
Tips from the book “Best things in life are free – Lonely Planet”
- There are several musea with free entrance on Wednesdays (http://www.museums.gov.hk)
- Pharmacies and markets are cheaper than supermarkets. Stores and cafeterias are cheaper when located on floors instead on street level.
- Best way to get to/from the airport is taking the MTR to Tung Chung and take a bus from there.
- You can take the tram unlimited times for a flat rate of 2,3HKD a day