I visited this bustling place a long time ago and I feel that you should explore Hong Kong too. So here’s an account of my experience and the things to do and see in Hong Kong.
A little introduction before you set off to explore Hong Kong
Comprising of 3 large areas – Hong Kong island, Kowloon and the New Territories, it is also known as the ‘Fragrant Harbour’ or ‘Spicy Harbour’ – quite literally the meaning of Hong Kong.
When I first visited, many many moons ago, the thing that struck me the most was the teeming population and the hustle and bustle of the place. There wasn’t a single moment when you saw anything stand still! It is rumoured that the apartments are so small, that people take turns to sleep i.e. some work days and some work nights to adjust to this arrangement! Some of the apartments I saw testify to this fact – tiny and they don’t encourage lounging around.
Landing with excitement in Hong Kong
Landing in the old Kai Tak airport was nothing short of crazy scary! The landing strip jutted out into the sea and as you prepare to land, all you could feel was the plane hurtling towards the water! The runaway was just a thin line in the distance. I remember having my heart in my mouth till I heard the familiar bump of the wheels on landing!
To my horror, we saw the tail fuselage of a Chinese airliner that had missed the runaway and gone nose down into the sea some days before we landed there. Thankfully there were no casualties – I think all passengers were saved.
Things to do in Hong Kong
With much to offer, there is something for everyone. My favourite place to relax is Stanley Market – small curio shops on the street with food joints as well. You can pick up paintings and other souvenirs.
Tip: Take the Hop on-Hop off bus. It takes you along a very scenic route.
Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade
Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade is a great place to wander around. Go past the Space Museum (pop in if you feel like it) and the Cultural Centre. The skyline in the evening is superb – the buildings are all lit up and it’s like being in fairyland. You can also get a great view from Victoria Peak.
Tip: Take the old-fashioned ride up in a funicular tram. At almost impossible angles, you wonder at times if it’s going to slide right off the rails!
If you like to shop (who doesn’t??!) you must visit Causeway Bay, Central and Mongkok. Flower Market street is colourful and worth a visit. Temple Street Market from 6 – 11 pm is great fun. You get designer copies, accessories and clothes etc.
Tip: Street shopping is the keyword and it’s exciting to haggle and get a bargain! Makes one feel victorious!
Where to Stay
Chungking Mansion – the cheapest place
A curious place to stay in is Chungking Mansion on Nathan Road. This is for the feisty and adventurous sorts only. When you stand outside this curious rambling building, you will see backpackers from every nationality trooping in and out. There are food outlets, small hotels, shops, money changers, souvenir outlets etc.
The hotel rooms are tiny. You enter the room and immediately climb onto the bed as there is hardly any floor area. You go into the toilet, you need to sit on the pot to close the door! Quite literally! But this is reportedly the cheapest accommodation you will ever get in Hong Kong and if it is only to get a place to lay your head on every night, it is fine I guess.
Word of advice: Carry loads of sanitiser and wet wipes and your own linen!
Booth Lodge – slightly more indulgent
Another place to stay in, just off Nathan Road, is Booth Lodge. The rooms are spacious and airy, and the breakfast is yummy!
Amble on over to the Star Ferry from Nathan Road. Do the Harbour Cruise – it’s something you won’t regret. The Symphony of Lights show is the most fantabulous thing I’ve ever seen. Even the buildings around the harbour take part!! It’s a show par excellence and what better way to watch it then to be on deck, sipping on some vino followed by a sumptuous dinner!
Explore Hong Kong after dark
Lan Kwai Fong
If you are young (or like me, enthusiastic no matter the age) and able to stay up late at night, go to Lan Kwai Fong. This street is alive and noisy with pubs and restaurants open through the night. Follow your nose and go into the restaurant that has an aroma that assails your senses! I did that and ended up having some great Chinese fusion food washed down with some rice wine! Very heady and potent – don’t be fooled by the term wine!
Theme Parks for the Adventurous
For the younger generation who want a full day outing packed with adventure and scary rides, there is Ocean Park and Disneyland, Sandbox VR (reality game), Noah’s Ark etc.
I loved going to Ocean Park – there is a crazy, 3-loops-over-the-ocean roller coaster ride! I begged off saying that my BP was high – I think it was just by looking at the scary monster ride! But don’t be chicken-hearted like me – go and have fun!
Day trip in Hong Kong
Go to Lantau island to see the Tian Tan Buddha. You can do a day trip which involves a cable car ride as well. There are numerous walking tours which cover food, culture, markets, old and new Hong Kong, street art and the like – the best way to see this beautiful city.
Tip: Make sure to walk through Pottinger also called the stone slab street.
Explore Hong Kong through History
For history buffs, there is much history. Visit the Tin Hau Temple in Yau Ma Tei. With numerous altars and shrines, it is very serene and peaceful. The Pak Tai temple dedicated to the Taoist God of sea invites you to pray. The dragons on the ceiling that guard the temple are glorious to behold. The Tai Kwun which used to be a prison, now houses an art gallery, a museum and cafes. Sha Tin Wai area is nice to walk around in.
Explore Hong Kong through food!
All that seafood!
Being a foodie, I tasted almost every kind of food available except of course for fish which I’m allergic to! You will see sea cucumbers (they are nasty looking black pokey things quite unlike our green and juicy land cucumbers), sea urchins, lobsters, humungous prawns, octopus, squid and scores of other fishy fish!
Hong Kong Specialities
Food I ate and enjoyed were many. From sweet and sour pork, steamed goose with plum sauce to steamed or fried wontons, milk tea (black tea at the bottom and evaporated sweet milk on the top) and sago (tapioca family) with fruit – I savoured them all.
My friends ate fish balls, rickshaw noodles (with fish balls and mixed meat) and drank shark fin soup!! Eeergh but whatever makes them happy! Some tried the chicken feet also called Phoenix talons..what there is to chew on seeing there is only cartilage, God knows! But supposed to be yummy for those who like chewing on feet!! It’s also very rich in calcium.
Tip: Partake of some pineapple bread – doesn’t have even a hint of the fruit, but the surface looks like one!
[Read more: Visit some of the Michelin-starred restaurants in Hong Kong for a major food indulgence]
All things must come to an end
Overall Hong Kong has much to offer, including the handsome and suave Jackie Chan (even though I didn’t get to meet him), hmmmph! Plan your holiday so that you get to see a little of everything. The hotel rooms are spacious and rather expensive. My suggestion is to go with Airbnb – you can sample a bit of local culture along with the food! And now as they say in Cantonese –zài lián xì!