What a perfect getaway! I won’t lie, Hong Kong has never been on my radar as a travel destination until I started following my lovely London bloggers who endlessly rave about the Pearl of the Orient and even then, I was never fully convinced that I’d love the city so much.
I didn’t know what to expect in Hong Kong and was so happy to discover a real cosmopolitan city with its own character, local identity (so unlike mainland China) and pizzazz. Hong Kong is like a melting pot offering a mix of British colonial history with a rich Chinese culture and tradition. Despite its chaos and mess, it has a terrific verve and frantic energy that will keep you coming back for more.
It also makes light of New York’s skyscrapers and San Francisco’s hills. For uninitiated, HK consists of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories, and well over 200 different islands in the South China Sea. I was thoroughly impressed how modernized and completely westernized it was. The vertical city with its futuristic architecture is eye-catching, although the sheer number of concrete high-rise apartment buildings was quite mind-boggling.
Those traveling there for the first time should not worry, superb public transportation system, cheap taxis and even cheaper Uber service, and bilingual signage make it a cinch to navigate. We caught an Airport Express fast train which was cheap and comfortable way to get to our Airbnb. We chose to stay in Central’s Soho neighborhood – incredibly vibrant and lively place with bohemian vibe which also turned out to be a perfect location for exploring the city. I made sure to rent a portable wifi at the airport so that we’d have internet connection 24/7.
Having spent only four days in Hong Kong, I’m in no way a fitting candidate to offer you a “guide” of the city per se. In fact, we barely made a dent on all the things to do and see in Hong Kong. However, I’ll gladly share the highlights of our getaway as well as link some useful references to help you plan your Hong Kong trip.
AQUA LUNA CRUISE ON VICTORIA HARBOR
Since we arrived in the afternoon, we decided to take it easy on our first day and spend some time wondering the neighborhood and walking along the pier to get the feel for the city. I pre-booked tickets for the famous Aqua Luna sunset cruise which takes you around the Victoria Harbor on a junk boat, one of the few remaining traditional red-sailed Chinese boats in the world. We set off for a blissful 45-minute ride around the harbor taking HK’s arresting shimmering cityscape while also enjoying complimentary glass of wine. It was such a pleasant, carefree AND romantic way to ease into our vacation and soak up the city views. We also enjoyed renowned Symphony of Lights right after the cruise, a spectacular light and sound show at Victoria Harbor which incorporates a dazzling array of colorful lights synchronized to music.
We absolutely loved the élan that this area in Central oozes. It’s quite charismatic and bohemian neighborhood filled with numerous galleries and art shops, restaurants and bars. In fact, it is a haven for pub crawlers and gets pretty packed on weekend nights. I loved finding colorful murals along the way as well as discovering street markets on the alleyways.
Soho is also home to world’s longest escalator which allows commuters to get to their street without mounting endless flights of notoriously steep stairs and slopes. Comprising 20 escalators and moving walkways, it takes twenty minutes to complete.
We also checked out Man Mo, a little unassuming temple which was within a minute walk from our apartment. It is located on Hollywood Road and pays tribute to the God of Literature and the God of War. It was extremely chaotic due to workers renovating it and tourists mixing together in a cramped space, but I still liked the sight of giant hanging incense. I wouldn’t qualify this place as a must-see, but it won’t hurt to check it out if you are in the area.
THE VICTORIA PEAK
The second day of our trip was completely lost due to a strong typhoon that hit the city, we spent most of our time chilling indoors and savoring amazing food and drinks. This meant we had to make up for it next day, which thankfully, was bright and sunny (and HOT and HUMID). We opted to book a 24-hour hop on/off bus tour taking tourists all around HK’s main sights. The deal also included tram tickets and admission to the Sky Terrace 428 on Victoria Peak, which allows truly breathtaking panoramic views of the city. We hopped onto the Peak Tram which turned to be a bit exhilarating ride as it mounted at a pretty steep angle. 360 degree view of the city was absolutely worth it and I would encourage everyone to there if you have time.
STANLY, REPULSE BAY & ABERDEEN
Thanks to the time-efficient bus tour we did manage to take a ride to the south of the HK island and get a glimpse at a golden beach of the Repulse Bay and floating village of Aberdeen. We walked around Stanley which seemed like such an atmospheric and pleasant seaside area with cute little cafes on the waterfront. Guidebooks always stress the importance of seeing the historic Murray House. Apparently, this Victorian-era building built in 1844 had housed officers’ quarters in Central before it was moved to Stanly in 2000s. While I appreciate the history, I was a bit disappointed to see it has been turned into an H&M store!
SHOPPING IN STREET MARKETS
There is certainly no lack of shopping malls in Hong Kong filled with any brand imaginable on this planet. However, for a taste of something more local we headed to peruse the city’s famous street markets in Stanly. While the endless rows of stalls are filled with lots of knock-offs and kitschy merchandise, we did find a few stores selling gorgeous handmade items like lacquerware, crockery and art. We shopped our hearts out and got a few art pieces which I will share in a separate post. Other popular markets include Ladies’ Market, Night Market and Jade Market which sadly we didn’t have time to hit.
PROMENADE ON TSIM SHA TSUI
I literally couldn’t get enough of the spectacular views over Victoria Harbor and decided to head to Tsim Sha Tsui to enjoy it from a different angle, and stroll along the beautiful promenade.
THE BIG BUDDHA AND PO LIN MONASTERY ON LANTAU ISLAND
On our last day, we traveled to the Lantau Island. The adventure started with a 25-minute scenic ride on a cable car which took us to Ngong Ping village. You have an option to ride on a crystal bottom gondola, but it was an extra 1-hour wait time. Plus, to be honest, with my fear of heights, the standard car was exhilarating enough. I’m pretty sure J shared the sentiment. I highly recommend pre-booking your cable ride tickets so that you don’t have to line up for over an hour like we did.
The village at the end of the ride attracts thousands of tourists daily who flock here to see Tian Tan (The Big) Buddha. It was quite a remarkable sight to see the huge bronze statue loom overhead, as if floating in the air above the lush verdant forest. If you feel brave enough, you can climb up 262 steps and see it up close, plus enjoy the views from the observation deck.
We also visited the monastery grounds and the most spectacular gold-drenched main hall which houses dozens of Buddha statues.
5 o’clock COCKTAILS
Hong Kong knows how to do a Happy Hour right. Central, especially Soho, seems to be the place to be if you’re yearning for your 5 o’clock cocktail. It reminded me of London where I often saw folks dressed up in suits gathering in front of pubs with a glass (or bottle) of wine and chatting their hearts out after a long day at work. The place is awash with cheery bars and we picked a random one for couple of pre-dinner drinks on our final night. In general, HK boasts with one of the best and tallest rooftop bars in the world including glitzy Ozone Bar housed on the 118th floor of The Ritz Carlton!
LUXURY DINING & LOCAL CUISINE
You certainly don’t have to worry about missing your meal in Hong Kong. From hole-in-the-wall and mom-and-pop shops serving traditional Cantonese faire to the most sophisticated Michelin-starred restaurants offering western epicurean delights, the choice is dizzying. The city is notorious for its splendid fine dining scene and J and I indulged in our fair share of outstanding dinners during the trip. Highlights included tasting menus at Amber and L’Atelier by Joel Robuchon, Peking Duck at Lung King Heen and dim sum at Tin Lung Heen. I will tell you all about it in greater detail in the upcoming posts.
Besides its multitude of high-end restaurants, Hong Kong is filled with old school no-frills haunts where you can get a taste of local cuisine. No visit to the metropolis will be complete without trying dim sum and BBQ pork buns and we headed to Tim Ho Wan, one of world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants, where I successfully satisfied my cravings for both.
We also loved our dinner with a playful twist at Yum Cha in Central, where food is not just tasty, but incredibly adorable!
Naturally we only managed to scratch a surface in four days. Next time I’d want to have breakfast at the Elephant Grounds, try the praised Afternoon Tea at Intercontinental Hotel and iconic Peninsula, savor dim sum served in an old-school way at Maxim’s, slurp on beef brisket at Kau Kee, check out hip and trendy Little Bao, try the famous Tai Cheong egg tarts and egg waffles, enjoy cocktails at Ozone Bar and fine and dine at Vea, Mott 32 and 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo among many many other places. I mean, there is so much to try, one lifetime wouldn’t be enough.
Hong Kong is a real haven for lovers of urban adventures and food enthusiasts. I wish we had more time to explore Kawloon, peruse the neon-lit streets of Mongkok, visit humble fishing villages in Tai O or hop on a ferry to Macau. Alas, we’ll have to wait till next time…
Have you been to Hong Kong? Do you have a favorite place that impressed you most? I’d like to hear!
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This post is part of a link-up with wonderful ladies at Monday Escapes, as well as monthly link-up with Angie, Emma and Jamie from Ink + Adventure.
Hong Kong truly has so much to offer. Plus the colour of blue that this city offers can’t be found anywhere else. I just love it <3
It's weird though. When I visited Lantau Island, and took the ferry down, the line for the crystal cable car ride was shorter than the line for the normal cable car.
Absolutely LOVE this post, and christ you achieved a lot in 4 days, I still haven’t been to Stanley and it’s my 10th week!!! Haha, will definitely be stealing some tips ;) Love AP xo
I’m so jealous of all the exploring you do there, especially the beaches!!! Something I utterly miss in Japan :)
We are off to HK in April so this is very helpful. Am salivating at the sound of all your food. Will check out your other posts! #mondayescapes
Thank you, I’m sure you’ll love HK, there is so much to explore AND eat! :)
I absolutely know what you mean about not thinking of Hong Kong as a *must* destination! From your photos though, I feel like I can be lured over – especially for a visit to Yum Cha!
Yum Cha was so much foodie fun!
Oh Nano you captured Hong Kong so beautifully in photos. I really missed the city cos of your beautiful posts! And I do miss the happy hour cocktails as well, particularly in LKF! Love that photo of you in a blue dress. You look relaxed and pretty! x
Honey x The Girl Next Shore
Honey, you are a sweetheart! Thank you for your lovely words :) Happy hours are definitely not to be missed in HK!
What a fantastic trip. You managed to fit a lot into four days. I lived in Hong Kong as a kid in the 80s. I don’t remember much about it so posts like this have me aching to return. I know it will be very different now but I’m sure a visit would only strengthen my connection with the place #MondayEscapes
Wow, that amazing. I’d would have loved to live there. You should definitely visit some time and write about how it has changed since then, that would be so interesting to read! :)
You did all that in 4 days…! Victoria Peak looks stunning, I love a city where you can get away and actually look at it from a distance and take it the scale
Haha I know, I thought we didn’t do much, but as I started writing about it the list turned out to be quite long. Thanks for reading :)
Great post – we’re visiting for the first time (FINALLY!) in January and I’m so excited!
Hi Kavey, thanks for reading! Hope you’ll love it :)
I loved Hong Kong too, but never really thought too much about it before I went as I figured I was just hubbing through for a couple of days. Now I wish I had spent more time there x
I was surprised how much we discovered too. The city has definitely a lot to offer. Thanks for reading! :)
Your trip looks amazing – you covered so much of the city!! I’ve never been to Hong Kong, we tried once on our way to Indonesia but the flights didn’t work out. I really want to go though – especially after reading this! I love dim sum so think I would just spend my time eating! Ha. x
Thank you for your lovely words Vicky. Honestly I didn’t realize how much we covered until I started writing about it haha. Hong Kong definitely is the place to spend your days eating, food is incredible. Hope you’ll visit soon :)
that looks amazing!! would love to visit Hong Kong.
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Hope you’ll make it there soon! Thanks for reading:)
Looks fantastic! I am reading with interest as we are visiting HK next year so getting some inspiration. The food looks amazing so that’s got me even more excited! #mondayescapes
Well, that’s exciting!! You’ll have fantastic time I am sure and I’ll be following along your journey wanderlusting and missing all the great places around the city. Thank you so much for reading :)
Oh my gosh it sounds wonderful. I love the way you have written it up, I have always wanted to go but you’ve definitely put HK much higher up my bucket list now. Thanks so much for linking up to #MondayEscapes
Thank you so much! I was actually debating for a ling time and in the end decided to make my “guides” more personal versus writing a dry Top 10 list. You definitely should visit, it is an amazing city. :)
you have done so much and I am so impressed that you guys carried on even with a T8 typhoon hahaa. I used to loooove walking down Ladies Market in Mong Kok however, it has changed sooo much for the last 8 years it just isn’t exciting anymore so you didn’t miss anything there.
Shame I couldn’t take you around but let me know if you come back again!!
May, it was such a pleasure finally meeting you, thank you tons for taking time to have breakfast with us. Hope to do it again some time soon, this time in Japan! :)
Loved this post!! You did so much more than we did! Though I’ve been to Hong Kong twice we were thwarted by bad weather both times and I barely saw anything. Also the first time I had horrific jet lag and fell asleep on the bus tour and the Aqua Luna. I HAVE to go back and really do it justice!
Thanks Angie! I can see how a bad weather can be a big problem in HK, that typhoon was no joke!
My hubby went to Hong Kong with work a couple of months ago and went to Tim Ho Wan too and absolutely loved it! Actually I wish I could have rewound time and been able to give him this guide as despite what you say, to me it looks like you covered loads considering you were there only a few days! I have been to HK but it was 11 years ago and I was being shown around by my best friend who grew up there so I’m well overdue a visit especially to immerse myself in the markets and the foodie side of it this time round. PS your Victoria Peak panoramic shots are amazing Nano! x
Oh you should definitely revisit and write how it has changed in your opinion. I’d love to go back and spend more time perusing the markets, as destructive as it would be for my budget haha. Thanks again for reading hun :)
Looks amazing! We’re going at the end of December during the holidays, so hopefully it won’t be as hot and humid. If you had to do it again, would you go to the Peak at night instead to see the city skyline lit up?
I shudder to think how long you had to wait to get into Tim Ho Wan!
I think I’d still go during day time and then return at night if I had time. Two different views and I’m sure both worth it. As for Tim Ho Wan, believe it or not, we didn’t have to wait a single second! There was no line and we were seated immediately. I guess going there in between meals (5 pm) helped.