Asia, China, Destinations

Exploring Hong Kong – how to enjoy the city in four days

July 1, 2015
view of Hong Kong skyline by night from Victoria Peak

Bustling city, built vertically, offering the whole range of emotions. What a fascinating city. It’s very difficult to find someone with a different opinion.

How to get around:

Hong Kong is divided into two islands: the Hongkong side & the Kowloon side. It has a quite diverse and reliable transport system: metro, buses, trams, ferries.  From the airport to the city you can get the Airport Express which runs every 10 min, taking less than half an hour per trip.  There are other buses (like bus A21) which take a bit longer but it could take you closer to your accommodation.

The best way to get around is with an Octupus Card; most public transportation accepts it. If you’re buying from the Airport Express Customer Service Counter next to Burger King in the arrival hall, please note it was cash only when we were there (200 hkd/adult).

MTR rides are quite inexpensive. Each ride costs from HKD $5 to $15 or so, depending on the distance. The longest one may cost over HKD $20. When you ride the MTR using the Octopus Card, you get a small discount, which typically will pay off for the HKD $9 admin fee when you return the card. As in general, for transportation, we prefer to use MTR (i.e. metro/subway) over buses or trams. It’s much easier to navigate and the tram is only available on the Hong Kong Island.

Taxi in Hong Kong is inexpensive. So while exploring Hong Kong, don’t hesitate to use it especially for short-distance rides.

Where to stay:

One might think that since Hong Kong is in Asia the prices would be the same, which is a mistake. Accommodation is really expensive and that goes for restaurants too.  Because the city is very crowded and there’s an obvious lack of land, hotel rooms are generally small and at high prices.

If you are on a budget, your best option in terms of location and comfort would be one of the hundreds of guest houses in Mirador or Chungking Mansions, two buildings on the “golden mile”, in Tsim Sha Tsui, the heart of Kowloon. There are some over in Mong Kong (e.g. Dragon Hostel, Ah Shan Hostel), which received better reviews than those in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The ideal location would be in the vicinity of a MTR station but the general recommendation is: Tsim Sha Tsui, Jordan, Yau Ma Tei on Kowloon side, and Wan Chai, Causeway Bay on the Hong Kong Island side.

What to do and see:

  • Avenue of Stars – it’s a tribute paid to all Hong Kong’s movie icons presented by stars beneath your feet and giving visitors a stunning view over the city’s skyline

 

  • The Peak – the most iconic thing in Hong Kong. A vintage cable tram in service since 1888 will take you to the Observation Deck, 554m above the sea level offering probably the most spectacular cityscape in the world. Once you manage to get out of the shopping mall where the tram drops you, just so you won’t forget you’re in Hong Kong, the wonderful view awaits you. It might be a good idea though to check the weather forecast first. It could get really foggy. There are even some trails going around the Peak for a walk and a different angle.
  • Ocean Park – a marine-life thrill park with a world class aquarium, thrill rides, animal exhibits and shows. Prepare to spend the whole day as the place is huge.
  • Disneyland – I don’t think this magical adventure needs any description.
  • Ladies’ market – a kilometer long street packed with over 100 stalls offering bargains for clothing, accessories or souvenirs. Perfect place to practice your haggling skills.
  • Temple Street Night Market – stroll along the street bazaar, lose yourself on the surrounding streets and you will find the authentic Chinese market.
  • The Longest Escalator in the world – 800 m, starts in Central and goes up to Conduit Road in the Mid-Levels.

If you want to get the sense of “Hong Kong locals”, you can go to Kwai Fong or Tsuen Wan, where you can be sure to do some shopping and wonderfully good food will be waiting for you at low price.

Happy Valley racecourse is a unique place surrounded by high rise buildings on all sides and with a sports ground complex in the middle. Most horse racing here is on Wednesday nights – check out the beer garden!

A small glimpse of a horse-race:

If you have an extra day and want to leave the city, the best choice will be travelling to Lantau Island via Ngong Ping Cable, where you may visit the Big Budha, Ngong Ping village and then catch a bus to Tai O fishing village, popular for its seafood, stilt houses, and endless photographic opportunities.

The party zone is in Central – Lan Kwai and SoHo – with countless bars, pubs and restaurants; this is where the expats spend their evenings.

Safety tip:  Hong Kong is a very safe place. But you do need to be careful about pick-pocketing, which is common especially in crowded places. Mind where guys put their wallets (try not to have it in the pants back pockets – the easiest to be fished out undetected), and ladies – mind the purses.

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