Often when you arrive in a new city it can be a bit overwhelming and a lot of time is lost just trying to work out what to do and where to go. And then, when you get home a well-meaning friend will find out you’ve just been to their favourite city and ask “did you get to see...” or, “did you visit...” and when you say that you missed that, they’ll look at you as though your whole trip has been wasted. Which it hasn’t been, but it doesn’t make you feel all that good!
So here are a few tips for visiting Hong Kong. I’m not saying the information I’m going to give you here is the be all and end all, but it’s a good starting place for you and might save you some time and energy when you get there.
Hong Kong is a favourite of mine. Of all the Asian cities I’ve been to, this one stands out because of all the sightseeing, the food and the shopping on offer, and the fact it’s very easy to get around.
When you arrive, get yourself an Octopus Card. This allows you travel on the MTR (Mass Transit Railway), light rail, trams including the Peak Tram, buses and Star Ferries. It’s pretty simple – buy the card at any MTR station and whenever you get on any of the above forms of transport, you wave the card over the Octopus Reader and jump on board. You decide how much you want to put on the card when you buy it and you can check how much you have left on it when you use it. You can top it up and when it’s time to come home you can return the card and get the unused balance refunded to you. Or, since it lasts for three years, keep it for your next visit.
As I said, getting around Hong Kong is pretty easy on the MTR, buses and ferries. But one of the best things you can do in Hong Kong is check-in for your international flight at the train station! Most international airlines (including Cathay Pacific and Qantas) have check-in facilities at Kowloon Station, meaning you can check in up to 90 minutes before your flight and your luggage is whisked away, you get your boarding pass, then jump on the train out to the airport (which takes about 25 minutes) and then head straight through immigration. No airport queues!
Take a local bus around Hong Kong Island to Stanley Market and check out the scenery. One of my favourite sights in the world is the Repulse Bay Building on the way to Stanley Market which has a big hole straight through the middle of it. When the building was erected the Feng Shui experts said it needed a large hole left in it so the mountain dragon living up behind the building still had access to the bay, so it could drink from the ocean!
Take a Star Ferry to one of the fishing villages on one of outer Hong Kong islands such as Cheung Chau. There is no motorised transport and it has a great selection of seafood restaurants and cafes selling great meals for half the price you’d pay back in Kowloon! It takes about an hour each way.
Hong Kong is full of markets – Stanley Market, Temple Street Night Markets and Ladies Market to name a few of the shopping markets. But spend a day wandering through some of the more exotic market areas such as the Flower Market, the Bird Garden Market/Street and the Goldfish Market – you won’t be buying from them, but they are a fascinating insight into Hong Kong daily life.
Use your Octopus Card and head out to Lantau Island to visit the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. The highlight of this excursion is the 5.7km cable car which takes you from the station to the village of Ngong Ping. The cable car ride takes about 25 minutes each way and passes over water, through hills and valleys and past the airport. If you’re really adventurous, you can pay extra and take the Crystal Cabin with the glass floor!
If you still have a free day, take the ferry over to Macau and check out all the kitschy casinos and hotels in among the lovely Portuguese architecture. It’s an eye opener.
That’s just a few tips for your next trip to Hong Kong. Enjoy!