For the second leg of our winter vacation, we decided on Hong Kong. We only had 1 week, and said we didn’t want to fly too long, and after speaking with many people, most of them that have been to HK had good memories to talk about.
This was also the first time that Marené and I were going to travel with other peeps. Our friends Sophia and Megan joined us on this trip. It was great sharing all those cool memories with other people!
As a reference, during our time there $HK 7 = $US1 = KRW (South Korean Won) 1000. The first thing to consider when going to Hong Kong, is where you’re gonna stay. In Kowloon (mainland) or on Hong Kong Island. We opted for Kowloon – that’s where we rented an apartment for a week, it was close to a subway (MTR) stop and also easy walking distance to many sites of interest.
What we did:
– Walk down the bustling Nathan Street (Kowloon). So many shops and interesting side streets.
– We lived in Temple Street – which has a nightly market, so it was nice to stroll around here at night and bargain with the locals.
– People watching outside our apartment building on the pavement with a few beers…
– Eat at the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant Tim Ho Won. This experience actually almost deserves its own blog entry! It’s so popular, we were in a queue outside, and had to wait for our number to be called. You get the menu, so that while you wait outside you can tick the boxes for what you want to order (we checked MOST of them, but hey, I mean we were 4 people…). We had some amazing dumplings (try the shrimp dumplings!) and various other more ‘adventurous’ (chicken feet) choices… It all came down to $HK250 for us 4; we were stuffed, the food was top-class, it didn’t cost an arm and a leg – life was good at that moment!
– Took subway to Central Station on HK Island. From there we hopped on a tram
– Take the MTR to Tung Chung on Lantau Island. There was quite a queue, and we had to wait the best part of an hour to get on the cable car that took us up. The cable car up to Ngong Ping Village is 25 min in itself – definitely the longest one we’ve ever taken. We walked to the (once) tallest outdoor sitting bronze Buddha (48m) that is located on a hill – the Tian Tan Buddha. From around the Buddha, you have some brilliant views of the surrounding landscape. We also walked to the monastery where we wandered around the beautiful temple. Then we set off on the “Wisdom Path”, which is a nice relaxing walk through the green landscape and ends at a site with impressive timber columns (38) that is inscribed with the “Heart Sutra”. They’re all arranged in a figure 8 pattern symbolising infinity.
– We also walked down this one street that’s famous for Goldfish and other aquatic animals. It was interesting but strange at the same time. In that street we saw some dog shops where dogs are displayed in cages to potential buyers. They had some cute dogs, but the prices were astronomical! When we finished this street we walked to the ‘Ladies Market Street’. Same stuff, different street. You’ll quickly realise in HK that most markets have more or less the same stuff for sale. It’s still fun to have a look around though.
– One night after a full day of walking around, we walked along the ‘Avenue of the Stars’ at the Victoria harbour waterfront. Nothing TOO spectacular in itself, but the walk is nice with some nice views of lit up buildings on the opposite side on HK Island. The nightly ‘Symphony of Lights’ show was disappointing to say the least…
– One day we put aside just to visit Lamma Island. The ferry ride there is only around 30min and it’s dirt cheap. We wandered around the little quirky shops (the girls bought souvenirs and trinkets
and gifts), bought some freshly made baguettes and REAL cheese at the local bakery and walked to the beach. We had a nice picnic on the beach, after which we were so stuffed to the point of wanting to lie down for a siesta. The main attraction of this island is actually the fresh seafood, but after our massive impromptu picnic, we couldn’t actually eat anything. We gathered ourselves though, and convinced each other that we can’t let this opportunity pass and that we should do this outing properly. We got a nice quiet restaurant with a lekker view of the harbour, ordered a few cold beers and some seafood (shrimp and squid) on the side – it was a fitting end to a relaxing day on the island.
– You can’t go to HK and not visit Macau! We took the ferry over (have your passport ready), and got there in around an hour. You then hop on a bus and get into the city. We hopped off at Senado Square. It’s cool to just stand there at the fountain and take it all in – the old Portuguese architecture, the spouting fountain, and the black and white patterns of the square. We walked to the Ruins of St. Paul, and took some nice photos there. On the way we also picked up some famous egg tarts (they almost taste like the milk tarts from home!) to snack on. After the Ruins we walked to the Monte Fort which affords beautiful views of the rest of Macau (you have to walk up that hill first though). The old canons all still stand there pointing outwards, ready to defend the fort – it provides some nice photo opportunities. We then took a bus to the Venetian Casino to go try our luck at gambling (can’t go there without at least trying to hit the jackpot!). Needless to say, the house was against us… The casino was really impressive; its dimensions are something spectacular, the decor amazing and at the top floor or level, there’s even a Venetian theme with a water canal and boats that’ll take you for a cruise. To give you an idea: there are over 3400 slot machines and 800 gaming tables!
– We took the MTR to Yau Tong station to visit the Lei Yue Mun fishing village. We walked around the quaint harbour, where some local fishermen were fixing their nets and doing other reparations to their vessels. The stilted houses on the water also provided some nice photo ops. We took the ferry over to HK Island – it was a nice perspective seeing the skyline from the water.
– We also couldn’t miss the chance of strolling through HK park. You wouldn’t expect such a peaceful area in the bustling city! If ever you need the reprieve and catch your breath again, take a walk here. There are some nice ponds with lots of fish, water
turtles, a waterfall, gardens and even a walk through aviary. We also visited the zoo (just because we had time – not really because it was ‘on the list’).
The cheapest way to get in is by bus (it also takes longer…). The airport train is very convenient too. We took a train to Kowloon from the airport, and learned that if you buy a 4 person (combo) ticket it works out cheaper ($HK210), and is only 20min.
I would highly suggest getting an Octopus card on arrival. It is basically the most important thing to have for transportation all around HK: use it for MTR, buses, trams, ferries and maybe more. You just load money on it, and swipe as you go. You also get the deposit and money left over on the card back when departing from the airport.
We were 4 people, and accommodation in general is rather expensive in HK. We decided to use Air BnB to find ourselves an apartment to rent for our stay. Worked out perfectly – it was nice and cozy
(little small, but that’s what you get in HK), and had everything we needed. So we weren’t disturbed by any other travelers, could sleep in if we wanted, and could stash our food and groceries in the fridge, and also prepare meals by ourselves if we didn’t feel like eating out (it adds up…).
Budget option for breakfast: buy fresh fruits at the stalls in markets, and buy yogurt at a mart somewhere (mix together, see where I’m going with this…) – makes a healthy and delicious breakie.
Taking the tram on HK Island is such a fun thing to do, and it’s a set fare of $HK2.30, no matter how far you go.
When thinking about buying something at the markets, always bargain. It’s almost expected, and you’ll get a better deal than the initial price most of the times. Just keep it light-hearted and do it with a smile.
When going to Macau for the day, be sure to book/buy a return ticket at your desired return time to
ensure a spot on the ferry (this is now at the Macau ferry terminal). It is a very popular route. Also note that a ticket from Macau to HK from 6pm onwards is a little more expensive (we paid $HK184 for the 8pm ferry).
A destination like Hong Kong (a metropolis) isn’t a first choice for us when it comes down to choosing where to go. With that being said though, we had an amazing time. It’s a really vibrant place, with delicious eateries, good shopping, convenient transportation, cool markets, and the fact that it’s a relatively small place, makes it easy to reach all its corners in no time. It’s certainly a place we’d recommend people to visit – be it on a layover or just for a few days.