The final leg of our 3-week sojourn through Australia and Asia ended with 3 days and 4 nights in Hong Kong. We flew Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong where we were greeted by steamy, hot summer weather. We took a taxi to our hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) where we were able to take cold showers and enjoy the air conditioning before heading back into the heat to explore the city.
HKSAR (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) is an interesting and diverse metropolis of around 7.2 million inhabitants. It is one of the world’s most densely populated cities and believe me, you will notice. There are so many people everywhere and the city constantly feels alive, busy, and loud. From the constant hawkers to the bright lights to the pollution you can feel even on your skin, the city is always buzzing. Hong Kong has a fascinating history and although it has not been ruled by the UK since 1997 and is technically reunified with mainland China, it maintains a high level of autonomy and operates primarily independently in many ways.
Where to stay:
While I wouldn’t recommend our specific hotel (it was fine, but nothing special), I would recommend staying in the Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) area. TST is centrally located near many shops and restaurants and was a convenient 5-10 minute walk to the Kowloon Pier where you can catch the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island.
How to get around:
The Star Ferry is the most convenient way to get from the mainland part of Hong Kong to Hong Kong Island. As a bonus, it only costs $2.50 HKD (about $0.30 USD) on weekdays and $3.40 HKD (about $0.44 USD) on weekends. If you want to sit on the lower deck, it’s even cheaper. The best part about the Star Ferry is that you get a great view of Victoria Harbour and the impressive Hong Kong skyline. We took the Star Ferry multiple times during our stay and always enjoyed it!
What to do:
Besides riding around on the Star Ferry, there are countless things to do while you are in Hong Kong.
If nothing else, make time to visit Victoria Peak. You will definitely want to take the Peak Tram ride up to the lookout and spend time enjoying the jaw-dropping panoramic views of the enormous skyline. Don’t be deterred by the long lines. The experience is absolutely worth waiting for. During part of the wait, you can view the Peak Tram historical gallery, which shows memorabilia from the time the tram first started operating in 1888. The Peak Tram also provides an optical illusion that makes it appear that buildings are tilted because of the high slope of the track.
Once you reach the top, you can enjoy 360 degree views of the city from the Sky Terrace. On one side, you can view the stunning skyline and on another, you can see several of the outlying islands. There is signage to show you what you’re looking at around the peak. At the Peak, you can also do some shopping, get a snack, or stretch your legs with a walk along one of the four nature walks at the Peak.
For people watching and souvenirs, spend a few hours in Mong Kok at the many unique markets. It is one of the most congested areas of the city, but it is a must to see the interesting merchant offerings and do some people watching. You can visit the Flower Market, Bird Garden, Goldfish Market, and Jade Market. The Flower Market sells incredibly beautiful blooms that I wished I could have brought home to enjoy. The orchids are particularly stunning. The Bird Garden was one of my favorite experiences. Local elderly men bring their birds to show them off to their friends (and probably to advertise the hand crafted bamboo cages and porcelain water dishes to shoppers). If you can handle the aggressive hawkers, the Jade Market is a great place to bargain for affordable jade jewelry and mementos.
On the way from the Bird Garden to the Jade Market, stop into Tin Hau Temple at Yau Ma Tei. There are several Tin Hau temples in Hong Kong. Tin Hau is the Goddess of the Sea and is revered by fishermen and other seamen. Although it seems odd that the Yau Ma Tei temple is located in the middle of the city, it was once on the harbor-front before the coastlines were expanded. You can purchase some incense to wave while you say a prayer and admire the beautiful temple.
When you need a break from the heat, the Hong Kong Museum of History is excellent. However, it is deceptively large, so make sure to give yourself enough time to adequately absorb the vast amount of information. The permanent exhibition of the Hong Kong Story begins with the history of the region 400 million years ago and takes you all the way to the reunification of Hong Kong with China in 1997. They say it takes about two hours if you just walk through the eight galleries, but I would give it at least three so as not to feel rushed.
In the evening, walk around Lan Kwai Fong to experience the bustling nightlife in Hong Kong. The area features over 100 restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops and is frequented by locals, expats, and tourists alike.
Another must-see evening activity is the Symphony of Lights. Grab a drink at a local shop and post up at the Avenue of Stars nightly at 8 pm to view the free narrated multimedia showcase of more than 40 buildings in Victoria Harbour. English speakers should go on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday night to get the full experience. The World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show, according to the Guinness World Records, the show features lights and laser beams synchronized to music and narration that celebrates the energy, spirit, and diversity of Hong Kong.
Day trips from HK:
If you get tired of the masses of people and the heavy pollution, take a ferry trip out to one of the many islands in Hong Kong like Discovery Bay for a day of hiking and relaxing at the beach. The ferry to Discovery Bay is only 30 minutes from Central Pier. It has free wi-fi and air conditioning, making for a nice way to relax. Once you arrive, you can find more free wi-fi on the Discovery Bay buses and in the plaza.
In Discovery Bay, you can do some shopping, dining, play golf, or relax at the community pool. For more adventurous souls, do a two-hour hike to the Trappist Monastery. The hike was hot and sweaty, but well worth it for the incredible views back to Hong Kong and the peaceful quiet at the monastery.
Before taking the ferry back to Hong Kong Island, enjoy the shade provided by one of the beach gazebos, cool off with a swim, and have happy hour drinks at Zaks.
What to eat/drink:
For authentic Chinese food, have a dim sum lunch at Little Sheep Hot Pots. The menu was entirely in Chinese, so we recruited some locals to help us fill out our menu selections. Most of the time, we did not know what we were ordering, but it was fun to try different dishes. What to order: Make your best guess and enjoy some new dishes!
For a classic Northern Chinese dinner, head to Spring Deer. You will eat authentic Beijing cuisine surrounded by locals having dinner with as many family members as they can crowd around the table. It gets loud! What to order: Roast duck, Beijing-style roast lamb brisket
For a taste of Japanese food, Restaurant Osaka is a good bet. Being in the heart of TST, it is a tad overpriced, but the portions are big and the food is delicious!
One of our favorite meals in Hong Kong was at Brickhouse in Lan Kwai Fong. There is no sign, so you’ll have to look carefully for the hidden Mexican restaurant. (Hint: there is a brick lane where the address should be. Take it and you’ll find the hostess who will seat you!) On Mondays, the restaurant doesn’t use electricity, so you’ll dine by candlelight. The food was authentic and delicious (the chef trained with Rick Bayless). This article features a great review of the restaurant! What to order: Mexican style street corn, guacamole, watermelon salad, and tacos of your choice. Paired with a margarita or Dos Equis, of course!
For dessert (or a cold snack), grab some Lab Made Ice Cream on Kimberley Road. Flavors rotate and it is fun to watch your ice cream be made with liquid nitrogen!
To cap off your time in Hong Kong, make sure to grab a drink at the chic Ritz Carlton Ozone Bar. Located on the 101st floor of the Ritz, it is claimed to be the highest bar in the world. Drinks are unsurprisingly a bit pricey, but it is worth it for the unmatched views of the skyline from a dizzying height.
Have you been to Hong Kong? We’d love to hear about your experience! Thanks for following along our journey from Australia to Malaysia to Hong Kong! We hope you enjoyed it and that you can use some of our recommendations on your travels! Stay tuned as we catch up with some U.S. travel to Washington, D.C. and Charleston, SC in the coming weeks.
In case you missed it, this was the last post in a series about our 3 weeks in Australia and Asia this summer. Follow the links below to catch up:
- 2 week Australia/1 week Asia itinerary + Flying on the Qantas A380
- 4 days/4 nights in Sydney – Restaurants and activities
- Day trips from Sydney
- 2 days/2 nights in Melbourne – Restaurants, activities, and day trips
- Driving the Great Ocean Road with 1 night in Port Campbell
- 3 days/3 nights in North Queensland – Cairns, Port Douglas, Daintree, Great Barrier Reef
- 2 days/2 nights in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast
- 2 days/2 nights in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland
- 2 days/3 nights in Kuala Lumpur
- 3 days/4 nights in Hong Kong
Little Sheep Hot Pots, 1/F, 26 Kimberly Road, TST
Spring Deer, 42 Mody Rd, TST
Osaka, Ashley Building, G/F., 1/F., 14 Ashley Road, TST
Brick House, 20 D’Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong
Lab Made Ice Cream, Shop G42, G/F., Miramar Shopping Centre, 132 Nathan Rd, TST
Ritz Carlton Ozone Bar, 118/f, Ritz-Carlton, 1 Austin Road West
Zaks, G04, 98 Discovery Bay Rd, Discovery Bay