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8 April 2019

The Ultimate Hong Kong Stopover


One of my friends was travelling around the world for five months. When I heard about her trip, I couldn't help but think it was a good excuse to go somewhere I might not otherwise have visited. I had already done one long distance trip earlier that year, as well as some holidays in Europe, so I thought I was done with traveling for 2018. But this was too good an opportunity to miss. Next thing I knew I was trawling through Skyscanner, searching for flights to The Philippines. I noticed some of the flights had stopovers in Hong Kong, which was another one of my bucket-list destinations. 

In the end, I spent three days there in early December. The weather was a little dull and occasionally wet but that didn't hold me back. 


Where to Explore

Victoria Peak

This is where everyone goes to get that photo of Hong Kong island. The easiest way to get there is the tram which is of course the most popular way. The queues were really long.  However because my ticket for the Big Bus tour included the tram ticket, I was able to breeze past the worst of the crowds. It was dark on the steep ride up, so I only caught glimpses of the surrounding high-rise buildings. But when I stepped out onto the terrace at the Peak, I was blown away by the views. The sun had set a few hours earlier, the sky was black and the city below was ablaze with lights. The International Commerce Centre across the harbour is essentially a one-hundred-and-eighteen storey tall digital billboard.

I hung around for the Symphony of Lights show. It's intended to be viewed from across the harbour, along Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, but is just as good at Victoria Peak.


Tian Tan Buddha

Also know as the Big Buddha. It's a large, bronze statue, located up in the hills on Lantau Island. It's an hour long bus ride from the hostel to Tung Chung. From there, it's a twenty-five minute cable car journey to the village of Ngong Ping. I arrived at the cable car station relatively early but already the queues were extremely long. There are two types of cable car cabin - the standard and the crystal. I splurged on a ticket for the glass-bottomed crystal cabin simply because the queue was slightly shorter. The journey up offers panoramic views of the surrounding hills and also Hong Kong airport in the distance. There are also hiking trails as an alternative.

In Ngong Ping village, there are shops and restaurants. Beyond that are the two main attractions: Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. The 34 metre tall Big Buddha is located on a platform at the top of a long staircase and is surrounded by six smaller bronze statues. The nearby Po Lin Monastery contains a large Buddhist temple with traditional architecture. 

If you don't have time for a day trip, there are many places in the city to experience some culture such as - Man Mo Temple, Wong Tai Sin Temple and Chi Lin Nunnery.


Where to Eat

Ground floor, 1-5 Elgin Street, Soho, Hong Kong

"Good fortune for your mouth". The rough translation of Ho Lee Fook. The name also sounds like holy fuck. Both are appropriate because wow the food is good. I still think about the fried rice, more than twelve months later. In a city known for its foodie scene, it could be hard to stand out. But this place does that, and then some. It serves up elevated and modern variations of Chinese food, inspired by traditional casual Hong Kong eating places - dai pai dongs and cha chaan tengs. Reserve a table in advance or arrive close to opening time to ensure you don't miss out.


Queen Street Cooked Food Market
38 Des Voeux Rd W, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

An indoor food market with seating in the middle and a strip of food stalls around the perimeter. It looks a little rough around the edges, but offers up a variety of asian cuisines. I opted for a noodle dish from one of the Chinese outlets. The food from the Indian joint also looked appetising and the Thai stall comes with good reviews. Usually I'm content to dine alone when I'm travelling solo but in this case, it would be more enjoyable with a group.


45 Peel Street, Central, Hong Kong

This juice bar caught my attention on Instagram. As the name suggests, Be-Juiced specialises in pressed juices that are nutritious and delicious - I can vouch for that. I had the "sweet tooth" which was a combination of orange, pineapple, strawberry and chia seed. They also serve raw foods like a├žai bowls. 


60 Sai Yeung Choi Street, Mong Kok, Hong Kong

I stumbled across this random bakery when I was wondering around Mong Kok. They do different versions of one dessert - it's essentially a pastry filled with cream - can't go wrong with that. 


There were so many other places that I read about or stumbled across but didn't have time to try out - Grassroots Pantry, I Love You Dessert Bar, The Cupping Room, Supabowl, Mak's Noodle, Sevva, BEP Vietnamese Kitchen, Den Tai Fung, Mana! Fast Slow Food, September at Wellington Street, Chifa Dumpling House, Kau Lee, Oddies, Hakawa Chocolate, Dragon fly, Uma Nota, La Vache, Fridge, Soho Spice, Cicada, Soul Food Thai, Holy Eats and 65 Peel,


Where to Stay

10-16 Pak Tai St, To Kwa Wan, Hong Kong

It was clean, comfortable and had everything a traveller needs. There's a bus stop nearby for getting to/from the airport and even through the location isn't very central, it was easy to hop on transport for exploring the rest of the city.


Where to Shop

There are so many markets! Goldfish Market, Ladies Market, Jade Market, Temple Street Night Market, Li Yuen Street East and Pottinger Street, just to name a few. Mostly enjoyed wandering through the Soho district and stumbling across random little shops, cafes and restaurants.



Tips


It's worth getting one of these when you arrive. It can be used for buses, trams (there are cool, old-school trams on Hong Kong Island), the metro and ferries. Which reminds me, the Star Ferry is another Hong Kong icon to add to your sightseeing list.


I don't often do bus tours but they are a great way to get an overview of the city and get a feel for where you should spend more time and explore. In this case, it was also useful for skipping the queue for the cable car to Victoria Peak!


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