As you know Sami and I have been traveling in China for the past ten days, and so we thought we would provide you with some the the absolute essentials for your next or perhaps first visit to this magical part of the world.
- Octopus Pass – no trip to Hong Kong should be without an Octopus Pass. This loadable and nifty piece of plastic provides you with both access to all forms of public transport but also allows you to buy at a large number of stores in Hong Kong including Kowloon. In fact, we brought ours at the airport upon arrival and used it for the Airport Express into the city, so convenient! These can also be purchased at any metro stations in the vast network that services the greater Hong Kong area, and an absolute must! No more fumbling for change or trying to determine the currency, just load it up and go. Everything is ‘tap and go’ here in Hong Kong which makes for a hassle free purchasing experience.
- Tian Tan & Po Lin Monastery – our visit to Tian Tan on Lantau Island has been one of the highlights of our trip. Easily accessible via the metro system (take the gold route to Tung Chung) and follow the signs for Tian Tan. The initial 6.5 km cable car ride over the harbour and up into the mountains is your introduction to Tian Tan and the Po Lin Monastery, you see it from quite a distance as its the largest bronze buddha in the world sitting atop a mountain. Admittedly you can still hike the 10 plus km route like many of the faithful or take the cable car like we did, but once you’re there its still a significant number of steps to the top, but oh what a view… You’ll be so glad you visited this timeless icon. Also allow lots of time to explore the monastery nearby.
- The Peak Tram (Central – Hong Kong Island) – a trip on the Peak tram to the top of Victoria Peak is an absolute must, and although touristy to a fault still worth it for the views. We had the most incredible weather and so visibility was phenomenal but I’ve also visited at night and was just as impressive. Its best to come early in the day to beat the crowds but the vistas both of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon are spectacular! Take the metro to Central and follow the signs for the Peak Tram.
- Jumbo Floating Restaurant (Aberdeen) – although it sounds cheesy it was actually fantastic! We took the double decker bus from Central (Route 91 to Aberdeen) and got to see some of the western part of Hong Kong Island as we made our way to Aberdeen, or you can take the lime green line south on the metro to Wong Chuk Hang and follow the signs (we took the subway back to Central). You catch a free ferry to the Floating restaurant where there are a number of restaurants to choose from. We had some of the best seafood of our entire trip as we ate on the open terrace overlooking the bay. Delicious food and attentive wait staff made for an awesome lunch, plus the exterior is a photographers dream!
- Antiques Market (Upper Lascar Row / Hollywood Road) – Easy walking access from Central to get to the Antiques and Chinese nik nak market on Upper Lascar Row and Hollywood Road. It was lovely to wander through the markets early in the day (although not too early as most stores along here don’t open until 11:00 am) – how very civilized! We spent a couple of hours just strolling through the alleyways and along Hollywood Road. I fear there weren’t many bargains to be had unless you haggled over the price, its almost expected that you do. Start at half the price thats marked on the item you’re interested in and see how you go from there, but don’t give up too early. 🙂 As well, they have a host of funky and cool little coffee shops and bars in this area of the Island so even after dark its an up and coming hot spot away from the tourist crush with lots of locals frequenting this area.
- Ladies Market / Gold Fish Market (Mong Kok – Kowloon) – very accessible via the metro with a metro stop at Mong Kok which is adjacent to the Ladies market. If flea markets aren’t your cup of tea, then perhaps the vibrant area just north of the Ladies market called the Gold Fish market is definitely worth visiting, particularly if you like pets. Or if you’d prefer to walk or take the bus the best route to Mong Kok is along Nathan Road which is near the ferry terminus from Hong Kong Island. I must warn you there are a lot of people so as long as you’re not afraid of being jostled and hemmed in by large crowds of locals then this is an experience unto itself…
- Star Ferry (between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon) – I love the old fashioned ferries that ply their way back and forth across Victoria Harbour, this 10 min ferry ride will cast you back in time to a bygone era as you watch the incredible boat traffic on this busy harbour. Spectacular views of both the Island and Kowloon from this watery vantage point.
Hong Kong is one of those places that you just have to visit once in your lifetime, with such a vibrant and cosmopolitan soul, this city is unforgettable! Remember to bring your walking shoes, camera and an adventurous spirit when you visit…yes, eat where the locals eat, you’ll be so glad you did. 🙂
We both loved our visit and will inevitably be back!