Many people visit Hong Kong as a stopover destination or as a short city break, making the mistake of thinking its size means there isn’t much to see or do…oh how they are mistaken! Despite the fact that Hong Kong (香港 Heūng Góng in Cantonese, meaning Fragrant Harbour) is a small Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, it has plenty to entertain visitors and keep people going back for more.
It is one of our favourite places and has so much to offer, we stayed for a period of around 12 days and still didn’t get anywhere near as much done as we’d have hoped. The list of things to see & do is endless and making the choice of what to experience in your trip can be overwhelming. We have picked some of our favourites, but this is by no means a complete list.
Stretch your legs
The hustle & bustle of HK can be overwhelming to the first time visitor; if you’re not used to people not side stepping to get out of your way, or being asked if you want a suit every 30 seconds, it may take you a couple of days to adjust; people are going about their business and don’t need tourists getting under their feet; by day 2, you’ll be barging people out of the way along with the best of ‘em.
Markets are a must for any visitor to HK a couple we recommend are: Temple Street Night Market, & Ladies Market, but there are loads more to choose from all over.
Be sure to visit Victoria Harbour on an evening. The vista across the bay is beautiful during the day, but it’s on an evening when it really comes into its own, with city lights twinkling, and illuminated Junks bobbing on the water. Just don’t expect too much from the overrated “Symphony of Lights”, currently showing at 8pm each evening, it may be the ‘World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show’, but size isn’t everything!
Don’t miss the Star attraction
If you have seen pictures of Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, you’ll have seen the iconic green & white Star Ferry. The Star Ferry transports passengers from Central, Tsim Sha Tsui & Wan Chai stations. You haven’t experienced Hong Kong if you haven’t jumped aboard one of these old boats, and sailed across the bay, with the ocean spray in your face, and just 20p lighter in the pocket!
Sneak a Peak
The Peak on Hong Kong Island offers fantastic views of Kowloon across Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island itself, but you may have to hang around a while to enjoy the best of these, as it’s prone to cloud cover. Fortunately Bubba Gump’s was on hand to entertain us whilst we waited out the weather. To get to the Sky Terrace (at 428 metres above sea level), take the Funicular railway, the tram rises 396 metres above sea level; The Peak Tower is the free viewing observation desk and houses a number of shopping & retail outlets, there are also some trails to walk if you’re feeling energetic.
Nan Lian Garden – 60 Fun Tak Road HK (Diamond Hill MTR Station) Kowloon, is a little oasis in the middle of the city, it is a traditional Chinese landscaped garden in the Tang Dynasty-style, which houses the Chi Lin nunnery. Adorned with water features, trees, rocks and traditional wooden structures right in the centre of the action; and surrounded by skyscrapers, the contrast is immense. It is a beautiful escape from the frenetic energy of the city.
Don’t miss da vista
Take the 5.7KM cable car ride to Ngong Ping village where there are a variety of attractions to experience, you can climb the 268 steps to see the giant Tian Tan Buddha (which on a clear day is said to be visible from Macau) and visit the Po Lin monastery or take one of the many hiking trails to escape the crowds.
But to use an old travellers’ cliché “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. The stunning aerial views of Lantau Island and the South China Sea are undoubtedly the star attraction here.
The cable car station is conveniently located next to Tung Chung Station (Exit B). Get there early and be prepared to queue as Ngong Ping 360 is understandably a popular attraction.
Hills, thrills, and Panda bears.
Ocean Park is a theme/animal park nestled on the hillside on the south of Hong Kong Island where you can not only experience thrill rides, but you can also see a variety of animals (including cuddly Panda’s) up close. On the day we visited, we were literally the only people at the Panda enclosure; it was amazing watching them munch on their bamboo breakfast, we also at lunch in the Penguin enclosure restaurant. If you’re into thrill rides there are plenty to keep you enthralled; even the cable car to get to some of the rides was a thrill in itself. City bus Route 629 runs daily from Admiralty MTR Station or Central.
A sprinkling of Disney magic
Let’s start by saying, we’ve met the mouse. Walt Disney World has been firmly at the top of our holiday list for the last 18 years. So how does the little brother stack up? There are numerous blogs, and lives, dedicated to arguing the virtues of one Disney Park over another. The consensus is pretty much the one you see first will be the best……..to you. In all honesty we never expected Hong Kong Disneyland to outshine its stateside counterparts, and were happy that the park was different enough to be enjoyed on its own merit.
A Disney themed monorail builds the anticipation as it takes you from Sunny Bay MRT station direct to the park entrance on Lantau Island (use the Tung Chung MRT line to get to Sunny Bay Station). It was great to experience Grizzly Gulch, and Toy Story Land as we were unfamiliar with these, but equally we enjoyed the adaptations of old favorites like Splash Mountain, and Space Mountain.
Even if you have visited the larger Disney parks elsewhere you shouldn’t skip Hong Kong Disneyland, it’s still a great park, and does have a twinkle of the old Disney Magic.
Where to Macau?
If time permits we would highly recommend a short hop over to neighbouring Macau, but that’s another post………..