Hong Kong is a chaotic, crowded, insatiable city. It has an irresistible energy that awakens all five senses. I went in knowing very little about the city, pretty much only that I was really excited to eat a lot of dim sum. By the end of my weekend in Hong Kong, I left feeling exhausted, inspired and incredibly full (from all the dim sum).
Where to Stay:
Finding a place to stay in Hong Kong that wouldn’t use up 99% of my travel fund proved to be the biggest challenge during my quick visit. Luckily, I ended up scoring a last minute deal at The Burlington Hotel, where $50/night granted me a decently sized high rise room with a view. Our hotel was located on Hong Kong Island, in a lively neighborhood that was also a quick subway ride away from other areas of the city.
Things to Know:
Getting Around- I rarely find myself getting excited about a city’s subway system, but Hong Kong is an exception. Everything is super clean and runs immaculately on schedule (MTA, take notes). Even getting from the airport is a breeze between their widespread bus and metro options.
Octopus Cards- This was my first purchase in Hong Kong, and became my best buddy for the rest of my trip. It’s mostly used for discounted transportation on pretty much any public transit, but places like 7/11 and airport shops will also accept it. And if you have extra money on it on your way out of the country, you can have those funds redeemed at the airport.
Where & What to Eat:
All the Dim Sum Places- While there are a million dim sum places I didn’t have a chance to try (I’ll be back for them, promise), these were two of my favorites:
Egg Tarts- These classic breakfast pastries can be found all around the city and make for a delicious, quick meal before a morning of exploring.
Chiu Hung Noodle Place- This inconspicuous noodle place was just down the street from our hotel, and I’m not ashamed to admit that in three nights, I ate here twice! The soup was super cheap and delicious, and I was the only tourist in sight.
Where to Wander:
Ride an Escalator- The longest, outdoor covered escalator in the world, to be exact. The Central-Mid Levels escalator was created as a link between the Central and Western neighborhoods of Hong Kong Island, It’s an awesome way to see the city, and was an unexpected highlight from my trip. I rode from beginning to end, hopping off whenever a neighborhood looked particularly inviting or if there was a photo op to be had.
Ride the Star Ferry- Riding the ferry between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon is both an easy way to travel between the two areas, and also a gateway to some stunning views of the skyline from Victoria Harbour. On the Kowloon side, be sure to take a stroll along the promenade, where the view is particularly stunning at night. Bonus points if you’re there for the nightly light show!
Visit Victoria Peak- Taking the tram to the top of Victoria Peak was one of my favorite experiences in Hong Kong. To take in the view from the Sky Terrace, you’ll need to pay a $5 entrance fee. Otherwise, outside there are plenty of incredible view points, as well as free rooftop access at The Galleria (just across from the mall your tram enters upon arrival).
Hit up a Night Market (or 10)- Night markets are in full abundance in Hong Kong, with Temple Street Night Market being the most popular choice. To be honest, I was not very impressed. Every stall seemed to be a carbon copy of the one before it. I knew there would be plenty of this, but I expected to find some more artisanal, authentic stalls mixed in. It’s still worth checking out just for the chaos of it all, but I definitely preferred the smaller markets I stumbled on.
Marvel at all the buildings- Among the most popular for tourists,The Yick Fat Building is a Hong Kong icon in itself, and was totally worth going to. But all around Hong Kong I was constantly in awe of the building structures. The sheer density of windows stacked on top of each other was astounding. Not to mention the constant layering of older buildings countered by towering skyscrapers. Maybe that’s why I came home with 3,453,574 photos of apartment buildings.
See the City by Tram- The two decker trams that run through parts of Hong Kong are great, not only for quickly getting around, but also for getting a better glimpse into various neighborhoods of the city.
Temple Hop- There are a number of fascinating temples in Hong Kong, though I only had a chance to visit Wong Tai Sin Temple. The temple is dedicated to the three main religions in China (Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddism), and was incredibly interesting to walk through and learn a bit about.
Take in the skyline: With one of the world’s most impressive skylines and an endless supply of rooftop bars, you really can’t go wrong with a nightcap overlooking the harbor.
For many travelers, Hong Kong serves as a jumping off point for their travels through Asia. Flights are often more affordable, as it’s such a major airport hub, and access to nearby Asian countries is abundant. In my case, my weekend in Hong Kong was my gateway to three weeks in Vietnam. If you find yourself passing through Hong Kong on the way to your next destination, I highly recommend taking a few days to explore this dynamic city.