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- and 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 provoke my claustrophobia or use up 99% of my travel fund, proved to be the biggest challenge during my quick visit.
The Burlington Hotel: I scored a booking.com deal and snagged a high rise room for $50/night- and for Hong Kong standards this view in a room larger than a walk in closet was a steal.
The Yessin Hostel: AT $60/night, this ended up being the most affordable room I could find last minute on a Saturday night. The room was quite tiny, but the colorfully modern decor and central location made up for it.
Checking out the view from our cozy room in the Burlington Hotel
Things to Know:
Getting Around- Hong Kong wins in the contest for best public transportation ever. 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 little buddy for the rest of trip. It’s mostly used for discounted transportation on pretty much any public transit, but places like 7/11 and random 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. I, unfortunately, totally forgot to do this until I was boarding my plane. So, once again- don’t be like me, get your money back!
Where 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:
Breakfast place- I went to this little diner when jet leg was winning big time, and I needed a place to help with my 6 am hunger pains. The eggtart was a recommended Hong Kong breakfast classic, and did not disappoint!
Inconspicuous Noodle Place- I’m not ashamed to admit that in three nights, I went here twice! It was super cheap and delicious, the chef with shirtless and grumpy, and I was the only tourist in sight. Talk about a perfect noodle shop!
Where to Wander:
Ride an Escalator- The longest, outdoor covered escalator in the world- to be exact. 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!
Take a Peek at the Peak- Taking the tram to the top of Victoria Peak was one of my favorite experiences in Hong Kong (after eating my weight in Dim Sum, of course). Don’t fall for the $5 entrance to the sky terrace. 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).
Experiencing rain & shine at Victoria Peak
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. I, unfortunately, 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- yet had no luck.
It’s still worth checking out just for the sheer chaos of it all, but I definitely preferred the smaller markets I stumbled on.
Shop Shop Shop!- It’s pretty much impossible to go to Hong Kong without grabbing a few items to stuff your suitcase with. Aside from the shops that line most main (and side) streets, malls are literally everywhere. And while it’s definitely not the most affordable city to drop some dough, there are plenty of sales and market haggling opportunities to indulge in.
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 atop each other like piled up build-a-blocks, was astounding. Not to mention the constant layering of these older buildings countered my towering skyscrapers. Perhaps 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 awesome not only for quickly getting around, but also for getting a better glimpse into various neighborhoods of the city. I rode for quite some time, likening the experience to my own DIY city bus tour.
Temple Hop- There are a number of fascinating temples in Hong Kong, but I decided on Wong Tai Sin Temple. The temple is dedicated to the three main religions in China (Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddism), and was incredibly interesting and 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.
Wong Tai Sin Temple
If you’re bored in Hong Kong, you’re doing something wrong. There’s no shortage of ways to spend a long weekend here- and I definitely need to come back to check out more of this eclectic city!
Victoria Harbor offers up some epic views of the city