We averaged 25,000 steps a day in Hong Kong. Even though public transportation is simple and cheap, eighty percent of the time we opted for walking and enjoyed all the scents (yes - that's right - the SCENT is once of the best parts) and sounds of Hong Kong.
Walk around side street markets in Central. This is probably my favorite area of Hong Kong. Here is where you will find the San Francisco, Asia, and New York City vibe all rolled into one. Riding up the escalators you get a peak inside of all the unique shops and restaurants on the third, fourth, and fifth floors of buildings. You get an even better view of all the small alley street markets below.
Man Mo Temple
You can walk here from Central as well (see right).
Western Market is nothing to write home about, but if you’ve got time and energy it’s a place to stop.
Walked along Macau Ferry Bay
Beautiful backdrop of Hong Kong mainland and easy access to Memorial Park and a wonderful backdrop of the buildings behind.
A beautiful park for people watching. There are basketball courts and other sporting arenas nearby you can watch locals practice at.
IFC Mall (see right)
This mall. Best tip we received regarding Hong Kong was this mall. Go to the IFC mall and hit City Super. The market is fancy. And expensive. People watching is great here, too. You get some of the richest (or so they put on to be, I’m unsure really) people in Hong Kong at this mall and at this super market. It’s like a Whole Foods vibe on steroids. But you can find beers here for $10 HKD and take them up to the rooftop. The rooftop has stellar views of the Hong Kong Bay, and yes – IT IS LEGAL to BYOB here. When we first walked up and sat down we were in awe. The Chinese men actually laughed and pointed at us as our heads moved back and forth gazing at the skyline. We spent several hours staring over the IFC rooftop edge.
Walk around Time Square at night (see left)
All of Time Square is blocked off to traffic. If you’re looking for cheap eats, it won’t be found in here. Even the street food was running three times the price. But the vibe, the vibe is great. Safety was not a factor in Hong Kong.
Hiked Dragon’s Back Peak
It’s an easy hike, and very easy to get to from the MTR. You can make this hike as long or as short as you want. End it at Big Wave Beach or venture to find the monkey village of the hike.
Big Wave Bay
We hiked all the way down to Big Wave Bay, which is a must do. It’s a beautiful small surfer paradise right in Hong Kong. There are little shops for food and drink and only about fifty people occupying the sands.
Dinner @ Joy Hing's (see right)
Joy Hing’s is Chinese food. I never fully understood what Chinese food was, but this is it – and it is incredible. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not American Chinese food. This is simple duck, pork, chicken, and rice cooked to perfection. It’s Michelin rated and if Anthony Bourdain said to do it, it must be good. The food is around $30 HKD, which is great for a traveler’s budget, especially in HK.
Watched Symphony of Lights
Oh Symphony of Lights. It wasn’t a disappointment for me because I didn’t have my hopes up. But if you do – bring them down a notch.
Happy Horse Races (left)
We got a tip from a guy in our hostel that we must go to the Happy Horse Races on Wednesday nights. So after the Symphony of Lights we walked on over. We were not displeased. It is incredibly cheap to get in (beer is not), you can pay with your Octopus card, and upon entering you witness one of the most diverse collection of Easterners I can imagine. People watching here was a real treat. Europeans, Aussies, Kiwis, Asians – you name it. Everyone from this side of the globe was in the horse race. And ladies, make sure to put some mascara on for this event.
Ladies Night in Wan Chai, Free Cheap Champagne!
This was all Zach’s idea (insert eye roll here). I’m kidding. Not that it was all his idea (because it was), I’m kidding about the eye roll. Ladies night in Wan Chai means free champagne for me (cheap champagne, ew). The beers were $12 USD per beer. So we didn’t stay too long. But this is a good one for all those who don’t mind downing cheap champagne. Ladies night neva hurt nobody.
Tian Tan Big Buddha
By far my favorite day in Hong Kong. This is an incredibly spiritual experience. If you’re any what interested in Buddhism, go here and feel the vibes. Embrace praying to the 10,000 Buddhas at the base of Tian Tin. Whatever your prayers are, whatever your religion. The energy this place holds is powerful.
Take the MTR using the http://www.mtr.com.hk website.
Get off at Tung Chung.
Take a bus or a gondola. We were going to spend the $125 for the gondola because the skies were perfectly clear, but the universe wanted us to save the money because the gondola was closed that day. So we took a bus for $17.50 a person.
When you’re at Tian Tan, eat the street food. We had fish balls, dim sum and a fried hot dog. All of which were On Point.
Tim Ho Wan for Dinner
Tim Ho Wan – another Michelen rated restaurant for affordable $35 HKD prices. Go for the pork belly buns. And that’s it. I REPEAT. Order multiple orders of the pork belly buns AND THAT’S IT! There is no need to try anything else.
Victoria’s Park has a nice little running trail an outdoor workout facility for all of those looking to stay in shape while hitting HK.
Hong Kong Musuem of History and Library
Free entry. And when we went they were having an exhibition. We couldn’t read anything, but again – you could feel all the vibes.
Okay. Victoria’s Peak. The line for the tram was absolutely insane. We read online not to go right at sunset and we still did it anyways. We waited over an hour and one half to get on the tram. Once we got to the top, the view was amazing. We stayed a whole six minutes, and then made our journey back down to grab some food. There are plenty of nice restaurants and bars at the top – but again, nothing within the travel budget. The ride up is something to experience though, you are at a complete 45 degree angle. I have never overlooked skyscrapers before from a mountaintop. That is a unique experience.
Surprisingly it was a little hard for us to find mulled wine in HK. So when we did, we finally settled for the $59 HKD price. Mulled wine is hot wine with brandy, oranges, and some other mixtures. It tastes like a perfect Thanksgiving spiked cider.
Lan Kwai Fong District
Everyone told us we have to go out to Lan Kwai Fong. We were actually worried we would be under dressed. I completely expected an upscale bar district. Nope. We found Dirty 6th Street (come on all you Austinites), right in the heart of Hong Kong. The only exception: you can by beer and drink on the streets here! So we did just that. And people watched. Again. It really is a different vibe over here. Every accent is different, social norms are different; this is the eastern world. And the eastern world’s top party district in Hong Kong.
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Kowloon. Kowloon and the New Territories are entirely different than Hong Kong Island. I would say Hong Kong Island is comprised more of the wealthy business professionals, vacationers, and backpacker turned long trip goers. Kowloon is stacked with Middle Eastern men who are constantly trying to sell you any and every item you can think of on a street corner. Rolex, purses, you name it. The culture on the mainland is also incredibly different. I LOVED experiencing both sides. The Mong Kok Market on the mainland side is one of my favorite experiences in Hong Kong. If you have the time, don’t isolate yourself to HK Island. Venture out. Embrace the vast cultural differences. Stay in Mong Kok for a night or two.
Bi Bam Bap @ Hungry Korean
$46 HKD and saved half for lunch the next day. They also have “inexpensive” beers at $22 HKD. Or – you can go to the 7-11.
Ozone @ the Ritz Carlton
Now this. Was fun. Anything swanky gets me going. I am an outdoor enthusiast and lover of embracing the discomfort, but the smell of luxury. That’s exciting, too. Read more about that here.
Nan Lian Gardens
We stopped at these gardens on the way up to visit the 10,000 Buddha Monestary. They are a five minute walk from the MTR and show beautiful Chinese architecture… and my favorite part… trees.
10,000 Buddha Monastery, Sha Tin
Get ready for a steep walk. With about 500 steps upward, you are completely surrounded by over 12,800 Buddhas. I’m still unsure why they call in the 10,000 Buddha Monastery or what the significance holds. After research, all I found was that it was a site to see.
Sai Lam Temple
A small temple at the bottom of the 10k BM. Stop here upward or downward to see a more modern day looking temple.
Mong Kok (street food salvation to the right)
Ladies and gentlemen. I LOVE MONG KOK. This place is absolutely littered with humans in the streets. From the sites, the sounds, and the smells Mong Kok is a place to spend a day or two venturing around. There is hardly any room to think when you walk through these streets. Looking for a market? You name it. They got it. From flower markets, to ladies markets, seafoods to gold fish. Yes, that’s right. They have an entire market (street) dedicated to gold fish sales.
Here are the markets we visited: Ladies Market & Temple Market, Flower Market
Tung Choi Street - the dive bars on Tung Choi are intended to have a dive bar/college bar strip bar feel in Mong Kok. Travelers don’t be fooled. These are not college bar prices. Happy hour runs no less than $48 HKD for a Heineken at the cheapest place. It was nice to get out of the madness and reset, though.
My final piece of advice: Enjoy Hong Kong All of it. Not just the island.
AS - @travelingsnow