In my view, Hong Kong is arguably the Asian equivalent of New York City. The city is constantly buzzing with excitement and there is never a shortage of things to do. I don’t’ think it’s possible to grow tired of this city and every time I come back, I feel sad the day I have to leave.
This time I decided to add a few days to my trip on the way back from Africa. It had been years since I’d been back to Hong Kong so it really felt like I was visiting for the first time. To be honest, I really didn’t recognize or remember much of the city and I was really excited to be coming back. If you’re going to be in the city for even a quick stopover, it might be worth it to try and extend that stopover for a few hours if only to feel the vibe of the city. Here are some tips to help you get around this exciting city:
Getting to the city:
There is no doubt the easiest and quickest way into the city is the Airport Express. For $105HKD each way, the train will get you into the city in 24 minutes. Exactly 24 minutes. I would imagine most people will want to get off at either the Kowloon or Hong Kong station, depending on where they’re staying. In either case, transferring from the Airport Express to the MRT (the transit system) is incredibly simple with sign clearly posted.
If staying for a few days, I would recommend getting the tourist pass for about $300HKD (I don’t remember the exact amount of it’s around that amount) and includes round trip fare to the airport. So, having unlimited access to the MRT for $100HKD is a great deal and saves you from having to buy a ticket for every trip. The MRT is also the cheapest and fastest way to get around town vs. a taxi and the punctuality is amazing. Also, using the MRT is just like any public transport system that is color coordinated and is named in the final destination of the route.
Where to stay: HKI, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
For first timers, you’ll probably want to stay in either the Kowloon or financial district. The financial district is on Hong Kong island and has everything from shopping to restaurants to nightlife. Also, getting around Hong Kong Island is probably the easiest since you only really need to know one MRT line that goes from one end to the other.
Kowloon is directly across the bay from Hong Kong Island and has everything you’d find on HK island except maybe the nightlife. That said, it’s still an excellent location to have as a home base for exploration as MRT lines are located all around. Hotels might be slightly cheaper as well so that might help in helping you decide on where to stay.
Things to do:
If there is one thing you should definitely do, it’s taking the Star Ferry across the bay. It’s about a 5 minute journey but it’s also only about 25 cents…and you can’t beat the views at night or the price.
Another fun thing to do is take the old double decker trolley around HK island for a few blocks. Again, it’s about a quarter to ride and a fun way to see the city.
A world class city obviously has world class restaurants and Hong Kong delivers in spades. What makes HK unique is the wide price range of fantastic restaurants that are available. Obviously you can start with the Michelin guides for restaurant recommendations but you can also just look for the longest line of people waiting to get food at any the countless restaurants around the city.
The most popular and well known is probably Tim Ho Wan and is the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the guides. There are a few locations but my advice is to definitely plan your trip around times when most people won’t be eating to avoid the lines (which can get VERY long). Trust me, the wait is worth it but it can be aggravating when you’re hungry. My advice would be to try for a late lunch/early dinner and you should be able to get right in. Regardless of the time, you’ll see the kitchen furiously working to send out fresh food so you know it hasn’t been sitting around. And remember to order the BBQ buns. Yes, they’re really that good and should not be missed.
2 sweet snacks that are popular (for good reason) are egg tarts and egg waffles. Egg tarts can be found throughout the city at almost every bakery for about $5 HKD each and you might as well give in and buy a few at a time. They won’t last long. Eg waffles are also a popular snack. They’re made with a light waffle batter in a waffle iron that looks like it has balls the size of large marbles. They’re light, fluffy, and served freshly made. 2 places I tried were LKK and Mammys. You’ll be able to find both locations fairly easily since it’s very popular and you’ll see a line of people waiting to order. Each order is around $20 HKD and a great snack to have while walking around the city.
Of course there are many more places to eat and go than this short list but there really are too many to list in one post. That said, there are so many restaurants that even the Michelin guide experts couldn’t possibly have come close to reviewing them all. The difficulty for me was that I can’t read any of the menus so finding a starting point was a little difficult. But the tried and true method of finding a popular place, looking around at what others are eating, and pointing when it came time to order worked just fine. Rudimentary? Absolutely. Foolproof? No quite. Just try it and I think you’ll fall in love with this city as well.