Hong Kong is one of the most fascinating cities in Asia. With its awe-inspiring skyline and cosmopolitan buzz, Hong Kong lives up to its billing as the ‘Manhattan of Asia’ with true verve. To many visitors, Hong Kong may seem daunting at first but once you get past the gleaming skyscrapers, sprawling malls and neon-lit streets, you’ll find intriguing shops, atmospheric temples and delightful markets. Venture to one of the outer islands and you’ll discover scenic beaches, quaint fishing villages and beautiful national parks. Hong Kong also boasts a vibrant gastronomic scene and arguably the most efficient transportation network in Asia. There really is so much to see and do in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, I thought I’d give it a go by listing ten things that I did and which I would absolutely recommend to everyone. Enjoy!
1. See the Hong Kong skyline from above – Hong Kong has one of the most impressive skylines in the world. Various buildings like the IFC2 tower and the Bank of China tower have observation decks (free admission). One of my favourite things to do in Hong Kong is hop on the Peak funicular railway to Victoria Peak and taking in the view from above. It’s absolutely stunning!
2. Take the Star Ferry – the Star Ferry is a Hong Kong icon. The ferries ply various routes linking Hong Kong island to Kowloon on the mainland. It’s a cheap way to get around. In addition, it also offers awesome views of the harbour and the city skyline from the water. You can also opt for the Star Ferry Harbour tour which offers visitors a lovely tour of Victoria Harbour and great views of Hong Kong.
3. Visit Aberdeen – Hong Kong traces its roots back to this little fishing village which is still known locally as Hong Kong Tsai. These days, Aberdeen is famous for its floating village and the various floating restaurants, the most famous being the Jumbo floating restaurant. Go on a harbour cruise in a sampan for a unique experience of life in the floating villages.
4. Symphony of Lights – the Hong Kong Symphony of Lights is reputed to be the world’s largest sound and light show and features a blaze of lights and lasers from some of Hong Kong’s most famous skyscrapers. Held every evening at 8pm, the show can best be viewed from the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade.
5. Stroll along Hollywood Road – Hollywood Road on Hong Kong island is famed for its great array of antique shops. From high-end Chinese antique shops to little stalls selling dusty trinkets, there’s a lot to see. Spend a leisurely afternoon strolling around the shops along Hollywood Road and the nearby Upper Lascar Row. Hollywood Road is also home to my favourite temple in Hong Kong: the wonderfully atmospheric Man Mo temple. It may not look like much from the outside but step inside for a truly enchanting experience.
6. Take the Ngong Ping 360 to the Big Buddha – sitting proudly atop the Ngong Ping mountain on Lantau Island, the Tian Tan or Big Buddha is the world’s largest seated outdoor bronze Buddha. Getting there is a trip in itself. I suggest taking the train to Tung Chung. From here, you can opt to take a bus to the Big Buddha and the adjacent Po Lin Monastery, or the more exciting option: the Ngong Ping 360 cable car.
7. Visit one of the outer islands – Hong Kong’s outer islands feature picturesque fishing villages, idyllic beaches and a noticeably slower pace of life. Head to Cheung Chau island (often called ‘dumbbell island’ because of its shape) for a taste of laidback island life. Laze on one of its gorgeous beaches, explore the maze of narrow streets in Cheung Chau village or indulge yourself at one of the many seafood cafés. Lamma Island is another local favourite. The only way to get around the island is by foot or bicycle, making it the perfect escape from bustling Hong Kong. There are beautiful nature trails (trekking up Mount Stenhouse to view the strange rock formations is a highlight), charming villages and many seafood restaurants.
8. Go shopping! – Hong Kong is one of the most popular destinations in Asia for the serious shopper. From swanky boutiques to bargain stalls selling a mind-boggling variety of merchandise, Hong Kong is a true shopper’s dream. The Causeway Bay district on Hong Kong island is the most popular shopping area, with, amongst others the Times Square and Lee Gardens malls. Another popular shopping district is Admiralty, which is home to one of Hong Kong’s biggest malls: Pacific Place. The Wan Chai district offers a more eclectic shopping experience. Check out Spring Garden Lane for an excellent variety of clothes at amazing prices. Central Hong Kong is another great shopping area: the big brands can all be found here as well as gleaming malls such as the Landmark, and The Lanes, two parallel lanes packed with hawker stalls that sell everything from clothing to watches, jewellery and shoes.
9. Stroll around the fascinating markets – head to the markets to experience Hong Kong like the locals. A stroll around the Temple Street Night Market is an amazing sensory experience. Stalls selling all sorts of clothing, watches, gadgets and shoes vie with food stalls and fortune tellers. Other popular markets include Stanley Market, Jade Market, Ladies Market and the Jardine Crescent.
10. Eat! – Hong Kong is a true gastronomic paradise. From Michelin star restaurants to roadside stalls serving fresh seafood, the variety of dining options is simply staggering. Most restaurants have menus in both Chinese and English (or at least a menu with photos to help you choose). Two tips: If you love wonton noodles, head to Tsim Chai Kee Noodle in Central. For lovers of egg tarts, you have to try one of these flaky delights at Tai Cheong Bakery at 35, Lyndhurst Terrace in Central.
Roman Angulo, the Chief Concierge at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, recommends the following restaurants to his guests: China Club, Yung Kee, Zuma, Otto e Mezzo and Aqua.
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