Hong Kong, the city that never stands still, is the definition of East meets West. Having been colonised during the British Empire and soon to become a province of China. The complex politics of this small SAR, made up of 267 islands at the bottom of China, speckled across the South China Sea, is a wonder to behold, full of culture, amazing food and breath-taking scenery.
When you first arrive, you may be daunted by the prospect of finding you way around, but with super cheap, easy to navigate public transport, it isn’t as daunting as you once thought. There are two main areas: Kowloon, which is attached to mainland China and is more traditional Chinese, and Hong Kong Island, which is where most of the expats live which is more Western.
Start your day off early by visiting one of the many temples that are dotted around the city. You could take the cable car up to the Tian Tan Buddha (also known as the Big Buddha) on Lantau Island, which is the biggest sitting Buddha in the world, and then take a leisurely stroll around the Po Lin Monastery. You could then head to Sha Tin to the 10,000 Buddhas after visiting the Chi Lin Nunnery which is an inner-city oasis of beauty and calm with Japanese inspired gardens. This can work up quite the appetite, and Hong Kong’s food scene is definitely a highlight. From Hello Kitty themed Dim Sum, snake skin soup and traditional duck pancakes that will change how you feel about your local Chinese takeaway, to a hotter than hot mutton Vindaloo, beautiful beef rendang and tasty tacos – Hong Kong has every cuisine imaginable and is able to satisfy any food lovers cravings, not matter what time of day!
For a spot of lunch head over to DimDimSum for some of the best Dim Sum in one of the most densely populated places in the world, Mong Kok. Afterwards, head to Ladies Market to pick up some souvenirs. Next, head on down Nathan Road to Tsim Sha Tsui. Why not get a new made-tomeasure suit or dress in one of the tailors who can have a turnaround as quick as 48 hours. After doing some shopping in one of the many malls, don’t forget to pick up one of Hong Kong’s famous egg waffles, which look like bubble waffles. The best brand is Mammy’s which have numerous locations across the city and while eating you can meander down to Victoria Harbour and have a rest marvelling at the stunning skyline of Hong Kong Island, arguably one of the best cityscapes in the world.
Watch the traditional Chinese sea bearing vessels, known as junks, softly sailing by with their iconic red sails. Hop on the Star Ferry to take you across to the Island. Once off the Star Ferry, head across to hipster Shueng Wan known for its street art, stopping off at the Man Mo Temple where you can take some refuge escaping the hustle and bustle of the city and watch the incense dance above your head. After head up one of the many hills to do some shopping and regenerate with a coffee or juice at PMQ which use to be the Police married quarters but is now home to numerous quirky shops and cafes. From here, take the bus up to the Peak for sunset.
Most guide books recommend you take the tram, but unless you want to queue for over four hours, the bus is a lot quick and cheaper. Once you reach the top, you can admire the modern metropolis from above, watching the lights twinkling below. If you find yourself in the city on a Wednesday night, head over to the Happy Valley Races which is a great night out and then go out to Wan Chai where the after party is, with ladies getting drinks and entry to clubs for free. If not, head back down to Soho where you can grab great happy hour deals which is a saving grace once you realise how expensive the city is, Varga is one of my favourites; a quirky little bar which does the creamiest and most reasonably priced Espresso Martinis in the city.
You can grab a bite to eat in Soho, and then go out in the main nightlife district, Lan Kwai Fong (LFK). You will notice that there is more of a party in the streets than in clubs, as those conscious of their wallets will buy their drinks in a 7/11 and consume on the street, creating a carnival/street party like atmosphere. Roof bars, speakeasies and hidden bars are another essential part of the Hong Kong nightlife scene and if you can find them, they make sure for a great night.
In Wan Chi you have Ophelia’s, Wooloomooloo and Djiboutti, Mrs Pound in Sheung Wan and Ping Pong 129 in Sai Ying Pun. If you fancy a spot of live jazz music, you could head back over to Kowloon and make your way to Ned Kelly’s, an Australian pub that plays live jazz music every night, and it can end up getting quite rowdy, often with guest musicians visiting.