“Some cities light up after dark.”
Welcome to Hong Kong! Besides a short post about our neighborhood of North Point, I really haven’t written about our favorite Asian city: Hong Kong! Since moving here a year and half ago, Sean and I still are completely in love with this city. There is something so magical about living here – the fusion of cultures, the city lights at night, the winding streets, the nature & islands. If it were closer to home and family, I think we would consider living here forever.
Since we are here for only a short 2 year work assignment, we have successfully been able to convince a handful of our family & friends to make the hike across the world to experience it with us. So far, we have had Kayla & Dave who stopped in for a whirlwind weekend after their honeymoon in Bali (can you believe that was over a year ago!!), my good friends Colie & Abel in April, Sean’s sister Kelly in May, one of Sean’s best friends Joe and his film crew in June, and my two old college roommates Kate & Chelsey recently in September. By now, Sean and I have the “HK in a week” itinerary down pat. However, it’s very dependent on the weather as most of it’s outside (remember we live on a tropical island!!) And unfortunately, so far we seem to have a tradition of torrential rains when our guests visit. Even so, we try to make the most of it.
Our next guests, Sean’s parents, are arriving this week. For this post, I wanted to share some of our experiences when friends visit, but so you are not reading a novel at once, I’m going to make this four parts: Part 1: Hong Kong Island, Part 2: Kowloon Side, Part 3: Big Buddha & Outlying Islands and Part 4: Macau. Four parts – I know you’re so excited.
Sean & Kristyne’s Ultimate Hong Kong Itinerary: Part 1
Day 1: Hong Kong Island.
We live in North Point, so we typically start out there and work our way into Central.
- Transportation Must: HK Trams (AKA Ding Dings). Hong Kong has these great little cable car trams that run along the cost of northern of Hong Kong island. They are double-decker trams which have so much charm and remind me of being back in the 1950’s: they are wooden, they have old-fashioned controls, they don’t have AC so the windows are always down to get a breeze and they super cheap: rides are only $2.30 HK (about 30 cents US) to go as far as you want. They are not the fastest as there are so many stops along the routes, but they are a great way to see the city. **Fun tram fact: When the Pokemon Go game came out, the trams hit an all time popularity high. The speed of the trams was slow enough to simulate someone running so they could catch pokemon without doing the work. People would queue up for hours to get a spot and ride the tram back and forth along the island. More about the trams: http://www.hktramways.com/en/our-story/
- Victoria Park: Hong Kong’s version of Central park. It’s much smaller, but really nice to walk through and there seems to always be some kind of big event there. They also have a little pool where you can race speed boats which Sean is really a fan of. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m dating an adult or an 8 year old boy, but I love him.
- Lunch: Dim Sum at Din Tai Fung. The local cuisine of Hong Kong is called Dim Sum. Dim sum are typically small plates, most recognized as dumplings, but specifically steamed and served in little bamboo baskets. It’s best to go with groups, as it is all meant for sharing and of course the more people, the more things you can order 🙂 There are so many dim sum places over Hong Kong, but Din Tai Fung is one of the first places I tried dim sum when I first came here, so it’s a bit special. Our go to favorites: steamed shrimp & pork shao-mai, steamed pork bun, string bean with minced pork, sauteed chinese kale, fried rice and for desert steamed red bean paste buns. Delicious! Din Tai Fung also has one Michelin star, so you know it’s great.
- The Peak Tram & Victoria’s Peak: One of Hong Kong’s must-do tourist attractions! The Peak is one the highest points on Hong Kong island and gives you fantastic views of Victoria harbour. You can actually walk up or take a taxi, but if this is your first time I definitely recommend you take the Peak tram, which is quite historic and opened in 1886. The tram ride itself is quite fun, when going up the hill at some points you feel like you are going up a 45 degree angle. Try to sit on the right side, however sometimes you will really have to compete getting on the tram. Hong Kongers are very organized and respectful of lines, however I would not say this sentiment at the tram. Sometime, ask me about an almost physical altercation I was involved in (thank you Sean for coming to my rescue).. It’s like a battle zone. Anyway, after you do the audio guide tour on at the Peak observation deck, most people end up just going down but there is actually quite a nice walking trail that brings you around the top of the peak. It has touches of Hong Kong under the colonial British rule, and also offers views of each side of the island **HK Insider Tip: If you have an Octopus card, you don’t have to wait in line for the tram tickets. Because you’re not buying the “bundle package” and you will pay for your tram ticket, entry up to the observation deck and return tram separately, it will cost a few extra dollars, however it’s well worth it as sometimes the Peak ticket line can be an hour wait.
- Man Mo Temple & Hollywood Rd: You would never expect to find this temple tucked in the center of Hong Kong (Sheung Wan) among Skyscrapers and city life. Built in 1847, is a center of worship for the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo), both worshiped by scholars and students seeking progress in their study or ranking in the civil examinations of Imperial China. There are many Man Mo Temples in Hong Kong, but this one is the most popular. Like many Asian temples, when you walk in you are instantly hit with the smell and smoke of the spiral incense that hang from the ceiling and burn at all times. After exiting the temple, you can explore around Hollywood Rd and nearby areas which is known for Chinese Antiques.
- Dinner: Tung Po, North Point Food Center. You should visit a food center during the day because I think it’s interesting to see as a local marketplace.
However at night, it transforms into a completely different scene. My strong recommendation – don’t be intimidated as this is where you will get your real glimpse into local Hong Kong. The whole atmosphere is fantastic: makeshift wooden tables crammed together, waiters yelling out orders, beer served in bowls. The place is really loud & alive and I love it.
Night 1: Hong Kong Island / Central
Hong Kong has fantastic nightlife that can suit almost anyone and there are a million places you can write about. I’ll share just a few, and of course I’m sure I’m not doing it justice.
- Lan Kwai Fung (AKA LKF): Of course, I have to start with LKF, the most well known party area of Hong Kong. Picture basically a block party that happens any night, every night, that goes until 5AM. Welcome to LFK: bars lining the streets going up multiple levels, music blaring, people drinking beers outside bought from 7’11s (the HKer’s tip for a good budget night out) and dancing in the streets.
A 180 change from LKF are the more sophisticated bars of Hong Kong. I’ll mention three around the Central area: Foxglove, Stockton & Quinary. First of all, congratulate yourself if you have found your way to these, as some are purposely quite elusive. For example, Foxglove is literally disguised as an upscale umbrella shop. When you tell the host you are there for a table, they will push an umbrella forward which opens a secret door down the hallway in which you enter the bar. I mean REALLY.. It’s pretty amazing. Stockton is also a bit secretive, however as it’s basically on LKF’s doorstep, so it’s more hidden in plain sight. There are no signs on the street at all, but after walking through a dark hallway and up a back alley stairwell, you get to this beautiful bar. Quinary would probably be Sean’s favorite as he has had the best made drink of his life there. Of course the bartender (or should I say mixologist) is recognized as one of the top 10 in the world. This is Hong Kong living!
Other notable places, which didn’t make it into the above itinerary but are completely worth a trip if you have the time:
- HK Escalators
- Botanical Gardens
- Hong Kong island hikes: Quarry Bay to Stanley (the Twins!!), Jardines Lookout hike
- Happy Hours: Stone Nullah (the ultimate Happy Hour in Hong Kong), Lily & Bloom, Slims in Wan Chai
- Stanley area for more European twist / beach day
- Aberdeen & Jumbo Kitchen floating restaurant
- Junk boat day trip or iconic Junk boat around harbor for light show.
Hope you enjoyed. Stay tuned for the next …