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Hong Kong Travel Guide!

March 6, 2013

Rush Hour

When I meet blog readers, they often comment on how they loved following along on my vacation posting - And the trips to Asia in particular. Later this spring, some friends are heading to Hong Kong and they asked to pick my brain about HK highlights. I figured if I was going to put in the effort, might as well post it for all of you who might find yourselves on that side of the world!

Let's do this by district  and neighbourhood, like this handy guide from Design Sponge

Octopus.

I will, however, start by recommending you get an Octopus Card. Go click around online to see which station you can get them at, and load it up with a few hundred HK dollars! It's THE BEST. You can take the train in from the airport (touch card); hop on a double decker trolley (touch card); take the ferry across Victoria bay just for the fun of it (touch card); ride the antique trolley up to The Peak (touch card); grab a snack from a bakery or 7-Eleven (touch card); basically ride any form of public transit available, with the exception of the mini busses (privately-owned) and cabs. It will SET YOU FREE.

Warning, this post is going to be a long one.


Since my aunt and uncle live on the Kowloon side, I'll start with their 'hood and work outwards from there. They live in Mong Kok, which is a crazy, bustling, busy district that has tons of little congee houses, noodle houses, street snacks, and markets. 

Night.

Street Meat.


I think Mong Kok is an awesome neighbourhood to explore at night, since things are up and running until almost midnight. Looking for something to do after dinner? A night stroll at the Ladies Market fits the bill!

Ladies Market

Shopping these stalls requires haggling. You want to be firm, but still friendly. Most of the vendors appreciate having a little chit chat interchange to establish a rapport. Sometimes you can get a better deal if you buy multiples, and most of all, just be respectful and good-natured about it all. If you put on a big WHATEVER & walk away attitude, nobody will want to do business with you. If you ARE ready to walk away, just say thanks and carry on. 

Another place that I have always wanted to visit in the Mong Kok area is the Bird and Flower Market. It's just blocks away from my family's apartment and I never make it over there! I think it would be super fun for photographing. 



Another "crazy" neighbourhood. Dior, Vuitton, Miu Miu... any luxury brand can be found here along with my own humble favourites like Marks & Spencer and Muji. Click the link above to read about the Cultural Centre, walking the Avenue of Stars, and visiting the Museums. 

It's really fun to take the ferry across Victoria bay to the HK side, I think it works out to be like... $0.25 per ride? Just use your Octopus!

If you find yourself on Nathan Road, prepare yourself for lots of solicitation for suits and copy watches.

In the 'hood and you're hungry? My family like to go to the Star of Canton (there are reviews and maps on Trip Advisor) for dim sum in iSquare (lots of good food places to be found here). 

If you want a killer view of Victoria Bay and the HK side, have a drink at Aqua Lounge.  And, if you're looking for a pricier dinner in a killer setting (super old-school Chinese interior design), get reservations at Hutong. Both those places are found at No. 1 Peking Road. Everybody will speak English at these places, since they cater to a very global business crowd.

The Peninsula Hotel has a yummy western-styled high tea available in the lobby - It's very classy and historical! The Japanese used this hotel as their headquarters during the occupation in WWII.

Dumplings.

Finally, Don and I always crave Din Tai Fung. It's DELICIOUS. Soup dumplings and such. Go hungry and go early. We arrive to queue at around 11:15 am before it opens at 11:30 am and have always managed to get into the first sitting. There is one location in Harbour City, and a downtown location (Central). I could eat here every day and never grow tired. 


Central feels sort of quiet in relation to Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui. There is still tons in the way of shopping and entertainment, but it's a business district. Lots of suits here! Don and I love riding the double-decker trolley around, just for sight-seeing purposes and to get off our feet. It's also got all the awesome skyscrapers like the IFC (the one that Batman jumps off of in The Dark Knight). Lots of photographic opportunities here.

The Peak Trolley

I like going up to The Peak. The views are awesome, and you ride this really old tram up the hillside. It's fun! 

My cousin also recommends a stroll on Hollywood Road. Lots of knick knacks to browse and cool little stores with "Chinese" stuff. I haven't had a chance to do this yet, but I hear it's fun!

Also, pretty much every skyscraper features a mall on the first few floors, so even if you just want to grab a food court sort of meal or are looking for a bathroom - Aim for a tall building.


Golden Hour

Sky 100

This isn't a district per se, but I love the ICC building and the Elements shopping centre.  It's attached to Kowloon station, which is where the airport train stops. Needless to say, I find myself here a lot. There is an admission fee to go up to the Sky100 observation deck, but it's super spectacular if you can be there during sunset. They also have lots of displays on HK culture and customs, which is educational, and there are snacks and cute souveniers up there too. If you're in the shopping mall there is a little skating rink, a good movie theatre, and many of the skyscrapers usually feature a grocery somewhere. The one in Elements has a gelato counter where you can get black sesame gelato - YUM! Also nice to hit up the ready-to-eat stuff if you're looking for a chilled out and inexpensive dinner to eat on a stoop somewhere. 


Front Door.

Now this is more of a personal stop for me, because the village where my dad was born! Sam Tung Uk was turned into a museum while he was still young, and the area transformed from an agricultural hub became an industrial outskirt. This is where my branch of the Chans come from. For real!

If you're looking to see what the blue collar crowd is like, this could be a fun stop for you. Unlike all the other places I have mentioned so far, English will not be as universally spoken here. 


Stanley.

I love love love the day trip out to Stanley. The bus ride alone (40ish minutes) is awesome. It's a double-decker that goes on this windy route (obviously you should try to snag the front seats on the 2nd floor), showing you Happy Valley Racecourse and Repulse Bay, then ends at Stanley where you can shop the market stalls for crazy deals. I usually buy all my presents for friends here. There are also tons of places to have lunch or drink a beer by the water (there is a boardwalk sea-strip sort of area). You can climb all over red rocks and take pictures. And generally stroll in the sun. Lovely!

 Rocks.


Sparkle.

If you want to take a whole day trip, and are willing to queue for the funicular, go see the Tan Tian Buddha. It's a fun trip to Lantau Island, and if you buy a certain ticket to access the Buddha, it also comes with a voucher to eat a vegetarian lunch at the temple at the bottom. The temple itself is fun to visit, with incense to burn to honour your ancestors. 

Cable Cars.

So there you have it - Hong Kong's Greatest Hits via Miss Sarah! 

You will never go hungry in HK, even if your yummy meal is as simple as grabbing some buns to eat at a bakery in the MTR station. All the maps are also in English, and most people everywhere will also speak English. There are almost always bank machines to be found in the transit stations, and you will experience the most transformational public transit, ever. I was thinking Tokyo was going to be the transit heaven. Now, having gone, I conclude that HK public transit is still my favourite. That's a pretty high ranking from a girl who has also thoroughly experienced the London tube, Paris metro, and the New York subway. Each system is unique and loads more sophisticated than what we have here in Edmonton, but Hong Kong public transit is like a beautiful shining beacon of accelerated human pedestrianism.

Can you tell? I am really into this. 

Hong Kong is where my parents came from (though, they met here in Canada) and it's one of my favourite cities in the world. The tourism board refers to HK as Asia's World City, and I think that is very true indeed. 

You can also check out their official Tourism Site.

Enjoy yourself!



9 comments:

Ridonkulus said...

My family also has roots in Hong Kong, but I've never been. Would love to go! Are the trains packed like in your photo all the time? I had a somewhat miserable time in Beijing being trapped in a taxi with their crazy traffic and I suspected traveling by train would've been a better choice.

miss sarah said...

R - That was definitely rush hour! Haven't been to Beijing, I can say that I think HK is more civilized in terms of manners and crowding. Meaning, it's crowded, but it's all quite orderly. And although the atmosphere is still sort of thick in HK, it's nowhere near as smoggy and gross as Beijing. Ack!

Go to HK, you WILL LOVE IT.

Meika said...

Dying - this is so beautiful!

Rebekka P said...

That photo of the cable cars is amazing!

Rebekka P said...

That picture of the cable cars is amazing! (And disorienting. In a good way.)

Simply Bike said...

Wonderful post! If I ever get to travel to HK, I'm coming back to this as my guide :)

Anonymous said...

This is a great hitlist, but for me it is missing just one thing: walking around Victoria Peak. The tram is fun, but walking around such a lush, quiet place was such a complete trip after the madness of Kowloon. There is a reservoir on the other side and it was humbling for me to see the rainforest there, so suddenly.

Anonymous said...

ever thought of working for the Edmonton Ministry of Tourism ?

Jean said...

Clearly you didn't do much cycling in HK. :D

I haven't even been to Asia yet and I'm old enough that my eldest niece is 25+ yrs.

Parents from China. We don't have any relatives in HK.

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