Hong Kong… much more than a stop-over
When my holiday to Hong Kong came up in conversation, it puzzled me that people repeatedly said: “You’re going for a week? That’s too long!” However, I didn’t think it was quite long enough – not if you want to see the real Hong Kong, experience the contrasting islands, get to know the locals and discover what it is that makes it such an interesting part of the world.
As a British colony until 1997, Hong Kong still retains British influences; I often thought I could be in London when walking through the Central neighbourhood. The neo-classical Old Supreme Court and Gothic revival St. John’s Cathedral are prime examples of beautiful colonial architecture. As English is one of the official languages, it made navigating the city and communicating with locals easy. I even noticed that they had held onto the British queueing etiquette, except they are much more polite than we are! You can also experience the Chinese influences in Kowloon, where I was lucky enough to stay.
The cuisine was delicious and is very important to locals in Hong Kong. Dim sum – small plates – is the most popular dish and due to Hong Kong being comprised of 234 islands, seafood plays a large part in the cuisine. With over 50 Michelin star restaurants, many of which can cost you less than £20 for two to dine, it can be hard to decide where to eat.
Shrimp noodles at Michelin starred Mak’s Noodle, Harbour City
Whether you’re just perusing or looking for something in particular, I highly recommend the street markets. The most renowned include Ladies’, Stanley, Goldfish – selling goldfish – and Jade market, which are dotted throughout Hong Kong. You can also eat at the open-air food stalls, known as dai pai dongs, which are found near the local markets. With many of these street food markets becoming restaurants due to their success, it’s a great way to dine with the locals and try a noodle dish – or if you’re feeling adventurous, maybe even try a local delicacy!
Ladies Market, Kowloon
There are many ways to see the impressive skyline and surrounding mountainous terrain. Victoria Peak has an elevation of 552m and is the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island. The best way to reach the viewpoint is by the Victoria Peak tram. Named after Queen Victoria, it dates back to 1888. If you are feeling more adventurous, you can walk up to Braemar Hill, which can be visited by taking a bus to the start point. The walk is around half an hour each way and affords scenic views. You may even catch sight of an eagle!
View from Victoria Peak at sunset
For panoramic views across the city, take the Ngong Ping 360 cable car to Lantau Island. The cable car is one of the longest in the world, taking you over hills and water - this is the best way to visit the iconic Big Buddha. Lantau Island is home to the Po Lin Buddhist Monastery, where many come to pay their respects and bring offerings. You can also visit the local fishing village of Tai O, where a community of fishing families have built stilt houses above the water for generations. Take one of the boats through the village waterways and into the South China Sea, where you will see the newly built Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge. If you’re lucky, you may even spot an endangered pink dolphin.
Tai O fishing village, Lantau Island
Another worthwhile day trip is Lamma Island, with its white sand beaches and clear water surrounded by lush green hills. There are frequent crossings from the ferry terminal in Central, taking approximately 35 minutes. There are no vehicles on the island except for service vehicles, so it’s very peaceful. I recommend taking the ferry to Sok Kwu Wan and take the soft trek to Yung Shue Wan, where you can catch the ferry back to Central or Kowloon. Along the way you can stop at the picturesque beaches, where you can stop for a swim in the sea (changing facilities and showers are available), local temples and take in the stunning landscapes. There are plenty of refreshment stops along the way – a popular snack for locals is a frozen pineapple stick.
View of one of the many beaches on Lamma Island
Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights show is simply unmissable. Each evening at 8pm, the light show illuminates iconic buildings to form a multimedia spectacular, all to the sound of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. You can view the show from the harbourfront areas near Hong Kong’s Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui and near Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai. When you picture Hong Kong, the view you see is most likely Victoria Harbour where the light show takes place. Watching the light show on a wooden Chinese junk boat cruise is the best way to see it, but you will need to book in advance.
Victoria Harbour by night
After seven nights in this fascinating destination, I am left wondering how anyone could possibly experience Hong Kong in one day. I still feel there is so much more to see, so many more trails to walk and restaurants to try. I’m already looking forward to returning!