Hong Kong is a fascinating city to explore. Although bordering China, colonisation by Britain throughout most of the 20th century has lead to an intriguing mix of Eastern and Western culture. The high number of expats and tourists that the city hosts, results in a seemingly infinite amount of attractions; it’s very difficult to be bored in this urban jungle!
Here are ten of my favourite things that I would recommend to first-time visitors.
1. Visit a theme park! Pick from Ocean Park and Disneyland, or splurge and do both. Locals say Ocean Park is the better of the two attractions but they have some large captive animals there and I don’t support zoos. That said, I really enjoyed my Disney visit. We spent a hot and sticky day there where I relished in being a kid again between fanning myself and fixing my humidity hair. The park is really small which means you can easily see everything in one day if you get an early start. The queues were also very manageable; I don’t think we ever waited for longer than half an hour. Highlights were the “It’s a Small World” ride and the Jungle River Cruise. A standard one day ticket costs HK$589 (approx R1000).
2. Shop the Temple Street Night Market in Kowloon and the Ladies Market in Mong Kok. Sadly I only found out about the latter after I was home and really wish I’d gone, don’t make the same mistake as me. The Temple Street market has an open air restaurant with plastic tables and green plastic crockery that served the best seafood fried rice I’ve ever tasted!
3. Stroll by the harbour wall in Kennedy. The sea around HK has the most beautiful shades of pastel turquoise and this is a lovely spacious neighbourhood to explore. If you start getting peckish while poking around, stop in for lunch (or their famous all day weekend brunch) at Catch On Catchick; it’s a favourite with locals and tourists alike.
4. Explore the Hong Kong Museum of History to learn about their soap opera-like past. This is the perfect rainy day activity, of course I had to pick a day with pretty much typhoon weather- the trip back to the metro station was not fun… The Science Museum is right next door so if both subjects interest you, you can make it a double whammy nerd day! Try to go on a Wednesday when most museums are free.
5. Catch the 30 minute cable car over the harbour and miles of lush, uninhabited forest to the super zen Lantau Island to see the great Tian Tan Buddha (statue, not human). You can even pet a cow on the roadside, just don’t try this on one with horns, my bad…
6. Ride the tram up to Victoria Peak on a clear day and look out over the city and islands. The perfect Instagram moment… Return tram tickets cost HK$45 (approx R75).
7. Head to the quaint, bohemian Lamma Island. My own plans to do so were scuppered by a typhoon warning but my friend Grace who visited a few months earlier fell in love with it. On my bucket list for next time!
8. Take a beach day! Apart from that tiny piece where they play Siamese twinsies with China, Hong Kong is basically an island. And owns a ton of smaller, actual islands. So a languid day on the coast should feature as a high priority on your itinerary. We headed out to the neighbourhood of Stanley for our afternoon of sun worshipping on the shore of the South China sea. The water is strangely flat, but lovely and warm and Stanley is a great area to explore, filled with shops, market stalls and amazing restaurants. We dined at a trendy little eatery called Pinot Duck which specialises in, you guessed it, duck and pinotage (although not necessarily combined).
9. Do a bar crawl but if you’re on a budget, drink booze from the 7/11 in between. You can drink on the streets in Hong Kong, it’s a vibe. You can even drink on the tram if you’re very sneaky but if you drink in an establishment prepare to kiss all your Hong Kong dollars goodbye! A cocktail in a semi-posh (but not really) place will literally cost you R300. Rather get a R40 cider from the corner shop- they’ll even open it for you! My favourite bar of our SoHo pub crawl was The Iron Fairies which was the kind of bar I’d expect the Brothers Grimm to open. Ridiculously cool. But don’t be a woo girl here and fling your hands in the air- there are actual dead butterflies hanging from the ceiling. Creepy… Oh and they also have a sister bar I’ve since learned of; a beautiful, yet dark, Midsummer Night’s Dream-esque spot called Ophelia.
10. Traverse Hong Kong harbour by night. There’s an 8pm light show in the harbour, which is not as fancy as it sounds, essentially it’s the skyscrapers flashing colourful laser beams at each other like some sort of capitalist pissing contest. We did this via a night junk/party boat which I highly recommend. They’re pricey (ours was about R1700) but the bang for your buck features unlimited drinks including bubbly and cocktails on tap, canapes, waiter service, a sit-down buffet meal and a DJ.
Have you been to the big HK? What are your favourite spots to hit up?