Hong Kong Top Five
By Giselle Cummings
Vibrant and fast paced with plenty to offer travelers, Hong Kong is a place that truly feeds the senses. Once a British colony, Hong Kong is now a Special Administrative Region of China, which is separated into four parts – Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Lantau and New Territories. Very Cantonese and still very British, Hong Kong lives these two dualities in a blended atmosphere that is simply just Hong Kong style! I decided to make it my priority destination this year and booked a trip with my boyfriend. Here are the highlights:
Hong Kong is well-known for its cuisine; be prepared to eat a lot! Treat yourself to dim sum, pastry shops, and different street foods. Roads are lined with little mom-and-pop shops ready to feed you the best flavors the city has to offer. We loved the veggie-friendly Dim Dim Sum, ordered way too much food, and still finished all of it. You can also visit Yau Ma Tei for fruit markets offering fresh tropical staples like rambutan, dragonfruit, and durian. My personal Hong Kong food favorites included chee cheong fun (rice noodle rolls) and dan tat (egg tarts).
Meet a Local
I find that the best way to get to know a city is to meet up with a local. My boyfriend and I met up with a tea blogger, Zach Goh, at a tea shop on Temple Street. Zach is a Malaysian expat who teaches English at the University by day, and studies gong fu tea ceremony by night. We spent a rainy afternoon drinking Pu’er tea and eating chestnuts with a lively bunch of friendly Cantonese aunties – by far my favorite experience of the trip. They welcomed us to the table like old friends and shared their culture and their love of tea. Zach was a phenomenal host; he also to took us to Kowloon Walled City and the history museum, which has life sized, 3D replicas of Hong Kong’s past.
A true port city, several day trip locations are only a ferry ride away. Macau is an hour and a half away by ferry, and a must see! Known for its over-the-top casinos, it’s also a great place to enjoy the unique blend of native Cantonese and colonial Portugese cultures. We enjoyed visiting the ruins of St. Paul Cathedral, soaking in the brightly colored architecture, and getting lost in the back streets. I must also confess that Portuguese egg tarts might be even more delicious than their Hong Kong counterparts. We made our way to Lamma Island, a short twenty minute ferry ride away. This small island was made popular by hippy expats in the 1960s that never left. The vibe still reigns today as a cute art village and beach getaway. There are several other small islands you can visit, and getting there is easy using your Metro card to hop on ferries.
Time for a Hike
Dramatic Hong Kong skylines are surrounded by incredibly lush mountain backdrops. When you’re overwhelmed with city life, the mountains provide a great breath of fresh air. Whether you’re hiking up to Victoria Peak or making your way down to a beach on Lantau, there’s something for everyone. We enjoyed a very foggy and scenic hike on Dragon’s Back, one of Hong Kong’s most beloved trails that literally looks like a dragon’s back whose body wraps around the city. The best part about hiking in Hong Kong is that most trails are accessible by public transportation. We caught a bus from the Metro station to the trailhead which only took 20 minutes, enjoying the green landscape during the drive.
Some of Hong Kong’s most famous attractions include Buddhist temples, monasteries and nunneries. The most recognizable one being Tian Tian Buddha (or Big Buddha) in Lantau. Usually, you can take a breathtaking 20-minute gondola ride to see the Buddha. Unfortunately for us, the gondola was down for repairs, but we ran into a couple from New Zealand with the same disappointed look and decided to split a cab to our destination. The beautiful drive took us through mountains and forests en route to the top where Tian Tian Buddha resides. Then, the adventure continues with a walk up 238 stairs to see the 111-foot Buddha. It is absolutely fantastic. In Kowloon, we went to Chi Lin Nunnery, which features an elaborate bonsai garden and an eye-catching golden pagoda. Our favorite was the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. It’s a hidden gem in the New Territories. Getting there requires a long walk up a small mountain which is lined with expressive golden Buddha statues. Upon arrival at the monastery at the top, there are several more statues and a vibrant, red pagoda to explore. Monkeys are also a popular part of that monastery. Temple food is also available at all monasteries and nunneries, and makes for a great snack after walking up so many stairs!
Hong Kong is a place for city slickers, nature enthusiasts, foodies, fashionistas, and most importantly, lovers of life and adventure. Hong Kongers are all of the above and more. I truly recommend a visit, even if it’s just for a short stay.
Know Before You Go
- Hong Kong and Macau do not require visas like mainland China.
- Try the Hopper app for cheap airfare.
- Unless you book early, most Hong Kong Airbnbs have additional fees. We decided to use booking.com for a hotel in Causeway Bay.
- Get an Octopus card. This Metro card will take you everywhere and you can even use it in convenience stores for snacks, too.
- HAVE FUN!