Hong Kong was amazing, everything we’d hoped for and some. We were constantly on the go, out exploring everyday, we slept like the dead every night and didn’t suffer with jet lag on arrival or after our trip. I put the lack of jet lag down to flying to our long haul destinations overnight where we try to sleep as much as possible. On arrival we force ourselves into the local timezone for eating and sleeping, for us it’s imperative to get a good 8 hours of sleep on the first night.
Living in a sunny climate, we don’t necessarily need the weather to be good on our trips, although it’s nice for the photographs. The forecast for our week in Hong Kong was for some rain and a couple of sunny days. We experienced some misty / foggy days where the sky was quite grey with some low cloud, but we only ever felt a couple of spots of rain. We also had a few blue sky days with better visibility when we made the most of the views. Temperature wise, it was 20-25 degrees in the day. The breeze could be cool, so we usually headed out for the day carrying a warmer layer.
It’s so easy to flit between Hong Kong island and Kowloon on the mainland, it really isn’t a problem to travel as public transport options here are fabulous and cheap. Our hotel was a minute’s walk from the MTR, literally just across the road, and the “Ding Ding” trams ran right past, so it didn’t matter we were at Quarry Bay / North Point, we could be in Central or Kowloon within 20 minutes of leaving our room.
On arrival at Hong Kong (HKG) airport, we took the hotel transfer bus, it was about a 30 minute wait for the next one, and took an hour in the traffic, we were the first stop. On departure we took our hotel free shuttle bus to Central and caught the MTR airport express service to the airport, which was really comfortable and takes 24 minutes for the 35km journey. The cost is 100 HK$ per person. A tip if you have been travelling with an Oyster card, is to cash it in at the desk immediately as you exit the train in the airport.
Having unpacked and admired the stunning harbour view from our hotel room at the Harbour Plaza, we headed out for a walk to take in our local surroundings. We were staying on King’s Road which is the main transport link through to Causeway Bay and Central for cars, trams and buses. There were plenty of shops and restaurants to browse, as dusk fell, the neon’s came into focus, we were mesmerised taking it all in.
We were getting hungry and in need of refreshment, we turned off the main road and discovered a pedestrian walk way, the Bean Bar & Grill had a happy hour and a menu with English translation. We decided to sit on their terrace and watch the locals passing by, the beer was cold and the food was fabulous.
On our first full day we were invited to breakfast at our hotel with Billy, the Business Development Director of our hotel. We had an interesting couple of hours and a chance to see some of the other room types and hotel facilities. I love the Chinese custom of bowing and presenting business cards, it’s so proud and polite.
Our next commitment was an afternoon appointment to view one of the group’s 5* hotels in Kowloon. We decided to get ourselves organised and purchased our Oyster cards from the MTR station, and a data sim card from a 7 Eleven shop. We make it a habit of being able to access WiFi where ever we travel, as we like to keep up to date with work, plus it’s really handy to navigate when we get lost!
We bought a CSL 3 in one data sim for 100 HK$. It cost us 68 HK$ to load 3GB for 7 days use, we put the sim in our MiFi so we could connect our phones and Macs and the credit lasted the full trip. If you are relying on free WiFi whilst travelling it was handy to find signposted hotspots within the MTR stations where you could access the internet foc. We usually download Google maps for offline use for places that we’re travelling to, which can be handy to pinpoint your current location without racking up a roaming fee.
We were good to go, our next stop was Kowloon, and as we had time we hoped on a “Ding Ding” tram to Central rather than heading underground on the MTR. We went to see the HSBC lions, Stephen and Stitt who guard the Des Voeux Road entrance of the bank. These lions are not identical but modelled on the pair outside the HSBC in Shanghai. Stephen is roaring and Stitt quiescent which is said to represent the characters of their famous namesake bankers in Shanghai.
It was time to cross over to the mainland, we took the MTR to Whampoa Gardens for our second hotel visit at the 5* Harbour Grand Kowloon. Martin Cheung, their Director of Sales gave us a tour of their facilities. This hotel has a wow factor and is very reasonably priced for a frontline 5* hotel in Hong Kong. We explored the local area and the Wonderful World collection of shops & restaurants, which includes The Whampoa, a huge ship on dry land.
We ate lunch at a Japanese restaurant which looked lovely, however there wasn’t an English version of the menu or staff that we could communicate with. We ended up with their recommendation which was disappointing and expensive, a wasted meal in my opinion but we did have a laugh over the experience.
We caught a ferry from the Hung Hom pier back to North Point, it cost 6,5 HK$ (around 60 cents) I’ll say it again, the transport here is fabulous value. There were fresh fish market stalls at the entrance to the North Point ferry pier with some weird and wonderful live specimens waiting to be purchased.
We made our way back to our hotel on foot, and after a quick relax and freshen up, we were heading out for our evening meal. We’d seen the Peking ducks hanging in many of the restaurant windows, so decided that was our mission for tonight. We took the MTR to dine at the well known American Restaurant on Lockhart Road in Wan Chai. Now don’t judge us, in contrast to the name, the surly staff don’t speak English or Chinese with a hint of an American accent, and the cuisine is northern Chinese. The name was given in order to lure in unsuspecting sailors enjoying the exotic nightlife in the area.
The American Restaurant came highly recommended as one of the top places for Gweilos to experience Peking Duck in Hong Kong. I doubt that little has changed since this place opened after World War II, we sat downstairs where the locals eat, Western diners usually head upstairs. Naively I discovered that Peking Duck is nothing like the crispy duck we normally eat in UK style Chinese restaurants. The skin is soft and it’s quite fatty, that said the meat was really tender and the pancakes with plum sauce stuffed with spring onion & cucumber were tasty. The portion was enormous, there was no option but to order a whole duck between the two of us.
We enjoyed the vibe of Wan Chai and returned a couple of times during our stay. Lockhart Road has a wide selection of bars & clubs, attracting a busy nightlife.
Day 2 dawned fairly clear and was forecast to be sunny, so after breakfast we travelled to Central and joined the queue to take the Peak Tram. The queue was outside and down the street, we spent the best part of an hour waiting for our turn to board the tram. This funicular railway is steep, with a 46 degree incline at one point.
You only get brief glimpses of the view on the way up between the trees, however at the top there is a glass anvil shaped tower full of escalators, where you can find plenty of places to look down on Hong Kong.
We paid 50 HK$ to access the Sky Terrace 428 which is the highest viewing platform in Hong Kong and offers a 360 panoramic view. The name is reference to their location at 428 metres above sea level. There’s a good selection of shops and restaurants to while away half a day on the Peak Experience, and it’s definitely the place to get your selfie with the iconic Hong Kong background. We walked down the leafy Findlay Path back down to the Central district, rather than queueing up again to catch the tram, it proved to be a good decision, we really enjoyed that walk, although our thighs felt it for a day or two afterwards!
We spent the afternoon walking in the Central & Western area of Hong Kong. Heading towards the Star Ferry Pier we found the IFS Mall, a modern indoor shopping centre. We timed our walk along the Central Piers really well, catching both the Duk Ling and Aqua Luna junks docking by the Observation Wheel.
Walking away from the front, we enjoyed browsing the ecliptic mix of antique and curioso shops in the Hollywood Road area. We ambled on around the streets, taking in the sights, you really get a feeling that you can find almost anything available in Hong Kong.
We caught a “ding ding” from Central to Wan Chai exploring some more, before catching another tram back to our hotel where to my horror, I had lost my Oyster card and couldn’t get off! I shouted Mike back who was ahead of me as I didn’t have any local currency on me, he saved me by throwing some change into the box. We’d walked miles and it was getting late so we decided a hotel picnic in pj’s was in order to rest our weary feet.
Day 3 was Mike’s birthday and he wanted to celebrate with afternoon tea at The Peninsula. We worked until late morning and then set out for Kowloon, taking the MTR. Thankfully the queue for afternoon tea was about half an hour, and before too long we were sat lording it up in the lobby. Afterwards we decided to walk the Golden Mile down Nathan Road. Mike had decided he wanted to buy a watch for his birthday, it was the right place, there were so many watch shops but this is the first time we experienced street salesmen who just wouldn’t stop trying to sell him a fake watch or have a suit made. It became a bit tiresome after a while, so we headed for the Ladies market for a change of scene.
There was no hard sell browsing these stalls, we bought a couple of gifts and started the trek back towards Temple Street market. We both had tired feet and aching legs from all the walking the day before, we were waiting to see A Symphony of Lights which is held every evening at 8pm at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, what we needed was a bar to perk us up, the problem is that they are really hard to find! There’s plenty of cafés and restaurants but a distinct lack of bars on the streets of Hong Kong.
There was an air of excitement on the waterfront as 8pm approached and the crowd swelled. We had cameras at the ready to capture this amazing multimedia show, with 5 themes of Awakening, Energy, Heritage, Partnership, and Celebration for the finale…… what a disappointment! This view after dark is definitely stunning but after 10 minutes of trying to work out which buildings were actually lighting up in co-ordination with the music, we gave up and caught the Star Ferry back over to central.
We made a way to the 3 storey Apple shop in the IFC Mall where Mike bought his birthday watch, and we limped to the French Window Brasserie & Bar to eat Western comfort food for the first time since we’d arrived. This time we treated ourselves to a taxi from Central to Quarry Bay, as our legs wouldn’t carry us any further, the cost was a measly 40 HK$.
Day 4 we thought we’d head to the other side of the island to spend Saturday in Stanley. We caught a bus to Stanley and explored at a less frenetic pace. We started by browsing the market stalls and picked up a handmade gift. There’s a lovely beach hidden away on the other side of Stanley market, the waterfront restaurants were busy we found a table at one offering an asian menu. In hindsight we should have ordered seafood, the mussels in particular looked fabulous. I enjoyed the views over Repulse Bay sitting on the top of a double decker bus, and we’d tried another form of public transport available in Hong Kong.
We exited the bus at Wan Chai and started walking back towards Causeway Bay in the direction of our hotel, as we hadn’t explored this area. Although Hong Kong is a high rise city, there are still lots of open spaces and a smattering of older buildings only a couple of storeys high. We were starting to get hungry when we spotted the Korean BBQ restaurant and were persuaded to give them a try. I can’t think that we’ve had Korean food before, let alone cook it ourselves. It was a fun experience and a chance to sit down, before we completed our walk back to the hotel.
Day 5 we sensibly decided to take it easy so that we had energy for our last day in Hong Kong. We lazed in our hotel room, catching up online before heading out mid morning to visit the History Museum in Kowloon before brunch in Central. The museum was fascinating, it covers a broad base of the islands history including geology of the island, opium wars, British Empire and the Japanese occupation. After absorbing the interesting exhibits at the museum we crossed back to Hong Kong island for brunch. This turned out to be the best meal of our trip, and we’d highly recommend dining at Duddell’s. The free flow Veuve Clicquot soothed our aching bones and we relaxed into spending a perfect Sunday afternoon in Hong Kong.
Day 6 we weren’t flying until late, so we had almost a full day to fill after checking out of our hotel room and leaving our cases with the concierge. We decided to catch the bus to Aberdeen and possibly have lunch on one of the floating restaurants there. Instead of taking a Sampan tour, we used the local ferry to cross over to the island of Ap Lei Chau and went in search of a designer outlet shopping centre I’d heard about which was quite bizarre!
We took the MTR back and spent the afternoon in Kowloon exploring the various street markets, there are all sorts of weird and wonderful things between the herbalist shops and market stalls. As dusk was falling it was time for us to collect our cases and head for the airport.
We walked more than 100 km during our trip to Hong Kong despite making good use of the transport system. We had ticked off most of the things on our to do list, there’s a few places we didn’t get to see, so we’ll have to plan a stop over in the future.
Things we missed for next time
A visit to Lantau: The Ngong Ping cable cars weren’t running on our visit, so we decided not to visit the Po Lin Monastery which is home to the bronze Tian Tan Buddha. I was also interested to see the stilt houses at the Tai O fishing village.
A day trip / overnight in Macau: The casinos are the main reason people travel to Macau, but I’d like to see the colonial architecture and try the Macanese cuisine which is unique to Macau, and consists of a blend of southern Chinese and Portuguese gastronomy.
Hiking: There’s some fabulous footpaths to be enjoyed walking in the hills and areas of natural beauty around Hong Kong, for a completely different perspective of the island.
Amusement Parks: Ocean Park & Hong Kong Disneyland
Our Facebook album with a selection of photos from our trip: Hong Kong
I’ve uploaded 10 short videos from our Hong Kong trip, I hope you enjoy the playlist.