Hong Kong though the eyes of a Traveler
Hong Kong is not a big place to go around compared with New York City, Los Angeles or Tokyo and with signs, generally in both Chinese and English, any traveler with some map skills and of course a map can stroll the city. You will never run out of sightseeing options as this cosmopolitan city is an exciting destination with a mix of Eastern and Western cultures.
What I need to share first of all, is that I wanted to visit Asia for some time, but I was not sure I can handle it, therefore, Hong Kong, with its British influence seemed the best option. Honestly, I stepped foot already in Asia, if you count my 3 days visit to Istanbul, but for me wasn’t enough.
What I liked about the culture in Hong Kong
My initial fear was the weather; I always complained about the Dutch weather, if you check my Instagram, there is always something there to show my dislike for the rainy and windy days I experience, but then, Honk Kong sounds like a hot humid spot, which is not really something that I fancy either.
The feeling going from Victoria park toward our Hotel, it was exactly that! Hot, hot, hot, every single pore was feeling the heat and once we arrived in the room, oh, boy, the A/C was a blessing.
Ok, first thing first, the transportation! I have tried any available transportation means Hong Kong has to offer, from Uber, taxi, tram, metro, bus, small bus, to double-decker tram. The best thing to know about this is that you can use the Octopus Card for almost EVERYTHING, and besides the transportation it will also became a payment method you can use in convenience stores like 7eleven or also cinemas, supermarkets, fast food outlets, and even at hospitals or so I’ve heard.
It doesn’t apply to all shops, but most boutiques often don’t open until well after 11 and stay open after 8 pm. This is something you can’t see in the snob area of Western European countries, where all the shops are closed around 5 pm and some cities even though they open around 11 am as well.
Museum visits; I am not sure how this came about, but all the public museums are admission-free on a Wednesday. I am not much a museum person, but a dime saved is a dime earned, therefore some places I loved to get in for free. I took this opportunity to go to Heritage Museum, which is also dedicated to Bruce Lee’s influence on the martial arts culture.
Ok, so, I am not the fit type of girl, but that is less visible in a country where most of the time you need a coat. But in Hong Kong, where the minimum temperature is around 23 degrees, it was really hard to hide. Hong Kongers were starring and probably even judging my appearance, my outfit and most likely my size, but in the end they do that with everyone, so I settled down with the idea. I also noticed that if you have a non-oriental appearance like me, you shouldn’t take it personal, this is what the culture is, so just adapt or don’t go there.
One more thing I loved about Hong Kongers is that even though it’s a huge city, with millions of habitants and everywhere you go it’s crowded, OMG, everything is so organized, you almost never bump into anyone. Ok, fine, if by any chance you need to walk around MTR (the metro system) during the rush hours, you will get to know the Hong Kong attitude. Hong Kongers live a fast paced life and have zero tolerance for whoever is in their way. Important tip regarding the MTR, avoid eating or drinking inside the metro or any station as it is strictly forbidden and they protect the cleanliness with significant fines.
Sights I loved
The Peak: The Victoria Peak is arguably the most popular attraction in Hong Kong. It provides breathtaking panoramic views of the city and you can witness dazzling views of Victoria Harbour. Make sure you ride the Peak Tram up to the top, and see spectacular skyscrapers slide past your window. The best time to visit is a bit before sunset, but bear in mind, it will be extremely crowded.
Star Ferry: Rated as one of ’50 places of a lifetime’ by National Geographic, the HK$2.50 weekday trip brings you a priceless water tour across Victoria Harbour. If you hop on the boat before 8pm, you’ll make it on time for the nightly Symphony of Lights show too. This is a world's longest permanent light and sound show according to Guinness World Records which takes place every evening and I must encourage you to experience it. The vivid spectacle is like a synesthesia which takes around 20 minutes and is projected on the entire shoreline of building on Hong Kong Island.
Lantau Island Day Trip: Enjoy a day of tranquility on Hong Kong’s largest outlying island. Travel to Ngong Ping Village, where you are greeted by the majestic Big Buddha and the nearby Po Lin Monastery. Jump on a bus to the quaint and picturesque fishing village of _Tai O_for a seafood lunch and stroll around the local food markets. There are a few option tours you can have, and most of them include also a boat tour to see the pink dolphins. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see any, as the waters were choppy since the night before there was a storm.
Leave the Disneyland for the kids and spend your day at Ocean Park instead, a marine-life theme park designed for adults that’s located on the southern end of Hong Kong Island. Thrilling rollercoasters, and exciting attractions, the park also offers a great view over the Deep Water Bay while riding the cable car.
Remember I was saying at the beginning about my first Asian experience? Well, one thing I learnt in Istanbul, is that street markets are meant for bargain shopping and I encourage you to venture in one of the biggest street markets in the world, Temple Street Market not necessarily to buy something, but mostly for the atmosphere. Ladies’ Market is a similar to Temple and home to over 100 stalls selling clothing and accessories, is also a must-visit in case you like the above one. Don’t be shy about haggling for a bargain price — it’s all part of the experience. I’ve also heard, that some locals will even feel offended if you don’t try to bargain.
A very interesting aspect about walking around Hong Kong Island is that you will find areas where the streets have no boardwalk so you will have to walk through pedestrian bridges which is a great opportunity for Instagram photos. So, I would say go to the Mid-Levels escalator, a long link of escalators that connect Central and the SOHO neighborhood, as this is a really unique and interesting experience.
To end the story, I would just like to point out how you will find two different sides of Hong Kong. One is Kowloon and New territories where you can see the oriental influence from the moment you step off the ferry and another side is Hong Kong Island where the skyscrapers make the atmosphere more modern and you can still fell the British ways.
If you want to check out the foodie spots of Honk Kong, you can read about it HERE.
That’s how I would like to plan a brief stay in Hong Kong for first time visitors on shoestring budget. As always, just contact me if you have further questions, as I can talk on and on, about how amazing Hong Kong is.