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The best travel ideas for Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of the most liveliest cities in the world, having the swankiest of buildings and the greenest of mountains. And now that I have lived here for some time, I have some good suggestions for you to plan a 3-5 day itinerary, depending on the time you have.
The skyscrapers and the stunning skyline are only one facet of the place. It has numerous other faces, mix of different cultures, green mountains and the sea and the river, beautiful beaches, hiking trails, walkways and what not. A small place encompasses all the features of a big country. And I can assure you that it is a place you will fall in love with due to it being all this and more.
Best time to visit
The answer is, all times!! But March-April and October-November is the best time to visit. Days are cool but not chilly and since travelling in Hong Kong involves a lot of walking, I think these months are best. December to January is really cold and July to August is very wet.
Arriving at Hong Kong Airport
The Airport is far from Central Hong Kong, located on the island of Chep Lap Kok and is one of the busiest airports in the world but is very well connected to the rest of Hong Kong. Immigration is a breeze and everything is well marked with proper signage. For me, its never taken more than ten minutes for the immigration process to be completed.
For people who wish to go to Central Hong Kong, they can reach the Hong Kong station by taking the Airport Express in just about 24 minutes. The single journey fare is around 115 HKD without an octopus card.
Octopus – The card for commuting in Hong Kong and for most of the other things!
Now lets understand what is the Octopus? Its a very convenient smart card in which one can add money and can use it to pay for various rides within Hong Kong, be it MTR, ferries, taxis, buses and trams or pay at almost majority of restaurants, supermarkets, retail stores, I mean almost at most of the places.
You just almost don’t need to carry much cash and most of the transactions can be done using the Octopus. It can be bought at the Airport Express Customer Service Centre and almost all the MTR Service Centres. Believe me when I say that the Octopus is smart enough to make your Hong Kong trip a breeze, is so very convenient!
Hong Kong has a very good transportation system comprising of a very well connected Metro network, ferries, buses and taxi and exploring the various gems hidden in nooks and corners of the place becomes very easy with the Octopus.
Places to visit
So many are there that it will take atleast 10 days to even get a feel of what Hong Kong is all about. The place kind of grows on you. It has stunning skylines, beautiful green areas, mountains and hills, nice and clean beaches, waterfalls, great shopping avenues and what not? For me, its like a dream place.
The Must do’s
The Peak and Madam Tussauds
The Victoria Peak, simply known as the Peak, is the highest peak on the Hong Kong Island and gives a brilliant view of the Hong Kong Island, the Victoria Harbour and Kowloon. I have been there both during the day and the night and its totally worth it at both the times. The day gives a perspective on the beauty of the city and its stunning skyline full while the night, well simply said, the dazzles the eye. Its one place where I always feel awesome.
The best way to reach is by taking the tram to the Peak. Its a beautiful and scenic journey and my experience is that if possible, we should try to sit on the right side of the tram to enjoy a better view. The best way to do the Peak is take the tram on one side and the bus on the other. Remember, there are always very long lines for the tram, especially on the weekends and public holidays.
Once we reach the Peak, we have to go to the Peak Tower. It has terraces at different levels which offer a stunning overall view.
The second level of the Peak Tower houses the Madame Tussauds of Hong Kong where there are wax figurines of celebrities and it gives your the chance to get as close to the celebrities you love, as possible.
One can also visit the Sky Terrace 428, Hong Kong’s highest viewing platform with an elevation of 428 meters.
The areas surrounding the Peak are beautiful and quiet and one can simply enjoy by walking around the place. The place while giving a beautiful view of Hong Kong is also enjoyable for its beautiful walkways.
Please remember that it opens early at 7:00 AM and you can enjoy the beauty in solitude. Always carry something warm since its often gets breezy and cold. It may rain occasionally so carrying a raincoat or an umbrella is advisable.
There are various stores and small eating outlets at Peak but what I really loved is a place called Wild Fire. Its an Italian restaurant with lovely pizzas and a better view. When at Peak, one must try to dine there, expecially at night for a truly complete and memorable experience.
So yes, the Peak is absolutely not to be missed. Its a lovely and relaxing experience.
Tian Tan Buddha, Po Lin Monastery, Tai O village and the cable car ride
(You can also read my detailed post on Big Buddha here)
Tung Chung is the place from where you get a cable car also known as the Ngong Ping 360, for a breathtaking ride to the Tian Tan or the Big Buddha as he is known and the Po Lin Monastery. This is one of the must do things and also one of the places where one feels very relaxed.
A beautiful ride, a tall giant statue of the Buddha in sitting position and a tranquil monastery…all with a serene backdrop. Life is beautiful 🙂
Cable car ride to Bid Buddha and the Po Lim Monastery
Definitely, one of the most awesome cable car rides in the world. This ride shows the green and mountainous side of Hong Kong in its full glory. It takes around 25 minutes for the journey from Tung Chung to the Big Buddha.
The imagery around is stunning. I highly recommend taking the Crystal Grass Cabin for the trip. It gives absolutely breath taking views of the stunning vista of the sea, the green mountains and the lovely views. See for yourself:-)
Once you reach the place after a thrillingly beautiful ride, it’s a beautiful walk through the a small cobbled street, which again has many attractions and souvenir shops. A little ahead is the Statue of the 112 feet tall Big Buddha where one can reach the top by climbing 256 stairs. The peaceful Po Lin monastery is just steps away.
One can easily spend half a day here. The Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha are open between 10:00 and 17:30. There is an admission fee to go inside the Buddha.
Tai O Fishing Village
Ngong Ping, one can take a trip to the fishing village of Tai O or the “Venice of Hong Kong”, The stilt houses, built over the waterway look very pretty. One can take a boat ride in the sea and if lucky, may get to spot “Pink Dolphins”.
I have now been to these places many times and still everytime I feel awesome. This is what appears when I am going back to Tung Chung 🙂
So please spend atleast a day in this side of the Lantau Island. You won’t regret it.
HK is a great place for everyone and especially for the younger ones. What better place to indulge the fantasies of children than Disneyland? Disneyland is located in Lantau Island. One has to get down at the Sunny Bay MTR on the Tung Chung Line and then take the train to Disneyland Resort Station. The Park has seven themed areas for kids to enjoy.
One can also stay at the Disney Explorers Lodge or the other hotels located in the Park. You can read more about the Park and the resort on https://www.hongkongdisneyland.com .
The place is charming, full of various gentle rides for young children and Disney themed parks. The must do is the Disney Parade in the evening time which lasts for about 35 minutes and will be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. Please remember that the place is extremely crowded on almost all days and especially so on weekends.
It is advisable to book your tickets beforehand on the website. Also, please check the weather before you go. It can rain a lot, especially during July-August. Its better to carry your own raincoats since the shops inside sell very expensive plastic covers which appear to be like raincoats. The cost really pinches.
Inspiration Park (1 Kilometer from Disneyland Park)
Inspiration Park is what I would call a hidden gem. Most of the people who visit Disneyland either do not know about this place or choose to skip. Well, if you have time in hand, I would suggest go for it. It’s a beautiful 20 minute walk to the lake (there’s a bus too which goes till there). The tranquil lake has a fountain and is surrounded by green mountains. You can go boating and biking. There is a children’s park too. It’s a lovely place and if possible, one must visit it.
While Disney Land is suitable for younger kids, Ocean Park is a world class theme park which can be enjoyed by everyone. The Park has eight attraction zones: Amazing Asian Animals, Aqua City, Whiskers Harbour, Marine World, Polar Adventure, Adventure Land, Thrill Mountain and the Rainforest. It has various thrilling rides and roller coasters. One of the attractions not to be missed is the Giant Panda habitat.
The Park is divided into two parts by a mountain – The Summit and the Waterfront. The Ocean Express funicular railways connects both the parts. There are various shows which are held in the Ocean Park such as Symbio (night time show that features a 360 degree water screen and lightning, fireworks etc.), Sea Dreams featuring the park’s marine animals, Emperors of the sky featuring different species of birds and Whiskers’ theatre.
To reach Ocean Park, one can take the metro till the Ocean Park Station on the South Island Line. It’s a must do and especially for kids.
Victoria Harbour, Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, Symphony of lights and the Avenue of Stars
Victoria Harbour , harbour between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon offers panoramic view of the Hong Kong high rises and one can truly appreciate why Hong Kong is known as the city of sky scrapers. The Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade is one of the best places from where one can view the Victoria Harbour.
The promenade is also from where one can view the beautiful and stunning spectacle of the Symphony of Lights, with beautiful music and narration. It starts at 8:00 PM daily. The Guiness World records names this as the World’s largest permanent light and sound show.
Nothing can capture the beauty of the Symphony of lights show
Avenue of Stars
The Avenue of Stars made on lines of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, is located along the Victoria Harbour waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui and honours celebrities of the Hong Kong film industry. A 2.5-metre bronze statue of Bruce Lee at the Avenue of Stars is a very popular photography spot.
The Clock Tower
Located on the Star Ferry Pier, the Clock Tower stands tall and majestic at 44 metres. It looks stunning at night with all the lights around and the dazzling fountains. It is made of red bricks and granite and is listed as a declared monument.
Since all these places are almost next to each other, it makes sense to visit in the evening and spend at least a couple of hours here.
However, in case you have small kids, which I have, there are a couple of more attractions near by which surely the kids will enjoy a lot.
Hop on to the Star Ferry
You pay only 2.70 HKD to cross the Harbor from the Kowloon Island to the Hong Kong Island and what you get in return is amazing! An iconic ferry ride and stunning view of the HongKong skyline!
Hong Kong Space Museum
This is located on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront and has a unique dome shaped structure. It has 2 planetarium shows and has a lot of activities related to astronomy and space science for both adults and kids.
Hong Kong Museum of Arts and HK Cultural Centre
You will find this right next to the Hong Kong Space Museum. It has a great collection of 15000 art objects, especially Chinese art and is famed for its wealth of art and history.
In case you decide to visit all the places, do make sure that you take some time to explore.
How to reach : Take the MTR line and get down at the Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) MTR station. Take the Exit E to get off the station and cross the road, walk 150 meters to Salisbury Road and then use the subway to cross Salisbury Road. Once you exit the subway, walk along the Salisbury Garden until you reach Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. You can also take the ferry from Central Hong Kong Star Ferry Pier to TST Star Ferry Pier.
Ten thousand Buddhas Monastery
A temple which is off the beaten track and highly underrated is the ‘Ten thousand Buddhas Monastery‘ which I find to be an architectural marvel and which should definitely be visited because of the stunning display of the thousand of Buddhas statues and other revered Figures, the location which is on a hill and the peace and quite which you can find there. Read my detailed post here.
Stanley and Repulse Bay
Just a 45 minute ride away from the buzz of Central Hong Kong or Central as it is known, is this serene and beautiful village that goes by the rather sweet name of Stanley :-). Stanley is known for its vibrant market which is known for selling bags, souvenirs, artefacts etc. But that is just one aspect. The surroundings of Stanley are what makes the place truly unique.
Take the bus to Stanley from the Exchange Square Bus Terminal near Central Station. Bus numbers 6, 6X, 66 and 260 ply till Repulse Bay and Stanley. The entire journey is very picturesque and it sometimes feel like one has come to some European beach city. Its best to get the bus seats at the front on the top level of the double decker bus to truly appreciate the view.
Once done with the shopping, it would be a sin to miss strolling along the Stanley promenade and waterfront mart. There are some interesting dining options along the waterfront and many of them serve continental cuisine. Its a nice and relaxing time one can spend on the waterfront. My kids love the Pizza Express there.
If time permits, you may visit the Murray House, one of the oldest surviving buildings of Hong Kong which also houses the Hong Kong Maritime Museum (open from 10 AM to 6 PM from Tuesdays to Sundays). Since we went to Stanley in the evening time, we missed the opportunity of visiting Murray House.
Other attractions in Stanley are Blake Pier which is near the Murray House, the Stanley Plaza which has some interesting shopping places and Stanley Piazza which is between the Murray House and Stanley Plaza and houses restaurants and coffee shops. Remember that the Stanley market closes by 6:30 PM.
Repulse Bay is near Stanley and has a pretty beach with clean sand. It is very popular amongst locals and its a nice place to spend a day doing nothing and just lazing around. Repulse Bay is also known for its expensive real estate and has many uniquely designed buildings.
You can also visit the Tin Hau temple which is dedicated to the protectors of the fishermen. It has two huge statues of Tin Hau and Kwun Yum and has nice Chinese Garden which leads to the beach. There is a little longevity bridge which is said to increase your life by 3 days every time you cross it so make sure you cross it many times :-).
Lan Kwai Fong-Experience the carefree side of Hong Kong
Lan Kwai Fong or LKF as it is know is the hot and happening area of Hong Kong and comes alive at night with all the restaurants, clubs and bars brimming full with people, ready to get drunk and have fun. Your trip to Hong Kong won’t be complete without a visit to this wild party area.
A city as small as Hong Kong packs quite the punch in terms of the number of things which one can do here. Just look beyond the shimmering glass facades, and there is no end to the number of activities which you can do here.
And believe me, this is a city you would want to keep coming back to!