Last December, I traveled to Hong Kong to visit my aunt and her family for the Christmas holidays. She’s been living abroad on there for three years now and planned the most delightful activities for us when we visited. Here is a summary of the highlights from my trip to Hong Kong and how I’d assemble them for the perfect day in the city!
I always like to start my day with a workout. And if you’re as jetlagged as I was in Asia (it’s a 14 hour time change!) waking up early shouldn’t be too hard. I was regularly up at 3am. My favorite place that I ran was on Bowen Road. The views are incredible and it’s a fairly level stretch of road that’s blocked off to most vehicles. It’s also on the way to Victoria’s Peak, which is constantly listed as one of the must-see places in Hong Kong. When I went the line for the tram to get to the top of the mountain was ridiculously long, and I had just run 11 miles (training for a half marathon!), so never made it to the top. No regrets though, because the Bowen Road views were fantastic!
Read this CNN article for detailed running routes, maps and transportation recommendations.
I ended my run at Hong Kong Park and took a tour through the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware. I watched this fascinating video on how to properly brew ooblong tea according to Gungfu preparation methods. It’s this whole ceremonial process where you sift the tea leaves just so, and then you wash the cups with hot water, and you pour the tea in a particular circular motion….it’s a big deal! Puts those Lipton tea bags to shame.
Nearby is the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens that are both free and open to the public. I wandered around and saw some bright flamingos, playful lemurs (who have the most terrifying call btw) and even some orangutans!
Another great place to spend the day is at Stanley Market, which is an outdoor shopping market with stalls selling all sorts of unique Hong Kong items–great place for souvenir shopping. I tried my hand at bartering for a variety of items. I definitely felt awkward since it’s not something we do in the US, but I typically would start negotiations with “What’s your best price?” and go from there. I picked up some silk ties, tea balls that bloom into a flower, a silk robe, linen napkins (Hong Kong is known for their linen!).
For lunch, grab a seat at one of the cafe’s overlooking Stanley Beach–there was plenty of Western and Asian places to choose from. Before you leave Hong Kong, you must get yourself a milk tea and a bowl of noodles. Very typical Hong Kong fare.
Getting to Stanley is a bit tricky because its a tad far from the city center, but we took an Uber on the way there and then a double decker city bus on the way back. I highly recommend sitting on the top level of the bus for some fabulous views of the ocean front as the bus winds its way back to Hong Kong.
Here are some tips on navigating to Stanley Market.
For the afternoon, spend it walking around Kowloon, which is on the opposite side of Victoria Harbor and overlooks “Central” Hong Kong. The easiest way to get to Kowloon is to take a ferry. We took the Star Ferry so many times crossing the harbor and getting between Central, Kowloon, and Discovery Bay.
We spent one afternoon at the Hong Kong Museum of History which is free, takes about an hour to go through, and provides a great overview of the country from its geological origins millions of years ago, through colonial years, wars, and independence.
After the museum, wander around Kowloon and be amazed at how much Hong Kong people like to shop. Everywhere you look there’s another massive mall or shopping center–1881 Heritage is particularly interesting though because it was the former Marine Headquarters and has some beautiful architecture. Nathan Road is another interesting shopping district with high end designers situated next to local shops. Nearby is the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong’s oldest hotel built in 1928, which is worth walking into to see the gorgeous lobby from the colonial era!
At dusk, be sure to make your way over to Victoria Harbor to see the Symphony of Lights light show that projects itself across Hong Kong’s skyline every night at 8pm. A good spot to view (although, its typically super packed with people) is the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront outside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. When I was there, the Hong Kong Cultural Center also had Pulse 3D Light Show projected on the side of it’s building.
For dinner, head over to Central and grab a bite to eat at SoHo. On your way over, swing by the Reunification Point (it’s a statue with some flags) that marks the day when Hong Kong was transferred from Britain back to China. Right now Hong Kong is a “SAR” or Special Administration Region. So it’s part of China, but also kind of independent–it’s own currency, government, US tourists don’t need visas, etc.
Anyways, the SoHo neighborhood was by far my favorite place in the city and I fantasized about what it would be like to move to Hong Kong and live there. It’s located in a super hilly part of the city–so hilly in fact that there is an outdoor escalator built into the street to take you up the mountain. I kid you not. It’s called the “Midlevel Escalator” and covers 800 meters–the longest in the world! SoHo is packed with all sorts of fantastic restaurants with every cuisine imaginable. We dined here multiple times and I fell in love again and again at every spot–Linguini Fini(Italian), Le Souk (Middle Eastern), Tipping Point Brewery (local brewery). Other restaurants and bars to check out include Lan Kwai Fong, Quinary, Ori-Gin, and Ho Lee Fook (say it aloud haha).
By this time of the day, you’ll be either jet-lagged and falling asleep at 8:30pm (like me) or drunk and having a blast in SoHo–it’s awesome people just hang out and drink outside bars in the streets. But if you do have a bit more time in your day, you’ve got to get a reflexology foot massage. There’s a thousand places in SoHo (and really the whole city), and after walking a zillion miles around town, trust me the massage is the way to go. I went to one rando shop and TBH it was mostly a calf massage, but it was still enjoyable and made me feel like a local. There’s a ton of places out there, so be sure to compare prices and get a good deal!
Other Hong Kong Tips:
- When entering Hong Kong, you won’t get a passport stamp but you’ll need the little slip of paper they give you to get out of the country
- Casual eateries in Hong Kong don’t do napkins. So always have a few handy in your bag if you think you might need one.
- Bring your own shopping bags when headed out to the markets
- Don’t wait for others to get their food before eating. The food comes out when it’s ready, so you might get your main course first and then the appetizer later depending on what’s going on in the kitchen.
- We all got Octopus cards to get around on the Hong Kong metro and ferries
- In Hong Kong, they drive on opposite side of the street, so take extra care when crossing the street, or using escalators, or passing people
- Nothing opens until after 12pm
- Public restrooms are pretty legit
- Uber is an option, and no need to tip cabs if you take one
- Hong Kong as a city is surprisingly SUPER festive for the Christmas holidays – loads of decorations, holiday music, Christmas markets, servers dressed up as Santa, etc.
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