Hong Kong was not originally on my top 5 places to see in the world, but after spending five days there, I wouldn’t hesitate to put it on my top 5 favorite cities in the world. The geography of Hong Kong is separated into two main parts: a mainland peninsula off of China and Hong Kong Island, but it also consists of about 200 smaller islands including the most popular islands of Lantau and Cheung Chau. Because of its compact size and the convenience of its transportation system, you could see pretty much everything you want and more in just five days.
Stepping off the plane at Hong Kong airport in late afternoon, I took a double decker bus into the central area of the city to find my hostel. I was already surprised at how easily I had found the right bus and how everything was clearly labeled in English. As I arrived into the city, the sun went down and my senses were stimulated from the bright lights surrounding me and the hustle and bustle of the masses of people on the street. Getting off of the bus I tried to take in the atmosphere and get my bearings. Although the weather wasn’t too warm, it was nice to be able to walk outside without a winter coat.
The first two nights I stayed in a popular guesthouse for budget travelers called Hong Kong Hostel on Hong Kong Island. It was located right in the central area, which made it very easy to get to the subway station and the major nightlife attractions. On Hong Kong Island I think the top must-sees are the view from Victoria Peak, Hong Kong park as well as some other parks, and the nightlife of Soho and and Lan Kwai Fong. If you have time, the southern coast of Hong Kong Island is also quite beautiful.
The first night on the island I went over to Lan Kwai Fong area and walked around to check out the nightlife. Lonely Planet book in hand, I tried to find a good place to eat. Most of the restaurants in central area are really pricey and fancy so I settled on a more low-end, but still recommended restaurant for a fried noodles dish. The nightlife atmosphere of this area was really exciting. There were bars and restaurants lined up on most streets and most people were standing outside mingling and drinking with each other on outdoor patios before heading onto the next spot. One of the major attractions to this area is the mid-levels escalator. This escalator is actually the longest covered escalator in the world. Since the streets are so hilly the escalator is really helpful. There are entrances and exits to the escalator on each street that it passes. Be prepared to walk back down though because from 10:30 a.m. until midnight the escalator only goes up.
Day 2 on Hong Kong Island was packed with site seeing. I started at the south of the island and checked out Repulse Bay and Aberdeen Harbor. Repulse Bay is a small, but picturesque beach. Having gone in the off-season of February I was able to see a quiet and empty beach, but I’m sure in high season it is packed with people.
Aberdeen Harbor is interesting because you can see the locals who are living on houseboats and selling things out of their boats. I was there early in the day so I missed the action of the floating markets. Try to go in the afternoon or late evening.
During the afternoon I walked to all of the main parks including Hong Kong Park and Hong Kong botanical gardens. Right before sunset I took the tram up to Victoria Peak to catch a daytime and nighttime view of the city. That was probably the highlight of the island. After that day I was pretty much exhausted and couldn’t wait to relax.
On Day 3 I said goodbye to HK Island and headed over to Lantau Island. I planned on spending one night on the island. Not exactly sure of the location of my hotel, I took the subway to Lantau, which I found out meant I had to take a 45 min. bus to my hotel from the station. Then, arriving at my hotel I realized I was right next to the ferry dock which has 30 minute ferries to HK island. You live and you learn. Luckily I was able to take the ferry over to the Kowloon peninsula the following day. My hotel was right on the beach and because it was off-season I was able to get a cheap room. It was nice to have one night away from the craziness of the city.
The main attraction on Lantau Island is the giant Buddha statue. I had a nice vegetarian meal at the Po Lin Monastery at the base of the Giant Buddha and then I spent some time walking around the trails around the area. Lantau Island is very mountainous so bring your hiking boots because there are some really nice hiking spots!
After a nice relaxing time on the island I took the ferry to the Kowloon Peninsula for my last leg of travels in Kowloon. I stayed at an up-scale hostel here called Hop Inn. It was very clean and I had my own private room. I spent a little more money but after staying in dorms and sharing bathrooms sometimes it’s nice to have your own space at the end of the day. I spent the day walking up the main street, Nathan Road. On this street you can find interesting parks and traditional markets. There is a jade market, a flower market, and even a bird market! The bird market was the most unusual thing I saw. Many older Chinese people walk around with small birds in cages and often seem to enjoy watching birds. The bird market is a street lined with cages of thousands of birds. It was definitely unlike anything I had seen before.
I came back to my hostel for a nap before heading to the harbor to see the famous laser light show. The laser light show is at 8 p.m. every night on the Avenue of the Stars. From Kowloon you can see the cityscape of HK island. They choreograph the lights on the building to music and incorporate laser lights coming from the tops of the buildings to create a performance. It’s not the most spectacular thing you could ever see, but I would say it’s a must-see in HK.
The last thing on my agenda was the Temple Street night market. This night market is good for buying souvenirs and sampling some Chinese cuisine. After another non-stop walking and site-seeing I was exhausted.
On my last day in HK I decided to take the hour ferry over to Macau. Macau is an island mostly known for its casinos, but it also has some interesting Portuguese architecture because until recently this island belonged to Portugal. I don’t gamble so I didn’t step foot into any of the casinos; however, I spent a few hours walking around and taking pictures of the Ruins of St. Paul’s and the Guia Fortress. Macau isn’t somewhere I would ever go back, but at least I can check it off of my list.
The diversity of the people in HK, the beauty of its mountains and harbors, and the excitement of the nightlife are what make Hong Kong a great place to visit. Although it is a small place, there are more than enough things to do there. A week is a perfect amount of time to see HK. It’s enough time to see everything and also just enough to leave you wanting more. I hope to have the chance to go back someday.