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Friday, December 6, 2013

Hong Kong: Reasons to go and things to do

I've decided I should try to make my travel posts a bit meatier, so instead of just posting photos I'll give a few recommendations as well. Not a comprehensive travel guide by any means, but just some things I liked about Hong Kong. 

Reasons to go:

  • It's a beautiful city - the most well known images of Hong Kong feature the harbour at night, with jungle of brightly lit skyscrapers. It's a stunning image, but so are the amazing mountains around Hong Kong, and the various beaches around the islands.
  • It has a big airport, so there are a lot of flights available which can increase your chances of getting a good deal.
  • It's a great stopover between Australia and Europe, and the compact size makes it easily manageable for a short trip.
  • Hong Kong is famous for its shopping. There really is something for everyone and I'd definitely recommend booking some extra baggage on the way home.
  • You can geek out over specialty streets - businesses tend to cluster by type, so you'll find a whole street of just toy shops, or an area filled with aquarium shops. I've spent hours in the fabric/trims district and I've barely scratched the surface of it. Find what interests you and dive in.

Things to do:

Avenue of Stars

This is the boardwalk along the Kowloon side of the harbour, looking at the Hong Kong skyline. It's nice to go down there for a walk at night, especially if you find Deck & Beer, a bar where you can sit outside and have a drink while you watch all the tourists, runners and boats go by.

Hong Kong Disneyland

We went here for our honeymoon in March and I went again with my parents a couple of weeks ago. It's the newest Disney park and currently the smallest, so it's a good 'starter Disneyland' because it's easy to do everything you want to do in one day. It's also fun for overseas visitors because the local visitors generally prefer different rides to us - which means you'll wait forever to go on Winnie the Pooh or Autopia, but Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear are practically walk ons. Woohoo!
Unique to HK Disneyland is the new 'Mystic Manor' - an interesting twist on the Haunted Mansion as there are no ghosts! Designing a Haunted Mansion that was mindful of Chinese superstition must have been challenging but it's a really great ride. Other highlights include the Runaway Mine Cars, sort of like Rocky Mountain Railroad but with a twist, and the Festival of the Lion King which is a fantastic show.
If you want to go all out, stay at the Disneyland Hotel. It's not a practical location for Hong Kong sightseeing but if you're just there for Disneyland, you won't regret it.

Ocean Park

I can't tell you much about Ocean Park, because I haven't been there since I was nine. I'm putting it on the list though because everyone keeps telling us to go! Apparently the rides are really good.

The Peak

This is one of those standard attractions that people say you 'must do'. I say do what you like, but if you do want to go up to the Peak, I recommend the Peak Lookout restaurant for a nice meal or even just a drink. It's a really beautiful old restaurant with lots of outdoor dining space in a really pretty garden. Having hot chocolate by their fireplace was one of the only things I remembered from my first trip to Hong Kong when I was a kid. When James and I got up there and saw the mall and the Starbucks and the ice cream shops, I was thinking, 'This isn't what I remember'... and then I saw the restaurant tucked away in the trees. We had a beautiful lunch there and it was just as pretty as I remembered it.

Temple Street Night Market, Kowloon

This is your market for souvenirs, phone chargers, knockoff bags, the usual. If you want to do some market shopping, I think Stanley is better. It's the same stuff but more choice and the sellers aren't quite as pushy.
The highlight for me is Temple Spice Crabs, on the corner of Temple and Nanking Streets. It's your classic crazy busy Chinese restaurant with bossy waitresses, laminated everything and people sitting practically in each others laps. The food is delicious.


Stanley takes awhile to get to, as it's on the other side of Hong Kong Island. Take a bus and sit upstairs so you can enjoy the scenery on the way - its a good quick tour of Hong Kong. Once you get to Stanley, you'll find a little mall, a nice waterfront area with lots of restaurants, some historic buildings, and a big market. The market is much calmer than Temple Street and has lots more variety - you'll find souvenirs, jewellery, handbags, silk products, embroidery, etc etc.

Sham Shui Po

If you're into sewing, head here. Take the MRT to Sham Shui Po station and head for Nam Cheong, Ki Lung and Yu Chau streets. There are so many shops that the best option is really just to allow lots of time, bring lots of cash, and wander around to see what you find. Have fun!

Ride Buses/trams

If you feel like sitting down for awhile, grab a bus and sit up top. You can have a rest while getting to see parts of the city you might not have otherwise found. When you feel like going back, get off, cross the road, and take the same route home. Ask at your hotel desk for bus information. You'll also need exact change (around HK$13) or an Octopus Card for your fare.

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