Last year, I did a short stint in Hong Kong for two months. Luckily, I was there in September and October when the weather starts to cool down a bit and walking around this bustling metropolis is so much more enjoyable. This was my first trip to HK and I got a truly local experience by being there when it was hit by the Super Typhoon Mangkhut (alert level 10!!). And to top it all, the typhoon chose to ‘hit’ us right before my birthday. Thankfully, everything was back to normal on my birthday. Not something to brag about but now I can say I have been through a typhoon, earthquake, floods (twice) and communal riots!! Phew!!
OK, back to Hong Kong. I was staying in Kowloon, smack in the middle of the uber long Nathan Road, and my first feeling was that I am back in India. Kowloon is a ‘not so nice’ area of HK which is super crowded and full of tourists and Asian immigrants. It took me sometime to warm up to this area and by the time I left I had discovered some really good eating places which I kept going back to on my subsequent visits to HK. Hong Kong Island, on the other hand, has some areas which look really pretty and I loved chilling out there on my weekends.
I had a fantastic time exploring the streets, the food and gorgeous hikes. Here’s a list of my favourite things to do in this crazy city:
1. Hong Kong Skyline: HK’s skyline is quite impressive in my view– with the South China Sea and the mountains. There are several vantage points which give a great view of the city– Victoria Peak, ICC’s observatory (100th floor), Tsim Sha Tsui Pier, Star ferry, HK Flyer. Its hard to pick a favourite but the peak and star ferry come pretty close.
2. Savour the amazing food & explore HK’s hidden bars: Being a global city, HK serves up cuisines from across the world. However, the dimsum was what stole my heart. No trip to HK is complete without trying out these mouth-watering, Cantonese style dumplings. HK has some amazing hidden bars– ‘hidden’ because its a tad difficult to locate them/walk-in despite google maps so some help from a local would be great. Although on the expensive side, some of these bars are pretty awesome to grab a drink or two. Read about my food and drink recommendations here.
3. Go hiking: Being surrounded by mountains and sea, HK offers some amazing hiking opportunities–right from the simpler ones like hiking the Victoria peak to get that quintessential shot of HK to a day hike on far flung islands. I honestly had no idea about this until a few weeks into my 2-month stay. It is very underrated, off the beaten path (you will find mostly locals on the trails) and stunningly beautiful. I have written a separate post as a beginner’s guide.
4. Walking around Central & Tram: On a weekend, I loved walking around HK central especially Hollywood Road, cafes in Sheung Wan and stumbling upon cute bookstores. The Man Mo temple on Hollywood Road is really nice with giant spiral incenses. My favourite activity? Taking the tram in HK. The HK tram is the perfect reflection of the era gone by, when it was a British colony, and its juxtaposition with the towering structures in central HK is a story in itself on how the city has evolved. I always go upstairs and take the front window seat– great for street/people watching as the tram chugs along while enjoying the cool breeze.
5. Tian Tan Buddha and other temples: Yes this one is touristy but I quite liked it. You can hike up to the Big Buddha also but it is a difficult and longish hike. I took the cable car which offers sweeping views of the sea and Lantau island below. You need to climb 200+ steps for Buddha’s statue– amongst the largest in the world. From the top, you get scenic views of the sea and lovely breeze!
The temples I visited were Wong Tai Sin where I prayed on my birthday and Ten thousand Buddhas Monastery which is at Sha Tin and is a bit of a hike.