Hong Kong comprises of 1100 square kilometres of the South China coastline and a number of islands East of the Pearl River.
The principal urban area is spread along the North shore of Hong Kong Island, which offers not only traces of the old British colony – from English place names to ancient, double-decker trams trundling along the shore – but also superb modern cityscapes of towering buildings teetering up impossible slopes, along with whole districts dedicated to selling traditional Chinese medicine and herbs.
The South of the island offers several decent beaches, a huge amusement park, and even hiking opportunities.
Hong Kong consists of Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, the Northern Territories and numerous islands surrounding the Delta. Hong Kong was a British Colony up until 1997 when the area was returned to China. However, a treaty was signed for a 50 year term protecting the territory and keeping it a capitalist region.
SOME USEFUL INFORMATION
ℹ️ Travel: Hong Kong is served by Chek Lap Kok airport. Like all airports there is always a line of taxis waiting to escort you to the hotel. I was staying in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Kowloon, just off Nathan Road. The airport express is quick and easy and costs HKG$115 if you are staying on Hong Kong Island itself. I myself had to take the airport express as far as Tsing Yi Station at the cost of HKG$70 where I had to change for Tsim Sha Tsui. It sounds a daunting prospect but in-fact it was pretty easy, and, did not take that long either.
ℹ️ Currency: The Hong Kong Dollar – HKG$
ℹ️ Credit Cards and Banks: ATMs are common place in almost every shopping street, with several ‘bureau de change’ around the city centre, with almost every retailer accepting Mastercard and Visa. There is no fear of an establishment declining card payments.
ℹ️ Accommodation: I stayed at the 4* Stanford Hillview Hotel in Kowloon just off Nathan Road. I opted for no breakfast as there are plenty of places to eat nearby.
ℹ️ Weather: Hong Kong can be summed up into four seasons – SPRING: warm and humid; SUMMER: hot and rainy; AUTUMN: sunny pleasant, and WINTER: cold and dry winter. The vast majority of buildings have air-conditioning in the hottest months.
WHAT CAN HONG KONG OFFER?
There is so much to do and see in Hong Kong that unless you have a couple of weeks to spare fitting it all into a few days is almost impossible. The idea here is to prioritise what you wish to see. My visit to Hong Kong were four days with one of these days set aside to visit Macau.
HONG KONG ISLAND
is the oldest colonised part of Hong Kong, its administrative and business centre, and site of some of the most expensive real estate. Hong Kong Island is naturally the heart of the whole territory. Despite this, the island measures just 9miles (15kms) across, with development concentrated along its North shore – a frenetically crowded and entertaining area of shops, restaurants, bars and financial institutions – and the far greener, mellower South coast, which actually sports a few beaches.
Hills between the two rise to ‘Victoria Peak’ that offers some of the islands best scenery and its freshest air. Transport around the island is easy, with the MTR and trams covering the North shore, and plentiful busses throughout.
The most efficient method to travel throughout the North of the island is to use the Tramcars. The tramway runs from Kennedy Town to Shua Kei Wan. Fares are based on distance but an average fare would cost around HKG$2.30
HONG KONG ZOO
Hong Kong’s Zoological and Botanical Gardens, on the slopes of Victoria Peak, are home to hundreds of animals – including flamingos, orangutans and alligators – plus more than 1,000 different plant species. Entry into the zoo is free. Click hereto know more about the zoo.
You can reach the peak via the Funicular Tram. The 120 year old funicular railway departs from its terminus on Garden Road. If you are staying in Kowloon and have taken the MTR to Hong Kong Island then look for the HSBC building – walk through the building and turn left. As you exit the building look left to notice a street that bares right up a hill. Follow this road and it will lead you to the tram station (it is clearly signposted).
The cost of a return fare is around $40 (£3.50). I have to admit I have seen a lot of skylines around the World and the view from the top overlooking Hong Kong is stunning, especially of an evening. For more info click here
At the top of the Peak there is a tourist centre that offers some shopping outlets for those souvenirs, cafes and numerous restaurants, along with an observation platform that offers almost 360 degree views of Hong Kong. Once you have had something to eat you can follow the nature trail amongst the canopy of trees in search of local flora and fauna.
If you are in search of somewhere good to eat and have a few drinks Happy Hour at ‘From Dust till Dawn’ bar on Jaffe Rd, Wan Chai is great.
In amongst the hefty prices of the business district this is a little gem were drinks and food are cheap yet flavoursome, with live music on some evenings.
TEMPLE STREET NIGHT MARKET
Once the sun sets make your way to Temple Street market located off Jordan and Yau Ma Tei in Kowloon.
Temple Street Night Market, a popular street bazaar, named after a Tin Hau temple located in the centre of its main drag, and a place so steeped in local atmosphere. Trinkets, tea ware, electronics, watches, menswear, jade and antiques are scrutinised and haggled over, while clay pot rice, seafood, noodles and other treats are consumed.
Nathan Road is lined with shops and restaurants and throngs with tourists. The only negative I can mention are the constant battle with street vendors trying to offer you suits and watches etc (unless that’s what you are after)
CHI LIN NUNNERY
Chi Lin Nunnery is a large Buddhist temple complex located in Diamond Hill, Kowloon. It was founded in 1934 as a retreat for Buddhist nuns and was rebuilt in the 1990s following the traditional Tang Dynasty architecture.
Do not do what I did thinking it would be a pleasant walk. I walked up Nathan Road through Kowloon City and beyond that took over an hour and a half to walk. In the heat it was rather draining. To visit the nunnery the easiest method is to take the MTR to Diamond Hill Station – cross over the road and follow the perimeter fence until you reach the entrance. I took the underground back to Tsim Sha Tsui station on Nathan Road.
Lantau Island boasts the beautiful Cheung Sha Beach – Hong Kong’s longest beach.
Once on Lantau meander your way up the mountain road to Ngong Ping Plateau, where the majestic Tian Tan Buddha sits near the Po Lin Monastery. Popularly known as the Big Buddha or Giant Buddha, the statue reaches more than 111 feet (34 meters) high, making it the worlds largest seated, outdoor bronze Buddha.
For added views take the Ngong Ping 360 sky rail cable car to the Ngong Ping Plateau – a 3 mile distance away. This 25 minute journey across Tung Chung Bay offers breathtaking panoramic views of the South China Sea along with the awe-inspiring Giant Buddha nestled in the lush mountains landscape. Click here for more details
HONG KONG HARBOUR NIGHT SYMPHONY OF LIGHTS
At 8pm each evening is the 20 minute Symphony of Lights show, a spectacular display of laser beams bouncing off numerous skyscrapers on both sides of the harbour. Accompanied by synchronised music and commentary, the sound and light display depicts the growth of Hong Kong from a sleepy fishing village to the dynamic world-class city it is today.
The Hong Kong Symphony of Lights display showcases the vibrant and glamorous night vistas of Victoria Harbour, one of the worlds most impressive natural harbours.
THE NEW TERRITORIES
The New Territories is a region of wetlands, parks and mountains in Hong Kong, North of Kowloon. It also encompasses outlying islands, including Lantau Island in the southwest.
Sadly my time in Hong Kong was all too short and I ran out of time to visit the New Territories. Nonetheless, this Special Administrative Region did what I asked of it and enriched my knowledge and quenched my thirst for exploration. Knowing I missed the territories cements the desire to return.