Hong Kong: Top five must-do's
Updated: Jun 12, 2019
Ok, so it has been a while since my first introduction post to the blog world, and since then I have been doing something pretty important - living! I am already into my fourth country of six of this trip, and time is flying by. By following my Instagram you will be aware of my recent motorbike tour through Vietnam, something I will be spending a lot of time on over these next few weeks to write and share with you. For now, it’s a throwback to my time in Hong Kong. I wanted to share with you my thoughts and tips for a place I rate so highly after revisiting within this trip, Hong Kong - the ‘special administrative region of China’, formerly owned by the British Colony.
Now it is without a doubt that Hong Kong should be on everyone's bucket lists to see. I’ve been rather fortunate enough now to see it for the second time, and I was just as excited as a child on Christmas morning to come back and capture it as best I could (after all, the last time I came here I had only owned a camera for 2 months!). I like to feel justice has been served this time round, as my skills have now been honed in.
Hong Kong is such a ginormous place, and there are an endless list of things to do at any given time (day or night!). Here are my ‘if you only have time to do five things in Hong Kong, make sure you do these” list:
1) Wooloomooloo Prime (The One) Without doubt, the first and only place I would recommend anyone to go before you did anything in Hong Kong. It offers you spectacular views back over the city from the 21st floor. It’s an incredible way for you to admire the view, whilst giving yourself some perspective of how stupidly big the city you will be exploring over the next few days really is. For some it may seem tricky to find, so I have tried to give as much detail in the directions as possible below. I want to ensure you don’t get lost and are granted with the spectacular views I’ve been lucky to savour. As for anyone who has travelled around China before, they will get what I mean here. If not, there lift and stair systems to strange floor numbers will become quite apparent once you arrive. Whilst deemed as an ‘upmarket restaurant and bar’ for light bar snacks and drinks - it is seriously worth every penny for the view (and still cheaper than London!). A nice glass of wine costing you around £9 ($13USD) with a view to die for; see the drink cost as part entry fee, part drink. It’s not quite the panorama of Sky100, but better value for money (after all you get a cold beverage included in the cost to soak up all the atmosphere and scenery).
Directions: From Kowloon park, heard north along Nathan Road until you see The One shopping mall on the right hand side. You will see what seems like an open hanging entrance with escalators in the distance. Head up those for to the fourth floor and turn back on yourself towards the Nathan Road entrance side of the building. On the right there are lifts (two of which that don’t go to the floor you need!). Pick the lifts to the right hand side and select floor 21. Sit back, relax and enjoy the view!
2) Star Ferry If you are looking to gain an insight to the life of a local in Hong Kong, then there is nothing better than climbing aboard the Star Ferry. Take a walk down to any ferry port, departing to any location and you will not be disappointed. With plenty of islands outside of the main island itself, Hong Kong has one of the most accessible and diverse range of ambiance locations to suit any person. Although some people would like to avoid the ‘tourist traps’ for the obvious reason of too many people. This in mind, I would still recommend taking a ferry between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central during peak hours (8-9am and 5-7pm). It will give you the best perspective of people's daily lives in Hong Kong; their daily commute, the range in occupations, the astonishing addiction to technology and social media. The Victoria Harbour crossing has been an embedded transport link between Kowloon and the Hong Kong Island since the 1920s. With some very simple math, you can work out this equation of why the ferry top trumps the MTR. If you have the experience of hundreds of thousands of ferry crossings, and then divide that by the amount of people it takes to run the crossing. Multiply that figure by the very efficient characteristics of Chinese culture. The solution being it is actually much easier and comfortable transport option than a crowded MTR during peak hours!
3) Overnight in Macau (by TurboJet) Where time, money and curiosity is lacking to go explore Macau - I assure you this can be done in one evening, and somewhere not to be missed when you are so close (almost criminal). Known as the sister of Las Vegas, the casino buildings alone will warrant the visit. Unlike what I hear of Las Vegas (I can’t speak on Las Vegas’s behalf as I haven’t been - but it’s on the list don’t worry), Macau’s casinos are scattered amongst a 30km radius of the city. Travelling between casinos are these large open winding motorways that are empty (the perfect reason to call yourself a taxi driver in Macau - where there seemed no road laws … at all). My friend and I got a taxi from The Venetian to The MGM, which Google Maps says should have taken around 13 minutes, give or take. I now have a video on my phone of a random taxi flagged down at road side doing the same journey in a little over 4 minutes! You don’t see those record times in a taxi around Kowloon Hong Kong at 5pm! (cough cough, remember to get the Star Ferry!)
I have also made a note of this above being an overnight excursion. The way most budget travellers would approach Macau, is that “it is too expensive!”. If I said to you it was possible to go over and explore this city for a full 12 hours, all for the sacrifice of being a little tired the next day (after all, when in Rome and all that .. in this case Macau). All in for as little as £60, incl. food/drink/transport. If you can budget for it, you will not be disappointed. You can time your departure from Central in Hong Kong at a time to suit you of the evening you wish to travel, as most departures towards Macau will have enough walk-up seats available. If not, they will guarantee you a seat in the next departure, just a short 30 minute wait.
The biggest tip I can offer with this excursion is to book your return journey back to Hong Kong as you arrive in Macau from the TurboJet counters. Be realistic with the time you want/need here to go and explore, but by booking this in advance you can guarantee a seat for the return at the time you want. The only way of me being able to tell you this tip, is because twice (more fool me) I have walked up to the desk at 5am, with the next available ticket not for another 3 hours. This will be due to the many Chinese folk who have crossed the water to get their weekly fix of gambling, as it is the only place legal to do so within the country. Lucky for me, it gave me an excuse to scout out a spot for the sunrise. Lucky for you, follow the above simple step and you can return home at a timely manner to catch a cat nap before going straight back out to explore Hong Kong the next morning.
4) Happy Valley Racecourse On a Wednesday evening, there really is no where in the whole of Hong Kong you would need to be. Roaring cheers from crowds of up to 15,000 people each and every week; world pioneering horse racing entertainment; premier quality food, served from restaurants with faster service than Charlie from Snatch (two minutes Turkish). Not to forget that this extravaganza each week costs only the equivalent of a £1 entry, plus any extra if you like to gamble! (no ones judging here …). A racecourse that is completely secluded in overhanging skyscrapers of banks and apartments, polished off with a grandstand that would make Ascot look like a miniature village model.
All is well if you’re not the gambling type, you just need to approach it with a different mentality - think of it this way. How often can you attend a world premier horse racing venue, each and every week for as little as a £1 plus your dinner money, which you would have inevitably spent elsewhere in the city anyway. Just because it’s a world premier venue, doesn’t mean that their food and drink prices go up accordingly (i.e. not your inflated £6 pints of Carling at The Festival in Cheltenham). Whilst enjoying and absorbing the atmosphere, you will also notice the humongous television screen across from the finishing post. It has a constant live feed of the money being gambled against each race, and my knowledge now serves me that on average per pace a mere £1m is spent on each. Not bad for a Wednesday night instead of staying in and watching double Coronation Street right?
5) Victoria Peak Whether you do this at the start, middle or end of your trip to Hong Kong - no bother, just make sure you don’t miss it, as you will be the one missing out. For less than it costs you a trip to the cinema in England, you can take the famous peak tram ride right to the top. A tram ride that at times is pulling you at an angle of 27 degrees and the apartment buildings around you will appear tilted at the same angle to compensate your eyesight. Once you arrive at the top, the price (£10) will grant you access to the sky terrace viewing deck, where on a clear day your brain will not even be able to comprehend the amount of life that lies below you.
Even those who have never travelled to major cities of such scale as Hong Kong could imagine, it’s a pretty big place. The only way you can do that, is to get high and to look down. This viewpoint ticks all the right boxes, whilst offering an array of affordable restaurants and coffee shops to keep your sweet tooth at bay. Although you may be surrounded by tourists camera lenses shutting at the top of the peak, whilst sitting back and slurping on your ice cold frappe 550m above the hustle and bustle below. It seems another universe away from the city you look down upon, and was walking through just 30 minutes before!
This blog post has quite clearly stated throughout, these are the five experiences I have done on both visits to this incredible city. So much so, they warrant a second visit or experience (which for me where I now deem time as the most valuable source, it needs to be pretty incredible to warrant spending good money on doing it again). Apply this theory, and these are an honest reflection of the best way you can capture Hong Kong’s bustling streets and famous Victoria Harbour.
The city is changing, and quick. With a forever growing global economy in a multitude of industries, it is clear to see the reinvestment is back into infrastructure in Hong Kong. Buildings, and I mean BIG buildings that did not exist six years ago, now exist. Now I know it doesn’t take that long of time to build one, but the amount that they have built - it made me question, how? You soon quickly remember the population of this country and all of a sudden labour can become very cheap. Anyway, Hong Kong is awesome so next time you’re heading long distance abroad, and you need a stop over. Make it here, and you be the judge!