After my annual visit to Madrid, reigniting my love for that city that will always be a second home, it was time to board a Cathay Pacific flight (my first time on the airline, and it was a great experience) and jet off to Hong Kong, my 3rd Asian destination of 2018.
Note – I did return to Hong Kong in 2019, during a very hectic week of protests there. It was still an amazing trip, and I hope to return again in the future.
To call the visit a whirlwind would be an understatement. The combination of jet lag that hadn’t been resolved flying to Madrid, rainy skies, and only an episode of “The Layover” by Anthony Bourdain guiding my way, I had no idea where to begin or what to do. It started out bumpy too, with a canceled reservation of my guesthouse room under mysterious circumstances (apparent flooding… despite there being no sign of damage or issues within the tiny reception area of the “hotel”) so I was forced to submit my refund request on hotels.com (which they processed immediately, thanks guys!) and search around for an alternative. Luckily, I didn’t have to go far. I didn’t even have to get back in the elevator.
Accommodation in Hong Kong – Guest House at Chungking Mansions
This concrete jungle was home to dozens of guesthouses. I’ll be frank – I had no idea how accommodation in Hong Kong “worked” upon arriving. If you’re not booking an expensive hotel room (this was out of the question for me) you might encounter a similar experience of the massive concrete block of endless apartments wrapping around and around, ascending into the sky. The original accommodation I booked was in this building, and once my reservation was canceled, I walked just down the hall, just a few doors down, where I met with another woman who owned another guesthouse. After some back and forth, negotiating the price, I had my own room, tiny space of a bed and bathroom with the square footage of less than a walk-in closet.
I loved it, it felt so… Hong Kong. It was the cramped, shoebox-style living space I had read about and wanted to experience for my brief introduction to the city.
Restaurants I Visited in Hong Kong
After getting settled in my sleeping closet, I was in desperate need of caffeine. I brought my laptop to a nearby internet cafe, N1 Coffee & Co, and slurped down an iced coffee while I tried to figure out what I should DO while in this overwhelming city! Needless to say, I was not very organized!
YUM CHA – CENTRAL
Ok, admittedly this was 100% an Instagram find. I had to go and get the whimsical bao and dim sum that I had seen in tons of photographs when I searched #hongkongfoodie. These were delicious, BBQ pork buns. I also had tea and some other dishes. This place is popular – I went right at opening and had no problem getting a seat, but if you’re planning on getting to Yum Cha during rush hours, be prepared to wait for a table.
Yokozuna Japanese Noodle Shop
There were lines outside this small shop near Kings Park in Kowloon. It was delicious and worth the wait and cramped eating spaces at Yokozuna. The broth was rich, and the pork belly was perfect – not too fatty but still had a melt-in-your-mouth texture. It was a cool experience and an accommodating place to eat alone since several other solo patrons like myself seemed to be at the bar in front of the open kitchen.
Street Food in Hong Kong
I loved trying different foods from vendors on the streets or from little shops around Hong Kong. Some stuff was definitely too adventurous for me, but these veggie dumplings were cooked to crispy perfection. I’d say when in Hong Kong, keep an open mind and if it looks good, try it! Street food was relatively cheap compared to sit-down restaurants. Hong Kong has a ton of food options and restaurants to try, so I’d recommend doing some research before arrival to see what you’d be interested. Otherwise, it can be a bit overwhelming to choose when wandering around.
Things To See & Do in Hong Kong
Man Mo Temple
Unfortunately, during my visit, this building was partially under construction, but it was still cool to see and free to enter. This temple was built in 1847 and is the largest of its kind in Hong Kong. It had an interesting golden shrine glowed in the red interior, with the faint smell of some sort of incense burning and not many other tourists to bump into.
If you’re not into paying for tourist attractions – you’re in luck. One of the best things to do in Hong Kong is free – walking around the city. The canopy of skyscrapers seems to be never-ending, and as I walked through narrow streets, winding up and down, I felt like I was being swallowed by a living, breathing entity. Hong Kong has a heartbeat, a spirit that doesn’t sleep. The floods of people walking down the sidewalk are the blood of its veins. Walking around for hours on my own was an enchanting experience.
A quiet, green space carved out of a sea of buildings, this was a fantastic spot to go for a walk. It was an amazing retreat to feel some separation from the city, even though it was right in the middle of all the action.
Star Ferry Symphony of Lights Cruise
This tourist attraction I had read many reviews of, didn’t disappoint. Even though it was a misty evening, it was still a great experience to climb aboard the ferry and cruise out into the bay to watch a light show of lasers illuminate the wall of skyscrapers surrounding the water as coordinated music played inside the boat. It cost about USD 25, which felt reasonably priced considering how expensive many things are in Hong Kong. It was easily my favorite thing I did in Hong Kong during my quick visit, and it was easy to get to from my accommodation.
So, I didn’t get to hike to Victoria’s Peak or do a lot of other outdoorsy activities in Hong Kong because it was pretty rainy and clouded over the entire time I was there. I didn’t have the energy to hike for zero visibility of what are meant to be unforgettable views. Thankfully, Hong Kong is definitely a city you can find yourself in for an extended layover since it seems to be a major artery for accessing the Asian continent from North America (or Australia, or Europe…)
I look forward to a future visit. I will also say, I think it’s a better place to travel to WITH people instead of solo. While I made the most of it, going to restaurants and exploring would’ve been more enjoyable with a partner to share it with.
What else is in Hong Kong that should be on my list for next time?