The first time I visited Hong Kong, near-constant rain consumed the majority of the 48-hours I was in the city. The second time, I arrived amidst a violent week of protests. posing a different challenge to seeing and getting the most out of visiting this concrete jungle of a city. I was determined to still make the most of it while staying safe.
I had skipped this on my first visit to Hong Kong since the rain and zero visibility would’ve hardly made the work-out worth it. This time, no rain, and I set off from the harbor to make my descent upwards, first winding through the neighborhoods of massive apartment complexes, and then to the trail, where the concrete turned to green jungle. To finally reach the peak, it took me about an hour, since I stopped to take photos and catch my breath. But what an amazing view – the city seems to spring out of the forest. There are also bathrooms and even a shopping mall with restaurants at the main top of the peak – so don’t worry about bringing tons of food or water to sustain your hike.
Tian Tan Buddha
Visiting this site was a last-minute impulse decision, but I am so glad I decided to go. To get to Tian Tan, you have to take a bus from Tung Chung to the town of Ngong Ping on Lantau Island. You can also take the sky gondola from Tung Chung, it’s much faster but unfortunately, it wasn’t running on the day I visited. I didn’t mind the bus ride, it was cool to see a mostly uninhabited island covered in trees and plants right next to such a busy city. There are little shops in the town, and you can learn about Buddhism in China. Also – there are feral cows wandering about in this village – so keep an eye out!
Choi Hung Estate
I’ll admit that visiting this was a bit of an “Instagram mission” but I am still glad I bothered to find it, as it revealed a side of the normal life in a housing estate in Hong Kong. These apartment complexes are truly massive, with restaurants and shops built into the ground levels, and they seem to wrap around for ages, creating their own little microcosm. It was tricky to find the basketball court for a photo-op, but I’ll give you a hint – it’s on top of an outdoor parking ramp. I walked to the estate from my accommodation in Tsim Sha Tsui, but you can also take the metro to the Choi Hung stop to make your journey much quicker.
Temple Street Night Markets
And… time for more dumplings. The Temple Street Night Markets run every night from about 4pm until midnight, and you can find all sorts of souvenirs and gifts here, so it’s great if you need to get shopping done. I skipped the shopping and instead opted to drink more beer and eat more dumplings, and marvel at the beautiful lights and bustling crowds. It felt a bit reassuring to see this place still so vibrant, even with the ongoing protests and hardships faced by many in Hong Kong.
Tim Ho Wan
I didn’t go here on my first visit to Hong Kong and I deeply regretted it, so this time it was a priority! Tim Ho Wan is an inexpensive dim sum restaurant, essentially dim sum fast food, that has a Michelin star and truly incredible food. Being a solo traveler, they put me down at a table with a complete stranger, who happened to be from San Francisco. It was nice to have my picture taken with food for a change on a solo trip – and we had a nice conversation before parting ways with our bellies full of dumplings and custard buns.
Avenue of Stars & Star Ferry
This is a must-do when in Hong Kong. Right along the waterfront on the Kowloon side, you get an amazing view of the city and can sit and watch boat traffic cruising in and out of the harbor. The Avenue of Stars honors celebrities in Hong Kong film.
The ferry is a very affordable way to get from the Kowloon to Hong Kong side, and it’s a cool experience to have while in Hong Kong. You can also take it at night into the harbor to see a fantastic sound and light show, which I did on my first visit.
Food on Hau Fook Street
Not far from my accommodation this visit, Hau Fook Street is great for a variety of restaurants and bars, in case you’re not sure where to wander to find food. I tried a beef and leeks dish, more soup dumplings (xiao long bao) and Lo Mai Gai, sticky rice with pork wrapped in a banana leaf. It was all so delicious, I genuinely didn’t have a meal that I didn’t love on this visit.
This trip I stayed at Hop Inn on Mody, a modest hostel that had nice private rooms, helpful staff, and was conveniently located near everything I needed while in Hong Kong. It was nice to have my own little room with a bathroom and shower, and even a desk to get some work done when I was cursed with jet lag at 2 am.
More things to see…
“Goldfish Market” in Mong Kok
This is a bit gimmicky, and kind of sad as you’ll see lots of goldfish in plastic bags that I’m guessing end up dead. It’s really just an aquarium store in Mong Kok, but full of different kinds of goldfish and aquarium equipment.
The current situation in Hong Kong is heartbreaking. Despite the air of tension, I still really enjoyed my visit here, and it’s a city I’d love to revisit over and over again. I’d highly recommend walking as much as possible when in Hong Kong, as you experience more of the feel and energy of the city, and there are surprises around every corner.