Hong Kong: A City of Life

After visiting Hong Kong for the first time, we were pleasantly surprised by just how good the island really was. We expected a lot as we had done a lot of research on what we should do once we were there, but we were not prepared for the sheer awesomeness of Hong Kong.

 


With a 3 hour delay extending our stay in New Delhi Airport to about 14 hours, it felt good to finally arrive in Hong Kong. I would definitely recommend picking up an octopus card while you’re in the airport. It costs HK$150 ($50 deposit, $100 initial top up) and can be used on nearly all public transport through the city, as well as many fast food restaurants and shops. It’ll save you a lot of time on the MTR (think tube), which we used as the main method of transportation through the city. Fast, easy to use, and not once late, the MTR is one of the best public transport systems I’ve ever used. At the end of your visit you can return the octopus card to any MTR customer services desk for your deposit back, along with any remaining balance minus a HK$9 handling fee. When it came to leaving the airport, we chose the cheaper but slower airport express bus to get to where we were staying, Mong Kok. Sitting on the upper level as the bus drove through the streets really got us excited for the rest of the trip. (NOTE: £1 = $9.1)

After getting settled into the hostel, we decided to walk around the city and get to know the place. Our first stop was the Museum of History. Although this wasn’t one of the best things we did it was a nice way to start the trip as it gave a good history of Hong Kong: geographically, politically and culturally. From there, we took a leisurely walk down to the Star Ferry Pier in order to see the bay in the dark. In the evening we took the last Star Ferry so we could get a better view of the picturesque skyline. The ferry cost $180 which is quite expensive, but it does include refreshments and a snack for the hour long trip. This was one of our favourite activities and provided the perfect opportunity to get some great pictures of Hong Kong.

On the second day we woke up early and headed to Lantau Island to see the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. We took the scenic cable car to Ngong Ping which was such a good experience as it was completely different to anything either of us has ever done before. At 25km long, the cable car journey is the largest in the world and it gives an easy way to see some of the spectacular views Hong Kong has to offer. A piece of advice when heading up to Ngong Ping is to bring a raincoat as it must have rained at least 5 times during the time we were there. After staying inside a shop to miss the rain, we started walking up the many stairs to the Big Buddha. Although neither of us are very religious, it was fascinating to see people coming from all around the world to worship the statue. Next on the itinerary was Po Lin Monastery, where people were lighting incense sticks and saying prayers to practice their religion. After a long day walking around Ngong Ping we came to the conclusion that we should go and relax on the beach. We wanted to visit as much as Hong Kong as we could for the 6 days that we were there, so we went to Sai Kung to discover it’s beaches. Although we got there at around 5pm and didn’t take the boat to go to its more famous beaches, we found a good enough sandy spot near the harbour and relaxed there. There was a huge range of restaurants along the coastline where they kept live seafood, ranging from crabs and lobsters to more unusual species such as eels and strange clam-like animals called geoducks. You could pick your dinner and they would take it there and then to the kitchen to be prepared for you to eat. As appealing as this was, all of the live food was too expensive for our budgets and we settled on a less expensive (albeit still delicious) meal on the pier and chilled with a few beers before heading back to Mong Kok.

Day 3 was a particular highlight for the both of us as we completed the Dragon’s Back hike. The hike is an 8.5km trek through the mountains and took around 3 hours for us to complete, but this obviously depends on how fast you walk. The first part of the journey was tough, as it’s mainly uphill in sweltering heat and humidity, but you get a fantastic view of the city and surrounding mountains and coastline from the top. After the first 2km or so, the route starts to flatten out as you get deeper into the vegetation. Passing numerous water falls and a large variety of different wildlife (including the biggest spider I’ve ever seen!), the hike is something spectacular. Personally, it was my favourite activity that we did in Hong Kong. What made the hike even better was at the end there is a stunning beach called Big Wave Bay which was a great reward after walking for over 2hours in the sun. There are also small shops that sell refreshing cold drinks and food that you can buy before heading to the beach to relax. After spending a couple of hours at the beach, we chose to buy some local food which although was a little expensive was still worth it. Later that night, we decided to take the MTR to Hong Kong Central Station to visit some bars before heading to Lang Kwai Fong. This is the place to go if you want a good night. However, like the rest of Hong Kong the bars there are super expensive (around the equivalent of £6 minimum), so many people head to the 7Eleven to pick up some cheap booze. Hong Kong doesn’t have any open container laws, so crowds gather in the street to drink and party together at a fraction of the price of the clubs while the blaring music is loud enough to enjoy from outside.

Day 4 was more of a relaxing day as we wanted to go back to Lang Kwai Fong in the evening. A friend had told us that we should visit the Nan Lian Garden and the Chi Lin Nunnery and as we didn’t have much planed that day we decided to go and see it. The garden took us by surprise as we weren’t expecting so much from it. It was a nice way to take in the surroundings completely different from the liveliness of most of the city. My personal favourite was the Chi Lin Nunnery as it had some spectacular building designs and big golden Buddhas. After we visited the garden and nunnery we wanted to go to Victoria Peak. However, there was an hour and a half queue so we decided to go to Hong Kong Park instead. The park was filled with a bird aviary, lakes, water falls and nice gardens. Nevertheless, I would only recommend visiting the park if you’re passing by. We decided that we would stop doing any more sight seeing that day and instead go to the pub so we could end up at Lang Kwai Fong later. We went to a pub called The Stone Nullah Tavern which had an offer on between 5pm-7pm. The offer allowed unlimited drink and food (fried chicken and beef jerky) for $109, and we made sure we got our money’s worth. After making the most of the offer we ended up at Lang Kwai Fong and carried on drinking the rest of the night.

 

On our final full day, we visited the remaining temples that we wanted to see. We first headed to Man Mo Temple as we had read a lot about it before the trip. However, we found this a little disappointing compared to the hype. We prefer the Wong Tai Sin Temple which is much bigger and it’s always cool to see a large amount of people gathering to practice their religion (especially one you don’t know that much about). If you have time I would go to both temples as both are good to see but if not prioritise Wong Tai Sin. After walking around both of these temples for hours we decided to go and look at the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery. This was one of the weirdest but coolest things that we have seen. It’s hard to explain what it was like to walk past 10,000 golden Buddhas. But it’s definitely a thing you should do. However, try and not do it in 90% humidity as it’s mainly all up hill, definitely not our smartest move!

After being in Hong Kong for six days I must say it has taken us by surprise. Hong Kong has many a lot to offer and as mentioned earlier, the Dragon’s Back hike is one activity everyone should do. Although Hong Kong can be expensive, if done right you can visit everything and still remain on a budget. We averaged spending (including the hostel) £32.23 per day. Not the cheapest country in Asia by far but certainly not much more expensive than many countries in Europe. Hong Kong is now one of our favourite places to visit, maybe you’ll make it one of yours.

Hong Kong Pictures: Hong Kong

 

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