Note: if you’re new to Asia or Asian culture, you’ll hopefully appreciate our notes below. Because of the Western history and the surprising number of people that speak some English, we’ve found Hong Kong to be one of the safest and most approachable cities in this neck of the woods.
After fifteen hours, the plane lands at HKG airport and the post-flight routine begins. I’m not one to rush out of my seat to find a spot in the isle but I do enjoy a good tarmac stretch. First things first, check and double check everywhere around the seat. I’ve misplaced too many items over the years from a jacket to phone chargers and ear buds to the ever-important-pen (vital for an expedited trip through customs). Next, unbuckle, shake out those legs and grab the bag – as you know, we’re not big on checking luggage so there’s usually a full weekend bag in tow.
And then comes the fun part that, following my third trip to this energetic city, I’ve appropriately named the Tung Chung shuffle (named after the bay the airport sits on).
Ready, set. GO.
The Chinese, at least in this part of the country, are very comfortable with few physical boundaries and when that plane door opens, expect a race to the finish (ie. the Immigration exit). I’ve traveled through 50+ airports in the last few years and never experienced a warrior dash like this – if you want to fit in, make sure you’ve got your Nike’s on 😉 and expect a light nudge here or bump there (and don’t take it as a sign of disrespect, it’s just a cultural comfort).
As we were just passing through HK for the weekend, the commentary below is our recommended, surefire way to tackle some great parts of the city, population 7 million, without feeling overwhelmed.
Operation Rest your Head (in comfort):
We’ve now stayed at several types of hotels around the city, coincidentally all in the Central District, located on the south side of the bridge on Hong Kong island (note: we’ve been told that both sides of the bridge are equally great but if you’re only in town for the weekend, the recommendation is to stay centrally located in either location). While you’re hunting for a hotel, you’ll notice that there’s a huge swing in nightly rate – anywhere from $25-$500+US. Do yourself the favor and unless you’re traveling on a strict budget, properly read reviews and don’t bite the super low-cost hotels… pay just a little more and hopefully, you’ll get that added quiet, comfort and most importantly a knowledgeable concierge.
– Dim sum – while we’ve visited a few (more) formal dim sum restaurants, the consensus is that casual is the way to go. Stay away from anything too western and nab that authentic experience. We liked Dim Sum Square (tip: try not to order too much, you can always add more – it’s trickier than it sounds!)
– Chinese – obviously there’s never ending options in this category – we stumbled across Harmony Village, a vegetarian diner with fun-spirited, semi-English speaking staff
– Brunch/Lunch – 208 Duecento Otto is one of our favorite spots – open air entrance, great lunch and a jaw dropping Sunday brunch
– Cocktails – for an astounding view and brilliant mixology check out the OZONE at the top of the Ritz. For a low-lit, speakeasy style bar, you’ll find no shortage of perfectly crafted drinks at 101.
What to do:
Walk, walk, walk: after three days huffing around, my feet hurt. Bad. Thank goodness for the endless presence of massage parlors. This city, especially the SOHO and Hollywood area, is a blast to get lost in. Do yourself a favor and wander about, stop for a beer or coffee and just people watch – it’s worth it.
Markets: The two most popular must-see markets are near one another – Temple Market and Ladies Market (don’t worry, it’s for men, too). Make time to visit, get in some shopping and don’t forget to haggle over the price of goods… seriously, it’s an art.
Hike: One of the most stunning views of the city is from Victoria Peak, and while the most common route up is to take the tram, we recommend the 2-3 hour hike. The trail entrance is right behind Hong Kong University on Pok Fu Lam Road – it’s steep but worth every bead of sweat.
Light Show: the nighttime laser light show, guided by instrumental music, is the most tourist of events but if you haven’t seen it, it’s a must. It’s viewed from the harbor on the north side of the bridge and lasts about 15 minutes.
For a few day stint, there’s no shortage of things to do, places to see and mouthwatering cuisine. Take your time, take it in and don’t get overwhelmed – while it’s a big city, it’s extremely accessible and sure to make a lasting impression.