Hong Kong is a world class city. Getting to and around Hong Kong is easy and effortless – from the customs and immigration process to figuring out public transportation. We got off our flight and were at our hotel within an hour. We took the airport express, which takes about 24 minutes from the airport to Kowloon station, and costs about 70 HKD (~$10USD).
When we were there, it was September and the weather was still unbearably hot. Every time we walked outside, we would turn into a puddle of sweat within a few minutes. It made walking around difficult, but we persevered. In no particular order, here are some of our favorite touristy places to visit in Hong Kong, most of which are free to do:
Avenue of the Stars – Avenue of the Stars is a long promenade that stretches along the Victoria Harbour in Tsim Sha Tsui district. Similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, walking along the waterfront you’ll see stars dedicated to the celebrities of the Hong Kong film industry like Bruce Lee, Jacky Chan and many others. It is also a great place to get a panoramic view of the Hong Kong skyline. When night falls, the skyline lits up in a dazzling display of lights.
Star Ferry – Another great way to see the Hong Kong skyline is from the water. The historic Star Ferry is an inexpensive way to go from Central to Kowloon across Victoria Harbour. Instead of taking a boat tour, the ferry only costs a few dollars and takes about 10 minutes to cross the harbor. On a hot summer day, it’s nice to go out on the water and get some relief from the insufferable heat beating down. Even though it’s a short ride, the water can get quite choppy and can cause motion sickness.
Cost: $2.50 HKD (about 30 cents)
Tian Tan Buddha – Lantau island is one of the most popular destinations in Hong Kong. Most people make the hour long pilgrimage to the island to visit the Big Buddha. Sitting 111 feet high and facing north, this majestic bronze statue is one of the largest outdoor sitting Buddhas in the world. This remarkable statue took over 12 years to complete and symbolizes harmony. While there, you can climb up the 268 steps to the base of the statue for a closer look. Inside the platform you’ll also find a museum featuring the relic of Gautama Buddha, consisting of some of his cremated remains. Nearby, you’ll find the Po Lin Monastery, home to many devout monks. After making your offering and listening to the prayer sessions, you can also enjoy a beautiful vegan meal at the popular restaurant on the premises.
To get to this popular destination, you need to take the subway to Tung Chung station. From there, you can either pay $125 HKD (~$15 USD) to take a gondola ride to the top or you can pay $17.20 HKD (~$2 USD) for a bus ride. On a clear day, you be able to see sweeping mountains and the sea from the gondola. The whole journey from the center of Hong Kong takes about an hour.
Cost: $125 HKD for gondola ride or $17.20 HKD for bus ride
Markets – One of my favorite things to do in Hong Kong is to wander around Mongkok Market. There is a Bird market that sells all different kinds of birds and bird related things. In the morning you’ll see the owners parading around with their birds, it’s quite a sight. Next is the Fish Market where you see many unique brightly colored fish in aquariums displayed right on the sidewalk. Then of course there is the Lady Market which sells ladies clothing, souvenirs and many knock off goods. If you want a more authentic no frills experience, head over to Sham Shui Po Market where they sell all kinds of clothing, fabric and second hand electronics. Along the streets, you’ll also see many hawkers selling the latest gadgets. When we were there, the iPhone 6 was just released a week prior. Since there was so much demand, people were buying and reselling at a much higher price. In Hong Kong, there is likely a market for anything.
When you shop at the markets, it’s important to remember that you always need to bargain. A good rule of thumb is to always go down to about 30% to 40% of the asking price and work yourself up. The vendors know and expect the haggling, so they jack up their price to reflect that. Know your limit and how much you want to spend on an item before you start negotiating. The vendors can be quite aggressive, if they see you linger or make eye contact, they will follow you and try to get you to purchase something. Don’t be afraid to say no thank you and walk away if you don’t see anything you like or if you don’t get the price you want. In most cases, you can find the same item a few stalls away.
Temple Street Night Market – The famous Temple Street night market is a very popular tourist destination. Getting to Temple street is quite easy – take the subway and get off at Yau Ma Tei station or Jordan station. This market is similar to Mongkok, but only comes alive at dusk. When the sun goes down, the vendors start to set up their stalls selling knick knacks, knock off goods, electronics and other souvenirs. Each table is brightly lit up and crammed full of cheap merchandise. The closed off streets are filled with make-shift shops and fortune tellers. Along the side, there are many food vendors set up in case you’re hungry from walking around. The lively atmosphere is filled with delicious smells and a people haggling over their wares. Even though this place is filled with tourists, it still retains a feeling of authenticity of the local vibe.
It’s fun to walk around and see all the quirky things they are peddling to the tourists. Most of the stalls are selling the latest electronic fads. While we were there, selfie sticks were the most popular item, selling for a few dollars each. Even though the selfie stick is still a relatively new trend in New York, it’s already quite popular in Asia. I don’t take too many selfies so I was not inclined to buy the stick, but after four days in Hong Kong, seeing everyone using it, I wanted one as well!
Hong Kong Park – It is a sprawling park in the heart of Central district surrounded by high rise buildings. It has beautiful landscaped gardens, a manmade pond filled with koi fish and a large bird aviary. The quiet picturesque scenery is inviting for people who want to come and relax and escape the noisy city. It’s also a great place to take pictures, so you’ll also see a few wedding parties wandering the grounds. It reminds me of Central park, but instead of turtles in the ponds, you’ll see lots of fish.
Victoria Peak – Victoria Peak is a great place to visit when you’re in Hong Kong. You pay $40 HKD (~$5 USD) to take the Peak tram up the mountain, which in and of itself an interesting experience. At some point, the tram is on an extremely steep climb upwards. If you stand up, you can lean forward at a 45 degree angle and not fall over. We’ve been to Hong Kong twice and both times we’ve made the trek up to Victoria Peak. This time we wanted to go up and check out the view at night. The view is even more spectacular after dark when all the buildings are competing to have the most eye catching light show.
Like any other popular tourist attraction around the world, the line to go up the peak was hideously long, wrapping around the block. Everyone was pushy and we were so hot crammed in together. At the top, there were even more people, so you had to wait patiently or throw a few elbows to even get a glimpse of the harbor below. The facilities are even worst, after wandering around for 15 minutes looking for a public washroom, I finally found it…and it was a squatter.
If this is your first time in Hong Kong, you should definitely take the Peak tram to check out the view. To avoid rush hour, you can go during the day or later at night after the sun sets. As for us, we will never go back to the peak again. Even though the view is beautiful, twice was one time too many.
Cost: $40 HKD (~$5 USD) for peak tram or $83 HKD (~$10 USD) for peak tram + 428 Sky Terrace
Air: $888 per person on American Airline
Hotel: $250/night at Sheraton Hong Kong
Length of Stay: 4 days