Hong Kong is the true city that never sleeps. The choices of things to do are so vast and last well into the early hours if need be. There’s never a moment when you’re left among the looming skyscrapers that you think “I’ve run out of things to do!”
The most important thing to think about when travelling to Hong Kong is the length of your stay. Hong Kong is a destination that needs time to explore rather than a rushed weekend fitting in as many tourist spots as possible. So make sure you have at least two weeks if you want to experience everything that Hong Kong has to offer.
No. 1 – Your Arrival
Hong Kong’s sole international airport is situated on the outlying Lantau Island. Chek Lap Kok Airport has ranked as one of the top airports in the world since its birth in 1998, making it a pleasure to fly into. It’s clean, fresh, modern and easy to get around. Best of all it has a fully equipped spa and shower area to freshen up if you fancy.
Transport connections are fantastic with the Airport Express connecting straight to Central in the city. The train is virtually silent, comfortable and fitted with TV’s introducing popular sights and restaurants throughout Hong Kong.
If you’ve arrived during summer, prepare yourself for the wave of hot air as you step outside. Temperatures can soar into the high 20’s (ºC) from May to September.
No. 2 – Getting Around
It might seem tedious to praise a city for its methods of transporting the masses from A to B but Hong Kong’s traditional Star Ferry and tramways are a great delight to visitors.
Take the 20 minute Star Ferry ride from Hong Kong Island over to Kowloon. Or take a rickety ride from one end of the Island to the other on one of the tradition trams which date back to 1901. Let’s not forget the near-to-vertical Peak Tram which takes you all the way up to The Peak.
The MTR (Mass Transit Railway) is wondrously clean and efficient. I lived there for sixteen years and not once did I encounter a delay, breakdown or failure of any sort. London’s Oyster card is based on Hong Kong’s Octopus card, the original ‘smart card’; named appropriately because of its wide reaching and varied uses. It encompasses the usual train and bus fares but it can also be used in convenience stores, local supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, car parks and vending machines. This is a worthwhile purchase for stays longer than a week.
No. 3 – The City
Hong Kong is built on a reputation of overwhelming skyscrapers, busy streets and steaming Dai Pau Dong’s (open-air food stalls). There is, however, a lot more to it than that:
Victoria Peak, or simply The Peak, is a great place to take in the entire landscape of Hong Kong. From 552 meters above sea level you can view the entire city below and the mountains of mainland in the distance. Dusk is the best time to witness the transformation from the bustling daytime to the energy of the throbbing city lights. Make sure to check weather conditions for cloud or mist, especially during the summer months, to make sure it’s not a wasted journey.
Try your betting luck at Happy Valley Racecourse where you can catch a glimpse at the elderly regulars in the stands.
No. 4 – Kowloon & the Mainland
Just across the harbour is mainland China but as Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region meaning ‘one country, two systems’ it is still officially Hong Kong. This is sometimes referred to as Kowloon Side.
Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui are popular shopping destinations on Kowloon Side with Ladies Market, Granville Road and Nathan Road. Ladies market is great for cheap gifts, trinkets and clothing. Granville has an ample selection of locally designed clothing for the trendy whilst Nathan Road offers electronic goods. The Ocean Centre and Harbour City is a fine specimen of Hong Kong’s species of luxury malls. There’s everything from Mango and Zara to Chanel and Vivienne Tam.
No. 5 – Outlying Islands
Lamma Island is known as a hippie island with a small selection of vegetarian and vegan health food stores. It’s also a popular destination for those wanting to experience the best of Hong Kong’s seafood. It is a frequent stop-off for those enjoying a day on a junk (traditional boat).
Macau Island has recently become a popular gambling destination with Las Vegas’ top casinos, including The Venetian, opening in recent years. This is a popular island to take a short break from the city with an array of luxury hotels to choose from.
Ngong Ping 360 is an exciting cable car experience which connects Tung Chung on Lantau Island to the Ngong Ping hills where Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha are situated. The Buddha is incredibly popular with its climb of 268 steps to reach the foot of the bronze statue.
Also worth mentioning is the relatively new Disneyland situated on Lantau Island, however, it is comparatively small when considering other Disneyland’s throughout the world.
Hong Kong is, surprisingly, almost 70% countryside found both on the Island and the mainland. There are numerous beaches, national parks, country walks and picturesque landscapes that often miss the diverted tourist’s eye.
No. 6 – Weather Conditions
Weather in Hong Kong can be adverse at times with varying degrees of typhoons, monsoons, thunderstorms, humidity and pollution. The summer is particularly rife with such conditions. However, Hong Kong has a great warning system and if anything were gathering speed the country would be sufficiently prepared.
‘T1’ is a standby signal, indicating a typhoon is on its way, T3 the winds are picking up and it’s time to think about finding cover. By T8 and T10 you should definitely be back at your accommodation or somewhere safe inside. Then there’s Amber Rainstorm Warning, Red Thunderstorm Warning or Black Thunderstorm Warning, each indicative of their severity. There’s even a Fire risk, flood and landslip warnings for the safety of hikers.
Laura – Nov 13th 2010