To date, Hong Kong remains well and truly untouchable at the top of my list of favourite Cities. Not least because it’s the City where I experienced my all time best travel memory to date – the Cable cars over Lantau Island. I’ll tell you more about that shortly, but first… a few thoughts on the City itself.
An incredibly diverse range of cultural influences makes Hong Kong a fascinating city. It’s vibrant and exciting with a really liberal ‘east meets west’ vibe.
Hollywood Road is my favourite example of this; home to art galleries, designer clothes and modern European-style cafes and restaurants. On the same street, you will find traditional tea parlours, kitschy souvenir shops, antiques and an ancient temple dating back to 1847 with giant hanging incense coils and fragrant clouds of smoke. It’s almost surreal.
There is lots to see and do; from visiting Temples and Monasteries, horse racing at Happy Valley, walking the Avenue of Stars and cruising around Victoria harbour, to eating a drinking in some of the most stylish places I have ever been to, visiting the markets of Stanley and night shopping in Kowloon. A fast paced and exciting vision of ‘old meets new’.
But if you’re looking for a bit more of the ‘old’ than the ‘new’, it’s easy to venture off-piste and take a look at some of the outlying Islands including Lantau Island and its lush mountain scenery, Tai O and its fishing village on stilts, and Cheung Chau for its pirate caves… that was a treat!
As I mentioned, Lantau Island, although much less remote than other islands, is my favourite experience from all my travels to date. It’s the largest of all the 263 outlying islands, home to Hong Kong International Airport and Disneyland HK (among other attractions) but the best of all is the Big Bronze Buddha (Tian Tan) and the Po Lin Monastery.
The Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car ride takes tourists from Tung Chung across Lantau Island to Ngong Ping Village. The glass bottom carriages provide the most stunning bird’s eye view of the lush green mountainside and blue sea. After a 25 minute ride, you arrive at Ngong Ping village where there are lots of lovely shops and restaurants. After a short five minute walk, you’ll reach the foot of the Buddha Statue and Po Lin Monastery. Sitting 34m tall and facing north, the Tian Tan Bronze Buddha Statue is a colossal thing of beauty. There’s a 268 step climb to get a much closer look and at this height the views over Lantau Island and the sea are incredible. Opposite the statue is the Po Lin Monastery, rich with colourful manifestations of Buddhist iconography and surrounded by beautiful gardens – a very uplifting experience.
A Symphony of Lights
Every night at 8 pm, the world’s largest permanent light and sound show takes place over Victoria Harbour. It’s a stunning display of interactive lights and lasers beaming from 47 of Hong Kong’s key buildings on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Featuring Classical music in the background that you can tune into, this show lasts about 13 minutes and is best viewed from the Tsim Sha Sui Waterfront.
The Peak Tram is the most scenic and fun way to get to the top of Victoria Peak but you can take a taxi if you prefer. The top of the peak is home to the highest viewing platform in Hong Kong, 428m above sea level, with a 360-degree panoramic view of the city. It’s incredible! My advice here is, visit twice! Once in the day light and again at night, both are very different experiences and both are breathtaking.
The first time I ever saw enclosed pandas and a memory I will never forget, it was a truly amazing experience. There are many exciting rides, attractions and shows at Ocean Park and it’s a great day out – worth combining with a visit to Jumbo while you’re south of the island.
Jumbo (Aberdeen Harbour)
The world’s largest floating restaurant. Not only an incredible dining experience, this is a ‘must see’ tourist attraction, it’s unbelievable.
Stanley is one of the oldest fishing villages in HK and is famous for its market. There is a fantastic atmosphere with plenty of opportunities to see and buy Chinese silk, art, jewellery and souvenirs. The streets are lined with fancy little restaurants and it’s fast becoming one of the trendiest places to eat in HK.
There are plenty of ways to get around Hong Kong, whether it’s by taxi, ferry, rail, bus or tram. The city claims one of the world’s safest, most efficient and frequent public transport systems and a convenient payment method in the form of the Octopus Card.
The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system is so quick and efficient. It covers all major districts, consists of ten rail lines, and includes links to Disneyland Resort and the Airport Express.
There are many ferries with trips around the islands, and the Star Ferry is a great way to shuttle between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.
The Airport Express service gets you from the Airport to Hong Kong Central Station in 24 minutes and allows a free In-town Check-in service at Hong Kong and Kowloon Stations for you to check in between 90 minutes and one full day ahead of your scheduled flight home – meaning that you can enjoy your last day out luggage free until it’s time to go!