Hong Kong Travel and Food Guide - Top 15 ThingsWednesday, January 20, 2016
We visited Hong Kong in July 2015, shortly after our getaway to India and if anything comes close to the fast paced, crowded life of India, it is Hong Kong.
I am an avid film watcher and in my previous university semester was a Screen Studies student. In my time there I watched plenty of films but I must tell you, it isn't often that you see a hauntingly accurate depiction of a city within a film. So when I watched Chungking Express after returning from my Hong Kong holidays, I was surprised at how easily I could relate it back to my own memories.
Much like India, Hong Kong holds within it a sea of contrasts. The ultra modern skyscrapers seem to get more innovative with every look but the awe they instigate is on par with the surreal feeling of witnessing dirty, crumbling and crowded apartment blocks standing across the road. There are several 'posh' districts with their high-end showrooms and wide roads but you'll find just as much of an atmosphere in the street markets and crowded, squalid alleyways. The city is inundated with tall buildings, with mirrored exteriors and countless windows but they have to tussle for attention with the glorious mountains hiding behind that carry numerous hiking trails and are sheltered by hazy, smoggy skies. There are luxurious restaurants to gorge on as well as tempting street side stores. So in summary, Hong Kong is a an island full of contrasts that some how co-exist beautifully.
Here are the top 15 things you can add to your Hong Kong itinerary that will give you a taste of its culture, food and people. We managed to fit all this quite leisurely in our 5 day Hong Kong itinerary.
- Victoria Harbour: This was the highlight of my trip. As soon as we got past the crowd and stepped on the harbour, the Hong Kong skyline was a sight to behold and totally mesmerizing. The Aqua Luna ship you see in the pictures added to the breathtaking beauty of the skyline. As you walk along the harbour you see the avenue of stars and statues of celebrities like Jackie Chan. Another local attraction is the daily 8pm light and sound show which is quite renowned but it left us unimpressed. Perhaps Sydney's Vivid Festival at the Opera House has spoiled us.
- Man Mo Temple: Built around 1840s, this happens to be Hong Kong Island's oldest temple and was mostly filled with young students offering prayers. I must admit, watching the students diligently offer their prayers reminded me of one too many times when I bargained with God for a good grade. The prayer ritual itself appeared relatively straightforward but this is where I was wrong. Lucky for me, a local came to my rescue when I accidentally attempted to steal his incense stick. Boy am I glad that despite the language barriers, he understood that I was confused as opposed to actually attempting to steal his sticks. He was even kind enough to attempt to talk (via sign language) although with little to no success.
- Wong Tai Sin temple: Unlike Man Mo temple, this traditional Chinese temple is grand as well as crowded. It is the most famous temple in Hong Kong and understandably so as it is situated in a beautiful setting with a garden and miniature waterfalls to boast of. Getting there is fairly easy as the MTR takes you right to to the entrance and we certainly recommend a visit to get a taste of Taoism. I also have a funny little story to share with you all. Anyone who knows me personally knows of my love of astrology and other such superstitious activities. No, don't try to talk sense into me, I've gone too far to turn back now. With that in mind, you will understand when I tell you that I had the craziest urge in me to get my fortune told. And not your average fortune reading, I specifically wanted a phony to tell me my fortune (we all have our quirks people). Phony I definitely got, the fortune teller told me to pick a number and upon seeing my chosen number, told me with great enthusiasm that I should not get a boyfriend as I will get horrible grades this year. I can safely say this has not come true and I have safely crossed over to 2016.
- The Peak: I love looking at a city from up above and taking it in its entirety. For this little mission, we boarded the peak tram to Victoria Peak. There are ticketed areas for an observation deck but we found this unnecessary as the free area had a beautiful vibe with restaurants and cafes providing excellent viewing spots. The highest free point is within this vicinity and is situated near a McDonalds. However, we landed there to be greeted by hazy skies and only got a fleeting view of the city. We didn't exactly mind though as we settled into the little area, admired the clouds hanging around and treated ourselves to ice cream.
- Lok Cha Tea House : This beautiful tea house situated inside the lush Hong Kong park in Central proved to be a great respite from all the heat and humidity. We tasted all vegetarian dim sum and picked from never ending menus of teas suiting all budgets. The visit was quite a posh and traditional affair and made for a lovely experience.
- Tsui Wah restaurant: I know I may differ with many on this but I'm really not a fan of Chinese food (Aanchal loves it though). The food at Tsui Wah though I could eat a hundred times and not complain!
- Central: The Central district of Hong Kong certainly stood out from the crowd. Although it had plenty tall skyscrapers that fit in like lego blocks into the exquisite skyline, there were also plenty of contemporary buildings that house financial giants and certainly looked the part too. It was of the most affluent areas within the city and had plenty of innovative architecture to please the eyes.
- Mongkok markets :A visit to the colourful and vibrant Mongkok markets had plenty on offer. This vicinity is made of several markets including a ladies market, bird market, flower market, gold fish market and more. First stop on our tour was the flower market where we picked up a beautiful bunch of pink roses and a delicious handful of fresh and juicy lychees. From here we headed to the bird market where the experience was quite eye opening. The city continued with its theme of contrasts as on one side of market we saw plenty of locals walking their birds on leashes (you read that right) or carrying them in ornate cages. However, on the other we saw bird sellers who sold birds in cages smaller than you can possibly imagine. The tiny alleys within the market where filled with anxious birds moving about what little they could in their tiny plastic cages. The last stop on this visit was to the ladies market where we were surprised to see the variety and quality of clothing available at bargain prices. Definitely recommend!
- Mid Levels Escalators: The Mid Level escalators are an iconic landmark of Hong Kong and your visit won't feel complete until you hop on them at least once. Best part is that there is an entrance and exit on each road the escalator passes so you can get off and explore any of the many restaurants and shops that come in its way.
- Citygate Factory Outlets: These are located in Tung Chung from where it is easy to get a cable car to Lantau Island, so we recommend covering these two sights together. The outlets itself offer a great variety of stores for those looking to shop. I spotted a young boy pretending to water bend by the fountain just outside which made for a very cherished memory.
Some food to try:
11. Eggette at Oddies Foodies: An Eggette can best described as a variation of a waffle and as you may note from the picture earlier, it is decadent and absolutely delicious.
12. Hong Kong Style Milk Tea: Having the special Hong Kong milk tea is not a recommendation, it is necessity. The taste may not suit everyone but we enjoyed it quite a bit! We also tried it in a champagne style bottle at the Tsui Wah restaurant which was worth a try.
13. Polo Bun: I'm a shameless sweet tooth and this pineapple bun was right up my alley.
14. Hot Coke with Lemon: Another local specialty that despite sounding alarmingly odd, tasted surprisingly good.
15*. Finally, some additional things certainly worth checking out when visiting Hong Kong are Lantau Island and Macau. Although we didn't include them in this post, we have lots more coming from those two beautiful locations very soon.