Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Hong Kong Travel Guide

After touring Shanghai, Singapore, Bangkok and Phuket (Thailand) we ended our trip in one of China’s densely populated financial hubs – Hong Kong. We only had 3 days to explore but the city was everything I expected – exciting, fast-paced, crowded and a bit overwhelming.

The ride to Hotel COZi in Kowloon was interesting. We passed large ship yards, beautiful bridges and a sea of tall, tightly packed residential buildings with barely a sliver of daylight between them. The pedestrian and vehicular traffic is a constant chaotic stream and your senses are bombarded by dazzling sights, sounds and foreign scents.

If you read about my odd experience with the locals in Shanghai, you’ll understand why I was a bit weary of visiting another Chinese metropolis. Fortunately my time in Hong Kong was not unusual or intrusive and people seemed less surprised by our presence. No one pushed, shoved or cut lines nor did I have to defend myself against jostling elbows or strangers pressed up against me on the subway.

After settling in, we decided to head downtown and visit Hong Kong’s version of Time Square. Like most city centers, this area has many stores, billboards, lights, tourists attractions and restaurants. If you’re in the mood for a little retail therapy, the Time Square Mall is an impressive labyrinth of shops and escalators that ascend 16 floors. Admittedly we got a bit lost looking for pizza and ended up wandering around aimlessly.

Finding palatable food in Hong Kong wasn’t as challenging as it was in Shanghai so the first night we had dinner at Little Vegas - a colorful American themed restaurant.

You’re probably wondering why I didn't dive into the local cuisine with chopsticks in-hand but I’m not very adventurous with food. I enjoy a diverse range of ethnic dishes but I’m not a fan of most meat or seafood and wasn’t about to munch on the pig heads or sunkissed ducks hanging in restaurant windows.

The street food was definitely...interesting. I saw butchers chopping up what can only be described as some sort of animal innards, a variety of meat filled dumplings, dried insects, medicinal mushrooms, noodles submerged in unidentified broths and crustaceans swimming in murky tanks.

I chose restaurants very carefully after spotting large (extremely brave) cockroaches hanging out on the sidewalk but I did try the fresh ice cream waffles. My husband loved the abundance of natural fruit juice and to avoid popping Immodium like Tic Tacs, fried rice is relatively safe. If you aren't a picky eater I encourage you to embark on a culinary quest to tantalize your taste buds with exotic flavor. Eating is a popular pastime in Hong Kong and there are many affordable options.

If you’re only in town a short time, I highly recommend visiting Nan Lian Garden. This lush little oasis nestled in the foothills of sprawling skyscrapers is a peaceful escape from the chaos and crowds. As you stroll along manicured paths or relax by the beautiful coy pond, calming music soothes your soul. The garden may be small but it is one of the most serene parks I’ve ever visited.

Before hopping on the Star Ferry to cross the river, make sure to stop at the luxury shopping center by the pier. Even if you aren’t in the market for something extravagant, the sleek European architecture and elegant shops are a nice contrast to the clustered dilapidated buildings and noisy markets in the inner city.

On the other side of the river you will notice even more architectural contrast as glass skyscrapers loom overhead in the financial district. 

If you arrive in the morning when the weather is nice and the lines are manageable, jump on a tram to Victoria Peak – the highest hill on Hong Kong Island. You can catch a bus from the pier to the tram terminal or simply walk uphill as we did. The steep ride through the trees is breathtaking!

At the top observation deck the panoramic view is impressive! Marvel at the expansive city sprouting up along the river, snap some Instagram-worthy photos and browse the shops for souvenirs.

Back at the pier we stopped to have lunch and explore the parks, monuments and boardwalk before heading back across the river.

After touring all day I was quite lethargic but we soldiered on to Nathan Road and Temple Street Night Market for some last minute shopping and dinner at Bombay Indian Restaurant. The market is open daily from 5 pm – 11 pm and features countless stalls that sell everything from clothing, antiques, jewelry and electronics.

Most travel websites also recommended Stanley Market located outside of the city on the island’s south coast. Getting there requires a long (boring) bus ride and if you’re short on time I suggest skipping it. The clothing, furniture and knick-knacks seem old and flimsy (like they’ve been sitting out in the sun for years) and the knock-off designer bags (which I am not a fan of) are cheaply made. I did find some beautiful pashimna scarves and nice artwork but not much else. Don't be afraid to haggle since shop keepers often inflate prices.

Overall I had a great time in China. It was a bit of a culture shock but isn’t that the whole point of traveling? To experience, understand and appreciate places and traditions unlike your own while making an effort to learn and grow as a person. If everywhere on earth was exactly the same travelling would be redundant. I always try to venture out with an open mind and a willingness to try new things. The next time I’m in Asia I plan to explore Japan!

Check out my travel page HERE for more vacation inspiration!

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