Oh we have tried to get to Hong Kong twice in the past. And for one reason or another it just never happened. But this year, we made it a priority. I really wanted to see this city, but I was also a little nervous knowing how immense it was. But we went, we saw, we ate and oh what a place. I know we will visit again. Here is my post Visiting Hong Kong for the First Time.
As we drove in after dark (our flight was delayed from Manila), the lights of this city of nearly 8 million seem to go on forever. And not just forever but up…this city is built to touch the sky with literally thousands and thousands of skyscrapers as far as you can see. I was feeling a little intimidated at the mass of it all.
The Big Bus
Luckily we made the right decision to get tickets to The Big Bus, a hop-on -hop-off bus that goes all over the most touristy parts of Hong Kong and Stanley Island. This was a very good decision because it really helped us with the scale of the place and to understand where everything was. Our two day pass allowed us to do both the red line (Hong Kong Island), the green line (out to beautiful Stanley Island) and the Star Ferry that crosses Victoria Harbor from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon. We did all of that. It was great.
On Kowloon we walked the waterfront boardwalk on a spectacular sunny day. We also visited the Ladies Market, the Flower Market and the Bird Market.
Another perk of the Big Bus Ticket was it gave us a round trip ticket to take the funicular tram up to Victoria Peak. We did this on day two and it was another great way to get the lay of the land. The tram takes about ten minutes to get to the top. It’s not a gondola it’s on a track, but it is so steep I couldn’t believe it. At the top you have wonderful views back down to the city. We took a hike around the circular trail at the top and enjoyed that excursion very much.
Every evening at 8pm a light show with music commences on the waterfront of Victoria Harbor. It’s a synchronized light show that illuminates buildings on both sides of the harbor. We enjoyed it but it wasn’t nearly as impressive as the show we saw in Shanghai.
We booked ahead of time with With Locals to do a food walking tour. We met our guide Angel in the area called the Dry Fish Street. It was fascinating to walk around and see all the dried fish products for sale as well as many other things like mushrooms, seeds, sausage and plants. The Cantonese cuisine uses these products regularly in daily meals but the street was exceptionally busy getting ready for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival.
With Angel we visited a very authentic Dim Sum restaurant that a visitor would never be able to find and we had so many great dishes. I love this style of eating, like tapas or small plates, but you eat until you are full. Next we visited a very ancient temple Man Mo, a quirky local store and a former prison now a museum called The Prison Yard. We tasted a special tea, a delicious beef soup and a lovely bowl of noodles. We ended our tour with a popular sweet called a Pineapple Bun (not actually made of pineapple but shaped like one) and a tea/coffee/milk mixture very popular on a hot day. We highly recommend this tour.
We also did a cooking class, but I’m going to tell you all about that in next week’s blog post. Here is a sneak peek photo. 🙂
We decided to take a 40 minute ferry to Lamma Island, one of the smaller islands in this region of islands. Lamma has no cars, and is home to a large fishing fleet. There are two paved trails to circumnavigate the island. We walked from the small town of Yung Shue Wan where the ferry let us off to the even smaller fishing town of Sok Kwu Wan where we caught another ferry. The ferry ride itself was a lovely way to see the area but we were so glad we took the time to visit this tiny island. Such a change from past-paced Hong Kong. I think it would be an attractive place to live and commute into the city – giving you time away from the hustle and bustle.
Hong Kong Palace Museum
Hong Kong is home to a handful of museums, and at the recommendation of our cooking class instructor we visited the Hong Kong Palace Museum to see two special exhibitions. This beautiful museum overlooking the water was so unexpected. We learned a great deal about ancient Chinese history, art and culture. I highly recommend it.
We were very adventurous in our eating, popping into some tiny places we stumbled on. Dim Sum, noodles, sausage and delicious stir fried greens made me very happy at our meals. We also discovered how popular the Portuguese sweet called Pastel de Nata is and the Mid-Autumn Festival speciality Moon Cake. After a week of the most delicious Cantonese Food we enjoyed an Italian Feast on our final night. Although we highly recommend eating the local food while in Hong Kong you can also find just about any other cuisines of the world.
Getting Around Hong Kong
Getting around a city of nearly 8 million people might at first glance seem daunting. But let me tell you it was so very simple. Hong Kong is home to an exceptional subway system, an above ground tram(rail) system, a massive bus system and an impressive ferry system. All of these were efficient, clean, on time, easy to figure out and inexpensive.
Maybe because I was thinking about our visits to Tokyo or Singapore I was expecting Hong Kong to be expensive. It was not. All of our restaurant visits were less than $30 for two with drinks, except for our last night where we spent about $120 for an upscale meal. We purchased some breakfast groceries and they were very inexpensive. Transportation was inexpensive and tipping is usually not expected. I did very little shopping but I looked at a couple of ladies clothing stores and I was definitely tempted. Beautiful blouse for $13, a winter coat for $30.
We Did Not See it All
It’s a big place and it was really hot and humid, which wore us out by the end of each day. We wanted to see the Dragon Dance for the Mid-Autumn Festival but it was suffocatingly packed with bodies I couldn’t take it so we decided to forego it.
Next time we will also spend a day on Stanley Island, home to the famous Stanley Island Market. We also will next time visit the giant Buddha on Lantau Island, which is home to a monastery that serves delicious vegetarian food. And finally, we tried to go to a performance at the beautiful performing arts center in Kowloon but we just couldn’t make any of the offerings fit our schedule. Too bad as it looked amazing with symphonies, ballet and much more.
Visting Hong Kong for the First Time
It’s a wonderful city. Friendly, clean, efficient and inexpensive. Everyone speaks English and they are helpful and welcoming. They have some strong opinions about their place in the world and in China, and I loved hearing their input about that. Hong Kong has a long and wonderful history, and I hope the people can continue to be autonomous and flourish. We certainly hope to visit again.
Thanks for reading my post Visiting Hong Kong for the First Time. Come back next week to learn about the cooking class we took in Hong Kong.
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