TIME : TRAVEL Hong Kong
Hong Kong is truly a kaleidoscope of life. Where Eastern culture is shared alongside the West. It is an authentic gateway for those looking to visit China without jumping into the deep end. We recently spent 24 hours in Hong Kong and jam packed our day with plenty to see and more importantly to us, plenty to eat!
Though Hong Kong is under Chinese rule, they continue to operate their own currency, the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD), and their main language spoken is Cantonese though English is very common due to its historic British rule. We're not going to give you the history of Hong Kong because you can simply google that.
We're going to give you an account of Hong Kong through our eyes and what we think is worth telling you about. We'll give you tips and tricks to feel less touristy and to immerse yourself into what Hong Kong has to offer. For the typical tourist attractions you're better off checking TripAdvisor and its top 10 things to do.
Hong Kong Street Art located in Sheung Wan / Central
The Octopus Card
When you land at Hong Kong airport, you're going to want to get one of these currency cards. The Octopus Card is a universal credit system primarily used for their public transport but some vendors also accept this card. To purchase an Octopus card, you'll have to visit an ATM (located just after passing Customs) as they only accept cash at the airport kiosk. The kiosk is located nearby the ticket machines for the Airport Express trains. It'll set you back $150 HKD but you'll get $100 HKD credit and you'll be refunded $50 HKD when you return the card at the end of your trip to the same kiosk. These cards will provide you with better prices over purchasing single public transport rides and offers the convenience of not having to continually visit a vending machine.
We'd advise to load extra credit when purchasing your card as the trip into Hong Kong itself could cost you $100 HKD. If you're denied exiting at a station due to insufficient funds, don't panic there is always a nearby counter/machine for you to top up your card. Otherwise, you can top up at any Seven Eleven or vending machine located in the MTR stations. Make sure you're prepared with cash as the machines only accept $50 or $100 HKD notes.
Don't bother catching a taxi unless you're you're in a large group where it becomes more economically viable. It's far cheaper to jump on an Airport Express train and get into the heart of Hong Kong within 20 minutes. It'll cost you at most $100 HKD for the one way trip into Hong Kong whereas taxis may set you back around $350 HKD. The Airport Express will take you to 3 stops
- Tsing Yi Station
- Kowloon Station
- Hong Kong Station
If your hotel is nearby these stations, you may be able to catch the free Airport Express Shuttle-bus. To check if your hotel is on the list checkout the MTR website. Otherwise, you may decide to use further public transport, hail a cab or walk to your hotel.
When you're leaving Hong Kong you can catch an Airport Express train back to the airport for the same fare at the relevant stations.
Hong Kong is renown for 'Dim Sum' which is typically eaten for brunch. We're not going to go into exactly what Dim Sum is but if you google it there's plenty of information out there. Instead we'll show you where to get the best Dim Sum in Hong Kong.
Tim Ho Wan - Tim Ho Wan is now an international brand best known for their delicious dim sum. If you believe that original is best, then you can't go past where it all began right here in Hong Kong. In 2010, Tim Ho Wan earned a Michelin star in the Hong Kong and Macau Guide and since then, the restaurant has been dubbed as "the world's cheapest Michelin-star restaurant". There are four Tim Ho Wan restaurants around Hong Kong located in Olympian City, Fuk Wing St, Hong Kong Station and Wharf Road. Use Google Maps to find the nearest one to you.
Hello Kitty Restaurant - If you're 'foodstagrammer' then this is a place for you. By no means will it be as delicious as Tim Ho Wan but you'll appreciate the presentation of the dishes. Every plate is instagram worthy, especially the custard buns which is decorated in Hello Kitty fashion.
Hello Kitty Custard Buns from the Hello Kitty Restaurant located 400m from the Jordan MTR station.
Hong Kong Egg Tarts - You can find one of these delicious local snacks nearly everywhere in Hong Kong for about $3 HKD at a local Chinese bakery. You can also get them made to order at restaurants so if you're planning on a visit to a dim sum restaurant you may as well knock two things off this list in one visit.
The crust is flaky, tender and buttery whilst the centres are smooth and rich. One bite of these treats will leave you wanting more.
Tsim Chai Kee - If dim sum isn't for you, you must try the wanton noodles at Tsim Chai Kee. Located at a brisk walk away from the Central MTR station and minutes from the Pottinger Street Markets, Tsim Chai Kee has a very limited menu but don't disregard this restaurant for its lack of choices because what they do, they do very well. Also holding a Michelin star, you'll be to sample their world class dish for as low as $29 HKD.
Places of Interest
Man Mo Temple - Located nearby the Tsim Chai Kee restaurant, this temple is a place of worship for the civil/literature god, Man Tai, and the martial god, Mo Tai. These two gods are popularly patronised by students seeking to advance their study and do well in their exams. The temple is free to visit but do respect that it is a place of prayer for locals. Taking photos are allowed.
Inside the Man Mo Temple
Choi Hung Estate - Located in Kowloon suburbia, the Choi Hung Estate is a public housing estate that has drawn many instagrammers from around the world. Choi Hung is Cantonese for 'rainbow' and you'll see exactly why it's called this when you walk onto the centrally located basketball courts.
The estate is located right next to the Choi Hung MTR station. When you walk into the estate, you'll see a multi-story car park and the courts are located on the top level of this car park. The best time to visit are during school hours as you'll get the place to yourself.
You'll won't be able to put your camera down at the Choi Hung ("rainbow") estate.
Instagram Pier - The Western District Public Cargo Working Area is a pier located on Hong Kong Island on the waterfront of Sai Wan. This pier is also known as 'Instagram Pier' for its picturesque photos often published on Instagram, and it's best to visit just before sunset.
Though technically not a public space, access restrictions are relaxed and you'll find signs warning of trespassing but nobody is reinforcing them. Accessing Instagram Pier is easy, the closest MTR station is Hong Kong University (HKU). From there, head north following Hill Road and you'll find yourself walking along the wharf. When you get to the end of the wharf there should be a gate that is open to access the pier. You'll most likely see crowds of others holding cameras heading in this direction so following them is usually a safe bet.
Instagram Pier gets its nickname for obvious reasons
Sai Wan Swimming Shed - The Sai Wan swimming shed is Hong Kongs oldest and only surviving swimming shed. What use to be bustling with families looking to cool down from the heat has now become a piece of Hong Kong history. The swimming shed is located west of Hong Kong island approximately 1.2 km from the Kennedy Town MTR station.
Along Victoria Road you'll notice and entrance with two white sign boards with Chinese writing, this is the entrance to the swimming shed and jetty. The Jetty is popular amongst photographers especially during sunset and makes for a different Hong Kong experience away from the concrete jungle.
A local swimmer still utilises the historic Sai Wan swimming shed
Sheung Wan / Central Street Art - The Sheung Wan and Central districts are Hong Kong's main business districts. Amongst the hustle, there are beautiful works of street art tucked away in side streets nearby the high rise offices and shopping malls. It is worth taking a stroll through the district as you'll find not only amazing street art but boutiques and snacks.
Montane Mansion - This is another famous Instagram spot located in the suburbs of Hong Kong Island. The Montane Mansion is a housing estate that is popular amongst photographers for its symmetrically densed architecture. Within the courtyard of the estate, the magic happens when you look up.
Look up! Hong Kong has more high rises per area than any other city in the world.
Getting to Montane Mansion can be tricky because it's hidden amongst the urban facade of Hong Kong. The closest MTR station is the Quarry Bay and the estate is located about half a kilometer south east of the station along King's Road. The address is listed as 1028 King's Road and you'll see a building with two entrances signed with "Montane Mansion" and "Oceanic Mansion". Both of these entrances lead to the courtyard. Please be respectful of the area as it is easy to forget that people live in these stacked apartments and you're merely a guest.
Other Things to Do in Hong Kong
We've curated a list of places you may be interested in during your stay in Hong Kong. Most of these attractions are easily researched via google so we won't go into any detail with them.
- Disney Land Hong Kong
- Ocean Park Theme Park Hong Kong
- Victoria Peak (via Tram)
- Avenue of Stars
- Tsim Sha Tsui - Shopping
- Mong Kok - Shopping
- Central - Shopping
- Stanley Market
- Ladies Market
- Temple Street Night Market
- Tian Tan Buddha
- Lantau Island
- Macau Island - The Las Vegas of Asia
We hope you've enjoyed our first instalment of our TIME : TRAVEL blog series. Sign up to our mailing list and you'll be notified of the latest TIME : BLOG posts.