My Trip to Hong Kong
This was my first time visiting Asia and I really didn’t know what to expect. Hong Kong was so familiar yet so different from what were used to in the US. I thought 4 days would be enough to get a good idea of the life in Hong Kong, but I barely scraped the surface. I guess I just have visit again soon! Below are all of the recommended places to visit, eat, drink, with a few tips/tricks as well 🙂
A Few Tips
Hong Kong is the definition of a concrete jungle. Think New York City on steroids with high rises on every street, neon signs lighting up sidewalks, and hoards of people crossing insanely busy streets. Something is always going on. The conversation rate is about 1USD to 7HKD, although things are still relatively expensive. Keep in mind that while Uber is available (we took it a few times), it is considered illegal. We used the subway to get around which was definitely the cheapest and easiest way. It is air conditioned, with perfect cell signal, and everything is in English as well as Cantonese. I highly recommend taking it everywhere you go. Surprisingly enough, almost everyone we talked to spoke English so it wasn’t too difficult to communicate. Some places do not take credit card, so make sure you have some cash on you. I will say that during our 4-day visit, we were unable to see just about any of the skyline because of the smog. The smog coupled with the humidity made is extremely hot outside. We had to take about 3 showers a day because we started sweating as soon as we walked outside. They say a rainstorm usually clears out the smog, but we were not blessed with one during our visit. Even so, we spent the entire time getting lost on the streets of Hong Kong because there is something to see around ever corner. Now, onto the things to do.
Areas to Visit
There are two main sides to Hong Kong: Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. Kowloon is the “mainland” and is more local. On this side you will find it harder to communicate with people (at least we did), more “authentic” restaurants, and famous markets/street food vendors. This is the side on which we stayed. The Kerry Hotel is situated on the pier of the Kowloon side, proving to have the best view of the Hong Kong Island skyline. It was probably one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in. They have 3 restaurants, coffee shops, a beautiful spa and gym, cocktail bar, and an infinity pool which I unfortunately did not have the pleasure of using. The Starferry, which is the ferry that takes you to and from HK Island and Kowloon, has a port right at the bottom of the building. While you can take the train or car to HK Island, the Starferry is extremely cheap and only takes about 6-8 minutes to get you to the other side.
This area on the Kowloon side is the “Times Sqaure” of Hong Kong. This is where massive hoards of people line the streets, blinding signage overwhelms the sides of high rises, and the most famous food vendors sell street food all night. This is the area for foodies. Hong Kong is well known for its street food, and this is the area to try all of it. While some is more “appetizing” than others, it is always worth trying. I will get into the food later in the article.
Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong Island is where you will find a little bit of America. While you still find authentic restaurants and shops, you will also find everything from upscale Michelin star restaurants and craft cocktail spots to clubs and ex-pat bars playing Britney Spears. We went out Thursday and Friday on Hong Kong Island and ate at some amazing restaurants. There were also incredible cocktail bars that definitely rank as some of the coolest bars I have ever been too. I will get into all of those places later.
Lan Kwai Fong
This is the main “bar” area for people interested in going out. Ignore the people bombarding you with happy hour deals and explore until you find a bar that suits you. A lot of people drink on the streets here. This doesn’t mean you can walk around with an open container, but you will find people sitting outside of bars (even outside of 7/11) drinking on the side walks. You do not need to go out in heels. Most people seemed to be content in wearing jeans and sandals. While I did see some people more dressed up (those people were going to the clubs), it is not necessary.
Things to see
Visit Temple Street Market/Ladies Market
Every night the Temple Street Market and Ladies Market sell everything from chopsticks to fake handbags. It is definitely something to see even if you are not looking to buy something. Although if you are, make sure to bargain the price. The prices listed are simply suggestions. These streets are awesome to see at night because of all of the lighted signs. Feel free to sit somewhere and grab a bite as well. The streets are lined with food vendors serving noodles and dim sum. Bring cash!
Visit Choi Hung Estate
This is something I recommend to someone looking for “that awesome instagram picture”. There is not much to this place other than it being the oldest subsidized housing estate in Hong Kong (making it effectually sad if you really think about it). When we visited, there were 2 commercials being shot, a few instagram fashion models, and loads of tourists simply taking the same picture as everyone else. The basketball court is above the parking lot, which is where everyone takes their picture. The train station lets you out right in front of the Estate so you should be able to find it easily. Keep in mind that while people use the building as a colorful backdrop, it is still someones home. Be respectful!
See Wan Tai Sin Temple
After seeing the Choi Hung Estate, we took the train for about 5 minutes to the Wan Tai Sin Temple. This temple was beautiful and definitely worth the visit. There is no entrance fee. You will see tons of locals and tourists holding incense and praying so be respectful! Feel free to take pictures and there is no need to wear anything in particular. The mall is right next to the temple if you need a little AC after your visit.
Take a Hike
One of the most popular things to do in Hong Kong is to hike up either Victorias Peak or Dragons Back. It is, of course, a concrete jungle amongst mountains. How could you not see it from the top? Unfortunately for us, the smog kept us for hiking either of the peaks (you would only see a layer of white from the top). If you are not the hiking type, there is a cable car that takes you up to the top and I highly recommend doing it during your visit.
See The Big Buddha on Lantau Island
This was another recommendation that we were unfortunately unable to do. We simply did not have the time. Big Buddha is situated on Lantau Island (where the airport is) and is accessible by cable car.
Visit an Island
There are a few services that take you to and from the islands that boarder Hong Kong. Stanley Island and Llama Island are the two more famous fishing villages outside of HK. Take a boat or ferry to either of these islands and eat a meal straight from the ocean. You will eat only the freshest fish during your visit.
Places to eat
AUSTRALIA DAIRY COMPANY: this is a “Cha Chaan Teng” or “diner” in Hong Kong. This place is a very famous breakfast spot on Kowloon Side. The line wraps around the building, but moves quickly as food is served almost instantly. A common Cha Chaan Teng breakfast consists of eggs, toast, a bowl of macaroni soup, and tea or coffee. While this may sound strange, it is actually pretty good! Keep in mind that you will not get your own table. It is customary to sit where they have availability. We are a couple, so we sat at a table of 4 across from another 2 people. It feels weird, but thats just how it is. If you want an authentic breakfast, try this place!
ICHIRAN: While this ramen place is in the US, it is still a solid bowl of ramen. It is also open really late, making it the perfect stop after a night out. Get the rich broth, medium heat, and firm noodles.
Mong Kok (technically in Kowloon but deserves its own recognition)
AM.PM.: This is the place where I finally got to try the famous Japanese “souffle” pancakes. The video is on my Instagram page if you somehow missed it. There was about a 15-minute wait, but you are able to watch the process right in front of you. It is a grab-n-go spot and there are no tables outside. Most people just stood around and ate standing up. They have many different types of pancakes, but I think the signature are the best.
sKAM WAH CAFE: Famous for their Pineapple Bun. Don’t be fooled, there is no pineapple in this pastry, it simple just looks like a pineapple. It is a savory “bun” with melted butter. This is also a great place for breakfast.
ONE DIM SUM: although I unfortunately did not get the chance to eat here, this place was recommended to me multiple times so I thought it deserved a mention. The line may be long and they will serve quickly (in an attempt to get you out quickly) so this wont be the place you sit and lounge around. The dim sum is great and also affordable.
HOP YIK TAI: one of the most anticipated dishes for me were the steamed rice rolls or Cheung Fun. I heard this place served the best in Hong Kong. I also heard they serve over 5,000 rice rolls a day..so you can imagine they serve up some of the best. As a Michelin recommended restaruant, we knew the line might be a bit long but it was totally worth the wait. The rice rolls were silky, fresh, and chewy all in one. You also get hoisin, sesame, and soy sauce all on top of the rolls. GO. HERE.
KAMS ROAST GOOSE: Michelin Star roasted goose! This is one of the famous Mong Kok street vendors so be sure to stop by and try some of their tender goose.
CHEUNG HING KEE SHANGHAI PAN FRIED BUNS: These were arguably the best pork dumplings I have ever had. I’m still dreaming about them. They are Michelin recommended and are only $3 for a pack of 4 dumplings. They are steamed with a beautiful crispy bottom and are filled with soup so be careful biting into it.
Street food you need to try in HK
CURRY FRIED FISH BALLS
MILK TEA/BUBBLE TEA
CHAR SIU FAN
DIN TAI FUNG
Hong Kong Island
MOTT 32: if you’re looking for a modern, upscale twist on Asian cuisine, this is your place. It is rather expensive considering you can find awesome Chinese food for an 8th of the price, but you come here for the experience. The atmosphere is great and they also have a GF menu for those who need it. Recommended food items: Iberico pork belly and the peking duck.
YUM CHA: If you want cute little custard buns with faces on them, this is your place.
OTTO MEZZO: Only 3 Michelin Star Italian restaurant outside of Italy. While we did not get to try it, it is well known for its outstanding food and bar program (which was revamped last year).
HO LEE FOOK: We LOVED this restaurant and highly recommend it. They do not take reservations, so there is usually a long wait for a table. Simply leave your name with the hostess and grab a drink at one of the bars in the area. We went to The Old Man up the street which was unlike any bar I have ever been to. Once they gave us a call (about an hour later), we headed back and sat right away. The dumplings, Chau Siu, and corn were amazing but I’m almost positive everything else is great too.
Places to Drink
A few little tips: do not go out if you are not 18+ (the legal drinking age there). We went to a club which was shut down for 30 minutes by police. They stormed in and grabbed people who were underage. If I didn’t already have 5 drinks in me, I would have been freaking out. They were screaming at people and asking for IDs while also looking for drugs. I want to say there were about 700 people in this club, and we were one of the 30 people who had to show IDs. Everything turned out fine, but it was definitely not something I had ever experienced.
Anyways, we didn’t drink anywhere on the Kowloon side, so I can only recommend places on HK island.
QUINARY: This bar came highly recommended and is also one of the “50 Best Bars in the World”. They are famous for their Early Grey Caviar Martini, so that is what I ordered. It isn’t the easiest to drink, but the taste was amazing. The cocktails are pricy, but understandably so considering the level of flavor and ingredients in each drink.
SEVVA: great rooftop bar. It is a little pricy, but understandably so considering the view. The atmosphere is great and the staff is really friendly. You can even come here without having to buy a drink. Some people just want to take a few photos with the view.
J BOROSKI: We spent 30 minutes looking for this speakeasy and probably wouldn’t have found it unless someone asked if we were looking for J Boroski. This was definitely the coolest bar we visited. While there is a “menu”, no one uses it. The server will come over and ask what your cocktail preferences are (i.e spicy, sweet, bitter, strong etc) and creates the drink just for you.
THE OLD MAN: This bar was created around the famous Earnest Hemingway. There are only 9 drinks on the menu considered his “favorites”, a distillation process going on behind the bar, and one bartender working intently on each and every drink. It is definitely a must-try in Hong Kong. We came here while waiting for a table at Ho Lee Fook.