Rêveuse City Guide: Top 5 Places In Hong Kong

Rêveuse City Guide: Top 5 Places In Hong Kong


Hong Kong is a place that is so diverse and rich in culture, stemmed from different infiltrated influences over the decades. On one hand, you get to experience the traditional aspects of life, such as the red lantern decorated temples with its wafts of incense diffusing into the street,  and the bamboo scaffolding that wind around tall linear buildings. On the other other hand, you can also witness sparks of a modern and western influences which you can feel more-so on Hong Kong island, the island dominated by neon coloured skyscraper buildings. I was surprised to find an abundance of Marks and Spencers stores near where I was living, a home comfort where I'd buy food from once in a while to satisfy my craving for English food, set up mostly as a trap for people like myself due to the high number of expats living in Hong Kong (some items were about x3 its price than in the UK, shocking!). Hong Kong is also very much known as a foodies paradise where you can find a mix of western cuisines and traditional Hong Kong food such as dim sum, Cantonese roasted duck and Hong Kong style breakfast amongst other delicious nibbles. 

I had never really thought about Hong Kong as a place I'd visit more than once, but it was only more recently that I've been having urges of planning another trip back to Hong Kong again in the near future. We had previously spent less than 3 days with the family exploring the region, which honestly wasn't enough time to fully appreciate the culture and energy it had to offer. A few years ago, I had the chance to spend three months in Hong Kong again, where the days went by so quickly, that I would love to explore other territories and the life of the place in greater detail. This City Guide will be focusing on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon side, which is where I spent the majority of my time.



5 PLACES TO EXPLORE IN HONG KONG

THE PEAK HIKE.
The first time I visited the Peak, we went by coach up the winding mountain side later in the afternoon to catch the lights of Hong Kong islands peaking over the balcony of the The Peak Galleria. As it was crowded, filled with mainly chinese tourists trying to compete with capturing the perfect shot of the same view, the tourist spot didn't really spark any interest for me and left me wondering why it was such a famed spot. It was only once I went again with a friend, that I really got to experience the beauty of the place. This time we queued up for what felt like two hours to go on the peak tram to take us to the top, which was definitely a worth it experience, feeling like you were taking a rollercoaster to the top due to the extremely steep ascent. Once there, we made our way round the hiking trail, which for sure was a million times better in view. If only I had done the research about it the first time round! On a nice day you can see the different islands in the distance, the fisherman casting their nets to sea and the activity on the waters surface. It honestly looks so different to how you see it during the daytime that I recommend doing the hike if you have the time.

NAN LIAN GARDEN /CHI LIN NUNNERY. Nan Lian Garden was somewhere I decided to venture to on a whim after doing a quick google search on places to visit relatively close to me. Nan Lian Gardens is a serene location away from the intense city life filled with beautiful buddhist temples, lakes, thoughtfully cut trees and even a vegetarian restaurant hidden behind a waterfall structure. The place exudes peace and beauty, where you'll find monks walking throughout the space and workers pruning the greenery under the shaded leaves. The garden and nunnery located near Diamond Hill Station is free to enter and is open everyday from 7am to 9pm.

VICTORIA HARBOUR AT NIGHT. After a delicious dinner on the Kowloon side, you can wind down with a stroll through the Avenue of Stars in the evening, where you can view the glimmering city lights of the Victoria Harbour with the architectural rainbow coloured lights beaming and highlighting some of the most prestigious banks and its magnificent looking architecture in the world including The bank of China, The International Finance Centre and HSBC.

HONG KONG BOTANICAL GARDEN AND ZOO.  If you're around the Central area, make sure to take a quick stop off through The Botanical Garden and Zoo which are both free to enter and right next to one another. Housing some rare plants, bamboo and beautiful orchids, the Garden is a haven for species within the heart of the city. Meanwhile at the Zoo, you can find various animals such as monkeys swinging from the branches and flamingoes nestled in their groups. I am not usually one to support the idea of animals kept in cages, but I did find that the animals had a lot of space to play around in, although I probably wouldn't have visited had it not been next to the botanical garden.

PMQ (POLICE MARRIED QUARTERS). Located in Sheung Wan, PMQ was introduced to me by the local friend who was giving us a tour of the area. Originally used as police quarters, the government decided to preserve and transform the site into a space for creatives in 2010. Having studied the creative arts myself, I really enjoyed visiting this site and reminded me of days at school creating objects to sell at the Christmas fair. The space is divided into workshops and selling space where visitors are invited to have a stroll through the different floors and view the works of local independent artists and designers and perhaps buy a piece to take home with you!


OTHER MENTIONS

DAY TRIP TO MACAU. Macau is a ferry ride away from Hong Kong, where you can begin your journey from Sheung Wan Ferry Terminal. The journey can take up to an hour and about £30 for a round trip. Don't forget to bring your passport with you as you'll be going through controls once you arrive. Macau is known to be the Asian version of Las Vegas. A stop for its grand casinos, it's quite an interesting place that still has remnants from its Portuguese settlement period. I just spent the day roaming around Macau which I felt was enough, where I managed to see the Ruins of St Pauls (unfortunately for me it didn't have quite the same presence as it does in photos) as well as, The Venetian and its Casino, a walk around Senado square and the Taipa houses museum. Don't forget to try the Portuguese tarts which are also famous there!

BOAT FROM HONG KONG ISLAND TO KOWLOON. Seeing the lights glow up from Hong Kong Island or the Kowloon side makes you want to stay and watch the world go by all night. However, you can also experience it from the Star ferry if you want to see it from a different perspective. Taking about 40 minutes and costing as little as 2.5HKD, the journey will seem otherworldly yet peaceful compared to the hustle and bustle on land.

STREET ART IN SHEUNG WAN DISTRICT. Passing by Sheung Wan I had never fully explored the back streets of what the area had to offer until a friend local to the area showed me around. Once you climb your way up, you'll be greeted by colourful street art that inhabits on the sides of restaurants and crawls up the steps to the very top. Its strong presence creates a sense of youth combined with community and makes it such an interesting and dynamic area to gander around.

PLACES TO EAT

TIM HO WAN.
When you think of Hong Kong cuisine you instantly think of DimSum. Those tasty little morsels that are steamed or fried and full of flavour with every bite! My favourite Dim Sum restaurant by far was Tim Ho Wan, which has a Michelin star to it's name. With many outlets across Hong Kong and even a few overseas, I enjoy visiting the branch at North Point, where I find there to be more seating. The price at Tim Ho Wan is also cheap, so make sure to eat up on those delicious bites or you'll regret it!

KAMS ROAST GOOSE. Another Michelin star restaurant, located in Wan Chai is Kams Roast Goose, where you'll see queues start to form before doors have opened for their lunch or dinner service. Every morning I'd pass by this restaurant and see the steam and smell the scent of a batch of spiced goose drifting out from their kitchens. Costing about 53HKD (Approx £5.43) of a plate of goose on rice, it is honestly one of the best restaurants that I've sat at and throughly recommend to those who enjoy Chinese roasted meat.

YUM CHA. For a more instagram worthy and modern take on Dim Sum, you can try Yum Cha. Steam buns are formed into the shape of cute characters with googly eyes packed with custard and Hong Kong style sausages. Hong Kong are always popping up with cute and fun instagramable places to eat at with themed Disney and Sanrio restaurants, so you can definitely take your pick of places to choose from.

MAXIMS BAKERY. Hong Kong is filled with both French and Hong Kong bakery shops, but my absolute favourite was Maxims bakery for its chestnut cake. Chestnut filled birthday cake was almost like a ritual for us growing up, so it really took me back to the days where we'd nibble away on the chestnut decoration and filling. 

EXPERIENCE SMALL RESTAURANTS. Those small restaurants that you casually walk by that you think nothing much of may be hiding some serious eats! On many occasions I walked into a shop where there wasn't even a restaurant sign and I'd point at the menu and get a dish I totally didn't expect. Most likely the dish won't be too expensive, but at least you'd have experienced authentic food. Some of my most memorable eats were the egg noodle wonton soup bowl, hong kong style breakfast consisting of a milky tea and a bowl of macaroni, swimming in a bowl of broth. It was also my first time trying chicken feet (which wasn't as bad as I had imagined!) The food world is your oyster in Hong Kong, so try as much as you can!


TIPS ON TRAVELLING IN HONG KONG
  • Known to be one of the most densely populated places in the world, a note to mention if you plan on staying for over a month in Hong Kong, is that rooms or apartments can get quite expensive and the amount of space in return can be extremely small (for reference, my shower was on top of my toilet in the first apartment I looked at). As I knew I'd be in Hong Kong for over a month, I decided to stay at a hostel (CHECK INN HK, I highly recommend) for the beginning of my travels to get a feel of the city which i ended up staying at for the duration of my travels. A hostel provides a great place, especially if you are a solo traveller where you can meet and interact with other people from all over the world and also get more tips on travelling the city than if you were to airbnb it. 
  • It was only towards the end of my travels when I realised that the skinny trams that snake all over Hong Kong Island is a great means of transport. Previously I had just been using the subway to get to my destination 3 stops away but it was only after a friend was visiting that I used the incredibly cheap tram instead, which was less than 30pence (2.6hkd). Although it can get crowded at times, it's also a great way of taking in the city, especially at night when all the lights starts to pop up in the background.
  • Hong Kong is filled with little alleyways that can take you from a busy main street filled with the energy of people and lights to small alcoves with artisan coffee shops tucked away at the end of a street. Hong Kong is like a playground where you'll find yourself bumping into something interesting and new every turn you take, so a top tip is just to take your time and walk!
  • On two occasions in Hong Kong we have experienced some quite scary moments with the fire alarm going off and with no-one really batting an eyelid to it. Clearly something that can be a common occurrence in Hong Kong, (we as prepared Brits were looking hastily towards the fire route at 3am when this happened only to find out it was someone smoking in their room) just be prepared this may happen during your stay in Hong Kong.
  • When I first got to Hong Kong, I got quite confused by their currency as they have so many small coins and notes that it can get confusing, so I would have a quick look at the coins to get the hang of it. For example when I saw the 2.6hkd I would make the assumption that it was 3 pounds equivalent when in fact it was actually 30 pence. In any case, another tip is just topping it up on your octopus card where you can use it to pay for most things in store!

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