Hong Kong is a myriad of people, culture, cuisine and architecture and there is an enormous number of attractions and activities within the bustling islands of Kowloon, the New Territories and Hong Kong Island. It can seem completely overwhelming when planning an itinerary to this incredible country with everything from fake goods markets to dizzying cable cars, horse racing to giant Buddhas. Whilst we by no means visited every attraction in Hong Kong, here are a few recommendations of the activities we did enjoy whilst visiting.
Akin to many destinations in Asia, Hong Kong is home to plenty of fake designer items for sale, be it clothes, shoes, accessories and of course bags. One place to find these is the Ladies Market in Mong Kok, an enormous road lined with makeshift stalls selling souvenirs, collectors items and a plethora of designer items.
Haggling in Asia is very different to bargaining in places in Europe such as the bazaars of Turkey, so here are our tips for this busy market:
- There are no prices on items and of course these can hugely fluctuate depending on if you look like a tourist, how much you haggle as well as whether they're in a good mood or not.
- Never agree with their first price, depending on how stubborn your seller is, you can usually achieve prices of at least half of their first offer.
- Remain determined and stern without offending the sellers as we experienced they are easily p***ed off, if you offer a price they are not happy with, they may just name a ridiculous price to make you leave.
- Plenty of the stalls sell the same items so if you are not happy with the price at one seller, I can guarantee you can find the same item on another stall so don't feel restrained to buy immediately.
- Keep an eye on your belongings whilst wandering the market, there are often other tourists journeying through the narrow lanes as well as other sellers, so keep your valuables out of sight and keep an eye on your bags.
There are plenty of cafes, restaurants as well as other stores nearby to the market so it is a good destination if you are looking for shopping or to grab souvenirs!
Tung Choi St - Use Mong Kok MTR Tseun Wan line
Happy Valley Racecourse
Attending horse races in the UK can be a grand and costly affair, which is the complete opposite in Hong Kong. Admission is £1 or free (we didn't find out what determined our fee being waived), and it is an extremely casual. Often people were dressed in suits, solely because they had arrived directly from work, or alternatively in shorts and a t-shirt so don't feel as though you need to wear formal attire. The betting system is slightly more complicated than typically in the UK: you will need to complete a bet form for each race, indicating which race you will be betting on, which horse you have chosen and your stake. You then need to complete this slip and hand to an attendant as well as your stake which MUST BE CASH. There are plenty of ATMs around the race course as card is not accepted including the bars and food vendors.
The races are a lot of fun, there are interactive games to get involved in, live bands, plenty of different food trucks, as well as competitions within the grounds of the night. Some important notes: The races only takes place on Wednesdays so plan your itinerary to accommodate for this one night it is open. The grounds open at 5:15pm but the first race is 7:15pm, get there in plenty of time as people are ushered out after the last race.
Located in Wan Chai there are no MTR stations nearby to the racecourse so taxi is probably your best option.
An infamous feature of Hong Kong, the Victoria Peak and its unbelievably steep trams are arguably the most popular tourist attraction in the country and for good reason. Standing for 130 years, the peaks tram is the steepest funicular railway in the world and was traditionally used to serve the British governor and peak residents. Whilst the tram itself is an exciting experience, the view from the top is incredible, providing a panorama over Hong Kong's harbour. I would definitely recommend visiting the tram and peak whilst in Hong Kong, it really is unmissable, but a few tips for making the most of your visit:
- The queues can get VERY long for the tram, both ascending and descending, make sure to get to the queue very early and I would recommend avoiding at the weekend (queues of up to 2/3 hours). If you visit early this also means that the queue back down the peak will be smaller returning.
- There are alot of souvenir shops at the top of the peak, so if you need any last minute gifts you can purchase them here which are reasonably priced.
- Purchase the sky pass ticket as this includes peak tram and sky terrace, this provides stunning views and saves you money.
The closest MTR is Central, around a 10 minute walk away from the ground tram terminal
Ngong Ping 360
These cable cars connect Tung Chung and Ngong Ping and is not for those with a phobia of heights, measuring 5.7km in length the journey takes around 25 minutes, the cable car is the longest bi-cable ropeway in Asia. Identifying as someone with this phobia however, I did not find the journey overly traumatising as the cars move surprisingly quick and smoothly and seemed sturdy and well regulated. The Ngong Ping 360 is the easiest method to reach the Tian Tan Buddha, whilst this can be accessed via a lengthy hike, the cable cars are fun and provide amazing panoramic views.
Be aware however the queues for this service are ENORMOUS and move extremely slowly. With 10 people riding in each car, the queues only move one group at a time and even with an online-booking type ticket which meant we skipped half of the queue we were still waiting for roughly 2 hours. Make sure to get to the queue early and bring snacks, by getting to the Buddha early also means you can leave early as returning queues are non-existence up until around 3/4pm when they begin to escalate to hours long.
The cable cars are signposted from the Tung Chung MTR the last stop on the Tung Chung Line
Tian Tan Buddha
An enormous presence looking from the top of Ngong Ping, Lantau island, the aptly nicknamed ‘Big Buddha’ is amongst the largest Bronze Buddha’s in Asia. Home also to the Po Lin monastery, Ngong Ping is a pilgrimage site for Asians around the world. Whilst the Buddha is sensationally huge and majestic it is a relatively new addition, only being erected in 1993 after 12 years of construction.
One thing to note is that there are 261 steps elevating the statue so wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a graft to get up there! There are plenty places to stop to rest and take photos on the way up as there are really great views from the top. There is no entry fee for the Buddha, only payment of the cable car if you choose that method to reach it. Around the Buddha and monastery there is a small tourist-purpose-built village with lots of western restaurants like Subway and Subway, as well as a lot of souvenir shops.
Served by the Ngong Ping cable cars, otherwise a taxi is your best option!
Hong Kong Observation Wheel
With stunning views over the Hong Kong island and Tsim Sha Tsui the observation wheel is a great way to see the iconic skyline of the Central district. Standing at 60m tall, the wheel is the best way to see all the amazingly lit skyscrapers, and I would definitely recommend visiting at night. On a clear evening it is easy to see across the harbour and makes the colourfully lit architecture of Hong Kong visible, including the the distinctive Bank of China building as well as the Guinness World Record breaking ICC light and music show. There are 42 gondolas on the wheel which feel secure and are air conditioned and the wheel makes 3 full rotations during your ride. It is incredibly cheap 20HKD which works out to less than £2, so I would definitely recommend a trip on here for the amazing views.
Only a few minutes walk from the Central MTR station
Man Mo Temple
A majestic tribute to the God of Literature (Man) and war (Mo), the Man Mo temple is over 170 years old and is a historical Grade I declared monument, as well as one of the oldest temples in Hong Kong. Bathing in a constant fog of incense smoke, both locals and tourists alike come to pray in this building which was traditionally used to take oaths which were accepted by the Colonial government during the period. If you are planning on visiting one temple in Hong Kong I would recommend this one, not only is it one of the oldest, but it's beautifully peaceful interior contrasts so drastically with the bustling pace outside.
No entry fee but there is a contribution asked required for incense.
Around a 10 minute walk from the Sheung Wan MTR station on the Island Line.
Trip To Macau
Dubbed the Las Vegas of Asia Macau is a tsunami to the senses offering everything from luxurious hotels, vast glittering casinos and ancient ruins. Only an hour on ferry from Hong Kong, Macau is an extravagant change from the grungdy scenes and is an 'experience' lets say that. For more read our blog on 'Things you should know before visiting Macau.