It’s crazy how fast the past year has gone, from all the shocking world events that 2016 brought, to just my own experiences travelling and embarking on my final year of university – let’s hope 2017 brings greater things! Starting this blog on my year abroad, it’s interesting to see how its focus has moved from my own musings about living in Hong Kong and more onto travelling the world. In light of this, (and because I spent an hour last night going through old photos on my Instagram feed) I want to write a series of posts introducing you to spots in my favourite city, Hong Kong.
For first time visitors, there are certain sights that you should definitely see. You’ll find them in every city guide, top ten lists, etc. etc. But don’t let this dissuade you from visiting – millions of people can’t be wrong (I mean, Brexit and Trump aside) and for many of Hong Kong’s attractions, there are a number of ways to create an experience unique from the usual tourist affair.
A place I’ve returned to on multiple occasions, it’s worth the visit just for the view. As the highest peak on Hong Kong island, you’ll be greeted with an amazing view of the harbour and Kowloon. As a city of high rises, walking through its streets can sometimes get a little claustrophobic when surrounded by towering masses of concrete. But from the peak, you’ll find the beauty in all these stone pillars. Individual buildings come together, creating one of the most stunning cityscapes in the world. Day and night both have their own charm to bring to your viewing experience and I can’t decide myself which I prefer! For efficiency, arrive just before sunset, have dinner at one of its many restaurants and come back out to enjoy the night view. Or as some of my friends did, hike up after a night out in LKF and stay for the sunrise.
There are multiple options to get to the top, whether that be taking the scenic hiking trail (it’s an easy stroll), the bus from Central Ferry Pier or the Peak Tram. All have their own positive and negatives, but a good tip is to take the Peak Tram on the way back down. If you’re visiting during the day, this usually means no/small queues going down, whereas you’ll probably be waiting a good hour to get on one going up.
Ladies market is great for picking up souvenirs if you’re willing to bargain, although please do keep in mind fair prices! It spans the length of four blocks, but you’ll find a lot of repetition in the stalls. For cheap fashion, Fa Yuen Street is my favourite place to pick up some new clothes. I find the quality here decent, it depends on how well you treat your clothes, but I’ve not had anything fall apart on me yet! Keep a look out also for King of Coconut it’ll be the BEST coconut drink you will ever have. Made with fresh coconut, some condensed milk and ice, it’s the perfect refreshment to combat Hong Kong’s humidity.
Also in this area is the fish market where you can view (and buy if you really wanted to) hundreds of different types of fish. Lining the street walls are fishes in plastic bags and while quite a cool sight to initially behold, you do begin to question fish welfare as you move through the heat of the streets. Rabbits, kittens and dogs are also displayed in shop windows, although I think they do have the benefit of air conditioning, despite their glass prison.
Aside from shopping, Mong Kok is also great for its millions of signs cluttering (it’s more appealing than it sounds, trust me) the air above the streets. Doesn’t matter that you don’t understand them, they just look pretty! You can find streets like these in other places around Hong Kong too, but they won’t compare to the vibe of Mong Kok.
Getting to Lantau is accessible via two types of cable car, a boring normal car, or a special ~crystal~ car – basically meaning the bottom is made of glass so you can see straight through! I quite enjoyed the view through our feet, so would recommend paying a bit extra for this if you don’t suffer from vertigo. Another bonus of this car is that most people don’t choose this option, so the wait time is significantly shorter. Going there a second time with my family, we were approached by a ticket seller as we walked from the MTR station. I, for one, was highly suspicious of this man selling discounted tickets – he explained the discounts was part of a government tourist initiative (?), but as it turned out, his words were true and the tickets we bought were legit. I hope I’m not sending anyone straight into the hands of scammers, but do be aware that you may be able to get a good deal when you visit!
Lantau is also accessible via foot, the cable cars follow a hiking trail and I’ve always wanted to do the hike, but never had the time (or courage) to do so. Duration of hike aside, it does seem a beautiful route to take! Viewing from the cable cars, there’s small waterfalls to discover along the way and great resting/photography points. One day I’ll muster up the strength to do it!
Arriving on Lantau, skip straight through the theme park-eqsue shopping area and head straight to the Buddha! Along the way, you may encounter some cows, which are always surrounded by a small crowd of people trying for a selfie. At the top of the Buddha, there’s a magnificent view of the island, which makes for a better selfie opportunity in my opinion. There’s some small gift shops and a walled memorial for the deceased, you can also probably purchase a space for yourself if you have the money to invest.
Back down at the base of the Buddha is the Po Lin Monastery where the monks reside. You can peek in at the lavishly decorated hall and treat yourself to something to eat at the vegetarian restaurant on site. Highly recommended by me are the desserts, tofu pudding (豆花) and Chinese steamed rice pudding (缽仔糕) are the ones to go for!
To walk off all those calories (probably very little, to be fair), the Wisdom Path is just around the corner and gives you a look at the backside of the island. It’s a nice, quiet little scenic spot away from most of the crowds where you can take in the natural beauty of the land and contemplate the meaning of life~~~.
Stay tuned for part II…