Duration: 4 days
Expenses: AUD$206 or AUD$51/day
Hong Kong truly has that East meets West feeling about it. Chinese characters, bright lights, shops, food and scents are abundant. You can feel the hustle and bustle of an Asian city. Yet at the same time, you see English, pubs, Western brands and architecture. You’ll be standing on the sidewalk listening to someone shouting Cantonese and then a very British style double decker tram screeches across the street in front of you.
If only I’d known there were so many hiking opportunities in Hong Kong. I assumed it was just a concrete jungle packed onto an island, and it is, but there’s a whole lot more greenery than you’d expect, particularly on the mainland in the New Territories. So unfortunately I only left myself a few days to explore the city, but that was plenty of time to eat, eat, eat!
While I was in Hong Kong I stayed at YesInn @ Causeway Bay for HKD$90/night (HKD$150/n on weekends) in a 9-bed dorm, though they must only have one 21-bed dorm. So just pick and pay for that and you might find yourself in the 9-bed if you’re lucky like I was. Funnily, it’s the food in Hong Kong which is expensive and not the accommodation or public transport.
A friend’s father was kind enough to take me around the city all in one day to see the highlights and eat at some of his favourite places which was great for me to get my geographic and eating bearings. We drove around Kowloon, to Victoria Peak, Aberdeen, Ocean Park (just to look), the Cyberport on the west side and finally to Central.
Then for the last night I stayed with my very kind Couch Surfing host, Jo, in Kowloon and she showed me around all the really local areas of Kowloon, Mongkok, Tsim Sha Tsui and finally Victoria Harbour, Central and Soho.
So I guess I only really had to fend for myself for two nights which I spent exploring Causeway Bay, Lockhart Rd and Victoria Peak. I even checked out Victoria Park a few times and it’s a great urban development filled with sporting fields, running tracks, gym equipment and gardens. A fantastic public space which I would definitely use more if I lived here. Just mind the running track when damp as I slipped over and I was even running barefoot…
But anyway, here begins the food safari!
First stop was a duck stir fry near the hostel in Causeway Bay. I was later chastised for not eating BBQ duck, but honestly after 3 weeks in Japan I just wanted some vegetables. For HKD$58 it was pretty good value.
First stop the next day was breakfast with Nangel’s dad at one of his favourite spots in Kowloon. Beef brisket, fish balls condensed milk toast and hot milky tea hit the spot.
After breakfast we stopped by at one of Hong Kong’s last outdoor markets. Apparently the government has been trying to clean up the streets and move these typical Asian markets indoors, but would it really be the same?
After some sight seeing we then stopped off in Central for Yum Cha (my second favourite meal of the day after brunch) at Lin Heung Tea House. It’s a very traditional Cantonese tea house with the traditional pots instead of regular tea pots. Nangel’s dad washed all our crockery with the hot jasmine tea first and then we ate. The dumplings were much sweeter and more supple than back home without being oily – perhaps just fatty – who knows?! Delicious!
Rather unadventurously, I just ate some fast food for dinner because it was go, go, go, walking, walking, walking around the city. Lockhart Rd was full of shops including all those very specific business that I feel you see a lot in Asia. I’m not sure Australia has stores specialising in just toilets or just filing cabinets for example. Maybe we just love our department stores.
The Western end of Lockhart Rd was where all the action happened. Dozens of British Pubs, loads of expats and some seedy looking establishments.
By the time I’d walked up to the Peak Train the lines were horrid and virtually not moving. I’m guessing only two trains go back and forth up to Victoria Peak, but whatever it is it’s not enough. Especially when you have to pay HKD$83 return (with Sky Pass or $40 without) and I calculated I could grab a taxi for just HKD$50. In the end I shared my cab with some Koreans and they spotted the fare – free is free and it only took 15 mins!
There’s actually no need to pay to go up to the lookout anyway, because just down the Findlay Path to the right you’ll arrive at a public lookout called the Lion’s Pavilion with pretty much the same view. I waited an hour for the light show, but as you can see it’s not really that exciting. Just take in the city lights and the harbour views.
The line for the train down was just as horrible so I elected to walk which only took 25mins as opposed to an hour plus. I never understand people’s reluctance to use their own feet.
A late start the next day and I shared some more dumplings with a Korean girl from the hostel (is every Korean from Seoul or is it just me!?). She approached me because apparently I’m oozing Korean style, but nope, she was mistsken! I introduced her to xiao long bao which is always fun for first timers.
Afterwards I met Jo in Mongkok where she brought me a Hoover egg tart – she’s so thoughtful and generous like that. Unfortunately, I squashed the first one while we were ditching my bags at her place, but that just meant we had to go back for new ones!
Afterwards we walked to Tsim Sha Tsui for some famous Kowloon food. We did a lot of walking that day which worked wonders for my sore calves (jogging down Victoria peak), sore thighs (leg day) and blistered feet (don’t run barefoot on asphalt). A triple whammy!
We (I) limped on down to Victoria Harbour to take in the view of Hong Kong island which was nice and the hobbled across to the ferry to Central. The ferries are oooooold, but are a nice way to cross the harbour as opposed to the MTR.
Central and Soho prices were as steep as the hill they are set on (they actually have escalators for walking up the street). Jo hadn’t actually been to Soho before despite living here all her life, though then again maybe it’s not surprising as it was expat city again.
All that walking sure builds up an appetite so a burger and a milkshake at Burger Circus really hit the spot. We also scored free milkshakes because they forgot our order! (don’t judge, I’m a backpacker)
From there we headed back to Jo’s flat where she lives with this funny little guy. I’d never dealt with a free range turtle before so I had to be very cautious moving about the flat and his favourite place – the shower!
Alas my short stay was over. We headed to the airport where we had one final Yum Cha session. It was surprisingly good for airport food which might be a trend in Asia if Singapore airport (where I headed next) is anything to go off too.
Once again I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with locals in their home city and been the humble recipient of some extremely generous hospitality. Meeting people like this in other countries reminds me yet again how much better a person I could be and that I need to demand more of myself. Hopefully I’ve left them with some good memories and impressions too.