Hong Kong is a rare breed of city where one feels oddly at home in the controlled chaos of one of Asia’s largest metropolis. From satisfying a foodie’s craving to an artist’s longing for oddball galleries to an anthropologists’ fascination with different archetypes of humans, Hong Kong has everything on offer for the average traveller.
Comparable to New York City in its 24/7 lifestyle and ability to cater to every niche market imaginable, Hong Kong also has a few surprises up its sleeve that make it stand out. Split up perfectly into five districts: Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, New Territories, Lantau Island and Outlying Islands, all districts and islands are easily accessible on one of the world’s best subway system.
Serenity in chaotic Hong Kong
The site of the original British settlement, Hong Kong Island is the main focus of most tourists with terrifyingly tall skyscrapers and the financial centre located here. More modern, wealthy and considerably less dirty than other areas of Hong Kong, most expats find their home here. Hong Kong Island is split up further into three districts: Central, East and South.
The Central district consists the otherworldly Man Mo Temple, which is nestled among all the antique shops of Hollywood road. With hundreds of incense coils burning at once, the temple is full of smoke and is a rare scene of serenity to witness among the hustle and bustle of the streets outside. Pop into any of the adjoining antique shops to see some of the best Chinese and South-East Asian antiques in the world, but be warned that some of them are ridiculously clever fakes.
Victoria Peak is everyone’s dream home
From Man Mo Temple, make your way to Victoria Peak via tram to take in the wonders of what the elite rich can afford. With the most expensive real estate in the world, Victoria Peak has become a tourist attraction not just for the wonderful vantage point it offers of Hong Kong, but to spend some time indulging in what a small percentage of the world can only afford. The best time to go there is during the early morning so as to avoid the hour long queues that sometimes form for the tram.
Escape the city without leaving it
The Southern part of Hong Kong Island consists of beaches and gorgeous natural wildlife where one can spend the day hiking or just going for a leisurely stroll. Attracting young families and backpackers, this is a great way to get out of the chaos of Hong Kong, if but for a day. For the more adventurous types, the Outlying Islands of Hong Kong offer a vast variety of hiking, swimming, snorkelling, sailing and adventurous activities.
Locals tend to flock to the Outlying Islands on the weekends to camp, hike or fish. It’ll surprise you how close and easily accessible this is to the main city via the subway system. A must-do if you want to spend the day hiking and the night partying in Kowloon or Lantau.
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Stroll aimlessly on the Kowloon Waterfront for hours
The Kowloon Waterfront is the place to witness the beauty of the Hong Kong Island shore and skyline with its regal waterfront walks and the night-time scenes when the lights of modern-day capitalism provide a spectacle that people of all ages will be wowed by. Start at the Star Ferry terminal and make your walk through the historic clock tower to immerse yourself in some of the most iconic views of the world. Continue strolling along the waterfront and you’ll find yourself in the Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong’s take on Hollywood’s walk of fame. One may not recognise their names, but the allure of being part of the squeals, pictures and fandom is indescribable.
Seeing Shanghai Street is a must
Straying off the beaten path takes you to Shanghai Street where the local meat, fish and vegetable markets take place. Get in and haggle over the price of fresh bananas or deep-fried chicken to satisfy your grumbling stomach. Start at the north side of Kowloon Park, which is a sight to see during the day-time with its three immense fields, and make your way up to Langham Place. Along the way you’ll witness the genuine side of Kowloon and Hong Kong. Crumbling, abandoned buildings litter the streets and the small-scale shops and random art galleries that you could have mistaken for an abandoned rice factory all seem to fit in this area along with alleys that are filled with fabulous graffiti and murals. A rare, artistic urban landscape that makes you regret not having a camera on you.
Kowloon is also host to Hong Kong’s unofficial red-light district and favourite party spot for expats, backpackers and young travellers alike. A dizzying assortment of karaoke bars, saunas, brothels and restaurants make up the surprisingly safe streets of Mong Kok. Colourful characters, great conversation and phenomenal street-side food are all located in this district until the early hours of the warming.
Don’t miss out on Lantau!
Home to Ngong Ping and the Tian Tan Buddha statue, Lantau makes up the other major part of Hong Kong. Being Hong Kong’s newest tourist attraction, both the cable car journey and the statue are almost always packed no matter the time of day or night. A themed village at the top greets you along with a 250 tonne and 34 metre high bronze statue of Buddha - the largest seated, outdoor statue of him in the world. Combining a spectacular 5.7 km cable car journey that takes in all the surrounding sights along with the massive Tian Tan Buddha statue, this is a must-see on any itinerary for travellers headed to Hong Kong.
Recommended duration in Hong Kong
All in all, Hong Kong is an unusual city in today’s world with its perfect blend of capitalistic chaos in the city to the abundant natural wildlife that surrounds it. Spend a week, three days or even a month in this city and you’ll never find yourself bored. A surprisingly inexpensive city despite its ostentatious indulgence, Hong Kong is one of the most iconic and important cities in the world and for good reason.
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