Hong Kong is a place that I’ve wanted to visit for years but never got the chance. While planning our trip to Asia this year I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity. Having researched various options we decided that a flight with Air Asia from Bangkok would be ideal, it was affordable, and the flight times meant we wouldn’t waste much time or affect one of our days as can often happen if the flight time is early evening……all booked up and ready to go we headed to the airport ……2 or so hours later and we had arrived!! Once we cleared immigration we made our way to the bus terminal and jumped on the A21 bus that took us directly to Mongkok’s very long and bustling Nathan Road and from there we navigated our way using the brilliant Maps.me app to our hotel in Mongkok. We paid $33 each for the bus tickets (€3.50) and it took about 40 mins, not bad at all for an expensive city like Hong Kong!!
Where we stayed
We stayed at the Dorset Mongkok, I chose this hotel due to the area, I wanted to see a more traditional side of the city as Mick and I always feel the need to be closer to the local community rather than in tourist areas.. The hotel was centrally located which was perfect for us. During our stay we were given a mobile phone with data included courtesy of the hotel which made our stay so much easier as we were able to navigate our way around the city without the added stress of data costs. This also came in very handy as a vegetarian…….the need to search and find suitable eating establishments was a must and I must say we struggled finding food in this area, most of the restaurants in Mongkok were local and they couldn’t understand English so the first day I did struggle to find some decent food……we saw a few restaurants that advertised ‘vegetarian chicken and pork’…….errr thank you but no
Where we visited…
Ten Thousand Buddha’s
10,000 Buddha’s was one of my favorite places. It’s not overly touristy, I guess due to the fact that it’s a little out of the city and it’s a hell of an uphill trek but that didn’t stop us. We took the train to Sha Tin, upon arrival you enter a massive shopping mall and need to take exit B…..of which, as per sod’s law, we found A,….C, D, E & F but no B!! Very frustrating as it just happened to be the only one that was not labeled….finally we headed towards the bus station and saw the signs pointing us in the right direction. It’s rather strange at first as there are no visual signs that you are heading towards something that must have taken years to construct as you walk through some litter strewn alley ways…..not something you expect when entering the grounds of a monastery. Be prepared to take on 431 steps to the top, uphill on a steep concrete path. There are rows and rows of individual Buddha statues all watching as you make your way up to the monastery……in fact there is not only 1 temple but 5. Once you make it to the top the view is amazing. I would highly recommend seeing the 10000 Buddha temple rather than the big Buddha on Lantau Island as this is quiet and allows you to relax and take it all in without the streams of tourist filled coaches.
Chi Li Nunnery
We took the MTR (Mass Transit Railway…..very cheap and very convenient) to Diamond Hill and followed the signs which was nothing more than a 10 minute walk. The place is very serene and absolutely stunning. We walked around the gardens enjoying the vast number of bonsai trees, all labeled, explaining their significance and the lovely ponds along with floating pods which I love. There were many Buddha statues in separate rooms and thankfully photo taking is prohibited as for one it is disrespectful and it also stops crowds forming and allows everyone to enjoy their magnificence. We continued walking around the gardens and soaking it’s beauty. There is a vegetarian restaurant which we tried to get to for lunch but unfortunately it was packed at 12 pm which was disappointing. There is a gift shop too but honestly it was overly expensive for items you can just as easily find in the local shop’s on the high street or in the market’s, besides that though this is a place that must be experienced while in Hong Kong.
To be very honest I was expecting a lot more from the markets, Mick and I always travel to markets no matter where we are as it is often the best place to experience local life and meet local people. With this market there was so much hype but upon entering and walking through it was literally the same things over and over again which was quite disappointing but never the less it was nice to walk around and take the place in.
I found this place after seeing some posts on Instagram and decided that I really wanted to go….which in itself is a bit odd as it is basically a block of flats!! It’s the way it has been constructed that makes it fascinating, a super high rise built in a U shape where you get the feeling that an entire self-contained community spends their days without the need to step foot out of the complex. You get the feeling that thousands upon thousands of families live here, it makes you feel claustrophobic in a way…..until you look up…..it’s when you look up you feel different, you feel like you are flying, like you have a window to the universe, it also makes you feel safe in a strange kind of way, like you are wrapped in a protective concrete cocoon that will protect you against anything. This 1960’s Chinese style monstrosity, built to cram as many people in a confined a space as possible where the residents obviously live in very small and congested spaces is, in a very voyeuristic way, something that we all need to experience. Personally I would hate people coming into my back yard just to gape at the surroundings but a part of me would also feel quite proud. This being said I’m convinced the residents are sick of looking at tourists coming into their courtyard to take photos so if you do decide to go, it is paramount that you be respectful as this is their home, show them you’re there to appreciate it rather than to judge and they will be absolutely fine as they were with us.
Mid level Escalators
The Mid-Level escalators are the longest outdoor escalators in the world and are pretty insane and a great way to see Soho district. Depending on what time of the day you access the escalators they only go one way. If you decide to ride them in the morning / midday they will be going upwards and you’ll need to use the stairs to go down. After a certain time in the afternoon they will be travelling downwards and you will need to use the stairs to go up. It’s a very clever idea as the road is extremely steep and it also gives you the chance to jump off at any time where you will find many small lanes with shops, bars and restaurants. Granted it is only an escalator but trust me, if it was only stairs you wouldn’t be as interested in getting to the top!!
Soho district was a pretty cool neighborhood, I must say that I loved the artistic feel of this place. At night the area is crazy busy with bars and clubs catering for all tastes. During the day you can visit the many cute cafe’s, boutique shop’s, antique stores and heaps of eateries. We went through Hollywood Road and found lots of street art which was super cool, great for taking photos. This was definitely my favorite area in Hong Kong…..lots and lots to see with something for everyone.
This is where we stayed and it was more local with a very Chinese feel as opposed to the Central areas. We walked along Nathan Road and the buzz is something that everyone needs to experience, it is a place that literally doesn’t stop being 2 pm or 2 am. During the evening there is so much entertainment that runs the length of Sai Yeung Choi Street. Street entertainment, shops, cafes, bars, it has it all. We spent most nights exploring this area as it was a lot of fun.
Symphony of Lights
The lights are quite popular and every night at 8pm near Tsim Sha Tsui and near Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai you will be able to watch the symphony of lights in action. It lasts for about 15 minutes or so and it is (apparently) quite a nice display as you can see all the building’s on the opposite side of the river light up. As a first time visitor in Hong Kong its a must visit…….as first time visitor’s ourselves we did……..and were far from impressed….to the point where we still believe something either went wrong or it actually did not take place at all as personally, following all the hype, we saw nothing if very little of any kind of ‘light show’ and were left rather bemused at the end of it all.
We left the peak till the last day and we were a bit unlucky as it was really overcast, however the scenery was stunning even on a cloudy day. The tram was out of service so we opted to take the bus which was quite nice as you can experience the wonderful views along the way as you snake your way up the mountain. Once we arrived we entered the complex that includes a leisure center, mall, restaurants and cafes. We walked straight through and made our way to the famous spot for photo’s where, as expected, was heaving with selfie-sticks and wide angle lenses. Even on that cloudy misty day we managed to take a few good pics. Just ten minutes later the whole skyline was enveloped by a low mist so we got there just in time. I would definitely go back on a sunny day as I can only imagine how spectacular the view is. There is also a sky terrace, however there is an entry fee so we recommend to only opt for that on a clear sunny day.
As a vegetarian I must say that I really struggled in Hong Kong, yes there is an abundance of food choices but not being familiar with the local cuisine meant I wasn’t able to enjoy it as I was never 100% sure that I was truly being served dishes that did not incorporate meat stocks or broth and this was an issue for me. Many of my questions were met with a very puzzled look or a shake of the head.
We did find some great, if not very traditional, vegan burgers, we went to Green Common which is located in the mall called The Forest… I will say that the burgers were to die for, it was probably the best burger I have ever had, it wasn’t very cheap but I can highly recommend it.
Lotus vegetarian restaurant was a place we stumbled across, service was good and food was yummy, there was many locals so you know that this is always a good sign and there was a lovely lady who described all the ingredients and preparation methods to us so we knew our meal was truly veg!!
Via Tokyo for the yummiest ice cream dessert ever!!.. we found one of their outlets in Causeway Bay.. Absolutely delicious!!
Lucky dessert is such a great dessert place they have a few outlets through Hong Kong. We came across this place by accident and decided to give it a try. We both had a dessert each and they were delicious. Mick had the softest mango rolls and I had mango pudding with ice cream on the side… If you love mango as much as we do then we highly recommend it.
A few tips about Hong Kong
- It is an expensive city but on a budget you can still enjoy the City
- We always felt safe no matter what time we were out
- There are currency exchange booths across the city opened to about 10 pm every night
- Give yourself at least 40 minutes travelling time to the airport
- As Australian and British passport holders we were granted 90 day visa but check the government website as its not applicable to every nationality.