Fast paced and frenzied this city that never sleeps has in the last decade seen a huge increase in South African travelers, not only on business but many of us have chosen Hong Kong as a vacation destination as well.
Hong Kong….is exciting, mysterious and can become very, very addictive. The city offers all of the attractions of other big cities but then just a short ferry ride away and you’re catapulted into another time and place.
The fashion in Hong Kong, well that in itself is another story. Everybody dresses up, for work, for play, for shopping…Young and old embrace the ‘fashion culture’. Hong Kong is a city where its easy to indulge both your shopping and food fantasies. With more than 30 Michelin starred restaurants to choose from and every fashion house in the world with a store in the city, its easy to see why.
Now first time visitors to Hong Kong should know that in fact often when you say Hong Kong, what you in fact mean is Kowloon. Kowloon is on the mainland side (China) and Hong Kong is a ferry ride away. However, the two are often interchangeable, but the difference is that when you stay on the actual Hong Kong side is that you probably pay twice the price. Hong Kong itself is extremely small and real estate is prime, hence the prices are exhorbitant.
When you land in Hong Kong, the easiest way to get from Lantau, where the airport is , is to catch the train. The rail system is extremely efficient and if the train is due to leave at 12:03, it will leave at 12:03. Taxi’s are plentiful and getting around is safe and uncomplicated. The city is safe for travelers and women need never feel threatened. There are money exchanges everywhere in the city, no fuss, no drama when converting currency.
For a first time visitor to Hong Kong, there are a few things you simply MUST do:
The easiest way to see most of the attractions is to buy a “Hop On, Hop Off” Bus ticket , I would say get the 48 hour one because you won’t be able to take it all in, in just one day. These sometimes have tickets to certain attractions already included so it’s also great value.
- Visit the Peak Tramway…the views are breathtaking, you’re literally walking in the clouds and a bonus is that Hong Kong’s Madame Tussaud’s is at the bottom so you get both the attractions at one stop.
2. Visit Stanley Market – your bus ticket includes transfers to Stanley and Aberdeen . Stanley is a quaint sea side village which has become a favourite for tourists. Definitely the place to buy souvenirs and gifts to take home, definitely not the place to buy antiques. Save that for Hollywood Road. Due to its popularity it is not the cheapest place but certainly worth the visit. Murray House, a former colonial barracks, which was moved here brick by brick from Central is now home to restaurants and bars as well as the HK Maritime museum.
3. Catch a cable car, try the Crystal Cabin, so called for its glass bottom, from Tung Chung to explore Lantau Island and visit the famous Big Buddha, the cable car experience is known as the Ngong Ping 360. Visit the Ngong Ping Village and the Po Lin monastery. This is a full day excursion, so give yourself time.
4. If you have kids under 10 a day trip to Hong Kong Disneyland is great fun and they will thank you for it.
5. MongkokLadies Market – Well, cheap and nasty but an absolute delight. Fun items and as we call “Fong Kong” designer goods abound, but be prepared for a good round of bargaining. The stall holders expect it and you will get used to it by the time you get through the hundreds of stalls. Busy and crowded but you cannot miss it.
6. Temple Street Market – Named after the Tin Hau temple which is right at the centre of this vibrant market. When the sun goes down the traders are ready and waiting, the fortune tellers come out to play and the market comes to life. Leather goods, food stalls, sex toys you name it…you will find it here. Great place for gift buying.
7. The Symphony of Lights on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday night is a MUST. A great vantage point is the Avenue of Stars which pays tribute to the great actors of the East like, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Chow Yun Fat. To watch the buildings across the water come alive to the sounds of music is a spectacle to behold. And the Avenue of Stars itself is lively and festive and often there are ‘live’ performances to keep you entertained. Another great way to enjoy the ‘light’ display is on the water, so maybe take a harbour cruise and drink in the spectacle that is Hong Kong by night.
8. Lan Kwai Fong and Soho at night is alive and the funny thing is, you will hardly find any locals around. Ex-pats abound and the air is jolly and festive. Nightclubs, restaurants, live music and great fun. The worlds longest covered escalator can be found in Staunton Street, Soho. But if you’re going to be walking around, ladies careful with those high heels, the small, roads can be treacherous for heels. The area is quite hilly and when walking from one bar to the next, it can be a little tricky.
9. And of course, the shopping…Harbour City is a mall beyond description. It has every store you could possibly imagine and one could easily get lost, so stay close to your loved ones. Whether its Louboutins you’re after or Manolo Blahniks, you will find it here. I, of course, thought I’d died and gone to shoe heaven.
10.Not forgetting to mention that most hotels have live entertainment at night. Most of the singers are from the Phillipines and have made Hong Kong their home. You may not even want to leave your hotel, such is the standard of entertainment.
Bulldogs is a popular pub on the Kowloon side,Don;t be surprised to bump into someone you know
Hong Kong for me, was a pleasant surprise. The people are gracious and friendly. Language is not a problem, everyone speaks English and the service levels are something we can learn from. Hong Kong is a vibrant city, and by night it is even more so. The streets are always busy, the restaurants are always full and the street food scene is insane. The sights and sounds of Hong Kong are unlike any other city, it has an identity all its own.
Suggested Hotels: The Peninsula, The Shangri-La, The InterContinental
Suggested Restaurants :
Mortons at the Sheraton Hotel for steak
Fook Lam Moon –Cantonese classics
Aqua Roma/Aqua Roma –Japanese or Italian