Western people consider HongKong the doorway to China and we were not an exception. This has been our first time in Asia and we got captured by how different everything appears from what we are used to. Starting from the small things: you’ll feel like an illiterate again and moving around might seem challenging at first. Once you get used to the discomfort, you’ll discover that also food is not something you are used to and the safe choices will be dumplings and Beijing duck, but it would be a shame to miss out on fruits like the Durian and the water apple – difficult to find in the Western world and worth a try.
If you feel adventurous, in local markets you should also try the dried fishes that are conserved in craters just by the side of the road. A lot to take in, while the bright lights of the city from Victoria’s peak at night will mesmerise you!
Discover now the 10 tips that will make you wish to book a flight to HongKong
A British colony since 1839, HongKong has been a special administrative region of China since 1996, maintaining a high level of autonomy.
Easy to reach, it is the gate to China, does not require a VISA and it is also a common stop over for long travels from Europe to Australia or New Zealand.
Which was exactly our case.
1. Skylines from Victoria’s peak
HongKong has for sure one of the most impressive skylines in the world.
There are mainly two ways to get the most of it: at nights, enjoying the lights view from Victoria Harbour.
Whilst during the day heading up to Victoria’s peak. It is for sure a view well worth the trip.
To get on top you need to take the tram: you will end up in a packed mall full of shops and restaurants.
But, trust us, the view will make you forget all the touristy attractions around you.
More info here .
2. Night lights
We have been in HongKong in November and, as often happens when travelling in Asia, given the pale colours you experience during the day, I was most impressed by the sparkling of lights at night.
Just take your time walking around after sunset on your way to and back from Victoria Harbour. It will be simply mesmerising.
3. Get around with local cabs
If you have a short time to stop over, I do recommend using cabs in HongKong.
I found them secure, cheap and very handy to move around quickly with a limited amount of time available.
Just remember to take the business card of your hotel with you to show the correct address for the return trip.
Make also sure you have your destinations written down, as reading them makes it simpler to the taxi driver.
If you are an English speaker, you can try and pronounce addresses but most likely you will get a blank stare and perhaps a trip in the wrong direction!
4. Local markets
I still hold sweet memories of Hong Kong but one thing that I remember clearly of this city was my first experience at an Asian market.
It is difficult to forget the first time you smell dried fishes in craters while walking on the main street.
Be adventurous and try one!
5. Strange vegetables
One of the best things about strolling around markets is to spot varieties of fruit and vegetables never seen and all there to try for the bravest!
This has been the first place where I have seen the Durian, defined as “the king of fruits” in the Asian Culture.
What captured us, is that it is very smelly and it does not entice one to try it.
Some hotels even banned it because of that smell! However, Asian people consider its juice a delicacy.
The fruit in the picture is a water or wax apple (Syzygium samarangense) also called “jambu air“.
Its shape looks like a bell, roughly 3cm wide and it is very crunchy and juicy on the palate.
Its flavour is similar to a snow pear and the liquid-to-flesh ratio is comparable to a watermelon.
The colour of its juice may be purple or entirely colourless.
The very middle holds a seed situated in a sort of cotton-candy-like mesh. This mesh is edible but flavourless.
The flowers are astringent and in Taiwan they treat fever and diarrhoea with them (and here you have an interesting natural remedy, if you were looking for one!).
If you have some time, research some of the fruit that you can find in HongKong and give them a try.
Many different flavours will surprise your palate (hopefully more often in positive than in negative)!
6. Duck and dumplings
And when it comes to food, there is really one thing that we would never forget about HongKong: its delicious Peking duck (Beijing roasted duck).
A feast of crispy shredded duck to eat wrapped in thin pancakes with scallion, cucumber and sweet bean sauce.
You can start your course with some dumplings (with vegetables or meat) and then have the duck as the main course.
7. The cable car to the Ngong Ping village
We have been in HongKong for just under two days, trying to make the most out of it.
And as we needed to jump on our air taxi to Auckland in the evening of our second day, we decided to stick around the airport for the day.
So for everyone facing the same situation, I would strongly suggest visiting the Ngong Ping village and its huge Buddha statue, easy to reach via MRT from the city centre and located really close to the airport, with a good bus connection to all terminals.
To get on top to the village there will be an enjoyable cable car trip. All details here.
Also, remember that MRT airport express stations allow passengers to check in their luggage directly before boarding the train.
This happens without the need to take it with you to the airport.
You will see your airline check-in desk and the lovely hostess will quickly do it for you.
Now you are ready to stroll around lighter and free.
That’s what we call customer service!
8. Bodhi wishing shrine temple
Now that you left your luggage at the train station and made your way to the Ngong Ping village, you will soon discover that it is in truth a kind of theme park. However, the visit to the Bodhi Wishing Shrine is worthwhile. Just get prepared for a lot of tourists!
The village is a good alternative for lunch or a quick bite if you want to spend your lunch time outside of the airport.
And now here we are, looking at the main attraction at the Ngong Ping village: the Buddha.
You would think the Buddha is so big you could not risk missing it, right?
I am sorry to disappoint you but sometimes fog can be so thick that it will be difficult to see this massive statue.
We were not on a lucky day and we had to wait for a while before taking this snap, our suggestion is to just be patient.
Even though the fog could spoil part of your cable journey as well, do not leave without waiting for a while because conditions change quickly.
You would miss a spectacular scene.
Having never been to China, not even to Shanghai, HongKong did look quite Chinese to us.
But other travellers told Sara that this is still a bit of an anomaly if compared to other cities in China.
For sure the Chinese culture is still quite strong here.
Even if it is considered strongly westernised compared to the rest of Asia, HongKong can not be considered a Western city.
All in all, this is a very enjoyable city to visit and definitively a good stop over, if you are on your way to down under.
We recommend it!