Dear Hong Kong,
Thank you for having my back during my most confusing days — when I wanted to lose and find myself af the same time; when my heart was conflicted between the need for routine and the urge to run.
On quiet days, I would saunter your alleys — finding beauty in your non-luxurious skirts, appreciating the harmony amidst the diversity of your people, and trying to understand how such a small territory could become this powerful. In your comforts, I got lost in my own thoughts; and I can still feel you if I just keep my eyes closed…
On days when I feel as if the sun shines solely for me, I wander your busy streets and mingle with your people — your locals, my fellow Filipinos, and the expats you’ve absorbed. I enjoyed pouring warmth unto everyone, with high hopes that smiling would be a new staple in the city that’s immersed in business and competition.
They say my features blended well with you; maybe that’s why I never felt alienated. Maybe that’s partly why I consider you my second home even when my tongue does not speak the language you bear.
HK, let me imprint every part of you through this post.
This former British colony has transformed itself into a go-to culinary, shopping, and adventure one-stop-shop in Asia. Although known for its bright lights and glamorous lifestyle, HK has so much more to offer; and I’d love to walk you through it!
Note that Hong Kong is divided into 4: Lantau Island (where the airport is), Kowloon (the shopping and tourist capital), HK Island (where consulates and main offices are) and the New Territories.
OF ALL PLACES, WHY BOOK A TRIP TO HONG KONG?
1. ITS LOVELY WEATHER
Well if it’s winter! I’d rather wear layered clothing than battle the oppressive summer heat. It doesn’t snow in HK but in December-February, coats, sneakers/boots, and moisturizers are your bestfriends!
October to early December are also great for those who want a sunny but cool weather. ☀️
– June-August! They’re the most humid months!
– August and September are rainy and humid as well 🌦🌩⛈
Note: During Chinese New Year, most Hongkongers fly to other countries for vacation so most shops and restaurants are closed (I ended up walking aimlessly because of this. Not complaining though!).
2. Accessibility and Ease of Travel: OCTOPUS CARD, INTERNET, AND TRANSPORTATION
Rule #1: Buy an octopus card from the airport or at MTR kiosks.
The “Octopus“ is a ‘smart card’ used on most forms of public transport (Bus, Minibus, Ferry, Peak Tram, Tram & MTR Trains), as well as settling payments at all major convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven, fast food restaurants, Starbucks, supermarkets, bakeries, self-service vending machines, personal care stores, major photo service outlets, etc. (TripAdvisor)
Given this Chinese territory’s excellent means of transportation and plenty of free & reliable internet connections (they’re everywhere: MTR, fastfood chains, convenient stores, malls, etc.), I wouldn’t mind researching. I would often alight in random stations with no idea where to go because it’s impossible to feel lost in such a spectacular city.
When you go to HK Island side, make sure to ride trams! At 2.30HKD, it’s the cheapest way to go around the city. It’s a lot sloooower than the MTR so hop on times when you’re not in a rush.
3. FOOD. Of course, food!
I would live (and die) for the food in Hong Kong! Noodles, dimsums, roasted meats, tarts, etc.! Everyone who has viewed my IG stories knows that I’ve been eating 80% of the time in HK. 😂 The diversity of its people and its economic attractiveness paved way to the penetration of globally competitive restaurants and shops from different parts of the world.
For an extensive list and review (because food deserves its own article), read up on: Hong Kong Food Guide: Your Must Eats in HKI and Kowloon
4. You can HIKE MOUNTAINS
- Dragon’s Back Trail or “Shek-O Peak”
Since it’s winter, I had the best time hiking. There are plenty of trails in HK, and it’s a shame that I was only able to climb one during my stay. 😔 Dragon’s Back (which is free!) is highly recommended. Even beginners could hike it. Allot 3-4hrs.
Oh, and would you love to surf after your hike? Then this is the place to be!
How to go to Dragon’s Back:
– MTR’s blue line to Shau Kei Wan (A3 exit).
– Ride bus #9 to Shek-o
Other recommended trails:
– Tung Chai Falls
– Po Toi Island
– Lion Rock
5. Seascapes, beaches, and surfspots
- Big Wave Bay
This is the highlight of my most recent trip, and I still can’t believe I got to surf here. This surfspot welcomed us at the end of the Dragon’s Back trail. Hiking and surfing — imagine how stoked I was! 🌊 I went crazy (sorry Ma) when I saw surfers carrying their boards.
Check the forecast before going! You can try downloading the Magicseaweed app. It was 3-5ft at 9s that day.🏄🏻♀️
It’s my first time to surf during winter. I rented a 5mm wetsuit to battle the cold (hypothermia aleeert). The swells were too big for me as a nascent surfer but I can’t forgive myself if I don’t give it a try. 🤙🏼
Where to rent:
HO LOK SHOP. I scouted the area, and this shop has the cheapest rentals. They also have different kinds of boards (in good condition, yunohh). The owner evenhas a Whatsapp group for his customers where he regularly sends photos of the swells (haha how cute).
– 80HKD (roughly Php 450) for your all-day wetsuit and surfboard rent
– But you need to leave a 100HKD deposit that will be refunded after returning the items
P.S. Rent’s unbelievably cheap because it’s winter. Do you know how much it costs in summer? Leave a message! 😊
How to go to Big Wave Bay?
– Hop on the MTR’s blue line to Shau Kei Wan (A3 exit).
– Ride bus #9 to Shek-O. Note that there are 2 kinds of buses to Shek-O so ask the driver which one passes by Big Wave Bay (if you wanna surf immediately). But if you wanna hike Dragon’s Back first and then surf at the end of the trail, hop on the regular Bus #9.
- Shek-O Beach
It’s a bus/bike ride from Dragon’s Back. The locals consider it the “Best Beach in Hong Kong”. They also have a grilling patio that’s free for everyone. You can bring your own food or buy from stores surrounding the beach. Plenty of Thai restaurants there as well!
- Sai Wan Pier “Instagram Pier”
Our flat’s in Kennedy Town so it has been my routine to pass by this pier to sift through my thoughts. It’s dubbed as “Instagram Pier” because of how picturesque it is, but it will always be a place for meditation for me.
- Tai Mei Tuk
This is the farthest I’ve been to in Hong Kong. It’s already in the New Territories (few tumblings away from Shenzhen). Its lovely landscape and seascape made me question if I was still in Hong Kong. Grill, fish, ride boats, & bike!
- Victoria Harbor
It’s always packed with tourists, but it’s the place to be if you want to catch the sunset, watch colorful lights emitted by buildings across, see the grandeur HK is known for, and appreciate the spectacular view along with the crowd.
6. You’ll never run out of attractions to visit
- THE PEAK
The Sky Terrace 428 has the highest 360-degree viewing platform. You can ride the Peak Tram to go to The Peak by buying tickets at The Peak Tower terminal (90HKD roundtrip/ 77HKD one way for adults, and 43HKD roundtrip/ 35HKD one way for children).
- MADAM TUSSAUDS
This popular wax museum is also at the roofdeck of The Peak Tower. They offer combo packages for the tram and museum.
- TEMPLE HOPPING
If you want to visit temples (whether to pray or take photos), check the 10 Thousand Buddhas or ride the Ngong Ping 360 cable car to Tian Tan Buddha.
- HK street art and graffitis everywhere
Buuuuuut… I wasn’t able to capture much. Let’s search for more on our next trip!
- AVENUE OF STARS in Tsim Sha Tsui
However, it’s currently closed for repair works, and is expected to be completed at the end of 2018. 😦
- Star Ferry Pier in Tsim Sha Tsui
I often ride the Star Ferry going back to Central at night instead of the MTR/train to ogle at Victoria Harbor’s lit skyscrapers.
- Clock Tower in Tsim Sha Tsui
7. NIGHTLIFE, NON-STOP PARTIES, and EXPOS
Ladies and gents, let me give you the best excuses to drink:
- Wednesday is Ladies’ Night in Wanchai. It’s also Men’s Night at Linq Pub (yeah, only that pub for guys hahaha)
- Thursday is Ladies Night and Pubcrawl in Lan Kwai Fong
- Friday and Saturday no reason necessary 😂
Check Discover Hong Kong‘s calendar of activities to know more about the events/festivals/expos at the time of your visit.
Here are some of the scheduled events/expos I went to:
- The Great European Carnival
- Mineral and Gem Expo in Lantau Island
- Food Festival at Victoria Park, Causeway Bay
8. THEME PARKS for the young (and young at heart)
- OCEAN PARK:
There’s now an MTR line straight to Ocean Park! Their rides are jaw-dropping, the aquariums are stunning, and the pandas are always there to give me a hearty laugh! Ride the Hair Raiser! It has the most stupefying view of the island and every scream’s worth it. 1 day entrance fee is 438HKD for adults and 219HKD for children.
- HONG KONG DISNEYLAND:
Of course we all love Disneyland! 1 day entrance fee is 589HKD for adults, 419HKD for children, and 100HKD for senior citizens.
9. SHOPPING SPREE!
- Tsim Sha Tsui
Holy grail. This district is THE shopping and culinary haven. Most tourists stay here, given its prized shopping centers and accessibility.
Hunting for the latest sneakers? They call it their “shoe capital” for a reason.
You’ve probably heard of Mongkok Ladies Market too. It’s a long stretch of thrift shops that open in the afternoon until late night.
- Sham Shui Po
Old Hong Kong. Although considered the poorest district, you may want to give it a visit. Indulge in street food that’s always featured in food network channels, shop electronic gadgets, buy clothes, and have a down-to-earth shopping experience.
- City Gate Premium Outlet
High-end to basic brands, they’re all in City Gate on sale. If you really want to shop, give it a day. And don’t forget to eat in their food court!
Most offices and consulates are in Admiralty. My favorite malls: IFC and Pacific Plaza are here, carrying hard-to-miss restaurants and designer brands from different parts of the world.
If you lose your passport/encounter issues during your stay, go to the Philippine Consulate General in Admiralty.
Busy streets lined with offices and the most random shops: from gadgets and clothes to trinkets! It’s always alive (though a bit chaotic sometimes).For chocolate, candy, and coffee lovers: Go to “Alley Alley” (ask any Pinoy where it is) and check Prizemart. They sell my favorite goods at the lowest possible price (alam na what’s inside my luggage). There’s a Prizemart in Wanchai too if it’s nearer to you.If you miss Filipino food/goods, or you need help from our kababayans (re: sim cards, money exchange, tours, etc.), go to WorldWide.
- Causeway Bay
Check out Sogo and the shops lining its busy streets. Never a boring day in Causeway Bay! Their Fashion Street is a go-to (yeaaasss); and IKEA store’s here too.
Although known as the “Red Light District” (ask your daddies), this place doesn’t bother me during the day; I enjoyed having breakfast and shopping in the area (Kam’s Roast is here for your roast meat cravings).
- SASA, BONJOUR, MANNINGS, and COLOURMIX
Found everywhere in HK! They’re our go-to when it comes to skincare products, make-ups, perfumes, etc.
10. THE PULSATING ENERGY RADIATING FROM ITS PEOPLE
I would always tell people that the energy in Hong Kong is infectious; everyone seems to be on-the-move! It’s inspiring especially on days that I feel tempted to procrastinate and escape. I can feel the high adrenaline on my fingertips, and sense the people’s hunger for success and survival. These are some of the reasons why I’m beyond motivated to pursue the things that make me feel alive.
It’s also common in HK to be seated with other groups if you’re eating alone, especially during busy hours. I’ve come to appreciate and look forward to this each time I dine. I would find myself observing strangers, making new friends, and hearing stories about their day, business, travel, stocks, and lovelife even! It brings me pride to also share with them my work back in the Philippines. There’s joy in spreading awareness about the practice of Speech-Language Pathology and the potentials of our specially-abled children and adults.
I don’t speak Cantonese but I fell in love with HK. However, the main reason why I keep going back is because my person, my mom, works there. 😊 She serves the government and the country, and I admire her for pursuing her interests and maximizing her potentials.
Hong Kong, thank you so much for the wonderful ride!