Justina's FAVOURITE THINGS in: Hong Kong
Transportation and Directions:
Compared to North American and European fares, taxis in Hong Kong are very reasonably priced. Costs to and from the airport, however, can be fairly steep because of the commute to Lantau Island. There are some special taxi companies that offer discounted fares to the airport if you call to reserve them in advance. Call 9706-7212 to reserve one. (Reservations should be made in Cantonese).
You can buy an Octopus card (used for the MTR, buses, trams, ferries, and even for purchases at 7-11 and major department stores) right in the airport that will save you time and money.
Things to do:
In Central - be sure to go to the SOHO area. From Central Station there are escalators that will take you up the hill to the area of SOHO, which is full of trendy bars and cafes. This is a great place for a quiet drink or coffee.
Hollywood Road - lots of antique stores and a really good cafe called Classified that does delicious snacks and not bad coffee. On the next road, Cat Street offers interesting Chinese artwork and market stalls.
If you go further on the escalators just past SOHO, you will come to Caine Road. Here, there is a reasonably priced Foot Reflexology and Massage shop called Joy Ocean Town (48 Caine Road, Mid Levels, Central). It is open from 10am-2am.
In Tsim Sha Tsui - Kowloon Park - on Nathan Road is a nice rest stop after a day of walking. It is quite large and has several levels where you will see couples admiring waterfalls during their lunch break, or locals practicing yoga, tai chi, or martial arts in the gardens.
Take a walk along the Promenade and visit the Avenue of the Stars (where you will find Bruce Lee's statue). If you wait until night time, you will also get to experience the largest free lights and sounds show in the world. I usually find it quite windy along here, so take an extra wrap or windbreaker with you.
Ride across Victoria Harbour aboard one of the famous Star Ferries and then take the 8 minute Peak Tram to Victoria Peak. Here, you can hike around the Peak which offers fantastic views over Hong Kong and its harbours.
Lantau Island is Hong Kong's largest island, located at the mouth of the Pearl River. It is known as the "lungs of Hong Kong" because of the dense woods, deep valleys, and scarcity of high-rises. It is home to the world's largest seated outdoor bronze Buddha, Po Lin Monastery (try the vegetarian lunch), and Ngong Ping Village. It is the perfect destination for solitude and some personal reflection. Take time to walk the Wisdom Path which is located just behind the Tian Tan Buddha statue. Take the bus to Tao O which is a very small traditional fishing village known as the "Venice of Hong Kong". It is more than three centuries old and maintains an historical setting with hundreds of stilt houses and old waterways. To return to Hong Kong Island, you can ride the Ngong Ping Skyrail (25 minutes) which provides spectacular panoramic views of Lantau, the South China Sea, and Tian Tan Buddha statue.
Lamma Island is a small island known for its small shops, hiking trails, sparsely crowded beaches, and no cars.
Things to see:
Kowloon Walled City
Chin Lin Nunnery - at Diamond Hill
Man Mo Temple - on Hollywood Road
Aberdeen Harbour - located on the south side of Hong Kong Island. Although now surrounded by high-rises, it is still known for its fishing fleet of modern boats and tradtional junks, many inhabited by boat people who have lived on the sea for generations.
Hong Kong Museum of Art
Things to buy:
In Mongkok – Argyle Centre (corner of Argyle Street and Nathan Road) is my favourite place to buy inexpensive shoes, bags, and upcoming local designer’s clothes. This “mall” is really small and tightly packed (not for the claustrophobic), so don’t carry any large bags with you. The best way to ensure you don’t miss anything is to see half of each floor on the way up (4 floors) and the other half on your way down. The famous Ladies Market (Tung Choi Street) has a lot of trendy replicas (wallets, handbags, belts, watches, etc) and tourist souvenirs. Don’t be afraid to bargain (you can usually cut the original price they offer you in half). Don’t worry…most stalls sell similar things, so walking away is fairly effective.
In Mongkok/Yau Ma Tei – a walk through Shanghai Street offers some unique shops that sell cookware, or more creative goods. Caution: most of the stalls will be closed on Sundays, leaving you with only industrial options.
In Jordan - Jade Street and the Temple Street night markets are worth a peak. Here, you'll find vendors selling all sorts of traditional Chinese trinkets, as well as some ceramics, electronics, and tourist souvenirs.
In Tsim Sha Tsui on Nathan Road, I often find myself in Miramar Shopping Centre. It's a great stop when you need a/c or a washroom, but also boasts some fantastic restaurants and shops. My favourites include Japanese stores - Muji (for various housewares, food - I love their instant green tea latte mix, travel accessories, and stationary) and UNIQLO (stock up on their Heattech clothing - perfect for Canadian winters). While you're there, continue the Japanese theme and fuel up at Ramen & Bar (on the same level as UNIQLO) with a drink or a tasty bowl of hot or cold noodles.
In Causeway Bay - Times Square is a large shopping centre that carries a lot of large brand names (you will find Gucci, LaCoste, Prada, etc here). If you're not into expensive boutique shopping, head to floor B1. Here you will find a store called City's Super which carries really interesting/unique gifts, tech toys, and gadgets.
I often shop in a Hong Kong based store called ATO. You can find this chain in several locations, there are two or three on Nathan Road. They sell inexpensive dresses (creative designs) with a few drawbacks - first, almost everything is "one size fits all" and second, you cannot try items on. However, if you are a critical shopper, you can certainly find some great deals.
Where to stay:
Caritas Lodge (134 Boundary Street, Kowloon) - if you're staying for awhile and looking for budget accommodations, Caritas Lodge is a good option (not to be confused with Caritas Bianchi Lodge in Yau Ma Tei). Although this hotel is a bit out of the way, full breakfast options, reliable high speed internet, and clean rooms with good service make this budget hotel worth the extra walk (about 15-20 minutes to the nearest MTR station).
Where to eat:
In SOHO – Nha Trang has excellent Vietnamese.
For great coffee, head to the IFC building in Central (walking distance from Central Station). Once inside the mall, locate the massive Apple store and then look for the LGB. (Some claim this is the best coffee in HK).
In Mongkok - The Place (inside the hotel) at Langham Place has a huge buffet spread that is fairly pricey ($400HK) but well worth it. Be sure to bring an empty stomach.
In Wanchai - for a change of scenery, check out this trendy yet cozy restaurant serving up great British fare - Limehouse Restaurant (35 Ship Street, Wanchai www.limehouse.com.hk). Owned by a personal friend, this small space fills up quickly, so be sure to make a reservation.
In Jordan - Ying Vegetarian - this vegetarian restaurant on the corner of Temple Street and Public Square Street makes delicious "meat" dishes using soy.
In Tsim Sha Tsui - indulge in high tea at the Peninsula Hotel (line up early). There is a dresscode, so leave your flipflops at home.
In Aberdeen - try dim sum aboard Jumbo Kingdom, a colourful floating restaurant.