I was lucky to return to Hong Kong four years on from my last visit.
Hong Kong is the ultimate ‘east meets west’ destination. Skyscrapers – and there are a lot of skyscrapers – sit alongside bustling Chinese-style markets and Cantonese characters on signs are always accompanied by English translations.
I stayed in an Airnbnb in Tsim Sha Tsui, southern Kowloon, and then in Tsuen Wan in the New Territories. Kowloon is a popular tourist area, and some of the cheapest places to stay centrally are here, including the Chungking Mansions where I stayed on my previous visit (and probably wouldn’t again!). The New Territories is further out and is quite different to the city centre. There are far fewer western faces around and the accommodation is much cheaper.
In Tsuen Wan I stayed in a hotel called Bay Bridge for the equivalent of around $40USD, which is very cheap for Hong Kong. The campus-style room where I stayed was newly-decorated, slept four, and had a little kitchen and bathroom attached. The beds were cute, little hidey-hole bunks with curtains separating them from the rest of the room. There were nice little extras like plug sockets and reading lamps next to the mattresses. It was definitely the sort of place where you could stay for a longer period of time as it had desk areas, a restaurant in the lobby and even a gym; available at no extra cost. The hotel is quite far from the station but it does run free shuttle buses, or you can get a bus or taxi.
There wasn’t really a lot to do locally in Tsim Sha Tsui, so I decided to take a day-trip to Lantau Island – which I visited previously and loved, and which wasn’t too difficult to get to. The main attraction on Lantau is the big, seated, bronze Tian Tan Buddha atop of a hill. The Ngong Ping cable car goes all the way from the Tung Chung Metro stop to the man-made village that sits at the foot of the Buddha, and beside the Po Lin Monastery. Be prepared to queue for a long time though, on a Saturday I waited for around three hours.
Having said that, the cable car is really an attraction in itself. The views are beautiful, and seeing the huge Buddha emerge in the distance is quite humbling. There’s not much to see in Ngong Ping village, it’s all fake and newly-built, like a theme park; crowded and full of restaurants and souvenir shops. Walk on through and to the steps leading-up to the Tian Tan Buddha. Still a place of religious significance to many, it’s also stunning to witness as an outsider. The view from the top is spectacular, and smaller bronze statues surround the larger Buddha, holding up their offerings.
One thing that I really enjoyed on my last trip, but didn’t have the chance to revisit this time, was Ocean Park. Situated on Hong Kong island, it combined a zoo – whose most popular residents are the pandas – with an epic theme park, sprawled across the hilltops and overlooking the light blue sea. A cable car takes you from the zoo up to the theme park, where there are also shows with marine animals. When my sister and I went there were no queues for anything, we just walked straight onto the rides. The views from the roller coasters were some of the best I’ve ever seen. Hong Kong landscapes are characterised by lush, green hills, blue sea and sky, and flashing cityscapes nestled in the valleys.
After two visits I certainly feel like I could go back to Hong Kong. While I enjoy its flash and fun side, it is the city’s Asian roots which really pull me in. I love its traditional markets, the slow, affordable ferry and the old fishing villages far more than the copious malls selling designer gear.
There’s lots more to see and experience in Hong Kong than I have mentioned here. What’s your favourite attraction? What do you like or dislike about the city?