Unless stated otherwise, $ refers to HKD. At the time of writing $1 CAD = $6 HKD.
We had a five day/four night stopover in Hong Kong.We arrived in the early morning on day 1, and left at midnight on day 5. For our last three nights, I booked the Caritas Bianchi Lodge, a nice 3-star hotel in a great location (the Jordan area of Kowloon, on a quiet side street just off Nathan Road) with a large room by HK standards (250 sq. ft.) and a low price for an expensive city (under $70 CAD including tax). Unfortunately it was sold out our first night, a Saturday night. There must have been something going on that weekend, because I couldn’t find anywhere with reasonable rates for that night. So I booked a room at the Peace Guest House at the notorious Chungking Mansion, a sketchy building with lots of shops on the ground floor and guesthouses in the upper floor. The rooms there are tiny (85 sq feet – I think we’re the first people ever to go from Cathay Pacific first class to an 85 sq. ft. room!), but they had very good reviews on hotels.com. Everyone said they were tiny and that the building wasn’t nice, but the rooms were decent and clean. I figured we could survive one night, and the room was ridiculously cheap (under $40 CAD), so we booked the night prior to our arrival in addition to our first night, so that we could check in as soon as we got to HK. When we arrived though we were not into it at all. The building did not give us a good feeling and the room just seemed too claustrophobic. Everything was exactly as described, but it just wasn’t for us. Luckily the Imperial Hotel next door was offering a walk-up rate of $150 CAD. I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much on a hotel, but we were desperate so we got a room for the night.
Onto the trip report: Our flight landed at 4:30 am, and we picked up our bags and got through immigration in no time. We first made our way to the MTR desk and got Octopus cards which cover all public transit in HK. The card costs $150 ($25 CAD) each, which includes a $100 credit and a $50 deposit. The deposit and any remaining credit is refunded when you return the card (at any MTR station or the desk at the airport), minus a $9 HKD fee. Public transit in HK is amazing, with a big network, fast trains, and frequent service (trains come every two minutes, buses under 10 minutes). The metro (MTR) and busses are very cheap, costing about $5-$10 for trips within the city. To get from the airport to the city we took the A21 bus ($33), which comes every 20 minutes and takes about an hour to get into the city.
It has frequent stops along Nathan Road, the main road in Kowloon where both our hotels were located. Like all buses it is a double decker, and if you get on quickly we recommend the front seats on the top! There are large luggage racks on the bottom level, and a TV screen on the top floor that shows the rack so you can see if someone were to try and steal your bag. Also, free wifi!
We left our bags at the hotel and went for a morning walk around Kowloon. We walked along Nathan Road and into Kowloon Park where we managed to get ourselves pretty lost; something that’s not so fun in the intense Hong Kong heat! We soon learned to try and avoid the midday heat and humidity.
Eventually we managed to escape and get back to Nathan Road. We stopped at a 7-11 and bought a sim card. It cost $80 and came with a $78 credit. We used $48 for the 5 day data plan, which included 1.5 gigs of data. We had $30 left which we used to make a few international calls.
For lunch we went to Three Virtues Vegetarian Restaurant, on the fourth floor of a mall on Nathan. We really liked the food, especially the sticky buns. The food was reasonable priced for Hong Kong (which is pretty expensive, being a big wealthy city), about $60-$70 per main course. After lunch we walked back and checked into the Imperial Hotel, and took a long break to recover from the crazy heat and jetlag.
In the late afternoon we went for a not-so-nice-walk to the Ritz Carleton (why are fancy hotels never in good walking areas? The Ritz was off on its own in an ugly area with nothing nearby – do rich people just take taxis everywhere?). Once there, we took the elevator to the Ozone Bar on the 118th floor. We had read online that this place boasted some of the best views in all of Hong Kong – and it did not disappoint! I definitely suggest coming about an hour before sunset – we got there 20-30 mins before and only caught the last rays of golden light before the sun sunk behind some mountains. While there we didn’t order anything but no one bothered us about freeloading.
Hong Kong (specifically HK Island) has my favourite skyline of any big city. Instead of being packed into a downtown, all the skyscrapers are spread out horizontally along the water, sandwiched between the harbour and the mountains.
From the Ritz we took the MTR to Central and walked to Mana Fast Slow Food in Soho for dinner. Mana is a casual (order-from-a-counter casual) vegetarian place with really good food; I’d highly recommend it. Cost was about $60 each. From there we walked around Soho, avoided stepping on any cockroaches (there are way too many at night), and made our way to Oddie’s on Gough Street for ice cream. We shared the “Night Wolf,” their specialty.
This was the most creative ice cream I’ve ever had, and tasted even better than it looked. The price sounded ridiculous ($60!), but it was well worth it. It was more than enough to share, and one of the best “ice cream experiences” (yes, that’s a thing) we’ve had. Also, Gough Street is the most hipster place in Hong Kong, packed with interesting shops and restaurants.
We spent our second day exploring Hong Kong Island. We took the MTR to Central and walked around Statue Square, Chater Garden, and Hong Kong Park. Today was a Sunday, and the streets and sidewalks were full of young women sitting in groups of five or so, eating or playing cards or various games. There were many hundreds of them scattered throughout the area, blocking some streets and lots of sidewalks. Interesting, though we’re not sure what it was all about!
By this point we were hot and tired so we decided to walk to the IFC mall for lunch at Tim Ho Wong, the dim sum place famous for being the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant. Getting to IFC was much harder than it appeared; there are so many elevated crosswalks, and finding your way around large buildings and crossing busy intersections usually ends with us getting frustrated and ultimately lost (it’s hard to get a GPS signal with all the skyscrapers). In the future, we would just take a cab for short rides around Central. It would cost the minimum $22 (under $4 CAD), and save us 30 minutes of getting increasingly frustrated and sweaty while trying to find our destination.
Tim Ho Wan is not actually in IFC, but under it, next to Hong Kong Station. The food was pretty good (though not what I would consider Michelin-starred good), and it was very cheap, at about $10-$20 for a large portion (so I ordered many to try different things). This restaurant is not very vegetarian friendly, though.
The last thing I wanted to see was the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, since I can’t say no to a free zoo. We took a $22 cab there and walked around for about 30 minutes. The zoo was actually pretty impressive, with lots of interesting animals and some especially social monkeys in the big enclosures. From the Zoo we walked back to Central, which was very downhill, so I don’t recommend walking up to the zoo. The walk was really nice, through lots of forested areas. It’s surprising how many thick wooded areas there are right in the middle of such a big city.
We took the MTR back to our hotel (the Caritas Bianchi Lodge) and rested for a couple of hours before dinner. Dinner was at Aqua, a great Italian-Japanese fusion restaurant which came highly recommended. Aqua is very impressive; the food is delicious and creative, and it’s located on the 28th floor of 1 Peking Road in Kowloon.
All tables face the big windows and the restaurant has some of the best views of the city, so we got really good pictures at night when the skyline is most impressive. The light show was actually a bit disappointing. The skyline is so nice and lit up to begin with, so a small light show is barely noticeable – we didn’t even notice when it first started.
After dinner we walked back to our hotel, via the Temple Street Night Market, which was busy and full of cheap products, not really our thing.
We started our third morning with a walk around the Goldfish Market, the Flower Market, and Bird Street, which are all near each other, about a 20 minute walk north of our hotel. Walking through the Goldfish and Flower Markets was lots of fun and we highly recommend it. The Bird Street was also very interesting, but crowded and I felt a little bad for the birds trapped in the small cages.
Days 3 and 4 were supposed to be filled with long day trips. We were going to visit Macau on day 3, and the cable car and giant buddha on day 4. Unfortunately, I started feeling sick on our morning walk to the markets, and was pretty bad by the time we got back to our hotel. I had some form of 24-hour flu or gastro. I’m not sure how I got it, considering all I had for breakfast was a granola bar. Anyways, I was stuck in the hotel room for the rest of day 3 and all of day 4. I started to feel a little better by nighttime on day 4, so we went out for ramen at Yokozuna, right down the block from our hotel. The ramen was great, and one bowl was more than enough for the two of us (though to be fair I didn’t eat much).
I had finally recovered by our last day. We took it easy in the morning, and went for a walk in the area around our hotel. We had breakfast at the Australian Dairy Company, which was good, filling, and cheap. Delicious eggs and toast, and their specialty seems to be a macaroni noodle soup.
We checked out of our hotel at noon and left our bags at the front desk before going out to explore Hong Kong one last time. We took the MTR to Central and spent a long time walking around Soho before walking over to the Victoria Tram. We arrived a little before 4:00 pm and the line took way longer than expected: about 45 minutes. The Peak was fun and once you walked away from the shopping malls there were some really nice views – and rare Pokemon!
We had a fun time, but I wouldn’t call it the number one thing to do in HK as many others have. We didn’t feel like waiting in line for the tram down, nor walking from the base of the tram to Central, so we got a taxi directly to Central for $55. Then back to our hotel and took the bus to the airport to complete our time in Hong Kong.