BE A PROUD TOURIST! TIME TO CHECK THESE MUST DOS OFF OF YOUR HK BUCKET LIST!
THIS IS THE TOTALLY OUTSTANDINGLY PRODIGIOUS (T.O.P) 10 MUST DO THINGS IN HK:
These are the attractions and things you should do and see in Hong Kong (HK) before you leave. Sure, most of these items below (if not all) are very touristy, but they’re still must dos if you’re in HK. I mean, if you don’t even take a photo of the HK skyline, are you even allowed to say you’ve been to HK? If you’re looking for the HK must dos off the beaten path, that’s another post for another time.
Be a proud tourist! This will the only time you’re allowed to walk around Central (Financial district of HK) in elephant-print pants… So the list was actually very hard to make since there are so many different cool things to do in HK, but in no particular order, here goes…
ONE. BIG BUDDHA!
Except for the Big Buddha, I won’t really mention any of the other temples, mosques, monasteries, and nunneries in HK because a lot of travellers in HK also visit Thailand or Cambodia during the same trip and honestly, our temples are just not of that magnitude. That being said, the Big Buddha is cool and an exception to the above. The Big Buddha is befittingly HUGE. Make sure you take the Ngong Ping 360 (cable car) up & I think it’s worth it to pay the extra for the crystal cabins, which are the cable cars with see-thru glass bottoms. If someone has vertigo in your group, it is equal parts evil and amusing to see their reactions in the crystal cabins.
Let me back track. The Big Buddha, also known as Tian Tan Buddha, is located in Tung Chung (where the airport is). It is located on Ngong Ping, which is a highland located on the western part of Lantau Island. It’s called Tian Tan because the base of the structure is of a model of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, which is called Tian Tan in Chinese.
Once you’re on Ngong Ping, make sure you combo the trip with a visit to the Po Lin Monastery (have a look around) and a walk along Wisdom Path (the tranquility can be felt throughout). I cannot stress this enough as people usually visit the Big Buddha and miss out on Wisdom Path, which would be a massive pity.
From the Discover Hong Kong government site: “Wisdom Path traces a series of 38 wooden steles (upright monuments) containing verses from the centuries-old Heart Sutra — one of the world’s best-known prayers revered by Confucians, Buddhists and Taoists alike. These steles display the Chinese version of the prayer, based on the calligraphy of famous contemporary scholar Professor Jao Tsung-I, and are arranged in a ∞ pattern, which represents infinity.”
After a trip to Ngong Ping, one can extend their adventures on Lantau Island by visiting Tai O, an outlying island that is close by and can be reached via public bus from the bus terminus at the Tung Chung MTR station. See point 6 below for more details about Tai O.
TWO. VICTORIA PEAK.
This is probably one of the top 3 things to do in HK and with good reason. Go to Victoria Peak during golden hour – around an 1 hr-1/2 hr before sunset. This is because you want to see HK in day and night light. If you’re going up for the first time, you gotta do what you gotta do, which is to take the Peak Tram up. The peak tram opened for commercial use in 1888 so it’s a historical legacy and it’s quite fun, albeit the queue can be hideous for what seems like at the most is a 5 minute ride (in reality it’s about 8 mins). At the Peak Tram Lower Terminus, there is also The Peak Tram Historical Gallery (free for tram passengers) and you can look through more than 200 years of history and the evolution of HK.
Victoria Peak, also known just as The Peak, at 552m is the highest peak on HK Island; the highest peak in all of HK is Tai Mo Shan at 957m. Once you get to Victoria Peak, you will see the Peak Tower (the building that looks like it has a wok on top), which houses the Sky Terrace 428 observation deck. I’ve never been up there because it costs money; instead, there is a free viewing terrace in the Peak Galleria, a building across from the Peak Tower. Inside these two buildings, there are a lot of restaurants and shops – there is also a Madame Tussauds Wax museum (not my thing), and a 3D Trick Eye museum (also not my thing).
Don’t just stop here – this isn’t the best place to view HK yet. Hopefully by this time, you’ve gotten some photos of HK in day light. Now make your way to the Lion Pavilion and to the Victoria Peak Gardens for some nighttime photos of HK. If you’re a photo enthusiast, your phone will not be able to capture HK in lowlight – there is just not enough light, and your photos will be very grainy due to the high ISO. Bring an actual camera. Lion Pavilion is located in the direction of where the Pacific Coffee at the Peak Tower is. Keep going and you will see the Lion Pavilion shortly. Be warned that this is where the tours drop off their tourists, so it is crowded with a C.
Time to head to Victoria Peak Gardens, which were originally the gardens and ground site of the Governor of HK’s Summer Residence. This is the hidden gem spot that no one goes to – so I’m letting you on the secret, shhhh. It’s about a 20-30 mins hike to the spot from the Peak Galleria but well worth it. The Lion Pavilion was on the Pacific Coffee side of the Peak Tower; the Victoria Peak Garden starts on the other side, kind of. There are signs telling you where the route starts, so just follow it instead of trying to understand my horrible directions. The cool thing about this viewing spot, besides having a clean public bathroom and little to no tourists is the great panoramic view of HK Island. Not only does it look overlook the North, it also includes views of the West and South of HK island as well, making it a 300 degree view. For free. You’re very welcome =).
THREE. THE COOL MODES OF PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION.
For cheapy cheapy, you can get from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon with great views of the harbour and HK skyline. You can catch the Star Ferry from either Central Ferry Pier #9 or Wanchai Ferry Pier and it goes to the Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier (also known as the Star Ferry Promenade). Funny thing that many people don’t realize – the chairs are reversible so you can always be sitting in the direction of your destination on the Star Ferry.
For even more cheapy cheapy, you get get literally from one end of HK island to the other side. At $2.30 HKD for adults, the tram is the cheapest form of public transportation, and also one of the oldest. Locals call the tram the DING DING, due to the onomatopoeia sound the tram makes when it nears a stop, and the tram has been around since 1904! Nowadays, the trams function as a walking billboard for brands, but it is such a fun way to travel across HK Island, albeit it is quite slow but if you’re on the upper deck, it serves as a great way to see the city too. Note: You board from the back of the tram and you pay (Octopus accepted) when you get off at the front.
FOUR. FREE CENTRAL WALKING TOUR.
What better way to start off your adventures in a new city than with a walking tour? Humid with a Chance of Fishballs Free Central Walking tour is a free walking tour – operated solely on a tips-only basis. Meet other travellers and learn about HK’s history, where to get jello shots in Lan Kwai Fong, and everything in between in a 3 hour tour meandering through the narrow back streets in Central. It runs every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 9:30am; meet at the Cenotaph and look for the human with the moose antlers.
If you’ve liked all that you’ve seen on this blog, you’ll love the tour because it’s operated by the one and only Virginia from The Smoo Diaries! For further info and to secure your seat, visit the Humid with a Chance of Fishballs site here.
DRUNK A DRINK IN LAN KWAI FONG (LKF).
LKF is an area and also a street. Ironically, the main street of LKF is not LKF, but called D’Aguilar instead; LKF is a L shaped street tucked in the middle of the area. Go up D’Aguilar and 3/4 ways up to the top, you will be able to see the LKF street sign on your left. You are now in the heart of LKF. Time to get your party on (doesn’t matter what day)! There’s a bar/club/lounge for everyone here.
I’d say this article is about 60% accurate about the 11 types of people you will meet at LKF.
SIX. AN OUTLYING ISLAND.
HK has 262 outlying islands; therefore, I had to narrow it down. My top 3 recommended outlying islands to check out are: Tai O Island, Cheung Chau Island, & Lamma Island. Personally, I would either choose Tai O or Cheung Chau to visit.
TAI O ISLAND:
Near Lantau Island, Tai O Island is a quaint fishing village. You can catch bus 11 going to Tai O from the Tung Chung bus terminus just outside of the Tung Chung MTR station, 50 mins in duration. If you’re at Ngong Ping (Big Buddha area), then catch the bus 21 to Tai O terminus, 20 mins in duration. What’s there to do you ask? It’s a village that’s still very authentic and you will see a lot of people drying an assortment of shellfish, which will explain the weird smell. You may get a glimpse of them drying salted fish, creating shrimp paste (this is probably the culprit of the smell), and making dried scallion. Points of interest: silt houses, Sun Ki bridge, rope drawn ferry bridge, & remember to hop on a local boat (around $20 HKD per person, any more and you’re get the super expaty price) and you can sightsee the island from the waters (there is a possibility to see a pink dolphin if you’re lucky!).
CHEUNG CHAU ISLAND:
Southward of HK Island, Cheung Chau Island can be reached via a ferry from the Central Ferry Piers, Pier #5, 50 mins in duration. An alternative to walking around the island would be biking; there’s a biking path and you can easily rent a bike from the local shops. This island is known for their seafood and dinnertime is quite a party along the harbour front. Before dinner though make sure there is enough time for you to lay out and frolic on the Tung Wan beach, try the extra big fishballs & mango mochi (Cheung Chau delicacies), have a hop into Pirate Cheung Po Tsai’s Cave, and take a stroll along the Mini Great Wall (near Tung Wan Beach) which is part of the Cheung Chau Family Trail. All of these points of interests are easy to find with the well laid out sign posts & the island is really quite small.
Southwest from HK Island, Lamma Island can be reached via ferry from the Central Ferry Piers, Pier #4. There are 2 main villages – Sok Kwu Wan and Yung Shue Wan and a very easy and flat 60 mins hiking trail connecting the two villages. Last time I was here, I started from Yung Shue Wan and we hiked over to Sok Kwu Wan, just in time for dinner. The main points of attraction are the Kamikaze Cave (Sok Kwu Wan side) and Lamma Winds (Near Yung Shue Wan Main Street). Afterwards, we had dinner at one of the seafood restaurants (Lamma Rainbow), and they gave us a free boat ride back to to Central.
SEVEN. TEMPLE STREET NIGHT MARKET.
Sure, if you’ve been around Asia, you’ve seen your fair share of night markets; however, this one is different. Not only do you get your normal array of random phone accessories, and fake handbags, but you also get to see the more local side of HK. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the local pretty ladies standing around trying to make a “living”. There are multiple Mahjong gambling shops, some very cheesy local Karaoke stores, restaurants located outside on the streets, and a whole street of fortune tellers, including some with birds that are part of the act. If you’re lucky, you’ll even catch some Chinese Opera happening near the Tin Hau temple. This night market is not to be missed. Make sure you come after 7pm to experience the full effect.
EIGHT. HK MUSEUM OF HISTORY.
HK is so modernized, but there is a very profound history here. Visit the Museum of HK History at Tsim Sha Tsui, and learn a little bit more about the first inhabitants of HK and the HK culture. The best thing about this museum is how visually attractive they’ve made it, and it’s a photo worthy moment every step of the way. Also check out the cafe on the ground floor because they’ve turned it into a retro Chinese eatery, a Cha Chaan Teng, serving all the local favourites here.
NINE. SKYLINE & SYMPHONY OF LIGHTS.
I got sneaky and combo-ed the HK skyline & Symphony of Lights here. The Symphony of Lights is a laser light show that happens over the Victoria Harbour and a lot of the buildings participate in being lit up in synchronization to laser beams and music. Shows are about 13 mins long and is daily at 8pm. The HK skyline and the Symphony of Lights is best viewed from the Kowloon side at the Star Ferry Promenade.
TEN. SAI KUNG.
When you want to go to the beach and eat seafood. Actually, just when you want to go to the beach. Known for their beaches, Sai Kung can be reached via going to an MTR station and then switching to either a bus or minibus. A rather straight forward route would be to get to the Diamond Hill MTR station, exit C2 and then take the 92 bus to Sai Kung Bus Terminus (40 mins bus ride). There are other routes – inquire with your hotel to see which is most convenient in relation to where you are staying in HK.
The globally renowned Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark is also located in Sai Kung, but The Geopark actually consists of 8 sites! The most renowned and popular site is the High Island. Best to take a free guided tour and you can find more booking information here.
BONUS +1. OCEAN PARK.
If you want to visit an amusement park, make it Ocean Park and not Disneyland. We literally have the smallest Disneyland in the world… On the other hand, our Ocean Park is amazeballs. It’s got two mountains – the higher and bigger one is for the big kids and the wooden roller coaster, Mine Train, is my very favourite. In addition to rides, our pandas also live here, as does our penguins. Another cool bit is the Old HK Retro Zone where they’ve warped a street back into the 50’s and you can see disco dancers and sedan bearers. Did I mention that Ocean Park overlooks the water so on certain rides, such as the Mine Train, you feel like you’re going to fly out into the water? Make sure you also try out the Abyss as you get an amazing view of the water when you shoot up into the air. Yippee!
BONUS +2. HAPPY VALLEY HORSE RACES.
Since this is only available one day out of the whole week, I’ve snuck this into the bonus section. Only on Wednesdays during the season – inquire with your hotel or the racing calendar here. It’s awesome! The tram runs a Happy Valley route so just catch any tram that is marked to Happy Valley. Chinese people love to gamble; the horse races are no exception, and it’s always packed with people. The first race starts around 715pm, and it’s around 30 mins between races to give ample time for people to place their bets and the last race ends around 11pm. Stay for as many races as you want! It is 18+ and the admission is $10 HKD to get into the general area. Have a beer, and soak in the atmosphere. I would love to be able to explain how the betting works on the complex betting sheet, but I have no idea how to make complicated bets to get 3T. Here’s a guide if you want to learn. I just like to yell GO, GO, GO… during the race instead. It works for me.
If you’re interested in paying a bit more to get more up-close and personal ($150 HKD or so), then there is a Tourist Badge – you get seated in a better spot and you’ll allowed to roam the trackside areas. More info on dress code, criteria, and how to purchase here. I personally like the atmosphere at the general seating more, but with a Tourist Badge, you get seated with a better view.
That’s it. Can’t get enough of bucket lists or you’re a foodie at heart? Make sure to check out the T.O.P. 10 Must Eats in HK to eat like a local!