Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Hong Kong: The Best Experiences

53

Dim Sum House

I knew I’d love Hong Kong, but I had no idea I’d be rapturously in love with the city by the end of my time there!

Hong Kong is endlessly fascinating — it’s impossible to get bored here. Here are some of my favorite experiences in Hong Kong.

Laura at Dim Sum

Chowing Down on a Hello Hong Kong Food Tour

Mario’s friend Laura, who has lived in Hong Kong for a few years, started Hello Hong Kong Tours a few years ago and kindly invited me to join her on a complimentary tour.

On this tour Laura took our group out to a traditional dim sum restaurant, a noodle shop frequented by Anthony Bourdain, a tea stand, a restaurant specializing in roasted meats, and a bakery for egg tarts. There was so much food on this tour.

I’ve found that most food tours tend to be either catered toward beginners or created for serious foodies. Hello Hong Kong falls into the former category — you don’t have to be an expert here; all that you have to do is enjoy food. If you’re intimidated about “doing things right” when going out for dim sum or stepping into a noodle shop, this is a great way to learn how to navigate your way around eating in Hong Kong.

The food was outstanding — when putting the tour together, Laura spent a lot of time trying out different restaurants that had the best combination of excellent food and under-the-radar popularity (though the noodle shop is quite popular on its own, she pointed out). I’m still dreaming of that candy-like roasted pork and that bowl of wonton soup topped with firm, skinny noodles and big chunks of falling-apart brisket.

The true value of the tour was in the days later — I’d find myself eating roasted pork or wonton noodles and sighing to myself, thinking that these ones weren’t nearly as good as the ones we had with Laura. If you do her tour, do it early so you can go back to the same places!

Chungking Mansions

Checking Out the Creepy Chungking Mansions

I can’t believe a place like Chungking Mansions exists in Hong Kong today. In the middle of a very nice part of Kowloon, a block away from Chanel and Gucci and Louis Vuitton, you’ll find a building home to several immigrant communities and filled with the city’s cheapest guesthouses, phone shops, and windowless Indian restaurants.

Those Indian restaurants are actually quite good — and Laura invited us to join her at one. We met her outside the building and were hustled by several men, each trying to get us to go to their restaurant, until she called out, “Taj Mahal Club?” and they dispersed, only the man from Taj Mahal Club remaining.

Parts of Chungking Mansions look like they’re falling apart — dirty hallways, exposed pipes and wires, graffiti, even what looked like blood splattered in corners. I half-expected to find Liam Neeson to beating up random men in the stairwells.

That said — we had a fantastic multi-course Indian meal with a few mango lassis for around $20 USD. Definitely worth a visit for the food as well as the environment.

Hong Kong Skyline

Taking the Star Ferry Across Victoria Harbour

It’s the cheapest deal in town – cross from Hong Kong to Kowloon by boat for just $3.40 HKD ($0.44 USD) and take in the absolute best view of the skyline.

Bruce Lee

The Bruce Lee Experience

I’ve never seen a Bruce Lee movie in my life and knew nothing about him other than he was a martial arts star. Mario, on the other hand, is a huge Bruce Lee fan and wanted to check out the exhibit at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum.

I went in clueless — and emerged a Bruce Lee fan.

Bruce Lee was incredible. He grew up in Hong Kong but moved to the US as a teenager and he went from teaching martial arts to becoming a TV and film star. His moves were revolutionary — nobody could fight like Bruce Lee (and many tried, including Chuck Norris). He was a pioneer for Asians in western film and had one of the most high-profile interracial marriages of the time.

Bruce Lee had a softer side, too — he was a dancer and loved to cha-cha. And he was SO handsome.

Bruce Lee died suddenly of cerebral edema at age 32, leaving his wife and two young kids behind, as well as the career that could have been. He was on the verge of becoming a superstar and breaking even more barriers — but instead, his early death kept him a mythical figure.

Do make the time to go see this exhibit. I’m so glad I went.

Dim Sum

Dim Sum Three Ways

Dim sum is Hong Kong’s most famous food tradition. I had it three different ways — in a casual restaurant on the Hello Hong Kong tour, in an upscale restaurant where the plates were brought to you with our friend Richard and his parents, and in Richard’s favorite, a restaurant that even had English labels on the carts, making it easy for us to decipher dishes.

In each place, I dined on everything from custard dumplings and rice noodles filled with char siu (roasted pork) to duck webbing (yep — duck feet, chewing the skin and spitting out the bones) while drinking dark Chinese tea. Dim sum means “touch the heart” and yum cha means “drink tea” — all important elements that go into this much-loved culinary experience.

Mong Kok

Shopping in Mong Kok

Mong Kok was one of my favorite neighborhoods to wander in Hong Kong. Here you’ll find a flower market, a street selling pet fish (the aptly named Goldfish street), a bird market, and those streets that you picture when you think of Hong Kong — busy streets and packed markets set between skyscrapers.

Mong Kok is home to lots of cool shops selling cheap and stylish clothing. Unfortunately, I soon realized that I am very much not Chinese-sized – my shoulders couldn’t even fit into the largest jackets!

Taking in Hong Kong Nightlife

If your city is home to a neighborhood called SoHo, chances are it’s home to some nice nightlife. That’s certainly the case in London, New York, and Hong Kong, where the hilly neighborhood of SoHo is home to lots of cool bars and restaurants.

We hit up a few bars in the neighborhood and took in a comedy show at Take Out Comedy, featuring nine comics (all in English) for just $150 HKD ($19 USD). It was a fun thing to do and after the show, all the comedians and audience moved on to a bar together to mingle. Mario got to photograph several of them for Someone Once Told Me, including this moving photo.

Casino Lisboa

Visiting Macau

Portuguese-flavored Macau is an easy day trip from Hong Kong and is absolutely worth the hourlong boat ride. Here you’ll find a UNESCO-listed old town that looks straight out of Lisbon with bright yellow buildings and black and white cobblestone streets. Macau is also Asia’s top gambling destination and home to its own Wynn, Venetian, and MGM Grand.

Macau is a fun place to stroll around for the day. Be sure to refuel with some flaky Portuguese egg tarts.

Lais and Us

The True Local Experience

In Hong Kong Mario and I stayed with our friend Richard and had the total local experience thanks to him and his parents, who could not have been more hospitable. Richard’s father Sam, in particular, brought us straight into Hong Kong’s food culture and fed us continuously, from whole fried pigeons to shrimp dumplings and this hot pot feast at home one night.

They truly went above and beyond in welcoming us to Hong Kong, and it really made our trip memorable.

Other Experiences

There are a few “Hong Kong musts” that I missed: visiting Lantau Island, checking out Victoria Peak, seeing the small villages on the islands, hiking into the mountains, and betting on the horses at Ladies’ Night at Happy Valley.

But it’s always good to have something new for last time.

Essential Info: Hello Hong Kong offers several tours. The food tour takes 3.5-4 hours, costs $650 HKD ($84 USD), and feeds you so much food that you’ll be stuffed by the time you leave.

Bruce Lee: Kung Fu, Art, Life is an exhibition at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. Tickets are $10 HKD ($1 USD) for adults.

Most shows at Take Out Comedy cost $100-200 HKD ($13-26 USD) per person; some cost $50 HKD ($7 USD) for students.

Ferries to Macau leave from Shun Tak on Hong Kong Island and the China Ferry Terminal in Kowloon. I went from China Ferry Terminal and paid $330 HKD ($42.50 USD) for a return weekday economy ticket.

Have you been to Hong Kong? What was your favorite experience?

Comments

53 Responses to “Hong Kong: The Best Experiences”
  1. I just learned who Bruce Lee was too, while in Singapore our taxi driver gave us a 30 minute lesson haha, he thinks that his death is “a mystery” and Bruce was the wisest man alive. I had no clue who he was! I mean I’d heard the name, but that’s about it. Hong Kong looks great. I love dumplings.

  2. Hong Kong is one of my favorite cities, too. On top of all the things you mentioned, it’s actually mostly rural and has a couple of old fishing villages with great seafood, some pretty nice beaches and a bunch of great hiking trails. At least I’ve heard the hiking trails are great. I don’t plan on ever finding out for myself, but I will happily check out more of the beaches and try more of the fresh seafood.

  3. Jo says:

    Dim sum is sooo tasty. Custard buns are probably one of my favourite foods. This post has left my mouth watering. I really enjoyed going up to the peak to have a view of Hong Kong as well. 🙂

  4. Jenny in Tokyo says:

    Thanks for these great ideas that have given me the push I needed to head back to HK. This is the first I’ve heard about the Bruce Lee exhibit and it sounds fantastic (my kindergarten teacher was the other half of that high-profile interracial marriage and I am always curious about what she was like when she was younger).

  5. Amanda says:

    You did a lot of things that I never got around to! That food tour sounds amazing! And I sadly missed Macau. Next time!

  6. I have two nights in Hong Kong (with Fiji in sandwiched in the middle) and I’m starting think I’m going to need MUCH more time.

    The food tour sounds PERFECT for me, so that’s gone on the list.

    Thank-you for such an info packed post!!

  7. Silvia says:

    I hitchhiked in China with a guy who was obsessed with Bruce Lee. I had no idea he was such an icon! Sort of makes me want to visit Hong Kong for him alone, ha. And of course all of your other tips!

  8. Jan Cavan says:

    HK is my favorite city! It’s beautiful! I don’t think I’d be able to live there though. It’s too congested.

  9. Daisy Wong says:

    I loved the Bruce Lee exhibit, I went for their free day, I think it’s Wednesday and it was awesome. Watched the Bruce Lee documentary and learned so much.

  10. Such a great post! I am SUCH a fan of food tours so that would be the first thing I’d do. Also, I love the tip about the star ferry! Thanks for sharing.

    Happy travels 🙂

  11. You are KILLING me with this post. Dim sum is one of my favorites, and Justin and I just recently discovered this Indian restaurant here and we can’t. stop. going. back. I’m pretty sure they put crack in the masala. And now my mouth is watering thinking about your Hong Kong dining experiences.

  12. Stephanie says:

    Hi Kate,

    I lived in HK for two years and loved it – your post made me feel nostalgic! I want to go back and visit soon…mostly for the dim sum 😉

    If you decide to go back at any point to check out the places that you missed, feel free to send me a message. I also wrote a few posts about living in HK on my blog:

    http://packyourthoughtsandgo.wordpress.com/

    You’re an awesome writer and inspire me to travel more! I’ve really enjoyed your blog, so thanks for putting so much effort and heart into it.

    – Steph

  13. vira says:

    oh I love Hong Kong for so many things.. the shopping, the food, and simply just strolling down the city to look around.. And there’s one of my favorite movies called Chungking Express that was shot at the Chungking Mansions.. Definitely one of the must-visit places in my trip there.

  14. Jen says:

    Looks like you really did enjoy Hong Kong Kate. I am thinking of going later in the year so have taken a lot of notes on your post, especially that food tour.

  15. Sam says:

    When I visited Hong Kong way back in 2009, I actually stayed in one of those cheap guesthouses in Chungking Mansions. Needless to say, I was somewhat disappointed when I arrived after booking online with the word ‘mansions’ in the name!

  16. Wow, you were certainly busy! It’s so awesome that you were able to stay with a local family. It really changes the way you experience a new country/culture!

  17. So glad you enjoyed HK! Now you know why I just had to move back here. 🙂

  18. esme says:

    You’re right, HK is an amazing city, in my Top Five. Favorite Hong Kong Experiences (where to start?):

    1) 10,000 Buddhas
    2) Walking Dragon’s Back
    3) Hiking Victoria’s Peak
    4) Open air bus ride around Kowloon
    5) Bo Innovation restaurant
    6) Cable car ride to the Big Buddha
    7) Man Mo Temple

    http://bit.ly/14Eqlq7

  19. Michelle says:

    I was last there a couple of years ago and, like you, absolutely LOVE Hong Kong 🙂

    My favorite thing to do though was to go backwards and forwards on the Star Ferry (did it six times one day 🙂 as I just loved the boat ride plus it was so absolutely dirt cheap I could travel backwards and forwards many times for less than a dollar. Just about the only cheap thing in Hong Kong though, LOL.

    Lovely photos, btw.

  20. Claire says:

    I think the title of your blog is quite misleading. You are not traveling solo, you have a man with you. So “solo female travel blog” is way off the mark.

    • Hi, Claire — I’m currently traveling with my fiance, but not for the entire trip — I go off and travel on my own during it, and prior to this trip in particular, I traveled alone extensively for years. But it’s not just about me — this site is for you. This site has always been and will always be a source for solo female travelers, which is why I write about travel topics concerning safety, gear, packing and advice for others.

  21. Victoria says:

    Yep! I’ve been to Hong Kong and it’s one of my very favourite cities! I love the fact that it has a very British feel, is safe and enormously easy to move around. I went in the 90’s and I had jasmine tea for the first time, dim sum, bird’s nest, 100 day old eggs and other things that I was loathe to ask what they were. Hong Kong was also the place that I learnt to use chop-sticks not that anyone asked! I was also given a stove, raw meat and encouraged to get on with it. So I did!

    I met so many expats here and they were great and welcomed me with open arms. I also went to one of the local markets where the police came and everyone packed up pretty swiftly, so I just followed everybody else!

  22. Kelly says:

    Haha the Liam Neeson comment!

  23. Emily says:

    After eating Dim Sum in Chicago this weekend, your post is seriously making me want to get on the next flights to take Laura’s food tour! I’ll be marking this down as a must if I make it to Hong Kong this year.

  24. Again, this only strengthens my desire to visit Hong Kong! I will be bookmarking this for my future trip, possibly for next year when I go to Japan. I could a couple of days in Hong Kong while I’m in Asia!

  25. Hannah says:

    This is what we missed. We couldn’t go to Hong Kong because its really out of the way 🙁

  26. Annalisa says:

    I hiked up to Victoria Peak which was fun! We started by walking up through different neighborhoods and then into the wooded area. It was a good workout and we saved money! I also enjoyed visiting Chi Lin Nunnery. It’s an oasis in the middle of the city, really beautiful to walk around and has a yummy vegetarian restaurant (a little pricey).

  27. Jia Wong says:

    I’ve been to HK plenty of times before since my parents are from there…but I’ve never experienced it as a tourist so I haven’t been to many of the places that you listed here. I’m definitely going to try and visit them the next time I’m in Hong Kong =)

  28. Brianna says:

    I have yet to visit Hong Kong but your post has definitely piqued my interest. I adore dim sum, it would be hard for me to not eat it every meal here. Food tours are a great option to try a lot of different flavors in a short amount of time and, as you mentioned, you learn about some great places to return to if you do the tour at the beginning of your trip.

  29. Wow, very informative post. You have given me the interest more to visit HK soon. I thought there are only few beautiful sights in HK, glad I was able to visit your blog. Thanks for sharing!

  30. The hawker centres are great for eating 🙂
    Checked the out in Singapore, will do the same in Hong Kong as well 🙂

  31. Daisy says:

    Great HK post!!! My mom was born and raised here so some of the best trips I’ve ever taken were just wandering aimlessly around Mong Kok. lol So many good food finds and where else can you get a full breakfast for two (and snacks for later) for $5???

  32. I had no idea there was a Bruce Lee museum. I’m a huge Bruce Lee fan. I read his book the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, which is actually a form of martial art which he created. Now I wonder if that blood sport Kumite in Hong Kong is actually real… rumor has it that it does exist.

  33. Pat says:

    I think Bruce Lee was born in the U.S.

  34. Mat says:

    Hong Kong is the first place Ive been to in Asia and I will always love it, but I’ve never been to Macau… just didnt understand what was appealing about this place. But I think Ill go now, Im just wondering how long should I stay there and what to visit (can not find much information about it from other backpackers, actually).

  35. Jennifer says:

    Thanks Kate for the detailed information. You are an inspiration to may women around the world.
    I plan to visit HK this month however the political riots are worrying me.

  36. I love this city. So many things to do here! I’ve been living in this wonderful city for almost a year now and I cannot get enough of it. If you’re tempted to come back, here’s an article you would like : http://www.milesofhappiness.com/blog/9-reasons-not-to-come-to-hong-kong-for-a-stop-over 😉 Enjoy your trips!!

  37. Jasel Mundhra says:

    I’ve just come back from a trip to Hong Kong and it’s been an unforgettable experience. The LKF district and Queen’s Road Central are great to stroll around. Lantau Village and the Big Buddha are definitely worth a visit. Also, in Macau, St. Senado’s Square and the ruins of St. Paul’s church are beautiful.

  38. DPK says:

    I got married in HK in 2013 at City Hall, and I’ve been to that city quite a few times, mostly for the food. Tim Ho Wan, the world’s cheapest restaurant to have a Michelin, is there and be prepared to wait in a line to get in on that great grub.

    Getting around is so easy and HK is just so tourist and foreigner friendly; I prefer it greatly over Singa-bore, which I visited once and never felt the need to visit again.

    Outside from food, it’s a shopper’s paradise and stuff, but be prepared to haggle.

    I need to visit soon again.

  39. Dewi Chitrawati says:

    Thanks for your experience in Hongkong…becouse we´re going there too in September…but too bad…you don´t have any experience in China. We will go in many places in China…Beijing, Shanghai and Hongkong…and the last will be in Bali. What I want to ask is…how about the language the people use in China…

  40. Alyanna says:

    Try to visit Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden on your next visit 🙂 It’s majestic!!!

  41. Amy says:

    Hi Kate,
    Hong Kong is our next destination and I’ve been trawling through my favourite blogs to see what everyone recommends – loved this, very excited to do some foodie activities so I’ll be bookmarking your post!

  42. Dexter says:

    I loved my visit in Hong Kong. Ngong Ping Village is my favorite. Loved the green and the breeze. For Macau, I think it is better to go there during weekdays. Lots of people on weekends.

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