Hong Kong: The Best Experiences
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.