Hong Kong was the last stop on our 3.5 month round the world adventure and although it was last, it certainly was not least. I always thought that Hong Kong would be the ultimate culture shock for me; a little taste of China that until very recently had been under British rule, must surely be a discordant dance of East and West and one which would leave me confused and mesmerised in equal measure. I was right about one thing; I was completely mesmerised the entire time we were in Hong Kong, but the culture in this city made my heart smile like no where else I’d been before.
I’m going to begin with a short history lesson of Hong Kong, which was colonised by the British in 1841 and became increasingly important as a port for the tea industry throughout the 19th century because of the huge demand for tea from the British Empire. After the Japanese occupation during the second world war, Hong Kong’s economy was hit extremely hard and when it was finally liberated by British and Chinese troops in 1945, the population had shrunk from 1.6million to 600,000 people.
Decolonisation swept across the world, yet Great Britain kept Hong Kong for strategic reasons until 1997 when rule was handed back to the People’s Republic Of China. During the post war years, Hong Kong became a hub for business and tourism, attracting a huge influx of residents from both China and around the world. It’s population today is 7.8 million people, which is crazy huge for such a tiny place!
I couldn’t justify writing a full travel guide to Hong Kong as we unfortunately only had 48 hours in this super charged city, but in case you only have the same amount of time; here are some of my recommendations for your time in Hong Kong and how to soak up the city’s electric atmosphere.
The layout of Hong Kong was something I couldn’t get my head around until I was actually there. Basically, there is Hong Kong district, which encompasses everywhere but there are also little islands, confusingly including Hong Kong island that also contains a tube stop called Hong Kong.
Basically, Hong Kong can be as broad as a country or as specific as a block, but once you’re there you’ll need to refer to districts rather than Hong Kong as a whole, with he two main parts of Hong Kong being Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
I know this sounds really complex but it’s actually super easy to get around Hong Kong. When you arrive at the airport, the quickest and cheapest way to get to the city is by Airport Express Train. You need to buy your ticket (which is return and includes unlimited tube travel) from the counter in the airport and then you’ll be on your way for only $180 HK – around £18.
You can even redeem $50 of the cost of your ticket back by returning your travel card to the counter when you’re back at the airport again… the price of a cup of coffee and a snack before you fly; perfect!
Once you’re in Hong Kong, we found the best way and also the most interesting place to people watch was catching the MTR tubes. They’re fast, frequent and very, very easy to navigate. Seeing as you have a free travel card with your Airport Express ticket you might as well use the MTR as much as possible!
Yes, for real! Uber operates in Hong Kong. You can easily get picked up and travel to your destination by private car, without the struggle of asking for directions with an old Chinese taxi driver.
Where To Go
Hong Kong has a wealth of activities, culture, history and shopping experiences for you to choose from. With only 48 hours in Hong Kong, it’s kind of hard to choose which ones to do! Unfortunately for us, the weather was not on our side and we weren’t able to do the famous Tram or see The Levels however I am recommending them here as I was gutted that we missed out!
The main religion in Hong Kong is buddhism, so it makes sense that there’s a giant Buddha statue at the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau island (around a 30 minute MTR ride from Central). Be prepared to queue, especially on weekends as hoardes of ‘mainland Chinese’ come over to pay their respects and take lots of pictures.
You take a cable car over to Lantau island and I highly recommend you get a ‘Crystal Cabin’ for two reasons. One, the queue is around 1 hour shorter in length and two, you get to see everything beneath you through the glass bottom of the gondola!
The Peak is the highest point in Hong Kong and accessed by traditional tram from Central. Here, you’ll have breathtaking views over the entire city and harbour, making it Hong Kong’s number 1 tourist attraction. Unfortunately for us, the weather was too cloudy and overcast so we weren’t able to go to the top. Let me know if it truly lives up to expectation!
Mid Levels Escalators
Not really a tourist attraction per se, the mid-levels escalators give you a real insight into crazy daily life in Hong Kong. They are the longest outdoor escalators in the world, with dozens of entry and exit points along the way and a main commute for many residents of the city.
If you’ve got two days in Hong Kong, then you must do some shopping! Whether you’re after luxury items at beautiful Malls like Pacific Place, or after a bargain; Hong Kong has it all. I recommend visiting the Ladies Market and Stanley Market for some great presents to bring home for friends and family.
We ate here on our first night and the restaurant and bar at Upperhouse has the most incredible view of the Hong Kong skyline. If you’re budget permits, then definitely come here for a meal. The view is simply stunning.
O zone Bar
Officially the highest bar in the world and on the Kowloon side of the water, O zone also boasts stunning views of the city’s skyline as it proudly sits on the top of the International Commerce Centre. With breathtaking views of Hong Kong island that is especially incredible when illuminated at night, O Zone is a must visit on your trip to Hong Kong.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at The Conrad in Central as a very special treat for the end of our trip.
With an outdoor pool, gym, two restaurants and ultra-luxurious suites, The Conrad is the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in! It also has an amazing location in Central, with direct lift access to Pacific Place mall and close to the Central MTR station terminal.
Hong Kong Tips
Shops don’t open until noon, so forget setting your alarm early! Hong Kong time is all about the Night Owl and for that reason shops often stay open until 11pm.
On the other hand, head to tourist spots as early as possible to avoid queues. There’s lots of them.