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China travel guide, travel tips, attractions, & funny stuff!
Check out any Hong Kong guidebook or website and youll probably find a long list of tourist attractions and experiences. It can be too much to digest. Its true that theres a lot to do and see in the area. But the good news is that, geographically, the HK area is compact (for example, most of the action on HK island is concentrated on the northern end). Public transportation is excellent too, enabling you to see a lot in a relatively short time.
Below is my48 hours in Hong Kongitinerary, hitting the best HK sights and experiences. To be honest, its a lotprobably too muchfor most people to pack into such a short time. To really do Hong Kong right, youll want to budget at least 4-5 days. Instead my two-day plan is one that looks good on paperbut the reality is that time flies when youre traveling (getting lost, waiting in line, sidetracked by shopping/coffee break, etc). Also, some of these destinations can easily take up a half-day or more (for example, Lantau Island or Pacific Place mall if youre a shopper).
So my advice is to prioritize and be prepared to cut a few stops along the way. On day one, for instance, your main goal might be to get up to Victoria Peak by dusk. On day two, your goals might be to beat the morning crowds headed to see the Big Buddha, and get to the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront to catch the 8:00pm laser & light show.
[NOTE:Open Google Map in another window to view all locations in left menu ]
Suck it up and drag yourself out of bed early. Grab a coffee and then head to any of Hong Kongs parks to watch local residents going through the graceful movements of tai chi (kind of like kung fu in slow motion). The best HK parks for watching are:Hong Kong Park,Victoria Park, theZoological & Botanical Gardens, orKowloon Park(if youre staying on that side of the harbor). Hong Kong Park (in Admiralty) also contains an aviary with over 600 birds, as well as a tea museum, if thats your cup o tea. On another day when you have more time, you can even join in yourself; free tai chi sessions for beginners are held four mornings a week on Tsim Sha Tsuis waterfront promenade.
[ Note: above parksand all these other attractionsare shown on above interactive Google map ]
Dim sum? No, Im going to dim a lot!
By now, youre probably hungry. What better time for Cantoneses most famous cuisine, dim sum? Hong Kong has dim sum restaurants pretty much everywhere. For the full-on d.s. experience, most guidebooks and locals agree that the best ones areLuk Yu Tea HouseandCity Hall Maxims Palace(see myHong Kong restaurant guide). Even though both are popular tourist draws, theyre also popular with the locals so theyre not tourist trap-type of places. On weekends, its best to arrive on the earlier side of brunch (say, before 10:30am or so) to avoid waiting too long for a table.
Serving HK since 1904, these rickety double-decker trams are not just iconic symbols of Hong Kong, theyre also the cheapest and coolest way to check out Hong Kong Island (at least the northern, main urban area of the island). In Central, you can hop on the tram at Des Voeux Road Central (the best seats are in the front on the upper deck). Riding at night is pretty cool too (just avoid morning and evening rush hour peak times). Take the tram to Admiralty (eastbound from Central) to check out Pacific Place.
[ See myHK transportation mapspage for Tram route map orCentral MTR station area map]
This isnt for everyone (in particular, budget backpackers), but if youre at all interested in doing some shopping (or at least checking out Hong Kongers favorite past time), Pacific Place is widely considered as Hong Kongs best shopping mall. For serious shopaholics, youll probably want to do this some other day since you could be there are day; there are hundreds of outlets, mostly high-end brands (see myHK Shopping Guide). If shopping malls arent your thing, ride the tram for a while, then head over to
Part sightseeing ride and part commuter godsend (especially on one of HKs many hot & humid days), these are the worlds longest outdoor escalators (800m long). Its not actually one continuous escalator, but a series of escalators and moving walkways that head one-way up the steep incline. The mid-level escalators start out at Queens Road Central.
[ the Mid-Levels Escalators are also shown on theCentral MTR station map ]
You can take the escalators all the way up on Shelley street to check out all the bars and restaurants along the way (and then walk back down). Or hop off on either Hollywood Road or Staunton Street and walk west to the heart of SoHo (South of Hollywood), where youll find even more dining options. The area has a wide range of international cuisinefrom Asian fusion to Nepalese to Mexican. Youll also find plenty of comfortable pubs, cafes, and coffee shops for a quick drink.
While youre in the neighborhood in SoHo, take a post-lunch stroll to the Hollywood Road. There are high-end, real antique shops in this areabut unless you know your stuff, youre better off checking out the little shops and flea market-like outdoor stalls on Upper Lascar Row (or Cat Street, parallel to Hollywood Rd, one street north). Souvenir-hunters could spend a while just browsing through all of the cool crap: fake but cool antique Omega watches, old HK (and Bruce Lee) photos/posters, figurines, and all kinds of unique gifts and Chinese knick knacks. While youre in the hood, theMan Mo Templeis right there too on Hollywood. Its always listed in the guidebooks as a featured HK attraction but IMHO, its pretty lame (especially compared to almost any temple on the mainland).
From there, head Southeast, towards where youll be later taking the Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak. Depending on what time it is (you should try to get up to Victoria Peak by duskand budget plenty of time of queuing), you could either skip this part and take the Peak Tram up. Or your other options are to check out either St. Johns Cathedral (built in 1847, one of few colonial structures left in Central), or Hong Kong Park or Hong Kong Zoological & Botanical Gardens (opened in 1864; free).
Finally its time for Hong Kongs best attraction: Victoria Peak! On another day, with more time, you could walk up & down the 392m/1,286 ft hill, Hong Kongs tallest hill. Historically, HKs richest lived on Victoria Peak (to escape the heat); coolies would carry them up the hill in sedan chairs (taking some 3 hours). The Peak Tram opened in 1888 to finally replace them (major upgrade in 1989). TIP: sit on the right side of the tram for the best views down below.
The Peak Tram Terminal is on 33 Garden Road, next to Hong Kong Park (theres also a shuttle bus that runs from the Central Ferry Terminal, 15C at Pier 7). There are all kinds of ticket combos. For the best views, go for the Tram + Sky Terrace combo ticket. But budget travelers can still find good views without paying for the access to the viewing decks by strolling down one of the many paths offering equally nice views.
[ Lower Peak Tram Terminus is shown onCentral MTR station area map]
TIP:Dress warmlyespecially at night when the temps can drop and winds can really get going. Youll probably also be waiting in a long line outside to take the tram back down.
While youre up on the Peak, youve got some options. Nothing to write home about, the Peak Tower is basically a small shopping mall, with some shops as well as a handful of restaurants. ThePeak Lookout Restaurant(New York Times Pick & Frommers Best Outdoor Dining) has a nice outdoor terrace and an international menu that should have something for even the pickiest of eaters in your group. If you have kids (or even if you dont), you can also check outMadame Tussauds Wax Museum( or theEA Experience, with free interactive video games. Victoria Peak also has one of HKs best walks: thePeak Circle Walk, an hour-long easy, circular hike that starts at the Upper Tram terminus. The lighted path snakes around, giving great views of the area (popular as a romantic walk). You can also catch the laser & light show that lights up the city skyline while youre up there (8pm every night).
Victoria Peak at night: The best place to see Hong Kongs skyline
Ground zero ofHong Kongs nightlife scene, this relatively small warren is home to about two dozen bars and restaurants. Known as either the Fong or LWF, the area attracts pretty much all types: ex-pats, local suits after work, and tourists just walking around, snapping photos, and soaking in the scene which spills out into the pedestrian-only streets. You can also head directly here for dinner; there are also a good number of up-market restaurants herefrom Japanese and Thai to French and Italian. Budget travelers should head to the nearbyWing Wah Lanerestaurants for cheaper Indian, Malaysian, and Thai eateries.
Take the MTR (Tung Chung MTR station) over to Lantau Island to see Hong Kongs second most popular tourist attraction: the giantTian Tan Buddha, weighing over 200 tons. As big fans of superlatives (even if it requires some qualifiers), they like to refer to it as the worlds largest Buddha.to be specific, its the worlds largest that is bronze, outdoors, and in a seated position! But its still pretty damn big, butnot as impressive as say, the 71m Leshan Buddha carved from the side of a mountain. Try to get an early start (especially on weekends) to beat the crowds, otherwise youll waste a lot of time in line waiting to take theNgong Ping 360gondola, a 25-minute ride giving amazing views of the island. Budget travelers can instead hop on the (slower and certainly less scenic) 23 bus. While youre there, stop by the nearbyPo Lin Monastery(built in 1924), which serves a decent vegetarian lunch. Take a stroll down the short, peaceful Wisdom Path (follow signposts on the trail to the left of the Buddha). But dont linger too long, youve got a lot more ground to cover today so move it!
Next head over to Kowloon (Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station) to check out the (in-)famousChungking Mansions, long synonymous with budget, backpacker accommodation [Note: On Google Map, look for blue marker under Hotels ]. Located at 36-44 Nathan Road, its easy to miss since the buildings front is rather unassuming from the street. The dilapidated building is not only home to cheap guesthouses; the bottom floors are home to cheap Indian & Pakistani eateries and tiny little shops where you can get everything from a haircut to a fake Rolex (good place to exchange currency or buy a SIM mobile phone card). For inexperienced travelers, its a good place to ease into the culture shock of street hawkers approaching you on the street, if youre headed to mainland China. Not many guides list this as an actual attraction but its a pretty unique place, a kind of poor mans mini United Nations. Inside and outside, theres a steady buzz of activity and odd mixture of people: backpacking Westerners, African and Indian semi-residents, along with all kinds of random characters.
[ Chungking Mansionsand below Peninsula Hotelare shown onTsim Sha Tsu MTR station map]
Depending on time and interest, you can experience the other end of HKs accommodation spectrum: taking afternoon tea atPeninsula Hong Kong Hotelis considered one of the most popular HK experiences (personally not my thing). Opened in 1928, the hotel is widely considered one of worlds great hotels. Be forewarned that you should be prepared to wait for a table (and should be somewhat nicely dressed).
Depending on your interest, there are three good options for your next stop in Kowloon (translating as Nine Dragons). Across the street from the Peninsula, you find theHong Kong Museum of Art. With seven galleries housing everything from Hong Kong contemporary art and Chinese antique ceramics to international exhibitions to historical photos, its widely considered as an excellent collection worth seeing if youre an art lover. A few minutes away is theHong Kong Museum of History, taking visitors through an interesting walk through HKs rather remarkable history. The eight galleries present everything from prehistoric Hong Kong (going back some 6,000 years ago) to replicas of village dwellings to WWII film footage and interviews. Or if you have kids in your group, theHong Kong Science Museumnext door, offers over 500 displays illustrating the workings of everything from physics and chemistry to computers and other technologies (and interactive, kid-friendly exhibits).
[ All three museums are shown onTsim Sha Tsui MTR station map]
Jump back on the MTR heading north to find the Chi Lin Nunnery (Diamond Hill MTR station). Dating from 1934, the peaceful havencontaining beautiful bonsai trees and lotus ponds in the gardens and courtyardsis considered one of HKs most beautiful and interesting (architecturally). The entire Buddhist complex was built of wood (almost 230,000 pieces of timber).and without a single nail. Instead, the interlocking design is intended to illustrate our potential harmony with nature. The construction is also an excellent example of feng shui principles. If you have time, theSik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Templeis one MTR stop away (Wong Tai Sin).
Ashley Road and Lock Road in TST.Kowloons restaurantsare mostly found in hotels and shopping malls on, or close to, Nathan Road, the main drag. On a pleasant night, look for Knutsford Terrace for many alfresco dining options.
Soak in Hong Kongs skyline, renowned as one of the worlds greatest. A stroll down Tsim Sha Tsuis pedestrian promenade is nice by day. By night, its fantastic. Get there by 8:00pm, when youll be treated to the best views of the photo opp-friendlySymphony of Lightlaser & light show (8:00-8:20pm every night), projected in concert with music from both sides of the harbor (TST is the best place to catch the show). While youre there, you can check out theAvenue of the Stars, which honors HK film industry and star (modeled after the Hollywood Walk of Fame).
[ See Avenue of the Stars shown onTsim Sha Tsui MTR map ]
Next stop: Hong Kongs biggest and liveliest night market, located a two MTR stations north of TST in Kowloon. Selling everything from imitation handbags, clothing, and watches to Chinese souvenirs to pirated CDs to sunglasses to dishware, its the best place in HK to pick up cheap, random gifts (and also a good place for rookies to sharpen their bargaining skills). Keep walking down Temple Streetclose to the Tin Hau Temple and youll run into a bunch of stalls withfortune tellers(many who speak English), along with street singers. The area is also a good dining option, with manycheap seafood eaterieswith cramped tables that spill onto the street action. There used to be a lot more, but most have been forced to move into covered markets (there are a bunch at the intersection of Public Square St. and Temple Street). Most sellers set up their stalls around 6pm and shut down around 11pm. For more info on Temple Street Market, see my.
[Temple Street Market is shown onYau Ma Tei MTR station map).
Assuming youre staying on HK island, take the Star Ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui pier back to Central. Even if youre staying in Kowloon, you should find a way to squeeze a Star Ferry ride in before leaving Hong Kong. The short ferry ride is cool during the daybut much better at night when the citys skyscrapers light up the skyline. Dating back to 1898, the ferry pier is a HK institution and always listed as one of Hong Kongs must-do experiences. Cheap toothe most expensive upper-deck weekend tickets are less than $US0.50 (you can use your Octopus card). Though the TST to Central is the most popular ferry, they also go further, to the Outlying Islands. [operating daily 6:30am-11:30pm,
Click here for myHong Kong Attractions, Part 2 page
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