In a constant fog, Hong Kong offers stunning views, bold nightlife, and more shopping than you could ever imagine. When booking my flight, I had zero background knowledge about this destination. It was a very spur of the moment trip, and I purposely decided against research. I wanted to experience the destination with no prior knowledge and to make my own options. It also helped that I was traveling with a large group so I knew I would have lots of choices to pick from.
Arriving in the early hours after a 28 hour flight schedule, you could easily assume I was a hot mess. Now, I’m not complaining as traveling to faraway destinations takes time. I mention this as a warning to those who are weary of long flights and greasy hair. After reaching our Airbnb I collapse into a pile of sweat and filth and slept through the constant noise outside.
Though tired, my mates and I were up bright and early everyday as the city reaches a crescendo by 7:00am. This is to be expected in any large city, thankfully this forced most of us onto a normal sleep schedule.
Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty, where the hell does one stay when visiting Hong Kong? Well, you can’t really go wrong as far as location as public transportation can get you just about anywhere. However, we decided to stay in an Airbnb in the city center.
Real talk. I have a love/hate relationship with Airbnb’s as photos can tell a completely different story. In all honesty ours was...underwhelming. It had some major maintenance issues and was very cramped for 6 people. Not to mention that our “mattresses” were literally boxsprings. On the other hand, it was extremely affordable. In general, the US dollar will get you far in Hong Kong and depending on your preferences a hotel may be a better choice.
I suggest looking into multiple options as you many choose to travel in luxury, or in my case, like a local. Our Airbnb was cheap and it let us see how the people of Hong Kong live day to day. Currently, the use of Airbnb’s are frowned upon in Hong Kong. So treat the apartment and other tenants with respect and always be courteous and follow the rules they put in place.
If there is one thing you’ll need in Hong Kong it’s a public transport card. They can be purchased at any convenience shop and money can be loaded on them in the store or subways. These are used for buses, trains, ferries, and even the tram up to Victoria Peak. This is the best way to get around and is extremely affordable.
Alternatively, you can use Uber or Lyft, but these will cost you more and should be limited to airport pickups and drop offs.
WHAT'S WORTH YOUR TIME
Chi Lin Nunnery: The Nunnery was everything I wanted from Hong Kong. It was a slice of tranquility in an otherwise hectic city. It’s a great stop to calm the mind and take in some nature, heritage, and snap some beautiful photos.
Depending on the duration of your stay, I would suggest wandering around for the rest of the day. Walking down the bustling streets, encountering night markets, and stopped in for a few drinks is half the fun.
Po Lin Monastery: Continuing the tranquil theme, booked a ferry ticket and headed for the Big Buddha, also known as Po Lin Monastery. This is a great outing. It gets you off the main island and you get to take a wild cab ride up to the top where Buddha awaits.
You can find a taxi at the ferry by either calling the number on the sign or waiting until a few cabs come back down. This will run you about 150HK dollars, which works out to be about $20USD. Not bad at all, particularly if you are splitting it with 3 other people, like myself.
Climb the stairs and walk around the 110 foot statue and take in the beautiful 360º views. Afterwards, head down and enjoy the monastery and take in the spiritual atmosphere. Don’t forget to buy an apple (or 10) for the wandering cows. They are sweet and gentle, so have no fear!
Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery: Located in Sha Tin, this was by far my favorite outing. This Monastery was built by Yuet Kai, who dedicated a large portion of his life to creating thousands of unique Buddha statues. Each one is a piece of art and truly one of a kind.
The 400 stair climb to the Monastery is sweaty, but worth the effort. Both sides are lined with statues, which makes for fun photos as you climb. Once you’ve reached the top, the main temple exudes peace and calm. The temple is filled floor to ceiling with gilded ceramic statues and Yuet Kai’s body is on display.
NOT WORTH IT
Macau: If you’re looking for some nightlife Macau is said to be the destination to visit. Known as the “Vegas of Asia,” I had high hopes of clubs, drinks, and great music. However, Macau didn’t deliver. While it has it’s nightlife it’s mostly a gambling city. To be honest, we didn’t feel like we needed to visit, but it was cool to see the size of the buildings.
Which are INSANE! I’ve never seen anything so large. The only way I can express their size is like this: imagine the largest building you’ve seen, then add 50 more stories and expand them two to three times. It’s like looking at giants. The size is daunting. How it’s possible to build things that large I’ll never know.
A warning, if you decide to head to Macau, be aware the last ferry leaves pretty early and you’ll need your passport to enter Macau and to get back into Hong Kong.
Disneyland Hong Kong: This one really depends what you love about Disney. If you’re all about the atmosphere, you’ll probably love Hong Kong Disney, but if you are looking for rides… Well, there are like 10. I’m a major Disney fan but felt disappointed by this park.
In my opinion, it’s not worth the cost or the time. While it was fun enough, it only provides a few hours of entertainment. You’re better off hiking Victoria Peak or visiting one of the smaller islands and eating a fresh seafood lunch.
If there is one thing Hong Kong has nailed down, it’s the nightlife. You can go out any night of the week and find a rooftop bar that is packed and opened until the early hours. During our stay, my companions and I visited a few bars and had a great time. Not to mention drinks are dirt cheap. For $20USD you can have a crazy night. Go have fun and let your hair down.
I recommend the Eyebar as it has beautiful 360º views of Hong Kong. Be sure to bring a jacket as the winds and mist can be a bit chilly if outside.
Overall, Hong Kong was a new experience for me, but not what I was hoping. In general, it felt too “material” for my liking. It definitely revolves around consumerism as you can’t go anywhere without walking through giant malls and seeing a Rolex store on every corner. Even Victoria Peak has a giant super mall at the top which honestly bummed me out. I was hoping to see beautiful views and be apart of nature, but instead was bombarded by “buy this, buy that!”
That being said, it has it beauty and the people are very kind. It was a real pleasure swinging into small shops or restaurants and having a pleasant conversation with a local. They really want to share their culture and heritage with you, which is a honor. Also, be prepared for people to take your picture... I mean, I know I'm tall and as pale as a ghost, but I didn't understand what was so fascinating about me. Then again, I always seemed to have food on my face…
Have you ever been to Hong Kong? What are your thoughts and favorite stops?