How to Explore Hong Kong in Less Than 3 Days
Being in Hong Kong is like being in the NYC of Asia. The streets are bustling with cars, taxis, buses, and people (citizens and tourists alike) are crossing the streets in masses with their eyes looking forward towards a destination or looking upwards at the massive skyscrapers that dot around Hong Kong. The underground metro system roars with the bustling crowds, and ferries glitter as they glide across the waters shuttling people and goods. There are countless places to eat and many things to see. Yet, in the span of 3 days, my family, cousins, and I managed to experience most of Hong Kong. So where do we start?
• Currency: Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) – there are many currency exchange places wherever you look and can be even found in hotels and definitely airports
• Transportation from Airport: The airport is located far away from most things in Hong Kong. You’ll probably need to airport shuttle to Hong Kong or Kowloon area depending where you want to go or where you are staying. You can buy the Airport Express Shuttle Card at the airport to whatever destination (Hong Kong or Kowloon).
• Transportation Around City: Best and cheapest way of getting around is the MTR system (their underground metro system) – basically covers all the places you need to get to in Hong Kong and beats the traffic. I recommend buying an Octopus card (similar to the card in London). This can be bought at the airport or any MTR station. When buying the card (you’ll need one card per person), you will have to make a 50HKD deposit and then I suggest adding 100HKD on top of that for around 2-3 days of travel. So total = 150HKD/person. At the end of your trip, you can refund for money at the airport or any train station. Then you just scan the card every time you get in and out of the station. Train runs from 6AM-12:30AM. TIP: you can download the MTR maps onto your phone – there’s an app.
What to Do?
So Hong Kong is kind of divided into two main areas: Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Because of this, I divided up our itinerary based off things to do in each area. My family and I didn’t get to do everything because you always have to consider the constraints of time to travel to places, etc.
The following is my suggested itinerary my cousins and I made together – feel free to switch and swap!
Day One: Hong Kong Island by day and Kowloon Markets by night
• Spend the afternoon by wandering through the magnificent city structures!
• Central: (MTR: Central stop) Here is where you find the skyscrapers, huge shopping malls with big designer names, and massive financial buildings left and right. First of all, the shopping malls here are insane – way bigger than the ones in the states. You can literally get lost in them which we did and had to use a map to get out. The malls have grocery stores inside as well and I suggest just walking through and taking a look – one of my favorite things to do in a new country is peruse the aisles of their grocery stores. If I can buy a new interesting snack, I will.
• View of Hong Kong Waterfront across Victoria Harbor and its skyscrapers – you can go to the IFC mall and go outside onto its balconies and rooftop garden.
• Causeway Bay: (MTR: Causeway Bay) – this is a giant shopping area with so many streets to wander through. If you have time, I would suggest just getting lost in this area and exploring.
• Places I didn’t make it to (but maybe you can!):
o SoHo: you can wander up to this area from the Central area through the outdoor escalators – which are the longest outdoor escalators in the world! My family and I didn’t get to explore this area since we spent most of the day exploring Central and eventually Causeway Bay.
o Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road – filled with burning incense coils and worship idols.
• Use the night time to explore night markets!
• Because our hotel was in Kowloon, we thought it was easier to just go ahead and explore the night markets in the area and be an easy couple of MTR stops away. We headed to Temple Street Night Market that night and was met with ups and downs. This is definitely on the list of many traveler’s guides to explore, but upon reaching the street, I found it was just quite a tourist trap (which of course, I did expect). The street is lined with tents of souvenirs and clothing. For food, you have to wander between the streets where you will find different restaurants that allow you to pick your seafood on their market price or different stalls selling fishballs, milk tea, sausage on a stick, pork buns, etc. BEWARE: the restaurants will hack up their prices once they realize you’re a tourist and not a local. I would actually suggest buying little foods from different stalls and trying different cuisines than actually sitting down and be ripped off.
• Other famous night markets to check out: Mongkok Market (includes many streets of markets including the Women’s Market, Fish Market, Flower Market, Goldfish Market, etc.)
Day 2: Lantau Island by day and Victoria Harbor by night
My family did not get to go to Lantau Island due to the fact we ended up taking off for a day to Macau (another blog) and one of us got sick and we needed to take a rest day. Regardless, I am sharing what should’ve been the itinerary!
• Lantau Island features one of Hong Kong’s most famous attractions: Tian Tan Buddha which is the largest seated Buddha in the world. There are several ways to get there. You can take a ferry or the most popular way: the cable car, which I recommend since you will also get to see magnificent aerial views of Hong Kong. You can easily get to the cable car by taking the Tung Shung MTR to the last stop.
• Victoria Harbor: (MTR Tsim Sha Tsui Station Exit E) and head right towards the harbor. This is a great place to check out at night, especially if you come around 8-9PM and see the Symphony of Lights which is a slow light show that the buildings on the waterfront put on. Really, it’s a beautiful view to watch the sunset over
the waterfront and see Hong Kong’s lights come to life. You can also choose to board the Star Ferry to see the show from boat but it’s around 150-200HKD.
o Around the Harbor, you can also walk the Avenue of Stars which is basically Hong Kong’s Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. However, when we were there this summer, it was shut down for reconstruction and apparently won’t be open until 2018.
Day 3: Hike Victoria’s Peak and enjoy a relaxing day hitting the sights you might have missed before
For us, our day three was cut short since we had a flight out that evening. Thus I only had one activity down, but I would say if this is your last day of traveling, you should take it easy the rest of the day, eat some good food, and go to the places you haven’t checked off yet!
• From Victoria’s Peak, you can see the all of Hong Kong Island which is another spectacular view. There are several ways of getting up to this peak. You can hike, tram, or taxi. I suggest getting there early in the morning to get a refreshing view while the weather is still cool (especially if it’s summer) and to beat the giant crowd – that way you can take a taxi up and then take the tram down (if you don’t plan on walking a lot of it).
Anyone who knows me will know that one of the reasons I travel is to try the different cuisine, but while in America, we have apps like Yelp and Google Maps to direct us precisely to what places we want to go, we usually don’t have these luxuries when traveling. You can argue that you can buy data and have those luxuries, but one of the best parts of traveling for me is the separation from the internet – being able to explore and get lost and maybe find a treasure somewhere. So most of the times, I won’t be recommending exact places unless one place really stood out to me.
• First beware, most restaurants will always set out a cup of tea for each person that comes in immediately. Whether the restaurant charges you or not depends. You can ask. Sometimes, they will even charge you for the tea even if you didn’t drink it (certain restaurants in the Hong Kong International Airport)
• Mak’s Noodles: this is one place my cousin and I were determined to find and hunt down. We have heard so many things about this small noodle shop and really wanted to try it out. Definitely didn’t disappoint – the soup was tasty, the noodles were fresh, the dumplings were plentiful in shrimp – my only thing is that the portion size is incredibly small! Would probably need 2 bowls to be full. Service was excellent though – they are all incredibly friendly!
• Egg Waffle: these are sold everywhere – I recommend getting them fresh off a hot griddle from a stall – they’re crispy, fluffy, and really, there’s nothing on it but the batter has the right touch of sweetness making it a perfect snack to walk with on the streets.
• Egg Tart: also same as above – find at any bakery and should be eaten hot.
• Milk Tea: the milk tea I bought from a random stall was honestly one of the best I’ve ever had. Lightly creamy, sweet, with a good hint of tea – it was the perfect combination. I know for travelers, some people are wary about the ice so I would say this one is just up to you. Also hot milk tea is something definitely to be tried since Hong Kong has their own tea time just like you would see in London.
• Curry Fish Meatballs: also a popular street snack – served in a Styrofoam cup with wooden sticks – really a good but SPICY treat. There are probably some non-spicy options but the one I got had all of our mouths on fire
• Dim Sum: you can’t miss this in Hong Kong! This is where you get to taste so many different types of dishes and dumplings in bamboo baskets.
• Other different things you should try that I missed out on (oh the constraints of time): Australian Dairy Company, stinky tofu, typhoon crab
Until the next adventure,