Years ago, I could only like, react, and comment at international travel posts from friends and travel websites. I have always wished to do the same but I could not afford the luxury and the time freedom. However, when I finished my 3-year contract from a hospital, I’ve decided to hop on the plane, never turned my back and wandered excitedly to many places around the world.
As an amateur traveler, I chose Hong Kong as my first stop. To be honest, I’ve been discouraged by a few people to go there, because aside from the lofty concrete jungle, what else can be seen there but another towering concrete jungle; so why bother? Well, I had a few disappointments, but overall, my Hong Kong itinerary had been exhilarating.
My adventure was a DO IT YOURSELF trip with my sister and the deal was to spend minimally while we enjoy the culture, the landscape, the food and of course, the shopping spree since it’s a famous shopping hub in Southeast Asia.
Aside from having a Hong Kong map which is available at the airport, an Octopus Card is a must to save money and time for paying your bus, MRT, and ferry rides around the city. You can also get it at the information desk at the airport for 150 HKD and is good for 3 days depending on the distance of the places you will visit.
It’s a relief for every trippers that Hong Kong’s transport system is one of the best in the world. You will never see a traffic congestion and each stop for a bus, taxi, train, or ferry is strictly indicated. Forget about delays, every transport vehicle in the country runs on time and the street’s name are written in English. ☺
Here are some of the places we visited.
1. KOWLOON PARK
Accommodations often open around 14:00 for new arrival guests and since our hostel is located in Tsim Sha Tsui, the mecca for budget travelers, we splurged a few hours in Kowloon Park, which is a 5 minute walk away from our place. The park is as diverse as the races that visit Hong Kong. It has beautiful pavilions, avenue of comic stars, Chinese temples, century old treees and swimming pools which are a relaxing contrast to the busy streets of Tsim Sha Tsui.
How to get there: By MTR Tsim Sha Tsui Station, Exit A1 or MTR Jordan Station, Exit C1, walk along Nathan Road towards Tsim Sha Tsui to Austin Road
Operating hours: All days of the week, 05:00 AM – 12:00 AM
Admission Fee: FREE
2. THE HONG KONG SPACE MUSEUM
This dome shaped museum houses a lot of unique things for science and space buffs but during our visit, it was close for renovation. However, we were able to snap a few shots of the distinctive dome museum and the instagram worthy staircase at the back, just behind the world class Peninsula Hotel.
How to get there: 10 minutes walk from MTR East Tsim Sha Tsui Station Exit J or another 10 minute walk from Star Ferry Central
Operating hours: Open from 10:00 on Saturday and Sunday, 13:00 on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and closes at 21:00. Close on Tuesday and First two days of Chinese New Year.
Admission Fee: 20HKD for permanent exhibit but can vary depending on the other attractions you want to check inside
3. THE PROMENADE
Just a few walk from the space museum is The Promenade facing the Victoria Harbour. It has the most picturesque view in the city with hundreds of tourists and locals passing by, busy ferries among which is the ancient but fascinating AQUALUNA, and the clear azure sky of Hong Kong above the imposing grandeur of buildings.
The well maintained clock tower is located at the heart of the promenade. It is singly magnificent at night.
At exactly 20:00, influx of people visit the promenade for the one of a kind SYMPHONY OF LIGHTS SHOW. It might not be as engaging compared to parties around but being part of the crowd of curious visitors taking photos and videos of the dancing light is enjoyable.
How to get there: MTR Tsim Sha Tsui Station Exit E, walk towards Salisbury Road then turn right, take subway next to YWCA to Hong Kong Cultural Center then walk towards Star Ferry Pier
From Central, take a Star Ferry ride
Operating hours: Open 24 hours
Admission fee: FREE
4. THE HERITAGE AND PENINSULA HOTEL
Take a stretch from the promenade and walk right passing the pedestrian lane to see The Heritage and Peninsula Hotel. The Victorian facade makes for the European ambience.
5. CENTRAL HONG KONG
The best way to get to Central Hong Kong is by a ferry ride which cost around 2HKD. You can reach it by train as well but for first timers, it’s charming to walk on the plank aboard the ferry and view the sleek lines of skyscrapers on both sides of the city.
Bus stations are situated few feet from the jetty, along Hong Kong Maritime Museum. Not far away from the dock is the famous Observatory Wheel, IFC Mall, and Jardine House.
How to get there (IFC Mall, Hong Kong Maritime Museum, Jardine House) On foot, around 5 minutes walk from Central Station Pier 8
6. THE PEAK TOWER (VICTORIA PEAK TOWER)
Known as one of the most iconic landmarks of Hong Kong, The Peak Tower is a must visit for adventure lovers, and the most exciting way to reach it is by riding the world’s oldest and one of the most famous furnicular railway that defies gravity at the height of 1,300 feet.
Be mesmerized as you see Hong Kong in its 360° splendor from Sky Terrace 428, the highest viewing terrace in town.
There are many fun things to do aside from just plain sight seeing. One of which is writing your heart’s desire in the I LOVE YOU Wishing Corner and then meeting some famous wax figures in Madamme Tussauds. In addition, you can enjoy a leisurely nature walk through the temples and canopies around with some stop at souvenir shops. Similarly, there are restaurants that offer unique cuisine of Hong Kong; all and more in The Peak Tower.
How to get there:
– On foot from MTR Central Station J2 or from Hong Kong Park from Admiralty
– By bus 15C in Central Hong Kong near Star Ferry Pier 8
Operating hours: Daily, 07:00 am to 12:000 midnight
Frequency of Tram Ride: every 10 to 15 minutes
Admission fee: Return Peak Tram Sky Pass for Adult is 90HKD, Children and Senior Citizens is 43HKD
7. TIN HAU TEMPLE
Our original plan was to visit 10,000 Buddha and Man Mo Temple at Lantau Island. Unfortunately, there was a problem with the attractions’ locations that are way too far from one another. We never expected such lapse during our planning stage that we almost fight in the bus terminal, oblivious to where our next destination will be. Luckily, Tin Hau Temple popped out during our researching and it’s just a 2 stop train ride from Tsim Sha Tsui Station.
Tin Hau, the goddess of the sea, is worshipped by fishermen and those who worked in the harbour. It is a wonder though for visitors how the temple was built in the urbanized area of Yau Ma Tei.
A reminder for travelers and tourist alike, the place is an active temple with a solemn ambience so please pay your respect. When we came, we did our best to respect the locals’ tradition, religion and culture. We stayed for only 15 minutes so as not to disturb the worshippers and snapped only at the areas allowed to be photographed. It wasn’t as big and grand compared to more popular temples but it’s a pleasant visit nonetheless.
How to get there: MTR Yau Ma Tei Station Exit C, walk along Man Ming Lane to Temple Street
Operating hours: Daily 09:00 to 17:00
Admission fee: FREE
8. OCEAN PARK
Ocean Park, in my opinion is the ultimate experience in Hong Kong ( Some say Disneyland HK is the cream of the crop). You will be awed by the breath-taking sceneries, be dumbstrucked by the thriller rides, and be horrified by ghosts and horror characters scattered in the crowd. It’s also amazing to see penguins, pandas, and sea lions in flesh. It’s good to laugh or shout and just have a good time. There are souvenir shops for kids and young at hearts and plenty of dining areas. It did bring out the adventurous child in me and I highly recommend a whole day visit. Don’t leave the premises without trying some daredevil rides. It’s a lifetime experience you don’t want to miss that will surely practice your vocals as you shout at the top of your lungs. (Don’t freak out, close your eyes while you say a little prayer of deliverance. 😂 )
How to get there: Ocean Park Citybus 629 from Central Ferry Pier no. 7 or Admiralty MTR Station
Operating hours: Daily 10:00 to 22:00
Admission fee: Adults 480HKD, Children 240HKD (I bought my ticket from the hostel owner at a discounted price of 430HKD)
9. HONG KONG ZOOLOGICAL AND BOTANICAL PARK
If you like a hike or two, don your sneakers and traverse that steep steps towards Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Park. It’s close to the US Embassy so don’t be cheeky and just head straight to the garden otherwise, you’ll get a weird look from the guards.
Just a bit of history, this attraction is the oldest park in Hong Kong built around 1860.
Suncreen and water! Yes, you need an abundance of SPF50 sunblock to protect you from the glaring sun and a nice cold water to quench your thirst while you explore the 5.6 hectare expanse of greens and wildlife. It’s well maintained with some benches around and a snack area for a good rest and relaxation.
How to get there: MTR Admiralty Station Exit B, walk along Garden Road for 15-20 minutes uphill
Operating hours: Daily 05:00 to 22:00
Admission fee: FREE
10. LADIES NIGHT MARKET
This is every budget travelers one stop. You can see mementos of every kind from key chains, t-shirts, and all wares imaginable around the place which are priced cheaper and which you can bargain if you buy several items. Don’t be shocked if you can’t walk away from an almost begging seller who will ask you how much you can pay for the items. Haggle smartly and courteously decline an offer if you don’t agree with the price.
Photo Credits: http://www.discoverhongkong.com
How to get there: MTR Mong Kok Station, Exit E2, walk along Nelson Street for two blocks (You can also check out Sneakers Street along the way to the ladies market.)
Take bus 1, 1A, 2, 6, or 9 from Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier and alight at Nelson Street
Operating hours : Usually 16:00 to 12:00 midnight
Admission fee: Free
To cap it off, it’s not a perfectly organized first international trip but for the newbie category, I’ll rate our adventure a 3.5 star out of 5. Although we had a carefully planned itinerary, we failed to research about the mode of transportation of each places we wanted to visit. We never knew the exact bus going to Disneyland and Ocean Park, and that both can be reached through MTR. We did our walkathons and marathons under the blazing spotlight at noontime. We ate at KFC and McDonald’s several times for fear of eating frogs and crickets at unknown hawkers. We paid a ransom price for an ordinary snowball souvenir because we were painfully shy to refuse the seller. We bought delicacies at the airport at a higher price. We failed to snap more pictures because our phones’ batteries were empty.
Aside from the address of the place, make sure to research how to get there. Is it by bus, train, or ferry? How much is the cost and how long is the travel time. Take down some notes and exactly copy the numbers in the vehicles like BUS 5C and the frequency of its departure from the bus terminal as well as its last trip.
It’s great to have an unplanned adventure but for amateurs, it’s safer to explore if you know where you are going. If you will travel for a few days, it’s best to have a laid out plan to save a lot of time.
I’m bold enough to try exotic foods but I will never eat at places without English translation of the main ingredients. I don’t want to have diarrhea or stomach upset on the way and it’s embarrassing to vomit just anywhere. Always ask what the food is before eating. It’s also very important that we keep emergency medicines with us for common problems like headache, loose bowel movement, acid relux, and allergies.
I think it’s better to refuse a costly souvenir item in a polite manner than to buy it blindly and regret later.
Going to places is marvelous and capturing the happy moments is important. Make sure that when you go out of your room, your cellphones and cameras are fully charged. You cannot undo precious memories when your battery is empty.
Finally, don’t do last minute buying. Alot some time to go to budget friendly markets to purchase your souvenirs and gifts to family and friends. You can choose from a wide array of items and can haggle at a good price.
Have you visited Hong Kong already?
I hope to hear from you. I’m sure, you have an interesting story to tell. Until then. ☺