Things to do in Hong Kong


Hong Kong is a dream holiday destination for anyone suffering for ADHD. No matter what it is you set out to do in the morning, chances are you’re likely to get distracted from the task at hand several times during the day. For most visitors, this is just fine. Crazy traffic, manic crowds, bursting shopping malls, fragrant food stalls and sporadic typhoons have a way of kidnapping tourists’ plans and turning them upside down, but in a really good way. Following is a list of the Top Things to do in Hong Kong you should try to do on your next Hong Kong vacation.
If you don’t manage them all, never fear…there’s always next year!

Take the tram to Victoria Peak

The Peak Tram is the city’s foremost attraction and, although it comes with its foremost crowds, it’s really something which shouldn’t be missed. The city’s oldest form of public transport has been moving masses from the central district to the top of Victoria Peak for over a century; it’s old, rickety, and the line so steep you may just want to hang on for dear life. Once up the top, you can enjoy fantastic city views, as long as the fog/smog permits. For the best views, grab a seat on the right hand side of the tram as you board, and you’ll have the best of the city’s skyline right under your nose. Make sure you have an Octopus Card with you and the whole ticket-purchasing ordeal will be much faster…but only just.

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Temple Street Night Market

Whilst Hong Kong is definitely not short of street markets, the most popular are those on Temple Street in Kowloon. They run every night of the week and host a multitude of stalls where you can stock up on souvenirs, locally made crafts, pirated CDs (mostly of locals dubbing English artists), DVDs and a whole host of kitschy wears. The street can get insanely busy with bargain-hunting buyers and screaming vendors; making this an ideal attraction for anyone who wants to experience Hong Kong at its craziest best. Plenty of food stalls keep the crowds satiated all night long. The markets are close to Nathan road, and can be easily reached from the Jordan stop on the MTR.

Symphony of Lights on Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade

For a city so obsessed with lights, one would think that its permanent nightly light show, the Symphony of Lights, would be right up there with the best of them. Alas, we admit this can be a hit and miss affair depending on your perspective, and perhaps alcohol consumption. Nevertheless, make up your own mind when you head to the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade before 8pm, score yourself a front row seat and delight (or not) in the choreographed laser-beam show over the city’s skyscrapers. The symphony part comes from the accompanying soundtrack (part music, part narration) which is blasted on loud speakers all along the promenade. Almost 20 of the nearby buildings also contribute with their own light spectacle, culminating in either a glitzy extravaganza, or a messy concoction or lighthouse-like effect. You pick.

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Actually it’s a stroll along the Promenade which can be considered the real attraction here. Grab a bite from a local street vendor, enjoy the spectacle that is the Hong Kong skyline at night (even without the laser beams) and soak up the atmosphere of this most effervescent city.

Nan Lian Garden

Once a hidden treasure, now a top tourist attraction, the Nan Lian Garden is still the most beautiful spot in the city irrespective of its newfound popularity. Created merely seven years ago, the 8.5 acre oasis is gorgeously landscaped and features beautiful fountains, wood-panelled pavilions, ponds, flower beds and a super-pretty teahouse too. The local council sets up sporadic art exhibitions throughout the garden, making this not only a totally relaxing place where one can escape the insanely busy shopping streets, but also a culturally enriching destination. The closest MTR station is that of Diamond Hill.

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Hong Kong Museum of History

Hong Kong’s premier museum boasts extremely engaging and well-planned displays of the city’s tumultuous history. Showcasing everything from prehistoric tales to modern trials, the museum does a great job of walking you though the city’s past and keeping you engrossed the entire time. Heavily focused on both the Imperial time, as well as the suffered Japanese occupation, the Museum of History is informative, interesting and will likely devour your attention for at least three hours. Head here on a Wednesday for free entry.

Big Buddha in the Po Lin Monastery

There aren’t many who come to Hong Kong and chose not to see the largest ‘sitting, outdoor, bronze’ Buddha statue in the world. Take any one of those three elements and it loses its stature!

Located in the Precious Lotus Monastery on Lantau Island, the Big Buddha is one of the most iconic sites in Hong Kong and a real sight to behold; even though the tourism board seems to have gone a bit over the top with the erection of an entirely touristy village on the grounds. Never mind…the mountain backdrop is splendid, and both the statue and the monastery are gargantuan and interesting to explore. Ditch the crowds and hike up to the Buddha whilst everyone else takes the cable car; it’s cheaper, it’s a great way to stretch your legs, and you’ll get more chances to take crowd-less photos of the statue.

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Take a junk boat tour

Traditional wooden sailing vessels, or ‘junks’ as they are known in Hong Kong, boast a very long tradition for being the transport of choice for ancient Asian merchants. Nowadays, junks of all shapes and sizes (some old, others sparkling new) are the foremost harbour cruise vessel of choice for visitors and expats alike. A long-held Sunday junk sailing tradition is imbedded in the local culture and something no visitor to Hong Kong should miss experiencing. Traditionalists may want a ride on the Duk Ling, Hong Kong’s last surviving authentic junk boat, whilst modernists may prefer to spend an hour cruising aboard a luxurious Aqua Luna junk instead. While it’s true that even the Star Ferry grants great harbour views in Hong Kong, nothing compares to a leisurely sail aboard a junk. The seating is cosy, the cocktails flowing and the atmosphere much more relaxing than on a passenger ferry.

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Ocean Park or Disneyland?

Never have two attractions been more divisive than Hong Kong’s Ocean Park and Disneyland. Walt Disney lovers attest to the city’s Disneyland being even better than the original, due to its smaller, much more compact setting yet still boasting the same, well-known attractions; whilst theme park thrill seekers are adamant that the grown-up rides in Ocean Park are much more fun and that the park’s more striking setting makes for a much better destination.  Whatever your inclination may be, just make sure to visit at least one of these parks; they’re both insanely popular with locals, are world-class establishments, both make for a fantastic and fun-filled day out and they’re easy to reach by public transport.

Kat Hing Wai Village

Of all the walled villages one could visit in Hong Kong, Kat Hing Wai would have to be the most interesting by far. Belonging to the Punti people, reputedly the very first to settle in Hong Kong, Kat Hing Wai is a fascinating historical and cultural attraction which dates back to the early 1600s.

The entire village is flanked by five-feet-high walls and four towers, making it seem more like a castle than anything else. A visit here is like a step back in time and it’s really rather amazing to envisage what Hong Kong was like when the first few settlers arrived, and started to build this multitude of walled villages.

The people still dress in their traditional garb, and most of the buildings within the walls are centuries old. Our only gripe here is that locals seem to have caught on to their village’s appeal to visitors, and have started asking tourists for ‘donations’ to enter the village and take photos. While this is all fine (capitalism is just too alluring) it is hinting at the up-coming explosion of tour companies who will undoubtedly start exploiting this too; so for your sake, get here as soon as you can before you’ll have to elbow your way through this corner of Hong Kong too. To get here, simply take the West Rail Line to Sheung Road Station and follow the signposts from there.

Cheung Chau Island…the insider’s tip

Mostly renowned for being home to the yearly Bun Festival, Cheung Chau is a sleepy little fishing island just a lazy boat ride away from Central. Rather than being littered with high-rise buildings, Cheung Chau has retained its rustic charm and boasts a myriad of authentic small houses, charming shops and a wealth of local eateries. If you’d like to discover one of the most unique islands in Hong Kong, and escape the bustle of Downtown for a few hours, this may well be the ideal day trip destination for you.

Cheung Chau is the holiday home spot of choice for wealthy Honkers’ and boasts a gorgeous waterfront promenade as well as its very own Peak, from where superlative harbour views can be enjoyed. Once here, you can hike through the forest, visit the old monastery, and just soak up the ambience of days gone by. The beaches here are great and nowhere is this island overrun with tourists, so consider an overnight stay if you have plenty of time up your sleeve, the local guesthouses are quaint and splendid, even if most of the owners don’t speak a word of English. Yet.

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Photos:

The Peak Hong Kong

Francisco Diez via Flickr

Rob Young via Flickr

Andreas via Flickr

Kevin Poh via Flickr

Shimown via Flickr

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