Hong Kong is an independent region of China. Another set of rules and a different culture. You don’t need a visa to visit Hong Kong, so you could easily go on a city trip to this boasting city. With more than 6500 inhabitants per square kilometer, creativity is a must. We had a taste of Hong Kong.
Because of a poor flight choice, which was obviously the cheapest, we spend an entire day traveling from Hohhot to Hong Kong. Our first flight takes off in the town of Hohhot, in the north of China, at 6 in the morning. A three-hour flight takes us to Beijing, where we have a nine-hour layover. It could be worse. With only our day pack to carry, we decide to make it a great day and we visit the Bird Cage Olympic Stadium. That’s a better option than a nine-hour wait in the airport, even though the metro charges extra for traveling to and from the airport metro station. From Beijing, we took a five-hour flight to Hong Kong. The city can be reached by train, metro or airplane from almost everywhere in the world.
Our experience – First impressions
After a very long day, traveling a few thousand kilometers, we finally reach Hong Kong at 10 PM, after an 18 hour travel day. We were exhausted and just wanted a shower and a bed. When arriving at the Hong Kong airport, it’s about an hour of bus travel into town. After a few misconceptions and wanderings, we eventually board a bus that takes us to stop 14 on Nathan Road: Chung King Mansions. Boy, did I expect another type of mansion? I’d read about the different towers and imagined a square with towers, clean and less dodgy. By the time we got off the bus, it was 1 AM and this part of Hong Kong houses the grimmest and weird creatures at this time of night.
Chung King Mansions
A lot of people probably know these buildings, but I was a total newbie to the Hong Kong hostel world. I had read about the Chung King mansions, but never imagined a place like this. I haven’t traveled to a lot of megacities before and probably the exhaustion and nighttime have added some extra punch to it. This shopping area might be perfectly reasonable at daytime, but by the time we arrived, dodgy people tried to sell us all kinds of stuff. The only thing we were craving, was some peace and quiet. We wanted to buy nothing but water and some crackers. After entering the narrow mall, we reached the elevator quite soon and watched the video monitoring of the inside of the elevator while we waited to board it. It was tiny and coffin like, but we reached the seventeenth floor safely.
The guesthouse we intended to go to, is located in block D. Since we decided to take the first elevator available, we end up in block A. Luckily we had a list of guesthouses, one in every tower. This guesthouse is very pricey and has only a few rooms available. The double room, with queen size bed, is exactly as big as the bed. The sleeping area is about one meter wide and there’s 15 cm of spare room before you hit the wall… or the bathroom door. It’s as if they’re selling a closet for the price of a spacious room. But since I refuse to face the outside world again, we take the room and try to get some sleep before dawn breaks.
Upgrade and relax
The next day, we move to a different hotel. It’s just a little more expensive and it’s practically a ballroom. The area feels safer and the room is great. We gladly pay a little more to feel secure if we can. The area around the mansions seems to be a real hub for illegal salesmen, even in broad daylight. Now that we left the scary feeling behind, we think about Hong Kong as a vibrant and cool city.
Things to do
We’ll never be city dwellers and tend to avoid masses. That’s why we decided to take a look at this city from the top of a bus. We’d done this in Lima and enjoyed it more than we thought we would. Big Bus Tours are available in many big cities like New York, London, Budapest, … and Hong Kong. We chose the 48-hour option and got a lot of passes and vouchers for touristy stuff. It would probably be cheaper to this by yourself, but we had only a few hours to spare and opted for the easy and crowd-free option. We took a ferry to Hong Kong Island and a big, red bus drove us to the pretty side of the island. The ride was very relaxing and we could choose to listen to the guide in the headphones or just sit back and relax.
Victoria Harbour Light Show
The light show at Victoria Harbour sound promising and above all: it’s free. We know the price of the Yangshuo light show and decide that ‘free’ can never be bad. After finding a good spot to sit, overviewing the harbor, we relax and feel the masses grow around us. On the other side of the harbor, buildings are colorfully lit up and animated with dancing light. A loud sound system overpowers all chit chat every 2 minutes and announces that the show is about to begin. When it actually begins, we see little difference with the light that was already animated before.The Hong Kong Island skyline is very impressive as it is, certainly at night. The light show itself is just extra crowded. Shows start at 8 PM every day and the show lasts 13 minutes. Some days, the narration is in English. Other days, it’s in Mandarin or Cantonese.
The Peak Tram takes people up to Victoria Peak. Our ticket was included in the Big Bus Pass, but it isn’t very expensive. Crowded, on the other hand, it is. We’re lucky. Our Big Bus Pass allows us a shortcut and we get to pass by the other waiting visitors. We probably overpaid the ride on our bus ticket already. Anyway, pretty soon, we’re on our way to the top. The railway is extremely steep. We’re really hanging into our seats until we reach the station, which is flat again. After that, a few hundreds of stairs take us up to the sky and the incredible view over the city. Best days to visit the peak are clear and blue skyed days.
Many islands surround Hong Kong. Lantau Island, which houses the airport, is also home to the big Buddha statue. Many people start hiking to the island peak early to watch the sunrise from the top. The third biggest island is Lamma island, which has a laid back vibe and offers some good hikes. Other than those two big tourist islands, Hong Kong has so many small and secret islands you can visit as a day trip.
Worth the trip?
Hong Kong has a lot to offer and is definitely worth a visit. I can imagine living here for a few months, but then again, I’d rather be in nature. It’s a personal thing about being in cities and crowded areas. I do believe Hong Kong has a lot to offer and that it gets better the longer you stay. Getting to know a city is always a discovery full of rewards and hidden gems. As we’ve done before, after dismissing a destination, I’d love to go back there one day and give this city another chance to see it with a different mindset.