Hong Kong is my go-to place for a quick, annual vacation. It’s near (about 3 hours), Visa-Free for Filipinos and not so expensive (depending where you stay, what you eat and what you do) but in general, it’s easy on the budget. Disclaimer: This is a non-touristy post because I’m not really one to visit museums and temples unless I have to.
Anyway, in typical Copycarla fashion (and also to spare you from a long and boring write-up of the joys and wonders of HK) , I’ve got a top ten list of why Hong Kong should be one the cities on your wanderlist or bucket list of places to visit in your lifetime.
1. Food Trip!
Yeah okay that had to be Number 1 because come on, Hong Kong is the mecca of food in Asia. It has the most affordable Michelin star restaurants in the world! Plus the street food is awesome. My mouth is watering just remembering what I ate over there. In fact, I made a whole separate blog post about the food that you can read here: Food Trip in Hong Kong.
A great thing about being the tour guide in the group is the faces of your foodie friends when you introduce them to your favourite food and they try it for the first time. Thank you Stoopz for loving Ebenezers, Macau Restaurant and the Street Food! Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my family who are not fans of Chinese food, Chinese hygiene and lack of customer service. At least they enjoyed Yoshinoya and Street Food in Mong Kok. My baby bro went crazy over the Chicken Nuggets.
It really is the happiest place on earth. It’s such an explosion of happy memories. No matter how many times I visit Disneyland, I still wanna go back. I think I had more fun in the Lion King show than the kids – singing every song at the top of my lungs. Aside from having to ride the Carousel, it was also my first time to ride the mini roller coaster, Grizzly Gulch. Not something I would do again.
My second visit was still super fun. My family were also such good sports. My baby brothers acted like kids again, going on all the rides. Even my mom who usually doesn’t like strenuous activities asked me to take pictures of her in various places and she gamely went up Tarzan’s treehouse.
Almost a decade ago, I was able to drop by (but didn’t go in) during Halloween and was super ecstatic to see one of my favorite characters Jack Skellington all over the place. Too bad we couldn’t catch the villain parade. Someday, I’ll be back on Halloween.
Hong Kong is also a shopping haven for all types of stuff – from designer items to knockoffs (hey it’s China after all). It’s funny how the people you’re with react to all these shopping options. Especially when faced with the madness that is Mong Kok. Since most of my friends were on a budget, shopping wasn’t a priority. There was a lot more sightseeing and picture-taking going on.
My family on the other hand shocked me. Good thing I got extra luggage or else the 6 pairs of shoes (size 10-13) and half of H&M would never have fit in our backpacks. We spent about 2 hours waiting for my little brothers, extreme shopaholics that they are. Plus they insisted on trying on every single item of clothing that they see and like. And they got bamboozled into buying those cute USB’s that don’t work at the Mong Kok Ladies Market.
One of my favorite stops is the Citygate Outlet Mall in Tung Chung. They have several stores for famous brands that go for really low prices. I got a pair of Puma Sneakers for about USD$30. My favorite stores: Body Shop and Kipling go for as low as 70% off on their sale items.
One of the reasons why I love Hong Kong is the mass transport system. I have to say that the Hong Kong train system is the most organised in the world. Easy to navigate, very tourist-friendly, clean and comfortable.
Transportation: Get an Octopus Card outside the Arrivals Gate of the Airport for HKD150 for train and bus rides around the city. You can also use the credit to pay in 7-11 stores.
Airport Transfers: You can choose to take the bus, taxi or Airport Express for HKD100 per person and takes only 15 minutes.
What we do is to take the bus to Tung Chung, go shopping at the outlet mall and then head to the city to check in after lunch.
Aside from one of my friends having a claustrophobic panic attack because we decided to take the train from Tsim Sha Tsui to Mong Kong during Rush Hour, the train rides were rather uneventful. With my family was a different story, I should have known my brothers wanted a photo shoot during every single train ride that we took. Seriously, I don’t know any other guys who want to be photographed as much as my siblings.
I also love taking photos of Train Stations signs. Here’s just some of the stops that I took pics of. People look at me strangely when I do it but oh well. The lengths we go to for a good album.
There are so many sights to see and even if you’re on a budget there are a lot of free attractions that are totally picture perfect. The tourist spots are also either pretty far or expensive, like the Ngong Ping 360, Tian Tan Buddha, Lamma Island etc. You can also visit any of the Museums in TST area by the Harbour. I’ve been to Victoria Peak in 2008 and that was fun but all the establishments were definitely pricey. Disneyland is a must and I’ve already mentioned it above and Ocean Park is next on my list when I come back with my family.
I believe that one of the most breathtaking sights in the world is Victoria Harbour. There’s just something about this busy body of water flanked by skyscrapers. The occasional Chinese Junk floating by just adds to the character. Climb to the Al Fresco Area of IFC Mall to catch a glimpse of the Hong Kong Sunset.
At night, the lights of Hong Kong are blinding. Catch the light show from the Avenue of the Stars. My all-time favourite building is the Bank of China in Central. It’s so futuristic and looks like a spaceship.
The area that really speaks to me in Hong Kong is not Tsim Sha Tsui but Central. I just love the bustling metropolis vibe going on and the buildings are just fabulous. Call me a city girl but the Hong Kong skyline is just as beautiful as beaches and mountains. It’s a different view.
One thing’s for sure, Hong Kong is definitely a concrete jungle with a lot of soul.
So the thing about accommodations is that it’s all about luxury when you’re with your family ‘cos they’re paying for it. When you’re with friends well, you have to stick to the budget all the way because it does not make sense to spend for an expensive hotel when you’ll be spending most of the time around the city. Well, unless the hotel is your vacation and staying is your thing.
So my family and I stayed at the Marco Polo Gateway Hotel right on Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. The hotel was in Harbour City where all the designer brands and shops were located. The rooms were awesome. We were given complimentary smartphones with unlimited mobile data which was very handy and convenient. The mini bar had a Nespresso machine, beers, juices and sodas plus they gave us a welcome surprise – bottle of wine, platters of fruits, and chocolates.
My friends and I stayed in different AirBnB locations in Central. Okay fine, we just wanted to be close to Lan Kwai Fong to party and crossing by taxi late in the evening or after midnight back to Tsim Sha Tsui is just too expensive and tiring. Our first place was right above Lan Kwai Fong, we booked two condo units that had 2 bedrooms each and a kitchen and living room that could also fit a pull-out bed. It was clean, spacious and had an awesome rooftop where we hung out and drank some beers. The downside – 40 steep steps downhill to get to Lan Kwai Fong and a long walk to Central station.
When my friends went back to Cebu ahead, I decided to stay in the same place but moved to a smaller studio. It was really really great and I highly recommend it. Not too expensive about P2,500 pesos per night and very spacious!
Our recent visit had us staying in Sheung Wan. So that wasn’t the best place especially since the whole stretch was filled with dried everything – from seafood to exotic plants. The smell was very very unforgettable. Also, it was a long walk, about 2 blocks from the MTR Station. The rooms were comfy though, the owner was really nice but there were 7 of us and we only had 1 bathroom.
The year(s) before, we always stay at the HK Taisan Guest House because it’s right along Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui across Kowloon Park and a few meters from the TST train station. The rooms are indeed small and cramped but it’s the perfect budget hotel with a great location. Also a plus, the caretaker Ate Yoli is Filipina. When you’re visiting, bring her some Gardenia bread, it’ll make a poor, hardworking OFW happy. One thing about this place though, the view of Kowloon Park in the morning.
8. Ferry Rides
One of the best ways to cross from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island is by Ferry if you don’t mind the walk to and from the MTR Station. One, because the view is great and two, did I mention the view? Victoria Harbour looks great from both sides and the skyline of both Central and Tsim Sha Tsui is pretty amazing. Third, it’s less than 5 HKD to cross or you can use your Octopus Card.
9. Walking Around the City
I can guarantee for sure that you will get a major workout from just walking around Hong Kong, which is great since you will also be eating a lot of food. According to my pedometer, I walked more than 30,000 steps in one day which is like worth 3 days of regular walking. No wonder my feet feels like they could fall off at the end of the day. My back and thighs hurt too but oh well, all worth it. The best sights to see are those you pass by while on foot.
Hong Kong is a hodge podge of alleys and side streets that hold a lot of surprises like street art, installations, food stalls, kitschy shops, drinking holes and everything in between. Find your own happy accident.
My absolute favorite mall is K11 in TST. It’s just full of art installations, murals and super creative board ups. Even the fire exit is colorful. If you’re lucky, you can catch an art exhibit at the basement gallery.
We were in Admiralty during the Occupy Hong Kong Protest or Umbrella Revolution in 2014. This series of sit-in street protests didn’t really result in anything because China still held the final say on choosing candidates for Hong Kong elections.
For me, the heart and soul of Hong Kong is in the streets – in the back alleys and corners and crowded crossings and old spots tucked away in the middle of modern architectural structures. It’s in the mix of old traditions and authentic food with designer shops and gourmet cafes. Explore. Get lost. Discover. Experience.
Well, after all that serious business, it’s great to let your hair down, knock back a couple of beers or more and just dance the night away in the party central that is Lan Kwai Fong. I kid you not, that place is – as the younger kids say – LIT AF! All the bars are packed together in a small area of alleys and side streets just a block away from Central MTR Station.
Liquor in Hong Kong is pretty pricey so the technique is to load up on 15 HKD Beer at 7-Eleven before heading over to any of the bars. We decided to join a Pub Crawl during our last visit because some of our companions were first-timers. Pub Crawl is 100 HKD per person and you get to visit 4 Pubs and 1 Club with a large group of random people. It’s a great way to make new friends and get some free drinks.
If all else fails, dance in the street. On the weekends, the stretch of Lan Kwai Fong is closed off for vehicles so party-goers pour out into the streets dancing and having fun. We decided to hang out in the Kebab place in Dundar street because the beers were only 15 HKD and the DJ at Wolfmarket (which was right above the Kebab Place) played some awesome 90’s and early 2000 HipHop and Rnb. The Kebab guy gave me a blinking Minnie Mouse headband as a gift.
Walking home 3am half-drunk and singing Adele’s Hello at the top of your lungs is definitely an experience in itself. We stumbled upon (literally) this wall with awesome artwork. A great backdrop for an after-party photo.
Needless to say, Hong Kong is always a favourite place to visit especially in the later parts of the year when it gets cold (makes all the walking less torture). Whether you go with family or friends, it’s going to be a fun and enjoyable experience.
Will I go back? Definitely.
Check out this awesome video by Blanche and Dennis. The theme song for the trip was “Kanye” by The Chainsmokers. Check out our Illuminati Signs.
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*Disclaimer: I do not own any music or anything related to it. All music belong to their respectful owners. I do not earn any money with this video. This video is for enjoyment purposes only.