It’s been almost a month since we arrived home from our trip back to the UK. England was a wonderful, drunken, emotional blur that happened all too quickly, so much so that I had almost forgotten about our brief encounter with Hong Kong.
Last time we visited the UK we were heavily jet lagged and ended up getting sick with colds. That coupled with an English winter did not enamour us to the place, and we couldn’t wait to get back to a Kiwi summer. We were dreading the 26 hour airtime for our recent trip, so when our international soon-to-be-hitched friends offered us their pad in Hong Kong we jumped at the chance of a 24 hour respite on solid ground.
I was so busy writing packing lists and figuring out logistics for our travels around England that I barely had time to do my usual destination research. Luckily my friends sent me a rough itinerary of attractions and places to eat to keep us busy!
Touch down in Hong Kong
We touched down in Hong Kong around 7am and as soon as we walked through the airport doors it felt like we had walked into an oven, with temperatures hovering around 32 degrees. We were directed to a taxi to take us to Sheung Wen where we would be staying, which ended up costing us HKD480 – I’m pretty sure I got ripped off so it’s probably best to ask for the price up front. Our return Uber the following day was significantly less. On the plus side the cabs in HK do have free wifi!
It took about 25 minutes to reach Kimmy’s chic little apartment where we freshened up and danced with happiness beneath the glorious air conditioning system. We didn’t have much in the way of a plan but Matt needed to change up some currency so we went out and explored the neighbourhood.
The first thing you notice about HK is the steep streets which gives San Fran a run for its money. It’s quite the workout getting up these in the heat of summer. The streets were filled with roadside stalls down narrow lanes selling everything from fruit and tea, to herbs and medicines. All this is entwined with high street and high end shops, and hipster cafes alongside ancient temples. The sounds, smells and bustle was a little dizzying after a sleepless night on a plane.
We grabbed a bag of jasmine tea to take home and headed into the Man Mo Temple to get a bit of peace and serenity. The shrine is lit up with lanterns and more incense sticks than I have ever seen in my life. The smell of it is quite overpowering. There are some elaborate looking shrines and furnishings inside.
The city was a little hectic so we grabbed a cab over to Hong Kong Park for a nature fix, which only ended up costing HKD30. In the park you’ll find an aviary, Tai Chi Garden, some lively red dragon flies, a large pond and a tea house, amongst other things, all free to explore.
We escaped the midday sun and grabbed some vegetarian dim sum in the Lock Cha Tea House, where Matt had the smallest tea cup in the world. This is a traditional tea shop with an amazing selection of teas – deliciously refreshing! Unfortunately, most of the food we ate was just ok. I don’t think we ordered the best dishes because TripAdvisor has glowing reviews of the food but we found it a bit bland and watery. It was also a little on the pricey side. We enjoyed the quiet respite though, and the building itself was charming.
After lunch we headed towards the waterfront, passing heaps of business people head to toe in suits (I don’t think I could ever acclimatise to that heat), and some old folk doing Tai Chi in the park.
We took the Star Ferry over to Kowloon – tickets were around 5HKD for the both of us. It only takes about five minutes to reach the other side but you get a pretty rad view of the skyline en route.
Once you reach the other side head to the promenade for some spectacular views of the city. HK is the epitome of a concrete jungle, with it’s show stopping skyscrapers looming over tropical green parks.
We strolled inland to explore Tsim Sha Tsui – a shoppers mecca. There are endless high end and department stores, mixed in with cheap and traditional Chinese shops selling all sorts of wares. It was a little disorienting and Matt ended up with a nosebleed so we made a hasty escape back to Sheung Wen via the train system. Turns out this is super easy to navigate and has A/C so a great way to explore the city!
We grabbed a bubble tea en route home – an ice cold, milky, sweet tea drink containing chewy tapioca balls. Weird but surprisingly refreshing!
Hong Kong by night
We had some much needed chill time before heading out for dinner. Our friends recommended a restaurant called Little Bao just around the corner from their pad. This place was by far the highlight of our trip! It’s a tiny restaurant and we sat at the counter overlooking the chef. We feasted on the aubergine salad, truffle fries and vege bao, followed by the salted ice cream bao – all of which were next level and I’m salivating thinking about it now!
This is a great place to eat if you need to please vegetarians and meat eaters alike. You can’t make reservations but we got there early and were seated straight away, however there was a queue forming when we left.
After dinner, we checked out a couple of bars serving craft beer – even finding somewhere that served some of our favourite Belgium beers! HK has a hugely different atmosphere by night and is way more chilled compared to the commotion of the day. It has that holiday feel, with warm evenings and merry expats and tourists overflowing onto the streets from bars. We lasted till about 9pm before we were almost falling asleep at the table so we headed home for a heavenly deep sleep before the next leg of our journey.
On the to-do list for next time…
Victoria Peak was shrouded in cloud when we arrived so we didn’t take the tram up there as visibility would have been rubbish, which is a shame. I think we would have much preferred this to the shopping districts. We’re definitely not keen shoppers!
We didn’t get to see the light show over the harbour as we were way too tired – I think we need at least a weekend next time we visit!
What would we do differently?
Both of the long haul flights we have taken out of Auckland have been night flights. It seems like a good idea to get on a plane late evening, sleep through the flight and land at your destination. The reality is, unless you have a strong sleeping pill, it’s hard work getting a decent sleep on a plane – even when you are prepared with an eye mask, ear plugs and pillow. I think next time it would be a better idea to get a day flight and make the most of the in-flight entertainment instead.
I would definitely go for longer next time and have a better plan of what to do, ideally venturing a bit further out and checking out some cool natural wonders outside of the city. The heat was a bit stifling in August – I think I would prefer to visit in the cooler months (does this even exist in HK? Maybe not). In any case, getting outside the city and up some mountains would provide less humidity and cooler air!
Most importantly, I have to give a shout out to the Emson’s for kindly lending us there apartment. Next time we will definitely plan a trip when you are also in the country!