Hong Kong was a place I’ve always wanted to visit - plans with my friends for spring break fell through and it was too expensive to fly another time I had time off. However, during the summer after I graduated from college, I was able to spend a few days in Hong Kong because it didn’t break my budget and it fit perfectly in my schedule, so I jumped on the chance.
During my time here, I definitely loved the city a lot - it has a very cosmopolitan atmosphere with things to do that can suit everyone: nightlife, nature, city life, and more. I spent more money than I had originally planned on food because it was simply so cheap and tasty. Most of my meals were dim sum!
One of the reasons I liked the city was that it reminded me of London, a place I love very much. You can definitely still see the effects of British colonialism (the double-decker buses are really similar to the ones in London)! I would really want to visit again someday if I had the chance.
One thing to keep in mind is that you definitely want to avoid speaking Mandarin if possible - the reason for this is because tensions between Hong Kong people and the mainland Chinese is very tense. I didn’t realize this until someone from my hostel explained it to me, which is why I felt that Hong Kong people were unusually cold towards me during the first few days while I was there. Speaking Cantonese is definitely the way to go, but it’s actually better that you speak English over Mandarin.
I flew into Hong Kong International Airport from Doha around at night, and I actually didn’t want to leave my flight since I was in business class (read up on my experience soon)! I was one of the first people off the plane, which felt very weird because I’m used to being very cutthroat when it comes to deplaning - every second counts.
I got out of the airport pretty fast, and I was looking for a place to buy an Octopus Card - which is the city’s main smart card for transportation and some food vendors. It took me a while to find a place to buy the card, but you can get it at any information desk selling the Airport Express ticket into the city. Just ask them if you can buy an Octopus Card, and it costs 150 HKD.
I ended up taking the Airport Express towards downtown Hong Kong, which is very fast and easy - there will be signs leading you towards the direction of the trains. I definitely thought Hong Kong’s metro system is one of the most user-friendly and clean systems I’ve encountered (it’s on top of my list, along with Tokyo and Taipei’s). Fares on the metro are charged by distance, but fares on the bus are a fixed price - use this to your advantage. In the future, I would probably want to take the bus because it would be cheaper.
Once I exited the MTR and began to walk towards my hostel, I got a little bit lost for a while. It turns out that most street crossings in Hong Kong involve a foot bridge, so you have to climb up some stairs to go over the street. Eventually, I was able to make it to my hostel (YesInn Causeway Bay) and check in. I was staying in a 9 bed hostel, divided into 3 bunk beds. I liked how we had an ensuite bathroom and how there was AC (it was very humid when I visited).
When I arrived, I was surprised to see that no one was in the room. It turns out that this would be a common occurrence during the next few days. It seemed like in my hostel, a lot of the people would go out to bars or clubs late at night, and then sleep in until the afternoon - I would only see most of my bunkmates when they were all asleep in the morning! It was just a little funny to me. I like the hostel facilities themselves, but if you want more of a casual, less party-oriented atmosphere, I would choose elsewhere.
I decided to get up early for the day because I wanted to make the most of the time I had in Hong Kong. I started the day by going to get breakfast at Tsui Wah. When I got there, it turned out that they were only serving their breakfast menu when I went and I was a little bummed. However, I got a small spicy-ish bowl of ramen with pork, tea, and some scrambled eggs and toast! I definitely thought it was very simple and tasty.
Afterwards, I started to walk towards the Peak Tram to hike up Victoria Peak. I was very excited to go on this hike because I've seen the view on my friends' Instagrams, and the view looks absolutely gorgeous. There are three ways up to the views - you could take the tram, the bus, or hike up. I normally would do the walk, but it was particularly hot that day so I opted to take the tram instead. I heard that it was an experience in itself, so I didn't mind. I planned to take the tram up and the bus down, which seemed like a good compromise to me. When I went to stand in line for the tram, there was a sizable queue starting to form. I was glad I got there a little early or else I would have waited for ages! The tram ride up was definitely really pretty. I would recommend sitting on the right side of the tram (if you're heading uphill) so you could see the view of the city, and make sure to get a window seat.
Once the tram finally stopped, you end up having to walk through this mini-mall they built randomly on the mountain. To me, it felt a little out of place but I just went on my journey.
I started to hike along the main road to Victoria Peak using Google Maps, however it turned out that my cell signal got progressively weaker as I climbed up higher. Therefore, I got lost for at least an hour while I was trying to get myself back on the main path. In the future, I would recommend just walking along the main road until you see an official looking sign that says "Victoria Park Garden". Then, you know you're getting pretty close. However, I let my curiosity get the better of me, and that's how I got lost. But, I ended up near a desalination plant which had an AMAZING view! It made getting lost worth it.
Even though I got lost, I was glad it happened because I got to experience a very different side of what Victoria Peak is. At one point, I saw a women and her dog having an elaborate photo shoot, and there was a married couple doing wedding pictures at the peak! It was definitely an experience to remember. After I took in the view and snapped a few pictures, I made my way down back to Peak Tower, where the tram and buses were. This time, I made sure to stick to the road so I wouldn't get lost again.
I decided to take the bus back to Central to get some lunch, and I was surprised by how nice the view was. I think the bus isn't for the faint-hearted, but you could definitely get nice views as the drive goes on.
I decided to head towards City Hall Maxim's Palace for lunch, but the bus dropped me off right next to Hong Kong Park. So, I decided to walk around the park for a little bit, and then eat some lunch. I definitely thought the park itself was very nice and had lots to do! I walked past a mini-waterfall and some turtles sunbathing at some point, which I thought was cute.
After walking through the park, I made my way towards the restaurant. However, it was really tricky to find. You'll want to go into the city hall building and then you'll see Maxim's Cafe - which isn't the correct place. You want to climb up a few flights of stairs, and then you'll definitely see the restaurant because they'll be a lot of people waiting outside. I had to go up to a machine and put in how many people I had with me, and then take a ticket and wait. At first, the line looked very long but the person was going through the numbers at lightning speed. It was basically that if you weren't there, you got skipped over. You have to be near the front desk, so when you hear your number called, you can go right over!
I was eventually able to eat but I was initially overwhelmed by the options - there was a lot I wanted to try! However, I forced myself to just stick to a few dishes since I didn't want to get more than I could finish. Plus, the place was pretty high-scale and very nice - think of it as a place your parents would take your grandparents to get dim sum. Everything was pretty good, but it wasn't my favorite dim sum place I went to while I was in Hong Kong.
After lunch, I decided to make the trek to Choi Hung Estates, Nan Lian Garden, and Lion Rock Park. I first took the MTR to Choi Hung, and then I walked to the very picturesque buildings that you might have seen on your Instagram! I did some quick research and I figured out that you want to set your GPS towards the Choi Hung Estate Car Park and take the stairs to the top of the parking lot, where there's a lot of people and some basketball courts. Basically everyone there were taking pictures with some pose going on, so don't worry about being self-conscious because you'll blend right into the crowd!
I made my way towards Nan Lian Garden, which was something I would have expected to see in Japan - it felt very medieval and was very tastefully decorated. It's definitely a nice place to just unwind and see a pretty garden!
After walking around in the garden, I made my way towards Lion Rock Park. I didn't get a chance to see the entire park, but what I thought was the most interesting was how I saw lots of monkeys as I was walking towards the park entrance! There were monkeys in the trees and on the small street. I'm not going to lie, I was a little scared as I was walking through them but nothing bad happened to me.
After I walked around the park, it was getting quite late so I decided to make my way towards the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, to get a different perspective of the city skyline. I really like walking along the water because you could see all the lights on the buildings which seemed to light up the sky! It was definitely very cool to see.
I eventually made my way towards the Avenue of Stars, but it turns out that they were doing construction around that area so I couldn't see it. I then started to walk towards Temple Street Night Market, which had an amazing selection of various goods and food. I managed to haggle my way from getting two high-quality backpacks for a good price, and I ended up eating a seafood rice dish from a random stall that was very tasty! After that, I decided to head back towards the hostel since it had been a VERY long day.
Taking the bus to Tung Chung was more enjoyable because there were less people on it, but I ended up just falling asleep for most of the way back. My plan was to head back towards downtown to eat at Tim Ho Wan, and then go back to my hostel early and do some laundry. Tim Ho Wan is a chain, so I decided to stop by the one near Central station because it was on the way back to my hostel. However, it must've taken me at least an hour to find the place because it's so hidden. The trick here is to make your way towards the Airport Express, and get near the Cathay Pacific check-in counters. Then, you'll want to go down one more level. I ended up looking up a YouTube video on the spot on how to get there, and that helped quite a bit.
Once I finally found the restaurant, there was a sizable line that was forming. Before you get in line, make sure that you get a yellow slip that has the food items! This is that you could start to decide what to order and get your food faster, because this location is a little small. Because I was by myself, I was able to jump the line a little when there was a space for me. I would definitely recommend getting the pork buns because they're different from what you would expect, but they tasted amazing! I wish I could have gone with more people and ordered more things. I would probably try to go to a less crowded location next time.
I took the Central-Mid-Levels Escalators on the way back to my hostel, but it wasn't too impressive to me - it was essentially a lot of escalators taking you from Central to the SoHo area. After that, I went back to my hostel to do some laundry and plan for the next day!
I got up a little later than I did yesterday to catch up on some sleep. To start off the day, I went to Dim Sum Square to eat some breakfast. To order, you just get a slip of paper that has the menu, and then you just check off the items that you want to order! I liked this way because it was very simple. Everything I got came out reasonably quickly and everything tasted great! I was surprised at the amount of food I got vs. the amount I paid.
Once I finished eating, I took the MTR to Tung Chung to see the Tian Tan Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery. It definitely takes a while to get to Ngong Ping, which is where the Buddha and the monastery are located. When you get to Tung Chung MTR Station, you could either take the cable car or the bus to Ngong Ping. The cable car takes around 30 minutes, while the bus takes around an hour. However, the bus is a LOT cheaper than the cable car. I opted to take the bus because it was cheaper, which I thought was still a good decision. Make sure you have maybe around 50 HKD on your Octopus card to cover the ride there and back, and have some left over.
The bus is set in a 2-3 formation, so you want to make sure you can get a window seat so you could enjoy the view! The bus ride up was actually somewhat enjoyable even though it felt a little cramped. I definitely zoned out for a little, just admiring the scenery and such. I fell asleep for a little bit and once I woke up, we were in Ngong Ping.
It felt a little touristy to me because there were a lot of people milling around, but regardless I liked it so far. I decided to begin by exploring Ngong Ping Village, which wasn't too exciting for me. It's just a lot of small shops and such, but it was still cool to walk through. I decided to walk towards the monastery to start taking a look around.
The view around the monastery is surrounded by mountains, which I thought was very pretty. The monastery itself was a little small because a lot of places were blocked off to the public. However, it was still cool to walk through! Towards the end, you could see these three gold buddhas inside the main building. However, this is blocked off to the public, and you can't take pictures. So, you could only see it from afar.
They had a little vegetarian cafe/restaurant off to the side, so I decided to get a few things and try them. I got some sort of mango congee drink, something that resembled mango jello (I forgot the exact name), and a tofu soup-like dish. I was surprised at how much I liked everything, especially the mango drink. It was a nice way to relax from all the walking I've done so far.
After walking around the monastery, I made my way towards the Tian Tan Buddha. Now, the structure itself is somewhat small - you climb up a huge flight of stairs to the Buddha, and then you can walk around it to get views of the mountains and the monastery. However, the Buddha itself is huge! I didn't know the history behind it, but let's just say that if the Buddha fell off, it would kill a lot of people. As you walk up, you'll have to weave through numerous people trying to get a picture! I myself got a picture with the Buddha, but it took a long time to get a nice shot since people kept walking in front of me. After that, I walked around for a little, took some more pictures, and sat down to rest. After resting, I started to make the trek down the stairs to go back towards Hong Kong.
I decided to go to Hong Kong Disneyland for the day, which meant that I wanted to get up early and eat before I went to the park. However, I got up a little later than I would have liked. To start off the day, I went to Lin Heung Tea House to eat a final round of dim sum. When I first got there, I felt a little lost since it was so busy, but I think the expected norm was to seat yourself and wait.
An important thing I realized was that you have to approach the person with the cart, and not wait for them to come to you. This is because that once a cart comes out, people will surround the cart with their slips of paper trying to get the first bit of food. If you did this in America, you would definitely get some weird stares but in this restaurant, that's the expectation. So, I had to catch on pretty quick and get in there myself in order to eat anything. The food was a little pricier than the other places I've been to, but I would go just to get the true experience of Hong Kong dim sum - it was very interesting!
Once I finished eating, I started to head towards HK Disneyland, which was very easy to do. The MTR takes you pretty much right into the park. However, once I got off the train, I realized I screwed up because there was a horde of people heading to the entrance. When I go to Disneyland, usually I make sure that I get there before the park even opens. However, I came around 10 minutes after the park opened, so I was a little worried. However, I was glad I bought my ticket online because it meant that I could skip another queue.
Now before I continue, I was really surprised at how much I liked Hong Kong Disneyland! A lot of it seemed to be modeled of off the Disneyland in Anaheim but there are definitely some differences as well. I would say you won't need more than a day to fully experience the park. However, while you are waiting in lines, some people might try to cut in front of you. I don't think they're doing it on purpose, but a lot of the mainland Chinese just try to fill in all available space. Therefore, you have to impose yourself and stand your ground a little!
When you get inside the park, I would recommend following this game plan:
1. Go to Toy Story Land and Mystic Point first, while getting a Fastpass for the Iron Man Experience on the way.
2. Work your way towards Grizzly Gulch, while getting a Fastpass for Winnie the Pooh on the way.
3. Eventually work your way towards Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland while getting a FastPass for Hyperspace Mountain.
In terms of rides, I would definitely recommend going on Mystic Manor - it was my favorite ride in the whole park, and you can't find it anywhere else! It's similar to Haunted Mansion at the Disneyland in Anaheim, except it's not "scary" in a sense. I don't want to spoil it too much, but as you're waiting in line, I would look at the decorations around you because that builds up the storyline for the ride. The ride itself is very tastefully done, with some cool effects and such! If you can only go on one ride, I would recommend this one hands down.
For any other rides, I would recommend pretty much anything you can't find at other Disneyland parks. You'll probably get to ride everything you want to, as the queues never got more than 30 minutes for me. However, the crowds started to come more and more in the afternoon. For me, I decided to go on lots of rides in the morning before the crowds came, enjoyed the atmosphere in the afternoon, and then watch a few shows towards the evening.
I would definitely recommend watching Festival of the Lion King while you're at HK Disneyland because it was one of the best shows I've watched at a Disneyland park. The storyline, effects, and actors and their singing are top-notch, and I found myself sitting at the edge of my seat the entire show - it was that great! Maybe it's because I'm easily amazed, but it was definitely one of a kind.
After watching the shows, it had been a long day so I decided to head back towards downtown to get dinner with a friend at Yum Cha, which is a place I was really looking forward to going to! They specialize in making very Instagram-worthy dim sum dishes, and I was not disappointed at all. It also tasted very good!
After that, we walked along the harbor and talked for a bit, which was a great way to end the day! It was getting quite late, so we went our separate ways. I knew that I had to pack because I was leaving Hong Kong the next day, so I went back to the hostel to do some cleaning-up, and then I went to sleep.
To start off the day, I packed in record speed since there were a few more things I wanted to get to before I had to get to the airport. After I checked out, I made my way towards the Star Ferry to go towards Tsim Sha Tsui. I was pretty excited for this because my friends hyped it up and it turned out to be very nice! The ferry ride is dirt cheap, and you get a nice view of the Hong Kong skyline - I would have definitely wanted to go back at night and see how it was then!
After crossing the harbor, I took the bus to eat at Australian Dairy Company for breakfast. Now, I would definitely recommend getting here a little early because when I got there, a big line had started to form. But lucky for me, the line went by pretty fast. The menu is essentially 3 set menus for a fixed price, with the more expensive set meals including a few more things. I ended up getting the least expensive one for 40 HKD, and I got some toast, scrambled egg, macaroni soup with ham, and milk tea. I definitely love the simplicity of the meal, and I was surprised at how much I liked the macaroni soup with ham! After I finished eating, I took the bus to the airport to catch my flight.
Overall, I definitely loved my experience in Hong Kong and I can't wait to visit again. I fell in love with the food and the lifestyle, and I would wanted more time to explore more of the food. But, I'll definitely be back in the future - until next time!
Yilan, known for variety of activities ranging from hot spring spas, vegetable farms to night markets!
Tainan is in the southwest part of Taiwan and is well-known for the Anping Old Fort. Its Garden Night Market is highly recommended as well as it sells a wide variety of local delicacies.