After an 11 and a half hour flight you're faced with a very Western gateway to China and one of the world's greatest cities.
The vibrant island of Hong Kong is a densely populated concrete jungle with a skyline studded with all manner of skyscrapers, but venture lower down to the street and you’re faced with a vast array of traditional food shops and markets lining the pavements.
The necessary Google search of things to do immediately after you book your trip to HK will almost definitely pop up with the Star Ferry. It did with me, anyway. So off we toddled. It really is just a ferry. Like a really old ferry. If you’re into boats I guess it’s mega otherwise it’s just a bit of transport that’s actually the slowest type in the city.
On the other side, you will find one of the city’s landmarks the Clock Tower and a quick trip on the MTR to Mong Kok station will see you enter The Ladies Market. A space filled with knock-off Nigels. You’ll see tonnes of Michael Doors, Canel and YJL bags hung up, but if you give them the nod, they will get the good quality ones that can’t be collecting dust on the street out from the cupboards below. Don’t stop there though, never accept their first price, haggle, barter and even walk away if it’s too much, they will lower it!
The Zoological and Botanical Gardens provide an idyllic, chilled day, perfect if you went to Cie La Vie last night, let me tell you. It’s filled with monkeys and plenty of greenery and provides a great place to watch the sunset turn the skyscrapers an orange hue.
Hollywood Road in Central District is an area filled with picture perfect spots, nearly as much graffiti and street art as the NQ. Absolutely Honkers.
It is also the home to Man Mo Temple, built more than 150 years ago the temple is a great visit for history buffs.
The best way to really take in the vastness of Hong Kong is from above and Kowloon Peak has some of the best views of the city full of high rises and it is absolutely worth the pretty strenuous hike. We followed this route. It looks simple enough, doesn’t it?
Well, we went off-piste (by accident I might add) and we ended up in areas where we were literally grabbing roots of plants clinging on for dear life. There was a sign we chose to ignore that did explain that the terrain is dangerous but you’ve gotta live a little, right?
If that doesn’t sound like it’s for you, there is an alternative route which is about a 4-hour walk up a road.
Just over the peak and down on the right is what is informally known as ‘Suicide Cliff’. If the name doesn’t scare you, maybe the next picture will do.
I’m still not sure if this picture truly demonstrates just how terrifying this actually is, before and immediately after the picture I was crawling along that dinky ledge, petrified. As soon as my mum saw this she nearly killed me for living a bit too adventurously.
Another of Hong Kong’s best views with a 360-degree viewing platform, an array of restaurants and even a Madame Tussauds on the top is Victoria Peak. Pretty mental truthfully! I like to make views worth it so we hiked to the top, again this took a good few hours but there are some great views along the way.
If walking’s not for you, there is the Peak Tram which I’ve heard provides a pretty spectacular visual illusion where the high rises appear to be falling towards the peak. I’m not sure how a tram does this but The Association for Psychological Science said so and who am I to argue with them?
The Wan Chai district is best explored on foot and has plenty of chic shops, nightlife and dining. At the far end of the district includes the hippy side of town, with boutiques and plenty of coffee shops, including Elephant Grounds on Star Street serving up a really good Western brunch and some of the best coffee in the city.
There are plenty of other eating options in Wan Chai including ‘Cha Chaan Teng‘ with plenty of no-frills cafes serving Hong Kong cuisine.
In the Ngong Ping region, there is a statue formally known as Tian Tan Buddha, popularly known as The Big Buddha which is a bang-on description. The Buddha is hidden away in the mountains, sitting over 30 meters high. I told you the best views were from on top of the city.
It’s pretty astounding once you get up there. You can walk (although it’s not recommended), take a gondola, bus or taxi up to the Big Buddha.
The queues are insane for all of them – you really need to get your elbows out. We took a blue taxi (these are the only ones allowed up to the Buddha so don’t bother trying to get an Uber!) up for around HK$170 (about £17).
That’s not the end either, once you’re up there, there are 260 steps leading to the actual Buddha. On the first level, the Buddha is surrounded by 6 statues. I’m not sure what the proper word is but I’ll go with gifts, that are said to help the divine gods reach enlightenment. The Buddha himself sits on a bed of lotus leaves, a symbol of purity in Buddhism.
Each part of the Buddha has been specifically designed for a reason and it truly is amazing learning what they all mean, from the shape of the eyes to the palm and finger positioning. Head inside the Buddha and you will find all the information from how it was built to the fact that it is entirely made of bronze.
Across from the Big Buddha is the Po Lin Monastery where many people pray, worship and offer incense sticks as part of a sacred ritual in Buddhism. The ancient religious practise honours the Triple Gem and burns away negative qualities.
Some of these incense sticks were the size of rockets and the smoke and fragrance really stung your eyes. It was still a pretty moving experience, both spiritually and physically running away from the fire.
I almost forgot, there is also a rogue cow knocking about on the top of this hill so watch out for that.
We took the cable car down to take in the views which is around HK$160 for a single trip.
With all of its skyscrapers, HK was bound to have some rooftop bars and they did not disappoint. I would recommend Piqniq for a more civilised, after-work drinks vibe. There’s plenty of music and drinks and obviously, picnic baskets. However, I only had the drinks – obviously – so I’ve only discovered the fact it even did food after some research.
Cie La Vie is another rooftop slap bang on the best nightclub strip I’ve ever been to. 10/10 would recommend. You don’t even need to go into any bars, get yourself into the little corner shop tucked away at the top of the hill, get a few bottles and just dance on the street! You can even just move down the hill a bit when you don’t like the song. Or do the worm, like I apparently do.
Bloody perfect. I don’t need to say any more about it. Get yourself there.
For food, of course, you have got to try dim sum, Yum Cha has amazing dim sum, including the little piggy ones above. There is also Din Tai Fung a Michelin starred dim sum restaurant where you will find all of the classic dishes. For a more inexpensive and low-key version of dim sum, there is also Dim Sum Square.
There are honestly so many restaurants to choose from on every street, you will never be stuck for something to eat in HK.
My visit, during Chinese New Year, saw the city covered in lanterns and pigs, it was an amazing experience seeing the city celebrate the biggest festivity of the year and I would absolutely recommend trying to go during this time.
Manchester Airport flies direct to Hong Kong every day with Cathay Pacific from £506 return.