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Hong Kong, one of the busiest and most developed metropolitan hubs in Asia, is a great destination for a quick and simple holiday. The culture is not too different to be alienating but not too similar to be boring. Rather than a getaway, you can consider this to be a short trip for some eye-opening experiences and culture appreciation. While Hong Kong is a bustling city with a magnificent skyscraper landscape like Singapore, it boasts many unique sights that cannot be found anywhere else.
As Hong Kong remains one of the most densely populated countries in Asia, old traditional buildings are dotted with tiny household units, merely separated by little crossroads. On the ground floor, there are usually shops selling cuttlefish or Chinese medicines or herbs, fruit markets, and fresh seafood.
There are actually 263 islands in Hong Kong, although Hong Kong Island definitely steals the limelight, being the largest and main island. Its transportation systems are rather impressive and extensive – from its eminent airport terminals to its vast trains networks, to its reliable bus systems.
Rest assured that this article will serve as a comprehensive guide in planning your trip to Hong Kong!
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Flight to Hong Kong
If you are looking for a cheap and comfortable flight to Hong Kong, you can look up deals on Skyscanner, where direct Scoot flights can go as low as $253 (as of 4/3/19). To ensure that you get the cheapest price for the flights to Hong Kong, you should book at least 2 months before departure as prices can increase if you delay and leave booking until a week before departure.
Monday, on average, is the cheapest day to fly, and morning flights are generally more keenly priced.
Because of its subtropical location, Hong Kong is a year-round friendly holiday destination, although summers can be a little humid. Personally, I believe the months of October and November bring the most pleasant breezes and the right amount of sunshine just as the temperature starts to drop ahead of winter in December. Also, it is just after the peak travel period of September, so you can expect less crowd.
Getting around Hong Kong
One of the most efficient and cheap ways to get around Hong Kong is via the Mass Transit Railway (MTR). There are three options for purchasing tickets – The Single Journey Ticket, the Tourist Pass, and the Octopus Card. If you are mainly getting around by public transport, the single journey ticket is not for you.
I would recommend the Octopus card for most tourists as it is the most versatile. It is pre-loaded and you can use it for the MTR as well as buses and some ferries and even stores, just as convenient as an EZ-Link card. The Tourist pass gives you unlimited travel for a certain period of time and there are different options for different MTR lines, but depending on your itinerary, you may not max out the full worth of the card price. For simplicity sake, going for the Octopus card would usually be the best option. You can purchase the Octopus card at any MTR Customer Service centre, or at convenience stores.
On the East Rail line, you can get off at Sheung Shui station for shopping malls where tourists frequent at. You can also hop on to the Tsuen Wan Line which effectively connects Hong Kong Island to Kowloon, passing by the CBD area known as Nathan Road. The popular stations on these lines are Tsim Sha Tsui, Admiralty and Mong Kok, where you can find the shopping and business heat of Hong Kong, including malls, cafes and attractions.
The bus services in Hong Kong are extensive and reliable. Buses are self-ticketing and change is not given. Should you not possess an Octopus card, please ensure that you have the exact change before boarding. Ticket fares are usually displayed on information boards at the bus stops.
If you have watched a Hong Kong film at least once in your life, you may have noticed their iconic red angular little taxis. These taxis are ubiquitous in Hong Kong but I would not suggest you take them besides travelling from the airport to accommodation and vice versa as the public transport would serve as a much cheaper option that can take you almost everywhere.
When you arrive at the airport, you can proceed to the taxi stands where there are plenty of guides gesturing you to a suitable cab depending on the number of passengers and luggage. There are taxis that can fit up to 5 passengers excluding the driver, so if you have 5 people or more, you may want to catch the attention of these guides to bring you to the right taxi.
Lastly, there is Hong Kong Tramways, known affectionately as Ding Ding. These are a sight very unique to Hong Kong, with its narrow double-decker carriages that run on tracks weaving around buildings, on the roads itself. If you are lucky, you can catch sight of the antique paint-chipping, rusty and groaning Ding Dings that exudes this old and nostalgic vibe. Although, lately, many of them are newer, refined carriages that have advertisements and posters plastered on them. They are connected by wires above, making it a very aesthetic mess.
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Accommodation in Hong Kong
For a luxurious and grand stay, you can book a room at one of the finest hotel, Kowloon Shangri-La. It is within walking distance from Tsim Sha Tsui East MTR station, shopping malls and the Star Ferry Terminal.
If you are looking for a less posh but still comfortable and satisfactory place to stay, Hotel Stage would be a great choice, being in the heart of Yau Ma Tei, it is only a short 3-minute walk from Jordan MTR station.
For a more budget stay, the Bridal Tea House Hotel Yau Ma Tei is for you. The room is considerably much smaller but the location is very accessible.
Notable Must-Try Foods in Hong Kong
While you are here at Hong Kong, you must definitely yum cha at least once. Yum Cha means to drink tea, usually coupled with some dim sum. The dim sum in Hong Kong just has that specific unique taste to it, setting it apart from the dim sum we have in Singapore. One of the best places to enjoy dim sum is the Lin Heung Teahouse at Sheung Wan, the ambience is one that is constantly filled with loud chatter and laughter.
You should also have traditional breakfast which consists of instant noodles or macaroni with egg, luncheon meat and bread and milk tea. Usually, you get to customise your ingredients easily. However, do note that their coffee and tea are quite thick and sugar is self-service.
For dinner, you can try your luck at Kwan Kee Claypot Rice at Kwai Heung Street, it serves the best and most fragrant beef clay pot rice. They provide a generous serving of flavourful tender beef with half cooked eggs. However, waiting time can go up to 45 mins so do try to head down for an early dinner, to avoid queueing.
If you are willing to spend a little more, prepare yourself for the best meal of your life at Nanhai no. 1 at Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. It is a fancy restaurant with a dark ambience, situated on the 30th floor, giving an excellent view of the skyline. It boasts exquisite dishes such as baked lobster with scallion and butter and deep fried spotted grouper with crispy lemongrass.
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Attractions in Hong Kong
When I think of Hong Kong, the first thing that comes to mind is definitely Disneyland and Ocean Park. After having been to both, I would say that Ocean Park was more enjoyable in the sense that it caters to a wider range of audiences from all ages, making it ultra family-friendly.
You can take bus 629 from Central MTR to get there. Ocean Park is separated into 2 areas, the Waterfront, where the entrance is, and the Summit, where the thrill rides are. You can access the summit via a cable car or the submarine Tram. If you are not one for exciting roller coasters, there are also aquariums for fish viewing, panda exhibits and carnival games. The view at the summit is marvellous, where you can look out to the vast sea scattered with little inhabited islands.
Another must-see is the Victoria Peak. You are advised to go at night because it gives the most breathtaking bird-eyes view of Victoria Harbour, Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. Lit by many colourful lights, it is a scene out of a fairytale.
You can take the 130-year-old Peak Tram for a 12 min ride up the hill to your destination. The tram was built in 1888 and it was steam-powered then. Now it has been changed to electric. On the way down, you can opt to take the bus should the queue for the tram be too long. Go up to the Sky Terrace 428 for the highest viewing platform but it comes at a cost of HK$48 (SGD$8.30). An alternative is to go to the Peak Galleria, a free viewing terrace with an exciting range of shops, restaurants and cafes.
If you’re starting to get bored of city life in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, take a ferry from Central Pier No.6 to Mui Wo Ferry Pier at Lantau Island! Along the journey, catch a fantastic view of the main island from the sea.
Popular attractions at Lantau Island include Disneyland, the Big Buddha at Ngong Ping village and Tai O Fishing Village. Take bus no.2 from Mui Wo to get to Ngong Ping Village and immerse yourself in the traditional culture and architectures, You can also climb up 268 steps to the take a closer look at the Big Buddha situated at the top of the hill. Cows and dogs run freely here so look out for them!
Take bus 21 to Tai O, a slow-paced fishing village where you can see stilt houses on a river and many fresh seafood businesses. This village has earned itself the nickname “Venice of the East”.
Lastly, wrap up your trip with some shopping! Take bus 11 from Tai O to Tung Chung MTR station for City Gate Outlets, where you can find high-end products for a low price, something like IMM of Singapore. Another place for shopping is Fa Yuen Street, where you can find cheap items like clothes, bags, and souvenirs. You may have also heard of Ladies street more but it has since been too overrated and hence overcrowded.
Hong Kong is a very tourist-friendly country suitable for all ages, it is generally quite safe, comparable to Singapore, so getting around at night is not a problem, even for children and ladies. It is also extremely easy, convenient and affordable to get around, by MTR or buses, as long as you have an Octopus card.
Most of the locals understand and can speak up to a certain degree of English, hence communication will not be a problem (Tip: English is preferred over Mandarin if you do not speak Cantonese, due to some tensions between mainland China and Hong Kong). Signs are labelled in both Chinese and English, the streets may look messy but looking for directions is rather straightforward. If you are looking for a simple trip to a nearby country, Hong Kong, encompassing the right combination of ease, excitement, and new sights, is the perfect destination for you!