The first stop on our Asia trip was Hong Kong. Unlike our stay in Japan, this was a relatively brief stopover, with only two days to explore the city followed by a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland. Our main reasons for visiting were seeing that park at Halloween, and also revisiting the city after our trip last summer, which was pretty much a bust due to the humidity. (First tip: never visit Hong Kong between April and September.)
We’ll focus on those first two days here, covering everything from our transportation to where we dined. Hopefully, some of these details will prove helpful to those planning a visit to Hong Kong, as some of that type of info does not merit full posts but is worth discussing. We’ll pretty much gloss over the aspects that do merit further attention, saving that depth for subsequent blog posts.
Our ~16-hour flight from Chicago was pretty uneventful. We had an empty seat between us, which proved conducive to sleeping. One travel hack we recommend and usually apply is choosing a window and aisle seat near the back of the plane. Given that the remaining seat is a middle near the back, it’s one of the least-desirable seats on the flight, and often goes empty…
After getting through Immigration/Customs, we made our way to the Airport Express train. Hong Kong International Airport is on Lantau Island, which is a good distance from Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.
This train is a great option for getting to those islands quickly, with the MTR connecting to wherever you need to go. Hong Kong has one of the best (cleanest and most efficient) public transportation networks in the world. It’s like Tokyo’s, but not nearly as convoluted.
We were staying at the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong Tsim Sha Tsui, which we booked using free nights via our Hyatt Chase Visa. This is the only hotel loyalty credit card we’ve both kept, post sign-up bonus.
Even though the rewards have been devalued (previously, we were able to redeem nights at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong–not so anymore), we love Hyatt and think the card is worth having.
Pictured is our room at the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong Tsim Sha Tsui. It looked as though it’d been refurbished within the last several years, and had nice finishing, and was overall of a high quality.
We’d definitely stay at Hyatt Regency Hong Kong Tsim Sha Tsui if the price was right or we wanted to use a free night. There are better places to stay in Hong Kong, but between the quality and quick access to the MTR, it’s definitely a good choice.
Based on my research, we didn’t have a lot of dining options in Tsim Sha Tsui, which is probably the biggest downside to staying in this area. This section of Kowloon mostly caters to tourists, which means lots of chain restaurants that are familiar to visitors.
There were also fine dining options in the various hotels that came highly recommended, but after just flying 16 hours, that’s not really what we had in mind. Without walking a long distance or taking the MTR, it seemed our best option was Spring Deer.
Reservations were recommended here, but since it was 9 p.m., we figured we could roll the dice. Plus, if anything happened, there was a Cheesecake Factory nearby. 😉
Upon arrival, we were seated immediately and asked if we wanted the whole peking duck. When we said that we wanted a couple of minutes to look at the menu, we were curtly advised that the kitchen closed at 10 p.m. (it was like 9:05 p.m.). Tired and captivated by the peking duck being carved at an adjacent table, we decided to just order that.
It was spectacular; incredibly succulent with a crispy skin and just the right amount of fattiness to enhance the flavor. The ‘pancakes’ that accompanied the spread were also really moist and flavorful. While it was significantly more than we wanted to spend on this particular meal, neither of us have any regrets. Every subsequent meal that we did in Hong Kong was incredibly cheap.
After that, we pretty much just wandered around Kowloon, wanting to soak in the city’s incredible nighttime ambiance and beautiful skyline (or is it skylines, plural?) before heading to bed. We wandered around the Avenue of Stars and a couple of other parks before heading to the waterfront overlooking Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island.
We made this pretty bad video (keep in mind we are fairly jetlagged at this point) that we posted on Facebook:
The next morning we were up obnoxiously early thanks (again) to jetlag. We had previously intended upon doing the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, Tim Ho Wan with our friends (the Selgas) when they arrived the following day, but since we were already up early, we decided to go a day early. Probably wouldn’t hurt to eat here twice.
We had plenty of time to kill before rope dropping that restaurant, so we looked at our itinerary to see what else might be convenient. In light of the early hour, our only option was Kowloon Walled City Park.
This was a nice little park, and it was neat to see so many older residents practicing Tai chi in the park, but we wouldn’t recommend making the trek here if you’re short on time. It’s basically just a well-manicured city park with some history to it. Not exactly tourist fodder.
Our next stop was Tim Ho Wan, where we feasted like royalty for under $20. Over the course of our two meals here, we spent around $40 total. That may not seem like much, but it was enough to sample close to the entire menu. I’ll save this for a full post, because this is very much deserving of one–Tim Ho Wan is a must-do in Hong Kong.
After that, we wandered through a couple of the street markets. There are several of these throughout Hong Kong–pretty much one for any interest. Until this trip, we had never purchased anything at one of them, but always have enjoyed perusing. They have such an energy and are truly fascinating.
Either our food comas or jetlag was getting the better of us, but we decided to head back to our hotel for a quick nap. Our friends would be arriving in a few hours, so we figured we could rest for 30 minutes and then head to the Hong Kong Museum of History before they arrived.
A little over three hours later, we woke up. You know that disoriented feeling you get when you wake up from a nap with this instinctive feeling you’ve overslept, but you’re still too groggy to realize what’s going on? Yeah. After a couple of minutes, we found several missed text messages from them, and quickly got ready. We don’t normally sleep through one alarm–let alone two–but that’s what happened.
Food coma gone, our first stop was for more food. This time, Mammy Pancake for an egg puff waffle, which is popular in Hong Kong. This is a chain so you should be able to find one near wherever you’re staying; we’d highly recommend seeking it out.
At this point, we were debating whether to do Victoria Peak. We decided to kill some time by eating dinner first, and then seeing if lines for the tram had died down. (If not, we figured we’d take a taxi.) We had several restaurants on our list over on Hong Kong Island, so we took the MTR there.
From the Admiralty MTR Station, we walked to American Peking Food Restaurant (also known as “American Restaurant”). I was hyped for this because it made Eater’s list of the 38 best places to eat in Hong Kong and was reasonably priced. So we walked 20 minutes or so, only to find the restaurant closed for renovations upon arrival.
We were already about an hour overdue for a meal, and I don’t think anyone was in the mood for another wild goose chase as I tried to find a “good” alternative on the fly. Instead, we Googled the restaurants around us, found one that had okay reviews, and dined there. The meal was okay.
The Selgas were feeling jetlag set in at this point, and didn’t want to deal with the hassle of getting up to Victoria Peak. (As we note in our post with Tips for Visiting Victoria Peak, getting there can be a bit of an ordeal.)
Instead, we decided to wander around a bit more, and then take the Star Ferry ahead of the Symphony of Lights. Star Ferry is something that’s hyped up a lot in Hong Kong planning materials. While we’ve really come to enjoy doing it, our expectations were sky-high the first time we took the boat, and we left with a “that’s it” feeling. I wish we had just stumbled upon it, as it would’ve left a stronger impression.
Same goes for Symphony of Lights…expect the stronger impression here would’ve been “oh that’s neat, I guess…” Somehow, we’ve seen this four times now. It’s incredibly underwhelming and not even remotely worth the hype it receives. If you’ve watched a Travel Channel special about Hong Kong and think this looks impressive, trust me, it’s video editing trickery. (Full post on Symphony of Lights coming very soon.)
From there, we wandered around Kowloon some more, venturing into a couple of way-too-fancy-for-us malls before making our way to Temple Street Night Market.
The most random thing I can say about Temple Street Night Market is I learned there are a shocking number of knock-off LEGO brands. Like, 15 or 20. Other than that, the Night Market was cool. Lots of junk, but that’s missing the point.
It was neat to walk around and see the vendors, people haggling with them, and just experience this bustling marketplace under the neon of Hong Kong. After that, we meandered back to our hotel, just soaking up more of Hong Kong’s delightful ambiance.
The next morning, we again returned to Tim Wo Han. Not because we were obsessed with their biscuits (although we were), but because the Selgas were now with us and our original plan was to do this meal with them. We had been a bit impetuous the previous day.
We somehow managed to order even more food than the day before, but still spent under $25 for the two of us. There was a bit of confusion that required the assistance of multiple servers, as each person at our table ordered 2 servings of biscuits (6 biscuits per person, total).
Apparently, this was an uncommonly large number of biscuits, and they explained to us several times that each order had 3 biscuits. Each time, we politely explained that’s what we wanted. They laughed after bringing them all out and covering our table in biscuits. Given that this is a pretty popular tourist spot, I suspect they see glutinous Americans with some regularity, but maybe we pushed the envelope on that.
After that, we wandered around Kowloon some more. This is definitely our main activity in Hong Kong, as it’s such a fascinating city. I know that doesn’t exactly make for an exciting trip report as it essentially becomes a story about nothing (although a certain television show did pretty well with that concept), but that’s what we do most in Hong Kong. Among our stops this day were Sneaker Street and the Ladies’ Market, among other places.
Our goal was basically to wander over to the area along the East Rail Line of the MTR. We planned on heading to the New Territories, which is a bit far out from Kowloon (too far to walk), but fairly easy to access along the East Rail Line.
We then made our way to the New Territories, where the top item on our agenda was the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. I could do another two-thousand words on this, but since this “quick” trip report is already getting pretty long, I’ll save that for a future post and just share this quick time lapse:
Suffice to say, this is our new favorite point of interest in Hong Kong, and we’d highly recommend it to anyone visiting the city. Even though it’s a bit of an effort to get to the New Territories, it’s well worth it. Plus, there are other things to do in the area.
The rest of the day was just spent with more wandering, nothing particularly noteworthy. That evening, we headed out to Lantau Island, where we began the Hong Kong Disneyland leg of our trip. Like I said, it was a pretty quick stop in Hong Kong; the main goal was to see HKDL at Halloween, and also revisit the city when the humidity was not oppressive (as it was on our trip last June). Even though it was brief, we had a nice visit to Hong Kong!
From there, it was off to Japan; we’ve started the Japan leg of the trip with a visit to Tokyo Disney Resort, but we’ll have an update from the city sometime next week, so stay tuned!
Have you visited Hong Kong? What did you think of the city? Have any favorite things to do in Hong Kong, or places to eat? Would a full city guide to Hong Kong interest you? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!