Helena Grace in Hong Kong

Anyone who knows me, knows that I think that London is the best city in the world. Although, I would say that Hong Kong is up there near the top too. Having visited Hong Kong twice, once in 2010 and again in 2012, I love it there, and would happily go back to visit again. It has a lot to offer, and these are just some of my favourite picks.

In all honesty, when I first went to Hong Kong in 2010, my friend and I booked flights on impulse: We wanted to get away, go somewhere far and different. We found very cheap return flights with JetAir, around £370 (very unlikely to find those prices these days), and off we went around Easter time. We didn't know much about Hong Kong at all - it was even a surprise to us that they used Hong Kong dollars. So we rocked up as traveller newbies, armed only with a mini Rough Guides city guide between us; and off we went to do some exploring.

Now, as I mentioned, I had never been to Asia, so my first reaction to Hong Kong in 2010 was "WOW this is all so Asian, and different!". On my second visit to Hong Kong in 2012, I had just spent a month in China on the mainland; so this time around, my reaction was more along the lines of "Oh my God, its like being home in England!"

I think that is one of the many great things about Hong Kong, the contrast between East and West in such close proximity. I coped perfectly well speaking English both times (I knew 2 words in Mandarin; standard lazy English attitude.), ordering food was fine, getting around was fine. They have H&M, Starbucks, Forever 21, Spaghetti House... I could go on. It is very easy to navigate around, and one of those cities you can happily get lost in and just discover many awesome things as you go.

For Transport we mainly used the MTR; their underground subway system. Which was amazing, much less overcrowded than the London Underground, obviously a bit more modern than the underground, and the cleanest underground subway system I have been on in any city. The buses were very handy too, as well as relatively cheap; we made full use of them to save money and see more of the city which you miss when underground. The Tramways and Star Ferry; both of which have huge historical significance to the city, stand as major tourist attractions. The tramways have been in Hong Kong for over 100 years; much like the buses, a handy, cost-effective way to get around and see the city. The Star Ferry is something you will come across near the front sections of travel guides or in a Top Ten Must-Do list for Hong Kong. Set up in 1888; the Star Ferry is almost as culturally iconic to Hong Kong as our Red Buses are to London. As a tourist, I'd say you have to do it at least once, or any time you wish to cross from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island.

For a start, I would never get sick of the skyline in Hong Kong, there is really some amazing architecture (namely the Bank of China Tower, and the building I only refer to as 'The one Batman was on top of in The Dark Knight'). There is a light show every night around 8:30pm, and the place to view it is the Avenue of Stars, which does regularly get packed, so it is best to head down early for a good spot. In all honesty, I think the light show is a little bit naff (especially the music), but it is still something you have to see when there.

The Avenue of Stars, located on Kowloon Island; is a nice tourist attraction to do day or night time. As you might have guessed, it is Chinese version of the Hollywood Walk of f
ame. Fun to do, even though we only recognised about five names; and there are plenty of photo opportunities with the Stars, statues and views of Hong Kong Island. It is a very touristy spot, with an overpriced gift store, a Starbucks and plenty of food stalls (the grilled squid is worth a try).

Another one of the must dos in Hong Kong is the view from Victoria Peak. Victoria Peak is obviously a Peak - where you can look down on the skyline and outlying islands; but it is also a complex with shops restaurants. The advertised thing to do is to get the tram to the top. This tram is specifically for the Peak, and effectively it is a tram that goes in a straight line, covered by trees (so lack of a view), expensive and very busy. We did the tram first try round, and this is where another factor comes into play when planning when to visit the Peak: Hong Kong has a tendency to get hazy... very hazy. The view was awful, we could literally see one building. We went back the next day, this time we opted for the bus, much easier, no queues, and worked out to be about 80p! The views, on a clear day are stunning. Two warnings however: a) You have to pay for the top viewing deck, if you aren't a tight budget, just suck it up and pay. If you are on a tight budget, leave the complex, walk down a little bit, and there is a little Chinese-temple-arch-Garden type viewing point which is also very good and free. b) It is usually very windy at the top. Girls, tie your hair up. Trust me on that one.

I realise at this point I am rambling a bit; I did not intend for this post to be a complete overview of Hong Kong and what to do when there, I was just trying to summarise my highlights and experiences. Other things well worth a visit to are the parks, on both Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong Park has an amazing walk-through bird aviary, with some beautiful birds in a beautiful setting. Also in Hong Kong Park is the Tea afternoon. You do learn a lot, and can appreciate how tea is considered an art form. To reiterate; its free!!! Which is even better! Another tea house I am very fond of is
Luk Yu tea house, and I will actually post about this separately (one day).


I love when East meets West, particularly in cities. A perfect example is Hong Kong. You can find little temples right between two western high rise offices. I would say that the best temple to visit would be Man Mo temple on Hong Kong Island. It is truly stunning, the colours, and huge incense coils burning for months on end. Whilst in the temple, there was chanting, and we had the opportunity to light some incense for daily prayer; I am not religious at all, but really nice to appreciate and experience. As I mentioned, there are many temples, almost too many to fit in really, which is why I would say if any, Man Mo is the best to visit.

So far I have just mentioned Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Island. These are indeed the two main islands, but I would say Lantau is worth visiting too. We did visit some of the smaller outlying islands, just small fishing islands; good to visit if you want a taste of more traditional, rural life that might be found on mainland China. Lantau is located west of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island; still accessible via the MTR though. On Lantau you can find 
Disney Land. Out of my two visits to Hong Kong, regrettably I have never been to Hong Kong Disneyland. I say regrettably because I am a huge Disney fan, and generally love the theme parks. However, I'd read that this Disneyland was particularly aimed at young children, no big rides, and a bit over priced. The other main attraction on Lantau island is Lantau Peak and Ngong Ping. To get to the peak you can go for a major hardcore hike (which we were advised against), or you can take the cable car across water and lush green hills. The cable car ride in itself is an experience; but once you get to the peak, you will find the Ngong Ping village, which is a bit naff and touristy, but you can just walk straight through it. By naff I mean, you can tell the buildings are newly built, but made to look old. Again, you will find the overpriced gift shops where you can buy novelty hats, plastic Buddhas and Chinese painted gourds. I digress, past all of that, the highlight at Lantau Peak, is the largest sitting Buddha, perched a top of a hill with a backdrop of rolling hills. The views are lovely, and the Buddha is very impressive to see close up. At the base there is Po Lin Monastery which is very pretty too. I remember this day well, I had no sun cream and burnt to shreds, a regular occurrence I am now used to.

I do believe I have covered most things I wish to cover about Hong Kong; apart from the markets. There is not much to say on the markets aside from go to them, and haggle. Stay strong when bartering, and if in doubt, just walk away; I they will call you back and suddenly half the price they had just been asking for. I am obviously missing a large section about food, but I as I mentioned with Luk Yu Tea House, I will no doubt write their own separate review and posts.

For going out, head to Lan Kwai Fong district; we went out here for Halloween in 2012, and oh my word, was it packed. It was like a street party! Drink prices were pretty much what we are used to paying in England, so as the classy lass I am; bought a few beers from a 7Eleven and drank on the way. The bars in that area are pretty lively and plenty to chose from.

In regards to where we stayed, on both visits we split the stay between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, just so we could be closer to attractions on each island, and got a taste for the two islands. In Kowloon, you will find that pretty much the only place to stay is Chungking Mansions. Not to suggest that there aren't many hostels, no siree; Chungking Mansions is a building block with nearly 100 different hostels inside. All of which are 'budget', but this is budget in terms of Hong Kong, which for accommodation I would translate as 'an expensive dive'. Our hostel in Chungking Mansions cost us about £11 per night, which is not cheap when travelling! Our description of that particular dorm room was 's*** has literally hit 
that fan'. Certainly an experience, but in all fairness, it is just a place to sleep, and the location is ideal for shops, restaurants and markets etc. It really is in the heart of Kowloon; having said that, we were very glad to get out of there. Staying on Hong Kong Island, I stayed at both chains of YesInn; in 2010 I stayed at YesInn Fortress Hill, then in 2012, YesInn Causeway Bay. YesInn was only a couple of dollars more expensive than Chungking Mansions, and by God, is it worth it. Modern, clean, safe, sociable, great staff, just generally awesome, and not to mention the comfiest bed I came across in 2 months of travelling. Like I said though, as bad a Chungking Mansions is, I do recommend staying on both islands for the experience.


In case it is not clear at this point, but I really like Hong Kong. I would go back in a heartbeat. In fact I would definitely go back later in life when I have a bit more money so I can experience some fine dining and shopping over there. There are some amazing-but-not-quite-in-my-price-range shopping malls and restaurants. One day though. I could go on about more things to do, museums and galleries etc. but really its easy enough to discover when you are there. So hopefully this was just a snippet.

Bank of China, one of my favourite Sky Scrapers. 

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