Expat Kiwi Chloe Milne binges on dim sum, braves aggressively driven taxis, hikes for a city panorama and explores remote islands to find the best that Asia’s fragrant harbour has to offer.
Experience amazing views
Hong Kong has one of the best cityscapes in the world – and it’s entirely free to view.
There are two ideal vantage points: The Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island, and Kowloon Public Pier on the mainland. The Peak view is best in daylight and the Pier at night, but the sunsets at both are worth elbowing your way through the crowds to see. Kowloon Public Pier is accessible from Hong Kong Island by the Metro or Star Ferry. The Peak is accessible via tram, bus or taxi.
If, like me, you want a challenge – you can hike to the Peak via Hatton Road – it might not seem far, but, on a hot humid day, expect to sweat… a lot!
Binge on authentic cuisine
I may have been born in New Zealand, but my taste buds are most certainly Asian. Which makes Hong Kong, with its array of authentic Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino, Japanese and Chinese food, something approaching heaven. And then there are the only-in-Hong Kong specialities, like pineapple buns, fish balls and egg waffles.
My favourite Cantonese delicacy, dim sum, is a food adventure in itself. The range of delectable dumplings, pork buns, congee, leaf rice and meatballs are a crowd favourite. Just avoid the chicken feet… trust me. Although great dim sum is found everywhere, Dim Dim Sum, near Jordan MTR station, is the perfect starting point.
Visit the Mong Kok Flower Market
When the heat, humidity and crowds are getting to you, there is no better place to unwind than the Flower Market. Located beside the Mong Kok Stadium, the market houses two blocks of stores overflowing with gerberas, roses, peonies, tulips, sunflowers, lilies, potted plants and ready-made bouquets.
Most stores here have powerful air-conditioning, meaning you can cool off at the same time. The quiet back alleys are also a great place to escape the heat and to see the flowers being readied for sale.
Hot tip: The flowers on Flower Market Road are more reasonably priced than on Prince Edward Road.
See the Big Buddha
Regardless of the queues, the crowds and the terrifying cable car journey, you can’t visit Hong Kong and not get a blessing from the Big Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha) on Lantau Island. Unlike other underwhelming tourist-ridden destinations, the Big Buddha really is a (very) big Buddha. It's entirely worth your time.
Entrance to the Buddha itself is free, as is the equally impressive Po Lin Monastery next door.
Hot tip: Buy cable car tickets online and arrive early to avoid queues that snake their way (almost) to Mainland China.
Take a ferry to Lamma Island
Lamma Island is a short ferry ride from central Hong Kong, but it couldn’t be more different to the bustling city. The slow-paced, car-free island offers secluded beaches, walking and biking opportunities and rows of restaurants serving fresh fish and authentic cuisine.
Wander the pretty streets, stop at one of the cafes (Bookworm Cafe is my favourite) and then take one of the smaller walking tracks to secluded beaches all around the island.
Explore Mui Wo
Another essential day trip is a journey to Mui Wo. Located on Lantau Island, the home of the Big Buddha, Mui Wo is a quiet rural town and lesser-visited gem.
With plenty of greenery, walking tracks and a waterfall, the area around the town is perfect for exploring and biking. After your exertions Silver Mine Bay Beach provides a place to relax.
Lantau Island is accessible via ferry from Hong Kong’s Central Piers.
- Taxi to Big Wave Bay
Jump in one of the city's iconic red taxis and take a winding journey across Hong Kong Island to Big Wave Bay.
Due to pollution, not all of Hong Kong’s beaches are suitable for swimming. Big Wave Bay however, offers safe, clear water and waves for surfers. Like many beaches in Hong Kong, charcoal barbecue pits are available for use, free of charge – the perfect way to end a day out at the beach.
Climb the steps to Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
Located in the New Territories, the rural area between Kowloon and Mainland China, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is a less-visited but lovely tourist spot.
As its name suggests, the monastery is full of Buddha’s (there are 13,000 in the main hall alone) and each one has a unique facial expression. The entrance is accessible only via steep steps, more than 400 of them. But the ornate buildings and spectacular views at the top – and the giant pond filled with turtles – are worth it.
Gamble in Macau’s casinos
Macau is famous for one thing – casinos. Like Hong Kong, Macau is a Special Administrative Region of Mainland China, which means, like Hong Kong, it can make its own laws. Unlike Hong Kong, gambling is legal in Macau. Droves of locals and tourists cross the border to gamble in Macau, sending the city's casino revenue to five times that of Las Vegas.
Take a ferry to Macau then hop on one of the free casino shuttles. Even if gambling isn’t your thing, the outrageously ostentatious casinos are a tourist destination in themselves. The Grand Lisboa, MGM and Venetian have some of the best bling.
Drink a cocktail 102 floors above the city
Many travellers have heard of the Ozone Bar in the ICC tower – at 484m above ground level, the highest bar in the world. But few know that a couple of floors down is the even more impressive Ritz-Carlton Lounge.
The relaxed, beautifully decorated lounge bar has views that are no less incredible than at the Ozone, plus amazing cocktails and chocolate cake that’s to die for.