4 nights in Hong Kong
We scheduled a four night layover in Hong Kong on our way to Indonesia as a way to break up the long trip. When I'm traveling I like to hit the ground running as quickly as I can, so despite our exhaustion we set out to find dinner in a local hole in the wall after dropping our bags in the hotel. We wandered through the night market and found delicious traditional Cantonese wonton noodles at Mak's Noodle. It was about a 20 minute walk back to our hotel and it was a warm summer night, so we decided to stroll and see a bit more of Hong Kong at night. Suddenly we found ourselves on the edge of a busy street with the sound of gunfire and confused looking people scattering. This was definitely not what I had in mind and the kids and I started backtracking and scurrying out of the way. But I didn't exactly know where I was going and I had a little feeling that it would be ok to carry on as planned after going once around the block. Now I would never put my kids in harms way, even if I was lost, but upon returning to the busy street I looked to the sight of the gunfire and saw klieg lights. Klieg lights are used in movie productions. Somehow we had left Hollywood, travelled halfway around the world, and ended up in a movie set.
Hong Kong is a great city to explore on foot and using the subway. We covered as much territory as we could in a few days and enjoyed every bit of it.
Things we loved:
Chi Lin Nunnery. We got caught in a torrential downpour while visiting this beautiful Buddhist temple, but I can think of a lot worse places to be stuck while we waited for the rain to let up.
Wander around the streets selling a variety of domestic pets and decorations: Tung Choi Street for the Goldfish Market, Yuen Po Bird Garden, and Flower Market Road.
Quarry Bay "Monster Building". This is something my son saw on Instagram and really wanted to see in person. It is a conglomeration of five incredibly dense and stacked residential buildings. I felt a little weird gawking at this vertical city and I imagine the inhabitants get tired of all the people coming to look at it and take photos, but nevertheless, it is interesting to see how some people live in this incredibly densely packed city.
Victoria Peak. We love a good lookout in every city we travel, whether it's the top of a tall building or the top of a hill. There are great views of the city lights at night, but prepare for a lot of other people having the same idea. You can take The Peak Tram, a funicular railway, back down the hill.
Wong Tai Sin Temple. We had feng shui readings here by Priscilla Lam, and let me tell you, she absolutely honed in on exactly who my children were without ever asking them any questions. I, personally, love this kind of thing and my kids thought it was really cool too.
On our second day in the city we had an amazing tour of Hong Kong with Ivan, through Big Foot Tours. I think it's always a great idea to get a little history in a new locale and Ivan provided a perfect mix of education, fun, and good food. We learned about the rivalry between the largest banks of Hong Kong and how the Japanese invaded the city during WW2, leaving many bullet holes through the famous lions of Statue Square. He took us to local markets including Lan Fong Yuen, which had incredible traditional french toast, we rode the longest escalator in the world, and saw a small, unique temple, Man Mo temple, where we got fortunes, and last but not least, we had lunch at a one-hundred-year-old dim sum restaurant called Lin Heung Tea House.
Day Trip to Lantau Island...
For a fun day outside of the city, I highly recommend taking the train to Lantau Island. There is a gondola, the Ngong Ping Cable Car, that will take you over the South China Sea to the site of Po Lin Monastery and the Giant Buddha. Word on the street is that there are also pink dolphins off of Lantau Island, but we didn't go out to see them.
The climb up to the giant bronze Buddha is somewhat steep, but the view from the top is well worth the effort. From the Buddha you can easily access the monastery and see the orange clad Buddhist monks going about their daily life. Definitely stop at the monastery commissary for the most refreshing glass of mango with tiny tapioca pearls.
Hong Kong is separated into two sides: Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. It is easy to travel back and forth, but it's a good idea to figure out what side you want to be on depending on what you want to do, especially if you don't have a lot of time. We stayed on the Hong Kong side, but frequently found ourselves crossing over. You can do this on the subway, but we also enjoyed crossing the harbour on the Star Ferry.
Food and other fun stuff...
Ozone. This rooftop bar at the Ritz Carlton is a great place to watch the Symphony of Lights show in the harbour.
La Saigon Garcon. We enjoyed a great Vietnamese dinner here on my birthday.
Tokio Joe. A must visit for delicious sushi, udon, and tempura in central HK.
Mammy Pancakes. Egg waffle places abound in Hong Kong, but I do believe this is the best. The kids got theirs stuffed with ice cream, which is a very decadent afternoon snack.
Classified. We went to this coffee shop a few times while in HK. It has a simple and great little breakfast menu.
Elephant Grounds. This breakfast menu was a bit more elaborate and the kids were especially enamored by their french toast.
High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel. We failed to get here early for the first seating and so we waited, and waited, and waited. The lobby of the hotel is gorgeous and the tea itself is absolutely as lovely as expected. I would just recommend getting there on the early side, as they do limit the seating- and the waiting part is not very fun.
Where we stayed:
Shangri La Hotel, Hong Kong Island. This hotel was conveniently located next to a subway stop and within walking distance of many of the things we were interested in seeing. The spacious room had a gorgeous view of the harbour and a deluxe bathroom.
Note: The protesting and clashes with police have been going on for several months now and it's heartbreaking. When we were there a local that we spoke to mentioned a wish to have more autonomy from mainland China. I am surprised how quickly all of this erupted and the fact that it has carried on for so long. There is obviously going to be a lasting scar from this. I've read reports of how financial companies and other businesses that have long been established in Hong Kong are moving to Singapore. It's a really unfortunate turn of events and while I think it's safe to travel here, I'm not sure how much the unrest is visible on the streets and in the businesses.