Hong Kong is a city of contrasts. Its high-tech, foodie and luxury side pairs with poverty and a busy lifestyle that leaves little time for anything apart from business as usual.
On the one side there's immense progress and flashy stores, luxurious shopping malls and skyscrapers. On the other side, there are people who live in precarious conditions, like Filipino domestic workers. They hang out each Sunday in Central, the city's main financial district, and share. Hong Kong is also known for cages (small caged cots with shared bathroom), rented by those who can't afford to pay the cities high rents.
Not much has changed since our first visit 3 years ago. A cultural hybrid between the West and the East, Hong Kong seems to have it all. Delicious food, art galleries and museums (mostly free), beautiful parks and islands, markets and shopping malls.
The only thing that might spoil your stay there is the weather. Typhoons and monsoons are no fun. On the bright side, this time we got two and a half days of sun.
For a quick feel of the city, ride on the top deck of a ding ding - Hong Kong's British-era double-decker trams. It's fun and much cheaper than any hop-on/hop-off tourist buses.
Climbing Victoria Peak ("the Peak") is one of those tourist things you just have to do. Taking the tram to the top is a bit of a swindle, but the view is totally worth it. If you can, walk back down. The natural scenery is breathtaking: beautiful big butterflies will frequently cross your path.
The best view of the city is the skyline at night. You can walk along the Harbour, take a ride on the Star Ferry or go for a more stylish option: a drink on a rooftop terrace like Eye Bar.
Hong Kong is a paradise for foodies. In fact, the only thing that stands between you and more delicious food is physical limitations (what do you mean, we won't be able to eat all of this?). Whether you're a vegetarian, a pescatarian or an omnivore, Hong Kong doesn't disappoint.
A big thanks to our expat friends who showed us some of these tasty places. Here are some of those we liked most (most of these are chains and can be found around the city): Yum Cha (hipster dim sum), Golden Federal Restaurant (traditional dim sum), Daikiya (all-you-can-eat Japanese), Formosa Autumn (Yummy Taiwanese), Three Virtues (amazing vegetarian restaurant), Sorabol (awesome Korean).
For more recos on where to eat, check Open Rice.
Parks are a city's lungs and Hong Kong has many. This time we revisited the phenomenal Kowloon Walled City Park. This once quite literally lawless area (due to a legal loophole it was neither part of China, nor Britain) full of crime and drugs, is today a green oasis. It's hard to believe that you haven't left the city.
Signal Hill Garden is a much smaller green oasis smack in the middle of the central Tsim Sha Tsui area: as its name hints, this low yet steep hill used to be the location for various observations and flagpole-hoisted signals, but it's now been surrounded by high-rises and hence rendered redundant. The small park with its cute pavilion and Harbour view was recently rediscovered by the locals after it was put to use as a breeding ground for various Pokémon Go creatures.
Culture & Things to see
On our first visit we went to Lantau Island to see the Tian Tan Buddha. The cable car ride (marketed as the Ngong Ping 360) is just a bit terrifying, but once you get over the idea that you're riding over the sea and mountains in a small glass box, the view is pretty amazing.
Wong Tai Sin Temple is beautiful and well worth visiting. For a more summery feeling, go to Stanley Beach - if you're lucky you might catch the annual dragon-boat race.
If you like temples, gambling and jewellery, you might like Macau. This small peninsula and its outlying islands were colonised by the Portuguese, which reflects in the food and slower Mediterranean pace of life. I found it quite dull.
It's common to make a shopping trip to Shenzhen (go there by train & get a 5-day visa at the border). Though Shenzhen is no small town (it's actually bigger than Hong Kong by now) and has many things to offer, it's hard to find to communicate if you don't know Chinese. For shopping, it's best to go to the mall right across the border (Luohu Commercial City).
Overall, Hong Kong is a great place for holidays. This one again turned out to be too short. Next time hopefully without a typhoon.