This past month the boat was en route to Vancouver, BC via a large commercial ship which is why I was back in Australia hanging out for a bit. Anyway, the boat finally made it, so we had to make our way across the ocean, but to make things a little easier on E (and ourselves), we spent a day in Hong Kong to split up the long trip. Landing in Hong Kong just after 7 am, I was on a mission to see and do as much as I possibly could in the 24 hours before flying out again the next day.
The Hong Kong MTR rivals Singapore’s in terms of how easy it is to navigate so it turns out that you can do and see a lot with 24 hours. (Helpful Hint: Buy an MTR tourist day pass for the equivalent of about $7 US and ride around all day with a simple swipe of your card!)
Tian Tan Buddha/ The Big Buddha
The ‘Big Buddha’ is one of the world’s largest bronze Buddhas and is situated on top of a mountain on Lantau Island and was my “must see” destination. Once getting off the Hong Kong MTR at Tung Chung station, you can take either a bus or cable car up to the small town of Ngong Ping which is the home of the Buddha. I wanted the full experience of taking the cable car up the island ($135 HK round trip/ about $20 US), so I had the unfortunate chore of standing in line for almost 2 hours. Turns out, we had arrived just in time for the Chinese Lunar New Year so everyone and their mother was out and about. I was hoping to take a ferry to Macau after Lantau Island, but the wait made that idea impossible. I’ve heard that the wait is usually much shorter, but regardless, it’s a worthwhile visit.
The Buddha itself was impressive and quite the tourist hotspot, as well as a religious site. Apparently Buddhists from near and far make the pilgrimage to see the famed monument and toss coins into the six “Devas” which surround it, providing various offerings. Also a point for pilgrimage is the Po Lin Monastery located next to the Buddha, where Buddhists and tourists alike can purchase incense sticks of all sizes to burn around the grounds.
Apliu Street Markets
If you want to peruse local’s garage sales and/or are in need of an old Nokia brick phone charger (because who DOESN’T need one of those?) this is where you want to be. I didn’t really have any expectations, but I was a little surprised by what was essentially an explosion of salvation army worthy goods in a much (pardon my french) shittier display. Listen, I’ve been to Salvation Army/Goodwill/Value Village and have proudly worn some of my finds, but at least the clothes there are on racks and in a much more aesthetically pleasing display. Go to Apliu Street Markets if you’d prefer to sift through piles on the ground. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a group of older men rummaging through a pile of used porn on a blanket.
This one surprised me because Lonely Planet actually had it listed as one of the places to visit while in Hong Kong. Of course, there were some good finds along the way, but you’ve got to keep a keen eye and be patient for they are few are far between. Maybe I was looking in the wrong places?
I was lucky to be staying at the Langham Hotel in Mongkok which was beautiful and a wonderful place to rest my sore feet after a long day of walking around (also, the bathroom had a glass wall so I could watch TV from the bathtub- winning!) but the actual town of Mongkok is a great place to find yourself wandering about. From shopping malls, to fish markets, to stalls of random wares, Mongkok has a little bit of everything. Even better, it comes alive at night with people milling about its streets.
Tsim Sha Tsui District
Having conveniently found myself in Hong Kong in time for the Lunar New Year celebrations, Tsim Sha Tsui was the obvious place to spend the evening. Alight with lanterns and celebratory signs, the busy downtown district of Tsim Sha Tsui is the host of the annual Lunar New Year Parade and hoards of people, locals and tourists alike, make their way to the streets to watch as the floats pass by. When it’s not the Lunar Year, Tsim Sha Tsui puts on a spectacular light show every evening, so regardless of when you are visiting, it is the place to be come nightfall.
Avenue of the Stars Promenade
Just along the waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui is the Avenue of the stars promenade, Hong Kong’s response to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Now, I have no idea who almost any of the stars were whose handprints and signatures decorated the waterfront walkway (aside from a Bruce Lee statue) but it is a great place to check out the skyline from the opposite side of Victoria Harbor. The skyline is really best viewed at night as it is all impressively lit up, inviting photo ops at multiple points along the walk. It’s quite an expansive skyline so it’s hard to fit it all in one photo, but it’s a great place for an evening stroll to catch all it’s splendor. This was by far my favorite part of the city.
Other recommended excursions:
Victoria peak at sunset
A ferry ride to Macau
The Clock Tower
Temple Street Night Market