If this is your first time traveling to Asia, Hong Kong is the perfect starting point. With a convenient transit system and most people knowing English, Hong Kong is an easy city to travel. It’s truly an international place where the East collides head first with the West that has everything from giant luxury malls to small local diners. Famous for dim sum, bustling markets and beautiful views, there’s something here for everyone.
01. Go Hiking
When most people think of Hong Kong, they think of a metropolitan city, but it also comes with a mountainous landscape which makes for a plethora of hikes. Dragon’s Back is the most popular, but my favorite is the hike is on Lantau Island from Mui Wo to Pui O. You start by taking a ferry to Mui Wo, hike for 3 hours and end up at a beach. There’s a bar called Mavericks in Pui O, and there’s nothing better than grabbing a beer and dipping your feet into the ocean at the end of a long hike.
TIP: Always pack a swimsuit since a lot of hikes end up at beaches and waterfalls.
02. Go Island-Hopping
There are many islands just a stone’s throw away from the city with the most popular including Lantau Island, Lamma Island, Peng Chau Island and Cheung Chau Island. Cheung Chau is a bit more commercialized and densely populated than the other islands as it’s famous for the Bun Festival every year. Taking place on Buddha’s birthday, there’s a big parade and towers of buns set up for the Bun Climbing competition. It was my childhood dream to participate in the Bun Climbing competition until I realized you actually have to train for it and it can be dangerous. Aside from the festival, Cheung Chau Island is great for curry fish balls, mango mochi desserts, seafood meals and waterside hikes.
TIP: The bun tower climb happens on the last day of the festival, but it’s also the busiest day. If you want to skip the crowds, the bun towers are set up 3 days before so you can take a look before the festivities begin.
03. Hong Kong Museum of History
I’m a big believer in getting to know the context of a place. This museum is a good way to get to know Hong Kong’s complex history and unravel all the components that make the people and the city the way that it is. Apart from special exhibits, the museum free.
04. Kam Wah Cafe
Kam Wah Cafe is a classic Chinese diner (“cha chaan teng”), and by classic, I mean greasy food and snappy service. This diner is famous for its butter pineapple buns (a sweet bun with a delicious chunk of butter in the middle). My childhood favorite is macaroni soup with ham, but I’ve been told it’s not for everyone, so when in doubt, always go for the french toast.
TIP: Local restaurants are infamous for having bad service. Occasionally, you’ll get someone patient and attentive, but for the most part, you need to ask for anything you need (an English menu, napkins, attention from the waiter, etc.). Don’t take it personally and think of it as practice for voicing your needs.
Coming from Vancouver, I’m always on the lookout for spots that remind me of cafe culture back home, and there’s definitely no lack of western-style cafes in the city. Nestled on a quiet street by Hong Kong University is a lifestyle-focused cafe called ethos. It’s a serene spot filled with natural light that has everything from specialty coffee to pasta.
TIP: Sometimes there’s a bit of wait to get a seat, but ethos has a select shop two doors down that you can browse.
06. Yee Shun Milk Company
One of my favorite local desserts is double layer milk pudding. It’s a dessert made of milk, egg whites and sugar that comes in hot or cold. I usually get original, but it comes in different flavors such as chocolate and ginger.
TIP: “OpenRice” is the most common app for finding food places, so I would recommend downloading it – especially because you can search by area.
Since Hong Kong is a very compact city, it doesn’t matter much where you stay as long as you’re within range of an MTR station. It all depends on what kind of environment you prefer.
– For a more quiet location with boutiques and cafes (my personal favorite areas) – Sheung Wan, Sai Ying Pun
– For nightlife – Central, Soho
– For bustling local neighborhoods – Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei, Jordan
– For city vibes – Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui
TIP: In general, most people opt for hotels, but there are some Airbnb gems in Hong Kong. Be careful as some spaces are quite small and old, and cockroaches are very common, so make sure to inquire and read reviews before booking.
08. Walking Shoes
Most of the city is extremely accessible by the MTR train system, so be prepared to do a lot of walking and standing while you’re in the city. Hong Kong has the highest daily step count in the world, so a good pair of walking shoes is a must-have when you’re here.
09. A Light Jacket or Sweater
Everyone always makes fun of me for constantly saying how you need to pack a jacket when you’re here, but I’m serious, you need one. While it’s hot and humid for most of the year, a light jacket is necessary as the entire city’s air conditioning works at maximum capacity. Constantly going between sweaty heat and freezing cold is a surefire way to get sick. Also, during the winter months, it may not seem like it gets that cold since the temperature rarely sinks below 12 degrees Celsius, but keep in mind that humidity emphasizes the weather – making the summers feel warmer and the winters feel colder.
Rebekah Ho is a Chinese-Canadian photographer and writer who has a passion for ice cream and is perpetually an artist-in-progress. She currently resides in Hong Kong where she works in the fashion industry. Follow her on Instagram.