Seventeen years ago I lived in Hong Kong with my parents. I remember living on the 25th floor of a high rise building in the Mid-Levels with a view of the harbour that lit up at night time to create a scene like no other. I remember perusing the markets with my mum and wrinkling my nose at some of the smells we encountered. I remember the traditional ferry that I used to get on to get from Central to Kowloon to my favourite restaurant. I have so many fond memories of Hong Kong.
After seventeen years (I can’t believe that I’m old enough to say that) I decided to return with my boyfriend and take a walk down memory lane. It was his first time in Asia, so where better to start than the place I grew up and that shaped my early years.
We had 9 days in Hong Kong and I squeezed in as many sites as I could!
Our Hong Kong Itinerary
Day 1: Tsim Sha Tsui free walking tour and evening at the Ozone Bar
Day 2: Star Ferry to Central and Victoria Peak
Day 3: Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery with an evening Junk Boat Ride to see the Light Show
Day 4: Stanley Beach and Temple Street Night Market
Day 5: Ocean Park Hong Kong
Day 6: Giant Buddha, Po Lin Monastery and Tai O Fishing Village
Day 7: Flower Market and Lan Kwai Fong in the evening
Day 8: Lamma Island
Day 9: Day trip to Macau
Where we stayed
We opted to stay in Mongkok on Kowloon which is the more Chinese part of Hong Kong. Our hotel was called the Cordis Hong Kong and was on top of a shopping centre that funnily enough had an M&S Food in it. Who knew they operated outside the UK!? I would recommend staying on Kowloon as it’s much less westernised and still incredibly accessible by metro. You can also get the Star Ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central Hong Kong, which was exactly as I remembered it bar the removal of the “no spitting” sign.
How we travelled around
When you arrive in Hong Kong you can get the airport express to the centre taking about 30 minutes.
Top tip: We bought a round trip in advance from Klook for £13 each, which was ever so slightly cheaper than buying it at the airport.
Once we were in the centre we bought an Octopus card and topped it up, which works just like an Oyster in the UK. You can use it on the MTR (underground train) and the trams making it so easy to get around.
If you’d like to know more detail about our Hong Kong itinerary by day with top tips and vegan restaurant recommendations then read on.
The first day we arrived in Hong Kong we were feeling a tad jet lagged so we decided to ease into the day with a free walking tour. I always like to start a trip this way to find out more about the area from a local and get accustomed to where things are. We chose HK Free Walk which started in Tsim Sha Tsui by the Avenue of the Stars and lasted about 3 hours. It sounds like a long time, but there was so much to absorb and hear about that the time flew by. The tour ended by the Bruce Lee Statue which happened to be right by Woodlands International Vegetarian Restaurant which was where my mum and I used to go as a Friday treat when I lived in Hong Kong. I had a Masala Dosa, my all time favourite. We also discovered that another Indian Vegetarian Restaurant had opened up on the same floor called Sangeetha Vegetarian Restaurant, so plenty of choice.
In the evening we went to the Ozone Bar which is on the rooftop of the Ritz Carlton with views of Hong Kong’s city skyline.
Top Tip: As it’s a posh hotel we rushed back home to get dressed up, but there really was no need. Most people there were in shorts and t-shirts. I’d also advise that you get there early if you want a seat by the window to watch the sunset, which is worth it.
On day two we got the Star Ferry across to Central. It’s by far the cheapest and nicest way to travel from Kowloon side to Central Hong Kong. Once on Hong Kong Main Island we strolled along to the mid-level escalator which is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. We then walked through to Hong Kong Park which is peaceful in contrast to the rest of the city and is also home to LockCha Tea House. LockCha Tea House is a traditional tea room that serves fragrant vegetarian dim sum, although the majority of their dishes are vegan too. This was probably the most delicious meal I had in Hong Kong.
Afterwards we got a taxi to the top of Old Peak Road (number 23). Little did the boyfriend know he was in for a trek. We walked up a very steep hill to Victoria Peak. It took between 20-30 mins to get to the top, but you must take water with you if you take this route. We were dripping in sweat by the time we reached the top (tmi?). Once at the top we went to one of the lookouts, found a good spot and sat there to watch the sunset. The view from the Peak is breath taking. As the sun sets the sky turns a burnt orange and the lights on the buildings start to flicker on one by one until you have a blanket of flashing lights. The sun may set but it looks like the city comes alive. To get back down we took the Peak Tram, which is a must do in Hong Kong. If you don’t fancy doing the trek we did then you can take the tram up too.
On our third day we went to the Nan Lian Garden which is a Classical Chinese Garden with pagodas and water fountains. It’s hard to believe that such a tranquil place is free to visit. There were a couple of vegetarian restaurants here too with vegan options, but we didn’t feel hungry at this point. We also visited the Chi Lin Nunnery established in 1934 and renovated in Tang dynasty style (AD 618–907) in 1990.
In the evening we went on a Junk Boat to view the evening light show. The boat was made of dark wood with red sails that stood out across the night sky. It was very different to the little junk boats I used to get on as a child; this was more spectacular. It was a good way to view the light show as you could see both Kowloon side and Hong Kong Island side.
We decided to leave the city on Day 4 and got the bus to Stanley. My memories of Stanley were meandering through the markets with mum buying trinkets, purses and all sorts. Stanley Beach has been westernised since I was last there, the market has got smaller and a shopping complex has been built. That’s not to say that it isn’t worth a visit, as it’s nice to see a different part of Hong Kong, but it has changed a lot in the last decade and a half.
In the evening we went to Temple Street Market which was a short walk from our hotel. There are so many stalls selling fake Longchamp bags, Mulberry purses, Rolex watches, phone cases and accessories, clothing, teapots and more. You’ll also find restaurants in-between the stalls with tables spilling out onto the streets. When you’re here you have to barter. Start ridiculously low and work your way up. You have to be prepared to walk away to get a good price as it’s a bit of a game. Just don’t get addicted. You only have so many kgs of baggage allowance!
Theme park day! Ocean Park has been there for years. It’s essentially a theme park on top of a hill where they also have a lot of animals. Now I’m not going to dwell on the animals as although some of them are there for conservation, essentially it is a zoo. However the theme park is really good and you can get a cable car from the bottom of the park to the top giving you amazing views of the coastline.
The Tian Tan Buddha statue was something that I was really looking forward to seeing again. It’s a 34 metre high bronze Buddha on top of a hill on Lantau Island. There’s a staircase of 268 steps that you can walk up to get to the base of the Buddha for a closer look. Opposite you’ll find the Po Lin Monastery where you can get a 5 course vegan meal for bear peas. It’s so cheap.
Afterwards we got the bus to the Tai O Fishing Village, which is home to the Tanka people. Their houses are built on stilts above the tidal flats of Lantau Island. It’s worth going to see whilst you’re over at the Big Buddha.
In the evening we went to the Veggie Family restaurant in Mongkok where 90% of the dishes are vegan. The dishes were huge but really tasty. All the food was fresh and we wanted to visit again but we ran out of time. I didn’t take any pictures of our meal as we tucked in straight away, but worth a visit if you’re in the area.
On day 7 we went to the Flower Market by Prince Edward Station where you can get freshly cut flowers, house plants and more. It’s super colourful and fun to see, but I wouldn’t consider it a must do on Hong Kong Island if you’re short for time.
In the afternoon we travelled back to Central and wandered aimlessly around. We ended up in Lang Kwai Fong where there was the Let’s Play festival with street food and dancers. Lang Kwai Fong is full of bars and clubs. It appears to be the place that a lot of expats go out.
From Hong Kong you can take a day trip to Macau aka “Las Vegas of Asia” with gambling making up 50% of the economy. It was a Portuguese territory until 1999 and you can clearly see the Portuguese influence with the black and white cobble stone mosaic floors. As you can imagine by its alternative name there are a lot of casinos in Macau. You have the MGM, the Venetian, the Wynn and 30 others, each as extravagant as the next. It’s worth trying to get inside one to have a nosey round. Aside from the casinos you have the Ruins of Saint Paul, Mong Ha Fort and the Historic Centre of Macau.
Top tip: If you decide to do a day trip by ferry (we took the Turbojet) then make sure you take your passport and a pen. You’ll also need to leave plenty of time to get through the gates as you will have to fill out forms before you go through. The boat takes about 50 minutes.
On our last day we got a boat from Tsim Sha Tsui to Lamma Island where a lot of Chinese families come for the weekend to enjoy the beach and get away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong Island. When we arrived we looked at the shops, enjoyed a vegan meal at the Bookworm Café (with so many interesting reads) and then trekked along the coastal path where you got some seriously beautiful views. It was the perfect day to finish our Hong Kong holiday.
We managed to pack so much into our 9 days that we returned home feeling like we needed another holiday. It was a phenomenal trip with each day being completely different.
If you’re thinking of making a trip to Hong Kong and want some more tips then let me know. I hope that this guide has been helpful.