Hong Kong travel guide: Best places to eat, see, shop
This article was originally on GET.com at: Hong Kong Travel Guide: Best Places To See, Eat & Shop
With Hong Kong just about 4 hours away from Singapore and accessible via plenty of budget flights, the dynamic city is a choice location for Singaporeans looking for a short getaway.
It's an easy city to visit, with lots to see and do not forgetting the delightful cuisine and shopping that one can look forward to.
In this travel guide by GET.com, we'll take a look at the best things you can see, do, buy and eat in Hong Kong.
Top Things To See In Hong Kong
The last time I visited Hong Kong before this trip was about 10 years ago, because I decided that there are just too many other places to visit instead of returning to a city which feels so similar to Singapore.
Well, I had the opportunity to come to Hong Kong for a work trip, so I extended the trip for another 2 days to enjoy this energetic city which is alive 24 hours a day.
One of my missions was to discover something different than the usual shopping and eating that I've experienced here, and boy was I glad to find Lantau Island!
Lantau Island is the home of the Tian Tan Buddha, the world's largest bronze Buddha statue that's 34 metres tall and weighs 250 tonnes.
Commonly known as the "Big Buddha", the massive statue is the main attraction at Lantau island, although there are other things to do as well, such as hiking the Lantau trail and visiting some of the village settlements on the island.
The best way to get to the Big Buddha is to hop on the Ngong Ping 360 gondola, which offers impressive views of North Lantau Country Park, the South China Sea and the surrounding countryside.
As time was short for me, I only visited the Big Buddha and took a short walk through the village shopping area. Food served here was mediocre, so do not expect much.
If you try to search for "what to do in Hong Kong", you'll easily find many references to Victoria Peak.
Victoria Peak is arguably one of the city's most famous attractions the summit provides some breathtaking views of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and Victoria Harbour.
There are various ways to reach the top, but the classic method is a sevenminute ride on the Peak Tram, the world's steepest funicular railway that departs from its terminal on Garden Road (nearest MTR: Central).
While the view from the top is wondrous, it kind of resembles the Faber Peak in Singapore - it's nice to visit but skip it if you are running short of time.
Top Things To Do In Hong Kong
Since its opening in 2005, Hong Kong Disneyland hasn't had the best press, as fans all over the world felt it was lacking compared to other Disneylands.
However, being one of the nearest to Singapore, it could be worth a visit, especially if you are travelling with kids.
Top attractions include the Mystic Manor which is exclusive to Disneyland Hong Kong and you should try Disney Signature Dim Sum at Crystal Lotus Restaurant.
Remember to make your booking at Crystal Lotus at least 1 week in advance to ensure you get to eat the super cute dim sum!
Symphony Of Lights
The Symphony of Lights isn't exactly an attraction but it provides great entertainment especially if you are around the harbour area.
It's actually a nightly multimedia show which involves more than 40 buildings on both sides of the harbour. Well, it isn't named the 'World's Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show' by Guinness World Records for nothing.
You can expect coloured lights and laser beams to form an impressive spectacle to synchronised music and narration.
The show beautifully incorporates the highrise buildings to showcase a never ending coastline of lights and a spectacular skyline.
The show is free and you can listen to the show's music and narration every night at 8 p.m. at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront outside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and at the promenade outside the Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai.
When you talk to expats, many would say Hong Kong makes for a much better "party" place than Singapore, and it's true. You just need to take a walk along Lan Kwai Fong and you'll get what they mean.
Venture down Lan Kwai Fong to find yourself in the centre of the city's trendiest night spots. You'll see crowds of happy people spilling out of bars and clubs, laughing with a drink in their hand, even on Sunday nights!
Plan to have dinner in one of the many restaurants here and swing by a bar later for a drink. If you get hungry again after partying you can dine at Tsui Wah which is just around the corner.
What To Eat In Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a food lover's paradise. While most of Hong Kong's cuisine can be found in Singapore, the quality you find here will be much more supreme, not to mention the difference in the atmosphere and culture!
Lin Heung Tea House
You can't leave Hong Kong without eating local dim sum and if you've got the stomach for only one place, this is it!
Lin Heung is over 8 decades old, it's one of the oldest restaurants in Hong Kong's Central District and it serves wonderful old styled dim sum.
This is my first time visiting a traditional dim sum place in Hong Kong and I must say the experience is one of a kind.
Be ready for a "chaotic" experience - do not expect top class service or English speaking staff and try to embrace the hustle and bustle of the entire place as a part of the whole dim sum eating experience.
There will be the traditional dim sum pushcarts and there's no problem if you do not understand Cantonese because all you need to do is crowd around the trolley when it's out and point at whatever looks palatable to you.
I was with a foreign friend who had never eaten dim sum at such a traditional place and I can tell you, we both loved it.
Be prepared not to know what you are eating, to sit with strangers at a big table and have the staff whisk away your half-eaten food when you are not looking.
As for food orders, I seriously can't remember our exact orders because we just wanted to try everything - char siew bao, siew mai, plenty of minced meat with different ingredients, stuffed beancurd skin rolls and traditional pastries.
The glutinous rice dumplings seemed to be popular but I really didn't have the capacity to eat anything else.
Location:160164 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong (nearest MTR: Central)
Tim Ho Wan
If you'd prefer to have your dim sum somewhere cleaner and quieter, you can always check out Tim Ho Wan (which already has outlets in Singapore).
I had my first experience with Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong though, since it just opened in Singapore recently and I just couldn't stand queueing for 2 hours to eat any kind of food, no matter how good it promises to be.
There are 5 outlets in Hong Kong, and I was at the one in the International Finance Centre. Do take note that they require customers to order all their food at once, which is done this way to be fair to any queueing customers.
The hype with Tim Ho Wan mostly comes with it being named "the cheapest one Michelin star" restaurant.
While the quality of the food was good, it failed to wow me.
There was only one item that I really liked - its rendition of the traditional BBQ pork bun with a crispy pastrylike exterior which crumbles lightly in your mouth.
Cha Chaan Teng (Hong Kong Cafe)
The Cha Chaan Teng concept evolved from Hong Kong in its early days where local people could have access to "western food". You can find a wide variety of food, Cantonese, western food, dim sum, snacks and desserts.
One of the most famous Cha Chaan Teng chains is Tsui Wah, and they make great supper spots since they open till the wee hours and are conveniently located in many areas.
One of my favourite orders from Tsui Wah is a dish that resembles "yong tau foo" in Singapore - served in a salty soup with bouncy fishballs, beancurd skin and seaweed.
If you are looking for a Hong Kong cafe that's a bit more original, try Mido Cafe in Kowloon (near MTR Yau Ma Tei).
Mido Cafe is known to be frequented by art directors and has a well preserved 60's interior. Come here for a tea break if you are near the Temple Street Market for a sinful french toast and Hong Kong milk tea.
No country serves better wanton noodles than Hong Kong. Seriously, even if you pop by any random shop selling wanton noodles, they'll be better than the average wanton noodles you find in Singapore.
Springy and chewy noodles, dumplings filled with fresh shrimps and pork with an aromatic clear soup and kailan for a dash of health.
One of the most renowned wanton noodle restaurants in Hong Kong is Mak's Noodle at 77 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong.
Often referred to as the best wanton noodles in Hong Kong, Mak's Noodle also plays a big part in this dish's reputation because the shops are run by direct descendants of Mak Woonchi who introduced the dish to Hong Kong from Guangzhou.
The other place to try is Ho Hung Kee, which is one of the few wanton noodle shops that have been awarded one Michelin star.
Where To Shop In Hong Kong
Night Markets In Hong Kong
In Hong Kong there are plenty of night markets where you can find just about anything you could ever want to buy.
The Ladies' Market is one of the more renowned ones, featuring more than 100 stalls selling clothing and accessories. Another famous market is Temple Street Night Market, where you can find everything from counterfeit watches to sex toys.
While personally I didn't find much to buy, it's a good place to go if you are looking for souvenirs for friends and family back home. There will be plenty going on around the market area as well - bars, restaurants, buskers, etc.
If you are keen, there are plenty of other markets dedicated to specific themes as well, antiques, dried seafood, jade and even gold fish!
Shopping Malls In Hong Kong
There's a reason why mainlanders cross the border to visit Hong Kong, and it's all about shopping. You can find plenty of luxury brands in Hong Kong if you go to areas such as Causeway Bay, the IFC mall and Times Square.
Although when it comes to pricing, luxury goods are unlikely to be much cheaper than those in Singapore.
Tip: If you happen to be at the IFC, check out the rooftop full of glitzy bars and restaurants. If it's not really in your budget to wine and dine there, you can still visit and it won't be a problem at all.
The great thing about this place is that the resortstyle tables and armchairs placed outside these restaurants are for the use of the public, so you can enjoy the wonderful views of Hong Kong for free!
It's the perfect place to pick up your own drinks and finger food at the supermarket downstairs and have a picnic/date night there without spending a bomb.
Bargain Shopping In Hong Kong
If you are like me and more into street clothes, then skip the malls and go to Mongkok and Tsim Sha Tsui.
There's a whole row of minimalls with hundreds of small shops in them. Think Bugis Street style or Far East Plaza.
These minimalls are teeming with all things young and trendy, both locally designed or imported from the mainland. Remember to bargain if you are getting more than one item!
One of my favourite minimalls is Argyle Centre at Mongkok. It's 4 levels of crazy shopping with Japanese and Taiwanese inspired fashion. Expect to find clothes, accessories, bags, shoes, lingerie and cosmetics with prices are usually on par with those at Platinum Mall in Bangkok.
Money Tips For Hong Kong
Accommodation can be pretty expensive in Hong Kong, depending on your expectations. As land space is scarce, hotel rooms are tiny and are often more of a place to sleep than a place of relaxation and enjoyment.
Prepare to pay about $150 to $250 per night for a three or four star hotel. A great alternative is to use Airbnb.
When shopping in small shops or at the markets, remember to bargain as prices are often jacked up for tourists. However, only bargain if you are truly interested in buying or else, be ready to be reprimanded by the shop owners.
Taxis are pretty cheap in Hong Kong, but I did have the experience of cabdrivers taking you in rounds or having some problem with the meter.
What you can do is have your Google Maps open when you have internet access and mark down the route you will take to your destination.
You can open Google Maps on your mobile without any internet connection and have an idea if the cab is going straight to your destination or taking unnecessary detours.
Another great way to save money on your trip is to use a travel credit card to make your booking.
Travel credit cards often offer cashback or points when you make travel bookings, and some cards even let you earn rewards on overseas spending and nontravel related local spending. Using a card like this is a great way to save up rewards which you can then use to pay for part or all of your next travel booking.
Some travel credit cards also offer travel discounts, free travel insurance and other travel benefits that can be very useful.
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