Hong Kong, the undisputed crown prince of metropolises

Hello lovely people! Here I am, back after the longest time, to write another travel post from one of my recent trips. Last December, on my way to India, I planned a 2 day layover at Hong Kong. As you might’ve guessed from my travel trend, I’m not really a city person. However, Hong Kong was a very convenient choice for a transit visit, and a super affordable one at that, so I decided to give it a shot. And I should say, the vibrant and hustling metropolis with all those uber tall skyscrapers has the power to transport you to another world altogether. And if you’re bored of that, you could hop on a train and head to a serene and soulful monastery that can clear your head and reinforce your sanity. Let’s get started on how to plan your trip to this unique piece of paradise.

Visa process:

First things first – if you are planning a trip to Hong Kong, before you do anything, make sure you go online and apply for their PAR (pre-registration arrival) at least 6-8 weeks in advance. Funfact – I did it 24 hours before my trip to Hong Kong and learnt the hard way that it wasn’t the wisest thing coz one of my friends got an “unsuccessful” PAR registration and he couldn’t travel with us. Apparently, they have blacklisted passports from some particular states in India (my friend’s was from Kolkata) so they have to go through their normal (and time consuming) visa application process. However, if you get a “successful” PAR registration status, you are all set! It is free of cost and all you need to do is carry a hard copy of that confirmation page to the immigration.  With this, you can stay in Hong Kong for a maximum of 14 days at a stretch.

Itinerary:

I had 2 full days and one night to spend at Hong Kong. The HK airport has so many kickass amenities to ensure that travelers have a hassle-free transit. They have free showers near the arrival gates which are sparkling clean. They also provide luggage locker services at the airport. It wasn’t too expensive, about $160 to store 3 suitcases for 2 days. I checked in all my suitcases and only carried a backpack with me with all the stuff I needed for my 2 day trip in HK city. The best part is, most of the restaurants/shops in the HK airport as well as the city accept USD so you don’t have to carry a lot of HK Dollars with you. Here’s what we did –

Day 1: Victoria peak, Big bus tour of the Hong Kong city, Ladies night market 

On the first day, we showered at the airport and checked in our suitcases in the locker facility and took a bus to Hong Kong city. One important thing here – the buses only take exact change so you will need to carry $$ (HKD) if you intend to use public transport. First up on our itinerary was Victoria peak which boasts the best aerial view of the city. When we got to the place, there was this insanely huge line to board the tram that takes you to the peak. You could also just take a cab to the peak, but the tram itself has an old school charm to it which is the reason why it’s so famous. It covers about 0.9 miles with an elevation of 1300ft so it basically feels like a roller coaster ride without a descent 😀 At the entrance of the peak tram, we found these people selling Big Bus tour packages that included a variety of attractions – Kowloon tour, HK city tour, a free pass on Star ferry ride, a free Sampan ride and a free fasttrack peak tram pass. We wanted to go to Lantau island the next day and noticed that they sold a bundle with a one-day trip to Lantau island for about $350 per person. When we looked up the tickets to all these places individually, it came to more or less the same amount, so we decided to get it.

DSC_0702
View from inside the peak tram. It was like a roller coaster ride inside a jungle in the middle of a bustling metro!

So with our fast-track pass, the wait time to get to the peak tram was about 15 mins or so. After getting to the top, we walked through what looked like a mini shopping mall and ascended to the top. And when I stepped out to the open terrace, believe me when I say this, it literally felt like I was at the top of the world. The views from here are like no other! It was wayy better than the views from the top of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. I say that because Burj Khalifa is literally the only tall sky scraper in that entire neighborhood in Dubai whereas the number of sky scrapers that you see from the Victoria peak is insane! I mean, look at this picture –

DSC_0704
View from Victoria peak

I spent a good 30 minutes at the top, taking in all the views, before heading down. Next, we took a cab directly to the pickup point of our “sampan ride” which is a traditional local boat operated by elderly women that takes you around the Aberdeen harbor. We used our Big bus tour pass for this as well. It was an interesting tour where we go to see the house boats of the local fisherman and a Jumbo floating restaurant which looked straight outta a Hollywood movie 😀

DSC_0741
Aberdeen Harbour
DSC_0751
Sampan ride boat with quirky interiors

DSC_0754

DSC_0757
Can you believe this thing is actually afloat?!

After our ride, we waited for a good 45 mins for the Big bus at the stop (which wasn’t a very pleasant experience considering it was about 30 Degree C in the middle of the afternoon). When it did, we hopped on to it and took the Green line tour which goes through the HK city. The timing turned out to be perfect for us since the sun was setting and we were seated at the top of the double-decker bus so it was very picturesque! I loved every minute of it and I highly recommend taking this tour for this one sole reason – you will literally strain your neck trying to catch a glimpse of all the sky scrapers in the HK city whilst hearing about the history of each place through your earphones! We had gotten a list of recommendations for places to eat so we got off at the heart of the city to grab some food (read egg tarts, vegan dumplings and some traditional Chinese tea accompanied by Classical Chinese music). We wanted to watch the infamous laser show from the Kowloon side (where we were staying for the night) so we took the Star ferry which was included in our big bus tour and headed to the other side. The laser show was mediocre at it’s best but the skyline views made up for it. After that, we headed to the hotel for the night in Kowloon downtown. We paid about $120 for the night at Kimberly hotel which had really spacious rooms and all the needed amenities. We headed to this vegan restaurant for dinner after checking in (Yeah if you hadn’t realized yet, our trip pretty much revolved around food :D) After a good dinner, we headed to the ladies night market around 10.30pm. I swear, I’ve never seen sooo many stalls filled with the cutest things on this planet (think hundreds of mini panda luggage tags and unicorn shaped miniature bluetooth speakers). I wanted to buy EVERYTHING but since I had to carry around my luggage for the whole of the next day by myself, I was restricted to buying veryy little (which I still regret to this day). We headed to the hotel around 12 AM and called it a rather eventful day!

DSC_0774
View of Kowloon island from HK city
DSC_0779
Downtown HK
DSC_0780
Skyscrapers everywhere!
DSC_0795
A good contender for Times square don’t you think?
DSC_0808
The laser show as seen from Kowloon
DSC_0810
The bustling night markets of Kowloon

Day 2 – Lantau Island

The second day, we quickly grabbed breakfast and took a train to Ngong Ping which was about 30 minutes from Kowloon. From there, we took a 45 minute Gondola to get to the colossal Tian Tan Buddha. It was a one day guided tour during which they took us to a nearby fishing village, Tai O, where we got to tour the stilt houses where the fishermen live and a small boat ride in the sea in search of the native pink dolphins of China (How cute!) We weren’t lucky enough to spot them that day, but we were told that this is one of their more accessible natural habitats. After that, we headed to the Po Lin monastery in the Lantau island where we had a traditional vegetarian lunch (which primarily consisted of mushrooms of all colors and sizes) and spent the rest of the afternoon there. The climb to the top of the Buddha consisted of about 250 odd steps. There are a bunch of places to eat/shop in the island so you can easily spend a day there. Later in the evening, we headed back to the airport, collected our luggage and bid farewell to this glorious city.

DSC_0823
View from the Ngong ping Gondola
DSC_0837
The big buddha!
DSC_0865
The star of Lantau island!

DSC_0862

DSC_0868
Inside the Po Lin monastery
DSC_0881
Po Lin Monastery

Places with vegetarian food – 

Kala cheese toast, Victoria peak: Their purple yam cheese toast was out of the world!

Tai Cheong bakery, Central HK: I wasn’t the biggest fan of their egg tarts, but a lot of people rave about it.

Lock Cha tea house, Central HK: They had live classical music and amazing tea varieties. +1 for their mushroom truffle dumplings

Hope you guys had fun reading this post and found it helpful! Shoot me an email if you have any questions and have a great week ahead!

Until next time,

Mal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s