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Got the t-shirt: 72 hours in Hong Kong

  • Published 27 June 2018

Despite the fast-paced nature of Hong Kong, you’ll never feel overwhelmed 

Slide over Singapore and don’t mind Dubai because when it comes to Asian cities, Hong Kong takes top billing. Known as the Pearl of the Orient, this gorgeous city-island is home to neck-craning skyscrapers and one of the most incredible harbours in the world, forming an incomparable hybrid of urban life and utter paradise that has to be seen to be believed. Despite the fast-paced nature in Hong Kong, you’ll never feel overwhelmed – from the spacious and futuristic underground system that puts TFL to shame to the hustle and bustle of the street markets. A holy grail for shopaholics and a foodie’s dream come true, 72 hours in Hong Kong will whizz by but trust us when we say that it’ll be the most exciting three days of your life. Just to be sure, we sent Ashleigh Simmons, one of our travel content writers, to experience this Asian gem to the fullest and fill you in on the city’s highlights. Be prepared to book your flights faster than you can say dim sum!

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Touchdown in Hong Kong

11 hours, two power naps and several in-flight movies later, I landed in Hong Kong at 7am local time and was immediately blasted with an intense humidity just one step from the aircraft. Tying my cardigan around my waist and grabbing my luggage from the conveyor belt, I followed the signs to exit the airport and make my way to my hotel. From the get-go, I knew travelling around Hong Kong would be a breeze. With a designated Airport Express train that travels directly to the heart of the city in less than 30-minutes followed by a free shuttle bus that journeys to all of the major hotels, just over an hour after landing I had collapsed on my plush king-size bed with an incredible view of Victoria Harbour in front of me. I fought against the jetlag and after a quick change of clothes to accustom to the heat, I hailed down a taxi and made my way to Hong Kong Park. 

Winged Boots Wisdom: An Octopus card is a must! Hong Kong’s excellent MTR transport system is one of the best in the world – clean and spacious, outrageously simple to navigate and covers the entire island. An Octopus card is essentially the same as a London Oyster card and value can be added at any MTR station. The best thing about this handy piece of plastic? It’s use goes way beyond trains and can be used in supermarkets, buses, attractions and even restaurants.

An Urban Paradise

If you thought that London’s Hyde Park was something special, Hong Kong Park is guaranteed to knock your socks off. 80,000 square metres in size and an oasis of green with a contrasting backdrop of sky-kissing buildings, here I found the likes of an aviary mimicking a small zoo, a Tai Chi Garden, dancing fountains and even a museum of tea ware. A popular activity in the park is morning bird-watching and trust me when I say it’s not as tedious as it sounds. With 80 species of birds found across the park, you’ll encounter a multitude of winged creatures from tropical pelicans to majestic bald eagles that visitors can watch in awe before exploring the rest of the incredible park. As time encroaches towards the midday point, the Hong Kong sunshine will be at its highest which means it’s time to refuel with an ice-cold beverage and a hearty meal.

Lunch Stop

Eating out in Hong Kong isn’t just a meal or even an experience – it’s a way of life. Food is a huge part of the Cantonese culture and wherever you go, expect to dine alongside plenty of locals. That’s how you know it’s good! Crystal Jade should be your first stop, the perfect location to sample authentic dim sum and an array of other Chinese dishes. As I experienced, the food here was the ideal portion size to fill me up but not put me in a food coma so I could continue battling the jetlag and continue my Hong Kong adventures. My recommendations would be the steamed bao buns filled with juicy pork followed by garlic chicken stir-fry noodles that are full of flavour, give off a hint of spice and warm your belly from the inside out. Crystal Jade is cheap and cheerful without comprising on quality and flavour so being pleasantly surprised when the bill comes is the norm. 

Winged Boots Wisdom: Crystal Jade is a franchise with several locations scattered across the city so you won’t have trouble finding one – there’s even one in the airport!

Take it Easy

By now, the seven-hour time difference and the near half-a-day flight will be taking its toll on your energy levels so head back to your hotel. Ignore the pristine king-size bed once more (it’ll be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do) and do something relaxing but that will keep you awake – I changed into my swim gear and headed to the swimming pool to cool off from the intense late afternoon heat. Following this, I headed to the rooftop sky pavilion of Harbour Grand Hong Kong – and what a sight I saw. The Far Eastern sky was awash with soft lilacs and brilliant oranges that were illuminated by the city lights of the skyscrapers and the twinkling boats sailing calmly across Victoria Harbour. After my camera roll and Instagram story got their fill of the views, I jumped on the MTR and made my way to my first restaurant recommendation, Ho Lee Fook (say it out loud and it’ll make sense). A funky name and an even funkier interior, the first sight of this bustling underground eatery is an entire wall, floor to ceiling full of maneki-neko, Japanese figurines that are more commonly known as Chinese waving cats. Walking down the stairs to the main dining room, I was greeted by nearly complete darkness, the only light radiating from the colourful bar. Here, you can’t go wrong with ordering the Fujian fried rice, a delectable dish that I can only describe as an Asian risotto – light, creamy and dispersed with fresh shrimp and crunchy sugar snap peas. Add to this the juicy fillet of red snapper rubbed with a Chinese-Jamaican seasoning and thank me later. 

Bright and Early

The iconic Victoria Peak was on my agenda for day number two, a journey of which is an adventure in itself. Victoria Peak is the city’s most popular sightseeing landmark and many tourists believe that the famous Peak Tram is the only way to reach the top. I’ve got you covered. Instead of forking out the 300-odd Hong Kong dollars on the tram, take the MTR to Central Station and take the exit for the International Finance Centre. Walk through the shopping mall, descend down the outdoor escalator and make your way to the bus station. Here, you’ll need minibus number one. Although not as glamourous but equally as scenic, the minibus will transport you directly to the top of Victoria Peak in less than 30-minutes while beating the heaving crowds and the long queues to access the tram. Oh, and did I mention that the bus only costs 10 dollars and you can even use your trusty Octopus card? 

Once the bus drops you off at the peak, head to the Sky Terrace which is a crystal-clear 360-degree viewing point of the Peak (there’s a small entrance fee for this but guess what – you can use your Octopus card again!). The beaming midday sun was somewhat overwhelming but the incredible vistas of Hong Kong island made the heat more than worth it. Being higher than the skyscrapers will make you feel as if you’re walking on air but be quick when you’re snapping your selfies because you’re likely to be photobombed by another tourist with the same idea! Tear yourself away from the views – it’s painful, I know – and take the escalator to Fujiyama Mama for a spot of lunch. The views of Victoria Peak will follow you down to Fujiyama Mama so snag a window-facing seat, order a refreshing cocktail and tuck in to a fresh sushi platter that is recommended for two but is so delicious that you won’t want to share. 

Winged Boots Wisdom: Download the MTR app on your smartphone to easily navigate your journey from location to location and depart from the correct station exit to get you as close to your destination as possible.

Hong Kong By Night

With the vistas of Victoria Peak still ringing in your mind, there’s nothing like an evening boat ride that reveals a different type of panorama from that of The Peak but one that’s just as spectacular. My recommendation would be Aqua Luna, a majestic junk-boat that sets sail from Central Pier 9 at 7:30pm for an incomparable Symphony of Lights show across the waterfront. Get there early to be first in the queue so you can scout out the best seats. Order a drink from the bar and watch the sun set over Hong Kong and the city buildings illuminate to showcase a cascade of reds, purples, blues and whites that glisten beautifully across the harbour. The Symphony of Lights show begins at 8pm which is a perfect opportunity for a photo as the music from the boat crescendos and the laser beams light up the sky. At 8:30, the Aqua Luna begins making its drop-offs either back to Central or to Tsim Tsa Shui. Depart from the boat at the latter location and walk 10-minutes to the iconic Temple Street Night Market. 

Vibrant, busy and a scene straight out of a film, Temple Street Night Market is a hub of excitement that combines authentic street food with local vendors selling everything from souvenirs to sweaters. First things first – Temple Street Spicy Crab. Don’t be put off by the plastic stools and tables because this is one of the best places in Hong Kong to indulge in delicious Cantonese cuisine that won’t break the bank. As soon as you sit down expect to hear the words “beer? How many?” as the refreshing Chinese-brewed beers here are a massive attraction. Ice-cold, almost one-litre in volume and only 20 dollars – the equivalent to roughly £1.95 – expect to indulge in at least three bottles accompanied with your food. The restaurant’s namesake is its signature dish so ordering the spicy crab is a must along with fried rice, garlic ribs and sweet and sour pork. Once your stomach is full and your beer goggles are on, it’s time to explore the market. Pick up authentic Chinese knick-knacks or knock-off Michael Kors purses and Mulberry handbags but don’t forget to haggle! No price at Hong Kong markets is set in stone so use charm and a friendly smile to negotiate up to 50 percent off but if the vendors refuse, don’t push your luck. 

Larger Than Life

A monument that truly has to be seen to be believed, the Tian Tan Buddha, also known as the Big Buddha is one of the largest seated Buddha statues in the world. Reaching a height of 34-metres and located on Lantau Island, the only way to access this incredible landmark is by cable car. Pay the extra few dollars for a crystal cabin, a glass-bottomed car that allows you to gaze at the emerald-green forests and the sparkling cerulean waters down below during the 30-minute journey. Once you arrive, the short stroll through the mini-village with Starbucks on one side and Subway on the other will reveal the Mulan-esque stone walkway complete with warrior statues and Chinese engravings. But it’s the remarkable mountaintop statue that will take your breath away – quite literally too. Climb the staggering 268 steps for a closer look at the bronze monument as well as to revel in the sweeping views of the magnificent landscape. Expect to see locals praying to the Buddha at the base as well as a flock of tourists surrounding the statue for that all-important selfie so get there early to beat the crowds. 

The early start means it’s now lunch time so fly back to the mainland on the cable cars and grab some grub at 22 Ships. A change from the local Cantonese cuisine, 22 Ships is a vibrant tapas bar by Michelin star chef Jason Atherton complete with an open kitchen and a laidback yet innovative vibe. Although the menu provides basic descriptions, what arrives on your plate is far from simple – think fiery seafood paella with crispy bacon shards, scallop ceviche served with fresh Chinese radish and miso glazed chargrilled carrots with smoked aubergine and walnut paste. Now that you’ve had your fill, your close proximity to Causeway Bay means only one thing – shopping! Spend your afternoon in Hong Kong’s busiest retail district from high-end designer stores to busy side-street markets and delicious food stalls. For the ultimate shopping guide to Causeway Bay, click here. 

An Affair To Remember

If you haven’t got the memo by now, there’s truly nothing like the city of Hong Kong lit up when the sun fades. So, with this in mind, the Jumbo Floating Restaurant is the place to go for a gourmet dinner experience that’s out of this world. This iconic water-topped eatery has been renovated to resemble a Chinese temple and guests must take a small boat across the pier to reach the entrance. Decorated in brilliant reds, rich greens and majestic golds and complete with Chinese tapestries and towering dragon statues, a meal at Jumbo is nothing short of an eventful experience. With a menu as extensive as an encyclopedia, this Cantonese restaurant has a special focus on seafood – try the crab and sweetcorn soup, it’s to die for! 

Dinner and drinks is a cliché for a reason so your final stop during your 72 hours in Hong Kong is Wooloomooloo. As funky as its name, this stunning establishment hosts a steakhouse on the 31st floor specialising in prime cuts of Australian beef but the main event is a little higher. The rooftop terrace is where your last night in the city comes to life – mind-blowing views of the landscape below, booming music, comfortable furniture and delicious cocktails come together in perfect harmony for a night that I guarantee you’ll remember forever. I know I do!  

There’s truly nothing like the city of Hong Kong lit up when the sun fades

Top Tips On How To Blend In Like A Local

  • As a city, Hong Kong is very much by the book especially when it comes to jaywalking. It’s a big no-no even when the roads are as clear as day. Failing to comply with the red and green man will lead to a telling-off from a watchful police officer – something I certainly learned the hard way! 
  • Speaking of rules, this one is more of the unspoken kind. Although Hong Kong is extremely hot and humid during the summer months, the locals tend to have their shoulders and knees covered when going about their daily lives. This is a memo I didn’t receive until my last day… all of a sudden, the glances and looks made perfect sense. 
  • Branch out when it comes to cuisine. Cantonese is the speciality in Hong Kong but it’s a melting pot when it comes to restaurants and culinary experiences. Expect to find everything from Japanese sushi and wood-fired pizzas to dim sum and gourmet burgers. The world is – quite literally – your oyster in Hong Kong! 
  • If you have a spare hour or so, venture to Hong Kong’s flower market, bird market and goldfish market that are on three different streets that intertwine. The names are pretty self-explanatory but they’re definitely worth a visit! 
Hong Kong awaits! Our personal travel managers are ready and waiting to take your call and start planning your Far Eastern getaway. Simply dial 0203 816 0985 or click here to submit an enquiry.

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