Semper Travel

Hong Kong, China

Here’s what we did in Hong Kong, China!
Hong Kong Skyline

Hong Kong Skyline

Travel Dates:  30 Aug – 2 Sept

Airline:  Hong Kong Airlines direct flight via Vayama.com
Direct flight, $592 + $150.28 taxes = $742.28 for 2 people, round trip

*Update!  Now Peach Airlines flies to Hong Kong direct!  I’ve seen flights as low as $120 per person.  Wow!  Too bad we didn’t wait to travel on Peach!

Visa:  Not required for Hong Kong.  Check with the State Dept. before traveling to make sure nothing has changed.

Exchanging Money:  We exchanged at the airport and in the metro station.  There are plenty of exchange booths.  The rate was approx. 1 USD to 7.08 HKD (We found a place for 7.46 out in town).

Hotel:  The Garden View YWCA Hotel

  • 15 minutes walk from Pacific Palace (Admiralty), Central MTR Station (Subway) and Lan Kwai Fong & Soho area.  Great hotel for the money and pretty good location BUT it’s up a HUGE hill.  (It’s about a block past “The Peak” tram.)  They upgraded us to a suite.  There’s a grocery store next door, and the hotel has a fitness center and pool (but after sightseeing all day and climbing the hill you probably won’t need it).  The hill up to the hotel was not fun, but bus 12A goes to the hotel from Central MTR station for only 4.60HKD (about 59 cents).  Once you become familiar with the location, you’ll realize the hotel is close to many areas like Lan Kwai Fong, Hollywood Dr., Central, Admiralty and more, but the streets may confuse you at first.  Grab a map and look at the signs…streets look far apart, but they’re not!
  • Purchased on Orbitz:  $91.75/night – Orbitz rewards bucks = $255.47 for 3 nights

Transportation:

  • We bought the Octopus Metro (MTR) card.  There’s an option for 3 days unlimited including 2 one-way airport express passes for $35 each.  The 3 days unlimited starts when you first swipe the card, so it lasts 72 hours (not 3 calendar days).
    • We purchased them at the MTR ticket counters in the airport.  Ask for the 3 day unlimited with 2 airport express passes (300 HKD but you get a 50 HKD deposit returned when you bring the card back to the airport before you leave).
    • The MTR is very inexpensive, so you could also “pay as you go” with the Octopus card or with cash.
    • Any money you put on the Octopus card you can get back when you bring it back to the airport before you leave.
  • Airport Transportation  (If you want to pay separately, here’s the airport express information)
    • Hong Kong Airport Express – high-speed train to center of town (24 minutes) $13 one-way per person
      • Every 12 minutes
        • 0554 – 0048 (Airport to Hong Kong Station)
        • 0550 – 0048 (Hong Kong Station to Airport)

Itinerary:

Saturday, 30 Aug

  • Arrived at about 1400. Travel to hotel via Airport Express.
  • Tim Ho Wan Restaurant (recommended by Anthony Bourdain & an online documentary)
    • Multiple locations. We went to the location inside of the Airport Express mall, because our hotel thought the other location might be closed. (Silly, we didn’t know that, so we had already gone to the hotel and went back. But the airport express mall is right next to central MTR which is close by)
    • Try the Dim Sum, Gluh Rice (sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf with meat), & Baked BBQ Pork Bun
  • Temple Street Market (Anthony Bourdain)
    • MTR Yau Ma Tei Station, Exit C, turn onto Temple Street at Man Ming Lane.
    • MTR Jordan Station, Exit A. Turn right onto Jordan Road and then take another right onto Temple Street.
    • “Hong Kong’s most famous night market exudes a festive atmosphere, with its outdoor stalls selling everything from Chinese souvenirs to clothing and accessories, plus its fortunetellers and street opera singers. The market opens daily at 4pm, but the real action doesn’t get underway until 7pm.” – Frommers
  • Ladies’ Market
    • MTR Mong Kok Station, Exit E2. Walk along Nelson Street for two blocks.
    • You can easily walk from the Temple Street Market to the Ladies’ Market in a few minutes.  They both sell similar items.  The Ladies Market was next to a busy area with street performers and lots of shops.
  • Hong Kong Skyline – very impressive
    • 1,251 skyscrapers (more than double NYC)
  • Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade/Avenue of Stars
    • MTR East Tsim Sha Tsui Station, Exit J. Follow signs to the Avenue of Stars
    • Symphony of Lights show every evening at 8pm
      • Listen to the show’s music & English narration along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront between the Avenue of Stars & Cultural Center (on MWF nights)
      • Guinness World Records “World’s Largest Permanent Light & Sound Show”
    • “If it’s Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, you could join a free 1-hour lesson in tai chi, conducted at 8am in the Hong Kong Museum of Art’s Sculpture Court near the promenade.” – Frommers

Sunday, 31 Aug

  • The Peak
    • Highest point on Hong Kong island.  Great views!
    • Many walking paths at the top.  Recommend wearing PT clothes and taking a jog around the peak.  We didn’t realize there was an exercise trail, but there were many runners and fitness stations.
    • Peak Tram from the Peak Tram Lower Terminus on Garden Road (reach it by taking bus 15C from the lay-by outside the Star Ferry pier in Central, or walk from MTR Central Station, Exit J2.)
    • Bus 15 from Exchange Square bus terminus (near MTR Hong Kong Station, Exit D)
    • Minibus 1 from MTR Hong Kong Station public transport interchange.
    • “Board the Peak Tram, which began operations in 1888, for its 8-minute climb up Victoria Peak, where you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views from Hong Kong Island’s tallest hill if the weather is clear. Peak Tower has an observation platform with 360-degree panora mic views. If you have the time and energy, walk the 1-hour stroll around the Peak.” – Frommers
  • Ferry to Lantau from Central Ferry Piers (You can add $ to your Octopus MTR card so that you don’t have to buy tickets.  It was about 42 HKD for the express ferry (30 minutes).  We didn’t realize the the metro also takes you there.  We took that home.  If you don’t care about the ferry ride, just take the metro to Tung Chung station.
    • Bus to Ngong Ping Plateau (I think the cable car might also get you there.  We didn’t realize it, but because it was raining and the cable car wasn’t in operation, but that would have been a cool trip.)
      • Bus no. 2 from Silvermine Bay (Mui Wo in Chinese) hurtles around hair-raising curves through lush countryside on its 45-minute trip to Ngong Ping.
    • Giant Buddha
      • Open 10am-6pm, last admission at 5:30pm
      • Built in 1993, this is the world’s largest seated outdoor bronze Buddha. Climb 260-some steps to the viewing platform for sweeping views from Ngong Ping Plateau, 738m (2,420 ft.) above sea level.
    • Wisdom Path
      • Large wooden pillars, placed in the form of a figure eight to symbolize infinity, display the Heart Sutra, a centuries-old prayer revered by Confucians, Buddhists, and Taoists alike.
    • Po Lin Monastery (open daily 9am-6pm)
      • Located right next to the Giant Buddha and Wisdom Path.  We tried some food at the vegetarian cafe too.
    • Ngong Ping Village
      • A little tourist village where the bus drops you off, right next to the Giant Buddha.
  • One Dim Sum restaurant for dinner (recommended by Bourdain)
    • Very good dim sum, steamed custard buns, and more.
    • Just 1 block away from the Prince Edward MTR station at 15 Playing Field Road.
  • Walk through Ladies Market and Temple Street Market again.  (We probably could have skipped doing this twice, but the first night we were just getting a feel for the city.)

Monday, 1 Sept

  • Breakfast at Tsui Wah (recommended by Bourdain)
    • A diner that felt like George Webbs.  In Lan Kwai Fong (bar district) so we could imagine it being good for both late night food and breakfast.  Many businessmen were eating with us.
    • 15-19 Wellington St., Central MTR  (close walk from the YWCA hotel)
  • The Monastery of the 10,000 Buddhas
    • An uphill path lined with thousands of buddha statues.  When you arrive, there is a large complex that looks like it would be this, but it’s not.  Just before entering the parking lot for a different monastery, turn right down an alley.  There was a small red sign on the ground saying “10,000 Buddhas.”  It looks almost like a trash path.  1 block in you’ll start seeing the path up with the Buddhas.
    • Monastery open 9am to 5-30pm daily. The monastery may close during heavy rain or when typhoon signal 8 or above is issued.
    • MTR East Rail to Sha Tin Station*(see note 1 below). From station exit B take the ramp alongside the bus terminus, down to street level and past Pai Tau Village on the left. Turn left, Homesquare/Ikea should be on the corner.  It’s 1 block behind the Homesquare/Ikea.
  • Chi Lin Nunnery
    • MTR Diamond Hill Station Exit C2, follow the signs & walk for around 5 minutes
    • On the way back from the 10,000 Buddhas, stop here for a quick look at a peaceful nunnery tucked away in the heart of the city.
  • Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple
    • MTR Wong Tai Sin Station Exit B2, it’s right there.
    • On the way back from the Chi Lin Nunnery, stop at this temple for a quick visit.  It’s right outside of the MTR station.
  • Mak An Kee Restaurant (recommended by Bourdain)
    • Shrimp-filled wonton egg-noodle soup  (This wasn’t our favorite but it was still fun experiencing different cultural foods.)
    • 77 Wellington St. Central MTR
  • Hollywood Drive (“Antique street”)
    • Cat Street (Take Hollywood Dr. to the Man Mo Temple. This is 1 block in front of the temple) – Chinese souvenirs
  • Stanley Market
    • Bus #6X from Central MTR (8.40 HKD per person one-way), about a 45 minute ride to the other side of Hong Kong island
    • Feels more like a small Chinese town (relaxed with beaches, hills, and coves)
    • Recommend only if you have time.  There are restaurants and some shopping.  If you want to make it a beach day, Repulse Bay is on the way.  Or, if you have kids, maybe check out Ocean Park.
  • Joy Hing Restaurant (recommended by Bourdain)
    • Small, family-owned Cantonese restaurant
    • We tried the goose and BBQ pork.  It was good, but bring napkins!  You’ll get meat piled on top of rice.  The sauces on the table added lots of flavor to the rice.  It was only about $5, but you don’t get a lot of meat so you might want to order 2.
    • 265-267 Hennessy Rd., Wan Chai MTR  (We got off of bus 6X on the way home from Stanley market.  It stops nearby.)
      • It’s actually around the corner from Hennessy Rd. on Steward Street.  It’s a small place with meat hanging in the window.  Joy Hing is written very small on the side wall.  Easy to miss.
  • Walked through Lan Kwai Fong district on the way back to the hotel.  We were too tired to “hang out” at a bar, but it was fun to see the night life starting to come out.

Tuesday, 2 Sept

  • 7-8am:  We woke up early (not on purpose) so we decided to take a walk along the Avenue of Stars.
  • 8am:  We headed to the airport via the Airport Express.  It only took 45 minutes, but we couldn’t remember exactly how long it took so better safe than sorry!
  • 9am:  At the airport, we checked in to our flight and then got a refund for our MTR Octopus Card, ate breakfast, and exchanged HKD back to USD.  Our flight was scheduled for 11:10am, but was delayed about 45 minutes.

Traveling Tips:

  • We were out from about 8-8:30am to 8:30-10:30pm every day.  Our feet were tired, and there are lots of hills, so we recommend tennis shoes!
  • Carry some toilet paper and wipes.  Many public restrooms were out.  Also, the food can be messy, so wipes would be nice to clean your fingers.
  • Even if your Octopus Card says “no deposit on this card,” you should still be able to return it for the 50 HKD refund deposit.
  • The buses do not give change.  Either have exact cash or add money to your MTR card.  The MTR unlimited pass is only good for metros, not buses, but you can still swipe the card on the buses if you add cash.
  • Save time & money getting to Lantau Island (Giant Buddha) by taking the metro instead of the ferry.

If you want a book to help you with your planning, I like glancing through all of the popular brands (EyeWitness Top 10, Fodors, and Lonely Planet, to name a few.)

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