HONG KONG: Top Ten Must See AttractionsIt occurred to me that Hong Kong has so many old and new attractions worth visiting and experiencing that I thought it was about time and worthwhile listing my favourite top 10 things to do in the neon city. There are some obvious choices but there are also a host of other options that are now available in Hong Kong, especially if you are there on a two night stopover.
AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHER: ©Shane Boocock 2014
Too much of a good thing is wonderful! I’ve been travelling to Hong Kong for over 30 years and during this period I have returned fairly regularly. Hong Kong, not surprisingly is the type of city that often gets compared with other big glittery cities such as New York and London and rightfully so. However it’s more than just a city, in fact it’s an archipelago made up of 260 islands with hidden coves, deserted beaches, rugged coastlines, sea caves and small fishing villages – a perfect region for exploring beyond the shop-lined downtown streets.
After a recent visit, it occurred to me that Hong Kong has so many old and new attractions worth visiting and experiencing that I thought it was about time and worthwhile listing my favourite top 10 things to do in the neon city. There are some obvious choices such as visiting outdoor markets but there are also a host of other options that are now available in Hong Kong, especially if you are there on a stopover with just a few days to take in the sights.
The Peak Tram: If there is only one thing that everyone who goes to Hong Kong should do its visit ‘The Peak.’ It’s the highest point in ‘Honkers’ and still one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in which to live. To get to the top, hop on the historic ‘Peak Tram,’ the funicular railway that has operated daily since 1888. The trip is a visual experience in its own right as you travel past some of Hong Kong Island’s amazing skyscrapers at what appear to be impossible angles. The view is also what makes ‘The Peak’ one of the most popular attractions in Hong Kong. By day cast your eyes across skyscrapers and Victoria Harbour all the way to the green hills of the New Territories. In early evening this panorama melts into salmon pinks and tangerine at sunset before the city turns into a dazzling galaxy of light, shimmering beneath you.
Kayaking Tai O Stilt Village: Paddling into the heart of Tai O, we found a village situated either side of a riverbank where all the houses are built above the water. Tai O, known as the ‘Venice of Hong Kong,’ is home to the Tanka people, a community of fisher folk who’ve built their houses on bamboo stilts above the tidal flats of Lantau Island for generations. These structures are nearly all interconnected, forming a tightly knit community that literally lives above the water. Tai O was also once a base of many smuggling and piracy operations, the inlets of the river providing excellent protection from the weather and a good hiding place. Negotiating the river system in our kayaks we found a small channel to exit out into the South China Sea. From here we crossed to the other side of the harbour to an area where a powerful waterfall gushed off the mountainside. Over lunch we swam and jumped into the deep pool below the raging waterfall . . . take time out to visit this truly remarkable part of Hong Kong.
Cocktails in the Ozone Bar: Loftily perched on the 118th floor of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Ozone enjoys the singular status of being the highest bar in the world. The chic design and ultramodern layout create an almost surreal ambiance, enhanced by an innovative cocktails and an exotic Asian tapas menu. Enjoy exotic drinks on the outdoor terrace as you look out across the stunning views of Victoria Harbour from one of Hong Kong’s most elite nightlife destinations. Expect the price of drinks to be as high as the elevation.
Temple Street Night Market: located in Kowloon it’s the place to be when the sun goes down every evening. It’s a really popular street bazaar where you’ll find all sorts of traders as well as wannabe singers and even fortune-tellers. Named after a Tin Hau temple located in the centre of its main drag, it’s steeped in a local atmosphere that it has served as the backdrop to many a memorable movie. Trinkets, china, electronics, cheap watches, menswear, T-shirts, jade and antiques are all there to be haggled over. Foodies will also find clay pot rice, seafood, noodles and other treats to snack on.
Chung King Mansions Precinct: Brace yourself if you plan on visiting the ‘Mansions’ on the Kowloon peninsula. This place is a behemoth of five towers that include low-rent guesthouses, residential apartments, tatty offices, money changing booths, dodgy restaurants, electronic stores and market-style shops. It’s believed that up to 5,000 people live here with an additional 12,000 plus other shoppers and visitors on any one day from all over the world. Here they sell everything from dress-shirts to old clothing, used mobile phones to sleek HD TV sets. You can rent a room, haggle for fake sunglasses, buy luggage or eat Indian and Chinese food off one menu – old-world Hong Kong still exists in the ‘Mansions.’
360° Cable Car Ride: Travelling in a standard cabin or a crystal cabin with a glass-bottom floor is a spectacular way to travel across Lantau Island. The 5.7 km bi-cable gondola is the longest in Southeast Asia. As the first of its kind in Hong Kong, the cable car journey crosses Tung Chung Bay to reach the angle station on Airport Island and turns about 60 degrees in the air towards North Lantau. You’ll enjoy panoramic views during the 25-minute ride: the vistas of the distant and vast South China Sea and the rolling grassland slopes of North Lantau Country Park slowly take over from the hustle and bustle of the city. The journey also offers breathtaking views of Hong Kong International Airport, verdant mountainous terrain, Tian Tan Buddha, Po Lin Monastery and the 360-degree view of the Ngong Ping Plateau.
Hong Kong Heritage Museum: July 20th 2013 saw the 40th anniversary of the death of Bruce Lee, Hong Kong’s legendary son, martial arts fighter and movie star. On that date the government-run Hong Kong Heritage Museum’s “Bruce Lee: Kung Fu-Art-Life” opened an exhibition featuring 600 Lee-related artifacts, including loans from the Bruce Lee Foundation, the Hong Kong Film Archive and memorabilia from local and overseas collectors that showcases his life. Born in San Francisco, Bruce Lee grew up in Hong Kong where he became a child actor before staring in the USA in the Green Hornet TV series. The exhibition will also include the showing of a 75-minute documentary, The Brilliant Life of Bruce Lee, produced by the Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers. The exhibition is slated to run for five years at the museum.
Sail in a Real Chinese Junk:
Step on board the last authentic 50-year-old Chinese sailing junk in Hong Kong and set sail into the city’s Victoria Harbour for a cinemascope view of its cloud-reaching skyline. Originally owned and manned by Chinese fishermen, the Duk Ling is typical of the junks that plowed the waters off China and around Asia for 100s of years, a reminder of the adventure and intrigue that accompanied the early taipans and traders who settled here. The Hong Kong Tourism Board charter this junk twice a week (Thursday and Sundays) and for a fee of HK$100 per person, bona fide visitors to Hong Kong can obtain tickets (you must show your passport).
Hop on a Star Ferry: If you really want to see Victoria Harbour and pay very little then jump on a Star Ferry with iconic names such as Twinkling Star, Celestial Star and Morning Star. It only takes about eight minutes to cross from terminal to terminal on the iconic green and white ferryboats. Take a seat on the upper deck to get better views and to avoid the ghastly smell of diesel or the fight for even cheaper seats. On the journey you'll sail past shipping vessels from all over the world with a mind-blowing panorama of all that is Hong Kong. If you get the opportunity catch an evening ferry a few minutes before 8 p.m. These boats stop mid-harbour for a few moments so that tourists can take pictures of the ‘Symphony of Lights’ show — an amazing free spectacle that illuminates 44 skyscrapers with lights, lasers and fireworks.
Hiking Hong Kong: Our group was a little skeptical about leaving the famous Hong Kong skyline for the green, green grass of the outer reaches of Hong Kong. However under the guidance of Stephanie from Walk Hong Kong, a company that offers six guided half or full day hikes across some of Hong Kong’s most unpopulated and pristine areas, we headed out to hike the ‘Dragon’s Back Trail’ – famously hailed by Time Magazine as Asia´s best urban hike. The major reason this trail is popular is that it’s so close to the city, but you could hardly feel further away. The three hour plus hike delivers breathtaking views to the distant Nine Pins Islands, sandy Big Wave Bay, Tai Tam Harbour, the market village of Stanley and the Red Hill peninsula. Pick up a copy of either The Serious Hikers’ Guide to Hong Kong or The Leisurely Hikers’ Guide to Hong Kong.
The Peak Tram:
T: +852 2522 0922
Hong Kong Kayaking School
T: +852 5410 5015
Ozone Bar Ritz Carlton
T: +852 2263 2263
360° Gondola Ride
T: +852 2881 8888
Hong Kong Heritage Museum
T: +852 2180 8188
Sail in a Authentic Junk
T: +852 2508 1234
T: +852 2118 6201
Walk Hong Kong
T: +852 9187 8641
Shane Boocock travelled to Hong Kong and Macau courtesy of Air New Zealand. Go to: www.airnewzealand.co.nz
Ground arrangements in Hong Kong were courtesy of www.discoverhongkong.com/nz
If you would like to read this article in full or licence it for your own publication, please click here to contact Shane.