I’m getting to travel quite a bit for work lately and this week my job took me to both Hong Kong and China. While in Hong Kong, I planned a buffer day to stay and check out the city before heading home – 24 hours in Hong Kong.
A huge advantage I had going into my free day was the guidance of my local co-workers, Allan and Yan Yee. The two of them kindly committed to showing me around in the afternoon and evening which left me to my own devices (and internet research) on how to occupy my morning. After reviewing a few Trip Advisor notes and other travel blogs, visiting Victoria's Peak was the obvious choice.
My office booked me a the Ovolo Hotel Central and I was VERY happy with my accommodations. Mostly because of the hotels amenities (free WiFi, minibar, happy hour service, laundry, breakfast and just a really nice place overall) but also because of the location. The Ovolo is in the heart of where all the 'action' happens (nightlife, shopping) but also it's extremely walkable to many of the sites on my list including Victoria's Peak.
I left my hotel around 7:30am because jet lag and I don't do well... and because I had read some reviews to get to the Peak early and miss the crowds - this was an excellent recommendation and I advise you do the same. That early in the morning the weather was still tolerable (around 75 degrees), the breeze was blowing, the sun was out, and yes... I completely missed the crowds that usually occupy this very popular tourist attraction.
There were two options to get to the peak: take the tram or hike. Because I'm an adventurous person and love physical activity, I hiked and it was awesome! From hotel door to the point it was just under an hour. The nearly 3 mile trek (one way from hotel to Peak) was a good mix of concrete steps on my way out of the city and then plush paved paths that lead to the top.
The scene was incredible and while I got extremely sweaty the hike was well worth the effort. After snapping a few photos (and catching my breath) my timing was perfect - Starbucks had just opened its doors and I grabbed some caffeine and sat at one of the many empty tables enjoying the sunshine.
The hike to the peak is free (not including the Starbucks!) and if you're not into hiking, the tram costs around $5 U.S. one way.
I headed back down the trail and aimed for the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens which is located just up the street from my hotel - again, the hotel is so centrally located. The zoo/gardens are free and quite lovely. There were orangutans, lemurs, giant tortoises and the green houses had more orchids than I've ever seen. Cost is free and if you're in the area it's worth a stop.
I met up with Wen Li and Allan at 1pm after my much needed shower and grabbing some brunch back at the hotel. Here were the highlights:
P.M.Q - An acronym for Police Married Quarters, P.M.Q. is a repurposed old housing facility where local police officers families lived. The revamped space now houses small shops, cafes, design studios, cooking schools, and more and was a great place to explore for a while. Prices and products ranged from affordable to splurge and jewelry to furniture. More than anything, I loved the concept of taking old bones and finding new life. This place was thriving.
Man Mo Temple - This is the oldest temple in all of Hong Kong and although not very big (especially compared to it's towering skyscraper neighbors) the inside makes a big impact - both visually and on the nostrils. Buddhists go there to light incense and make prayers to the heavens above. There are a few oscillating fans to help with the smoke but with the incense constantly burning you walk out of there with 'prayers' in your lungs. It's a great place to pick up on some local history and religious experience. Entry is free.
The Star Ferry - Allan insisted on taking the Star Ferry from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon. He admitted he likes, 'feeling the wind on his face,' but his recommendation was confirmed as we make the 10 minute passage to a rooftop bar for an alternative view that I got from the Peak in the morning - it was great. A ticket costs somewhere in the .25 cent range U.S. which I found quite funny. So cheap! It was a great view looking back at Hong Kong Island where you get to see all the iconic skyscrapers including the one used in Batman.
Yardbird the restaurant - Once back on Hong Kong Island we grabbed food at Yardbird where they specialize in 'Yakitori' which means skewered meat, and if you know me at all you know I love me some meat on a stick! Our shared dishes included chicken meatballs, scotch eggs, bison tongue, fried corn, and mushrooms. It was very very good. They also have a great specialty cocktail menu. I ordered a Shino which is a gin based drink with black sugar and shiso - a local juice.
Other things I recommend while in town if you have the time include eating Dim Sum which is a traditional Chinese dish consisting of many assortments of small plates including dumplings, egg tarts, vegetables, noodles and much much more. Because I had locals on my side, they knew where to order take out from but I've read many recommendations to have Dim Sum at Maxims Place. Also, if I had more time I would have visited the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. Wen Li and Allan told me it was too far outside the city and would take our whole free day but is cool to see if you're into giant buddhas and such.
Overall, Hong Kong is a very travel friendly city: most everyone speaks English, Uber operates there, and the airport is one of the best and most efficient in the world. The climate is very hot and humid (I wore my hair up the entire time) and you're going to want some good walking shoes.
Last, I'm introducing a new segment to the blog titled POSTSCRIPT. In my travels and even in day to day life I've discovered that I 'consume' in trends. From books to food, here I'll share my notes on things that are currently keeping my attention. Enjoy!
- The Minimalists Podcast - Two friends sharing their experience on how to live a minimalist lifestyle.
- The book Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal - A book about adaptability and agility and the importance of it within teams.
- LARABARs, snack on the go - Approximately 200 tasty calories of pure ingredients and goodness. Nut based bars for curbing the appetite.
- @anthonybourdain on Instagram - I'm not sure why I wasn't following him sooner.