Hong Kong is expensive. Super expensive. I scoffed when Dave told me to get out $600 for our weekend there and yet we ended up spending more than that. I thought Australia was pricey but Hong Kong goes far beyond it.
There are a lot of rich people living in this city. It’s a place for bankers and stock brokers, where a luxury apartment – although only a small two bedroom – costs AUS$10,000 a month to rent. Our friend who was hosting us tried to reassure us that you could live there for as little as $2,000 a month but I just couldn’t see how.
One morning, the three of us went out for brunch which consisted simply of eggs on toast and omelettes and it cost more than AUS$150!
It may be an expensive city but it’s one where a lot happens and we loved our time there. After coming from the Philippines where the food is dire and it’s distinctively third world, we relished being in a modern cosmopolitan city again.
We’ve come up with a great weekend itinerary for Hong Kong sightseeing so that you too can make the best of your time spent in the city.
Day One for Hong Kong sightseeing
It seems that on every corner of a Hong Kong street there’s a Rolex store. Okay, there might not be as many as that, but it’s evident the Cantonese love their top designer brands.
If you, like us, don’t have the budget for these kinds of items, head over to the Ladies Market where you can find all sorts of fakes, from designer handbags to women’s underwear.
Make sure you bargain hard though – one woman wanted AUS$60 from me for a fake handbag. I began walking away and she dropped the price very quickly.
How to get there: Take the underground to the Mong Kok station and exit at gate D3.
You can’t go to Hong Kong without eating Dim Sum, so head here for lunch after you’ve shopped your heart out in the markets. With our friend Ian, who’s been living in Hong Kong for more than four years, we took a taxi out to the Sha Tin district, in the New Territories, to the Star Seafood Floating Restaurant.
I felt like we’d hit the jackpot – we were the only non-Asian people in there and the waiters couldn’t speak English. A good sign that it was far from a tourist trap.
The place was packed too, which is saying something considering this restaurant was three floors high and feeds more than 1,000 people a day. We had to wait for a table.
The restaurant has beautiful views over the large windows overlooking the river, and the food is delicious and fresh. We steered clear of the chicken feet but ate other delicious dim sum dishes like steamed buns and dumplings.
Cost: We ordered a lot and it still only came to about $15 per person – a bargain for Hong Kong!
How to get there: Take the train to the Sha Tin station and get a cab to 55 Tai Chung Kiu Rd.
Go to the races
After you’ve finished your dim sum, head to the Sha Tin races with your belly full. The locals love it here and you might spot the odd foreigner in the crowd but it’ll be mostly Asian faces.
A day out at the races in Hong Kong is a little different to how we might consider the event in the west. For starters, we didn’t get dressed up and most people there were dressed in casual attire. And secondly, even though Sha Tin sells alcohol there didn’t seem to be many people drinking.
Instead, the locals come here to actually watch the horses race! Who would’ve thought…
We placed some bets and lost all our money. Our friend Ian won though! Sha Tin races are a fun way to see what the locals like to get up to on their days off.
Cost: The price is HK$10 to get into the races
How to get there: Get the underground to Sha Tin station
Temple Street Night Market
In the middle of Kowloon is the Temple Street Night Market. If you’re brave enough, you can come here to eat from the outdoor food stalls, getting some of the cheapest eats in Hong Kong.
The market is lively, with vendors selling everything from Chinese medicine to fake goods. You’ll see old men playing Chinese chess and you might even spot a few prostitutes.
This isn’t the high end part of town.
How to get there: The nearest MTR station is Jordan or Yau Ma Tei
Day Two for Hong Kong sightseeing
Brunch at Aberdeen St Social
Okay, so it might be expensive, but the brunch at Aberdeen St Social is delicious. I felt like I was at a café in London or Australia rather than in the centre of Hong Kong.
I had a tasty Virgin Mary with my poached eggs and avocado on toast and the drink was spicy and the food scrumptious. To finish I had a slice of chocolate cake and the only complaint is that it was too small – I could’ve eaten a lot more of it.
We saw some of the sandwiches coming out of the kitchen – like the Pastrami sandwich with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut, and had some serious food envy.
They do a decent flat white too.
Cost: About AUS$50 per person for brunch
How to get there: Aberdeen St Social is on 35 Aberdeen St, Central Hong Kong
Take the escalator to the Mid Levels
Sometimes in Hong Kong it feels like you’re in the future. You can pay for things using a card that you load up (Octopus) and everywhere you go has wi-fi.
The escalators are just another show of this modernism. I mean, why climb a hill when you can build an escalator to go up it? You should ride the escalator up the Mid Levels just for the fun of it.
The Central-Mid-Levels escalator is the longest outdoor escalator in the world and stretches for nearly a kilometre.
It’s a good way to sightsee through this trendy area of Hong Kong and you can stop off at one of the many bars along the way for a drink, or at a café for a coffee.
Cost: The escalator is free to ride.
How to get there: The escalator starts next to Central Station.
Ride the tram or hike to the top of the peak
Getting off the escalator in the Soho area of Hong Kong, you can walk through the maze of restaurants and stores to the Peak Tram which is located at the bottom of Peak Tower.
You can ride this old school tram up the hill that overlooks Hong Kong, arriving at the top which is known as the Peak. Here you will have sweeping views of the city.
Try and go when there isn’t too much smog and get there early so you don’t have to queue.
Alternatively, you can hike to the top of the Peak, which takes about one and a half hours. Do it at the beginning or end of the day to avoid the heat and be wary that it’s a steep climb.
At the Peak you will find a shopping centre with restaurants and a viewing platform which you have to pay to use. I don’t really think this Sky Deck is worth it, you get a decent view at the top without going on to this platform.
Cost: HK$83 return, HK$71 one way
How to get there: The Peak Tram is located on Cotton Tree Drive and you can walk there from Central Station. Here’s a full description of the directions.
Visit the Zoological and Botanical Gardens
After visiting the Peak, go to the Zoological and Botanical Gardens which are located just down the road. These gardens are some of the oldest in the world and are located on the Mid-Levels of Hong Kong. Aside from a playground, aviaries and gardens, there are also mammal and reptile exhibits.
Cost: It’s free to visit! (Wahoo, something free in Hong Kong!)
How to get there: Walk down the slope from the tram. It’s located on Albany Road
Take the Star Ferry
After you’ve explored the Peak, head back down the hill and to Hong Kong’s port to take the famous Star Ferry to the other side of the harbour, arriving at Kowloon.
Compared to other modes of transport, the Hong Kong ferry is very reasonably priced and gives you the chance to see Hong Kong from the harbour.
It’s a very old ferry and the sailors are dressed up in uniform, making you feel as though you’ve left modern Hong Kong for a moment.
When you get to the other side of the harbour, walk to the 1881 Heritage building, one of the oldest buildings in Hong Kong. Formerly the Marine Police Headquarters, the beautiful building has now been converted into a shopping and restaurant tourism complex.
Don’t forget to look at the canon on the top level – one of the surviving artefacts left over from the old days.
Cost: The ferry costs from HK$2.50.
How to get there: The ferry leaves from Central Star Ferry Pier, close to Central Station.
Le Marron Private Kitchen
After your day of exploring, finish off your Hong Kong experience with dinner at a private kitchen.
Dining at Le Marron was one of the best things we did while we were in Hong Kong. Hidden away at the top of an apartment building, behind a door that reads ‘Members Only’, this private kitchen is a secret restaurant.
There are a few of these private kitchens dotted around Hong Kong, but Le Marron is one of the oldest and most established. So what is a private kitchen? Basically it’s an unlicensed restaurant, and although illegal, the police in Hong Kong turn somewhat of a blind eye to them.
There are lots of advantages to eating in a private kitchen. First of all, the food quality has to be high because most people find out about them via word of mouth. Secondly, the prices tend to be a lot lower than other gourmet restaurants. And third, you can bring your own booze, because they are unlicensed venues, and you don’t even have to pay a corkage fee.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when we arrived in Le Marron but I was pleased to find it looked like a regular restaurant. Each dining table had its own partitioning via hanging curtains, and the whole restaurant was lit by low lighting and candles. It looked like something out of a French film.
The food was delicious – top notch French cuisine – and I dined on duck and fois gras, making me one happy lady.
Cost: We paid about AUS$100 per person for two courses and a shared dessert.
How to get there: The restaurant is located at 12/F, Ying Kong Mansion, 2–6 Yee Wo Street, Causeway Bay.
Booking: Make a reservation ahead of time via Le Marron website.
Get a foot massage
Your weekend is nearly over in Hong Kong! Finish off your time in this vibrant city by getting a foot massage. Stop by Big Bucket after dinner, which is down the road from Le Marron, and with a full belly try to resist nodding off as the staff wash your feet in scented water in a giant tub, before massaging them for an hour.
As an added touch, you also get a shoulder massage.
It’s the perfect way to end your time in Hong Kong!
Cost: It costs about AUS$35 per person for a one hour foot massage
How to get there: Big Bucket Foot Reflexology is located at Hoi Kung Court, 264-269 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay.
Tips for travelling in Hong Kong
Where to stay
We stayed in our friend Ian’s apartment, but we saw some good accommodation options if you’re stuck. The YMCA in Kowloon does not look like your regular hostel and recently went under a major renovation, making it look more like a world class hotel. A room here can cost more than $100 though.
If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, try Urban Pack, a friendly hostel where you can pay as little as $25 for a bed (an absolute bargain in Hong Kong).
If you have an unlimited budget, try the posh hotel called The Peninsula, one of the oldest and most luxurious hotels in Hong Kong. A room here will set you back about AUS$600 a night.
How to get there:
YMCA: 41 Salisbury Rd, Hong Kong
Urban Pack: 1410, 101 Nathan Rd, Hong Kong
The Peninsula: Salisbury Road, Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong
How to get around
The taxis are relatively cheap but sometimes it’s easier to get the underground. The tube system is clean and efficient, and if you travel outside of rush hour, it’s not too crowded.
You can also get the bus, which is the cheapest mode of transport. You can get route information from this website.
The easiest way to navigate the Hong Kong public transport system is via an Octopus card, which you can buy at the airport when you arrive. Simply top it up with money and use it to take any of the public transport system routes – even the ferry.
You can also use your Octopus card at shops, like a substitute bank card – which is handy!
Getting back to the airport
By far, the easiest way to get to and from the airport is to take the Airport Express train, which takes just over 20 minutes and leaves from Central Station. The best part about this train is that you can check your luggage in at the station!
We did this and then spent another hour or so in Hong Kong, meaning we didn’t have to get to the airport until around 45 minutes before our flight left, rather than the usual two hours.
If only all airports had this system.