Hong Kong Layover in March – What to do in less than 2 days?
1. April 2019
For a long time Hong Kong was not on my bucketlist of cities that I wanted to visit. The main reasons for that were the Chinese food culture and the crowds of people… However, when my sister visited Hong Kong a couple years ago she sent some pictures and my curiosity for the city increased. The city looked unexpectedly green! Since that time, I was really looking forward to visit Hong Kong and could not shake the feeling that this city must somehow be something very special! When we had the opportunity to visit Hong Kong as a layover on our trip to Vietnam, I could hardly wait any longer.
We had 1.5 days in Hong Kong and I can definitely say that it was wayyy too short! This city has exceeded all my expectations and I totally fell in love with it. We have definitely made the best out of the time we had and I know that Hong Kong is high on my list in places I want to come back to.
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Hong Kong Layover – Where to sleep?
Hong Kong’s city center is divided by the sea into two parts. Most companies find their office space in one of the countless skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island and also most hotel chains are represented here as well. The influence of Western culture is extremely visible on Hong Kong Island which is reflected in the restaurant selection and bars that are available here. On the “mainland” or also called Kowloon are more residential neighborhoods but also countless hotels. Therefore, one could say that Kowloon is a bit more original than Hong Kong Island.
Unfortunately, Hong Kong is not very cheap. That’s why we decided to get the best value for money hotel wise we could get at this time. Our choice was the Best Western Plus Hotel in the western part of Hong Kong Island. We were very happy with our choice and the location of the hotel. The connection with the MTR, buses and the double-decker Tram was excellent. On foot it took us about 25 minutes to Central. Supposedly the hotel has large rooms for Hong Kong’s standards. The best thing about our room was for sure the incredible view though!
Basically, if the hotel is near an MTR stop, than you can be everywhere in the city quite fast. Therefore, personally I would make the decision on where to stay depending where you get the best value for money at that time.
Highlights – What to do in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has so much to offer. Of course, apart from the truly unique attractions, there are also attractions that exist in every major cosmopolitan city, such as Madame Tussaud’s. But these kind of offers have never really spoken to me and so here’s a list of the highlights that made Hong Kong special for me and things we missed due to the limited time we had but I wish we had done.
Hong Kong Island District Soho Soho is a trendy district on Hong Kong Island with many restaurants and bars. Since the old quarter extends over a mountain, it is quite steep. That’s why the midlevel elevator – one of the longest escalators in the world – has been built to make exploring this neighborhood even easier.
Victoria Peak Victoria Peak is very well known and yet it is absolutely worth it. The view over Hong Kong from Victoria Peak is simply incredible! There is the possibility to hike the mountain (554 m) up & down or use the famous Victoria Tram (a Swiss rack railway). The line for the tram can be quite long so its best to come early in the morning. Perhaps there are also Fast Track tickets available online for a certain time slot or as mentioned you can just hike up. We took the tram in the afternoon and bought our ticket sight. I think the total waiting time until we were up was about 50 minutes which wasn’t too bad (we were there in March). Once at the top there are several walks that you can hit. We decided to walk downhill because of the long queue for the tram dawn. The way down/ or up the hill is quite steep, but I could handle it with flip flops 🙂 – we needed about 40 minutes.
Piqniq Rooftopbar or IFC Mall For the evening I can recommend the terrace of the IFC Mall. It’s nice to enjoy the view or have a drink in one of the bars. The Rooftopbar Piqniq is also fancy- but you have to expect very high prices here.
Kowloon Choi Hung Estate Choi Hung Estate has become quite popular due to its colorful basketball court on top of a car park. It has become an Instagram spot and is therefore crowded during the day. If you want the perfect picture, you have to come early in the morning. We were there during lunchtime but I found journey to the northern part of the city totally worthwhile. Since a bus drove directly from our hotel to the estate we decided to go by bus. Besides we liked the thought of having a small city tour. However, my recommendation know would be to go with the MTR. Underground is just so much faster ….
Nan Lian Garden & Chi Lin Nunnery Just behind the Choi Hung Estate is the Nan Lian Garden and also the Chi Lin Nunnery. If you happen to be in this area of the city you should definitely not miss these two highlights. The view in the garden surrounded by green and the huge skyscrapers in the background fascinated me. Such a nice little oasis in the middle of the chaos :). But I especially liked the Chi Lin Nunnery. It is a large Buddhist temple complex in elegant wooden architecture. The complex includes lotus ponds, countless bonsai trees and a series of temple halls with gold statues. I loved it!
Mongkok Mongkok is the most densely populated part of Hong Kong and one of the most densely populated areas in the whole world. Nevertheless, an interesting place to float around and admire the houses. In this district you can fine the Lady Market and the Temple Night Market. While there are some stalls that sell nice and cheap clothes at the Lady Market, the rest is rather useless plastic crap. If you want a fake Fjällräven backpack or a Long Champ bag, you’ll find that there.
Star Ferry A highlight that we unfortunately couldn’t do due to our limited time was a ride on the Star Ferry. The ferry connects Hong Kong Island with Kowloon and the crossing can be used as a “photo tour”, because you get a great view of the skyline here. The ticket for the Star Ferry is apparently quite cheap.
Hikes in Hong Kong Had someone told me before that Hong Kong was a great hiking destination I probably would’t have believed that. Now I can imagine it very well and would like to make a few hikes there when I return to Hong Kong some day. Especially the Suicide Cliff hike seems to be breathtaking. So if you have enough time in Hong Kong, check some hikes out.
Expenses – How expensive is Hong Kong?
Unfortunately Hong Kong isn’t really a cheap city! Hotels are relatively expensive and you have to expect at least 70 € per room the night. Even hostel beds cost about 30-40 € the night. Costs in restaurants are approximately in the same price range as in Europe’s major cities. If you want to have a drink in one of the great rooftop bars the prices are extremely high.
However, Hong Kong is very easy to get around by public transport which is fairly cheap. An advantage of the MTR is that you can get faster from A to B underground and it is cheaper than going by taxi. The traffic in Hong Kong should not be underestimated and you definitely have to plan enough time on the streets when considering going by taxi or bus.
That does not mean that you have to spend a fortune in Hong Kong. Many attractions are free and with a bit of research you can also find cheaper dining options.
Food – How is Hong Kong’s food for a Vegetarian?
Hong Kong offers a variety of dining options. In addition to traditional Chinese dishes (such as dim sum), many other Asian restaurants, such as Vietnamese, Thai or Korean are represented in Hong Kong. Therefore you can find (especially on Hong Kong Island) American restaurant chains e.g. Shake shack or Italian food as well as Mexican food. Hong Kong is just very international.
If you’re in Hong Kong you definitely have got to try dim sum. Dim Sum is the Asian version of the Spanish Tapas and you order several little things which you then share with each other. At this point, it should be mentioned that most dishes in Hong Kong include fish or meat and also the sign for a vegetarian dish does not necessarily mean that it really is without fish or chicken. Personally, I’m not a pure vegetarian but I do not eat fish and I try to avoid meat as far as possible – because to be honest I simply don’t like the taste anymore! When we spontaneously landed in a dim sum restaurant in Mongkok, we ordered only the vegetarian dishes of the menu and were served dumplings with chicken and buns with crab meat. The waitress explained to us that it was a mushroom and crab meat imitation and no meat… but to be honest we didn’t really believe her because it just tasted exactly like fish and meat… As a strict vegetarian or someone like me that doesn’t like the taste of meat / fish should therefore do some research and find suitable restaurants before going out for lunch/dinner.
My recommendations for vegetarian restaurants: I can definitely recommend the LockCha Tea House on Hong Kong Island for vegetarians, as they serve only vegetarian dim sum. You can sit outside on a very nice square or inside in a cozy little restaurant. Unfortunately, it is not quite cheap, which is also due to the fact that you have to order one of the (quite expensive) teas when you eat. In terms of taste, however, I was very happy.
Mammy Pancake has THE best eggwaffles in Hong Kong. Especially after the failed Dim Sum adventure we’ve had they were my salvation. A snack that is always good and quite filling. You can customize it according to your preferences as they offer soooo many options.
Another restaurant I would have loved to try was MANA! This restaurant has been praised on other blogs for vegetarian and vegan options and is said to be reasonably priced too. During my next Hong Kong stay I will definitely test it!
Just opposite our hotel was the NOC Coffee Co. which I can definitely recommend for breakfast or light lunch. They offer many different coffees, teas, matcha lattes, cakes, pancakes or even avocado toasts.
I hope you enjoyed my blog entry and that I was able to help one or the other to get a good first impression of Hong Kong. If you have planned a trip there I wish you the best time eeeever and I would love to hear about your recommendations regarding food, hikes, accommodation and must-do’s in the comments.