Many people know Hong Kong as the perfect shopping and eating destination in Asia and you can find good food almost everywhere you go. I try to visit Hong Kong every year to stock up on dried goods for the kitchen and also to fulfill my cravings for the fantastic dim sum and congee that you can find there. To make it easy for first timers, there are a couple of things you will definitely need to experience when you are in Hong Kong.
1.Do a free walking tour
Many people are not aware that Hong Kong has free walking tours as well while this is really common in many main cities in Europe. Similar to many of the free walking tours in Europe, these agencies work on a tips only basis. Most of the walks last for about 3 hours and will bring you to historic buildings or even local markets to just immerse yourself in the local culture or food. There are a couple of tours that does this free walking tour but I would recommend this company as they are the First to do this initiative and the only to receive the Trip Advisor certificate of excellence. You can find out more from their website here. I highly recommend such tours for the solo traveler.
For those who are purely interested in just the food culture of Hong Kong and would like to experience a day of feasting just like the locals can also sign up for some of these special food tours which are payable but has many different categories of tours that will satisfy any foodie. Check them out here
2.Climb a mountain
Most passionate hikers would already know this but most tourist probably would not plan this as part of their itinerary. There are many hiking trails in Hong Kong with beautiful scenery and landscape but one of the most popular and easiest to hike is probably the Dragon’s back.
The Dragon’s Back is a ridge in southeastern Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, between Wan Cham Shan and Shek O Peak. It lies within the Shek O Country Park. In 2004 the Dragon’s Back Trail was selected by TIME Asia as the best urban hiking trail. Dragon’s Back is part of Stage 8 of the Hong Kong Trail. ( Source Wikipedia)
‘Dragon’s Back’ refers to the path rolling along the ridges from Shek O Peak to Wan Cham Shan. At 284 metres high, the hilltop sightseeing platform on Shek O Peak is the perfect place to catch your breath while enjoying the panorama of Shek O, Tai Long Wan and even Tung Lung Island
3.Eat dim sum like a local
Dim Sum, the national dish of Hong Kong but to be more accurate dim sum really originated from China since some 2,500 years ago and is closely linked to the Cantonese cuisine. Today, you can enjoy some versions of dim sum almost at all corners of the world but nothing beats the real experience of having dim sum in a traditional local Cantonese restaurant during breakfast or peak hours.
It can be quite a daunting experience as you step into one of these super crowded restaurants during a Sunday morning (noted as the dim sum day) You will get to experience queuing up to get a table, sharing a table with the local neighbourhood uncle and most importantly the screaming or shouting across tables to the dim sum ladies pushing the carts. In some cases, because the quantity of dim sum is limited, you have to rush to these carts and snatch up the dim sum you want to have and this usually happens during peak period. If you are too slow, you might either miss out on the popular items or wait for a few rounds before the supply of the dim sum from the kitchen is regulated. If you can speak Cantonese, you can even pick up a conversation with the uncle.
4. Visit the Buddha and have a vegetarian meal
This is probably on most guide books and I would say that it is definitely worth your time and a spot in your itinerary. After getting immersed in the bustling environment in Hong Kong City, Lantau island is a great place to get away from the busy pace and give yourself a peaceful retreat. You might not be a Buddhist but it is still a great place to take in some beautiful scenery and sights.
Lantau island is only 1hr from main Hong Kong island by cable car and the entire experience starts from the glass bottomed cable cars (there are normal cable car as well ) you take across the mountains to arrive at the Ngong Ping Village. Ngong Ping Village is a culturally themed village designed and landscaped to integrate into the scenic nature of Ngong Ping. On top of shopping, dining and entertainment, there are also some new interactive activities like the VR 360, Motion 360 and Walking with Buddha to capture new visitors.
10 mins from Ngong Ping village, you will reach the famous giant Buddha with 268 steps. The majestic outdoor bronze Buddha statue sits solemnly atop the peak of Mount Muk Yue. It is seated south and facing North towards Beijing, the capital of China. The statue was modeled after Siddhartha, who achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. The “imparting fearlessness” mudra of the right hand indicates compassion to save all sentient beings from their sufferings; the “fulfilling wishes” mudra of the left hand resting on the lap, implies the vow to grant blessing and happiness to all.
After visiting the Big Buddha, you can proceed to Po Lin Monastery for a vegetarian meal which is famous as many Hong Kong people travel here to pray and take the meal as a process of detoxing from from sins and for the body. The monastery has made it easy for tourist to try the meals by selling meal coupons for 2/3/4 pax or more. By showing the meal coupons, you are served accordingly. All the meals are light and natural without too much fancy decorations to practice the simple ways of Buddhism. Do remember to finish up everything served so there is no wastage of food.
Bonus: Before leaving Lantau Island, do try the bean curd pudding in the many stores around Lantau Island as they are out of this world and is better than the ones in Hong Kong due to the mountain spring water used to make the dessert. You will never regret it and in fact you might never eat other bean curd pudding anymore.
5. Take in the night view at the Peak
The peak in Hong Kong is famous for being the place where all the rich and famous of Hong Kong stay and also the place to get the best night view of the entire city. The best way to get to the peak is to take the tram which operates from Garden road. Taking the tram, you will slowly enjoy the view of the mid level housing all the way to the top.
Once you reach the top, you can proceed to the Sky Terrace 428; standing at 428 metres above sea level, is the highest viewing platform in Hong Kong offering a stunning 360-degree panoramic view across the Hong Kong. The peak tower also houses many famous restaurants and shops where you can shop and eat to your heart’s content while getting the best view of the city. Once you are done, you can experience taking the mini bus that most locals consider as their main transport around Hong Kong.
There are many other activities you can do in Hong Kong so these are just 5 on my list which is pretty unique to the country and would give you an experience you might not find in other countries.