While there are hundreds (if not thousands) of cities in the world worth visiting, there’s a few that just about everyone has on their list of ‘must-see’ cities and Hong Kong is one of them. Not only is Hong Kong one of the world’s three most important financial centres (alongside New York and London) and a major global trade hub, but it’s also the world’s number one tourist destination city. Top 100 City Destinations, published by Euromonitor International, has placed Hong Kong in the number one spot consistently since the 2010 data was published in 2012. Of course, a big reason Hong Kong is on the top is its proximity to mainland China and the massive increase in Chinese tourism around the world.
Hong Kong, officially ‘the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China‘, currently falls under the “one country, two systems” policy with China and thus retains a high degree of autonomy. The policy is in effect until 2047, fifty years after the end of British rule. One of the major benefits of the policy to foreigners is that you don’t need to go through a lengthy visa application to visit (you do for China).
Hong Kong is known as much for its modern skyline (it has a larger number of high rises than any other city in the world) and deep natural harbour as for being one of the world’s most densely populated metropolises. Thus, it was no surprise that our hotel-room was the smallest room I have ever stayed in: four walls and a bed, no room to spare (we hid our luggage under the bed)!
While in Hong Kong, we spent the majority of our time exploring the streets and neighbourhoods (spending minimal time in a miniature hotel room). *We skipped Victoria Peak and any other view-orientated attraction as every single day we were in Hong Kong the skyline was barely visible through the thick hovering haze/fog.
We rode the Star Ferry, a passenger ferry service across Victoria Harbour, between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, that doubles as a tourist attraction. Basically, it’s an excellent and inexpensive way to get out on the water without paying for a tour or boat cruise! Ferries have been running since the late 1800’s, although the ones currently in service are only as old as the 1950’s. About 70,000 passengers a day make the short voyage.
We also took a ride on the Hong Kong Tramways for no other reason then to be on them! The tram has been a form of commuter transport in Hong Kong for over 110 years and has become a major tourist attraction. The tram system is the only one in the world operated exclusively with double-decker trams. The oldest wooden cars – beautifully restored – appeared to be purely tourist attractions so we chose to ride on the ‘regular’ cars.
In keeping with the theme of trying to ride on all transportation related ‘tourist-attractions’ in Hong Kong, we went out of our way to experience the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world just for the fun of it! The Central–Mid-Levels escalator and walkway system takes about 20 minutes to ride the entire way and covers over 800 metres in distance and elevates over 135 metres. The unusual method of transport was constructed in 1993 to provide a better commute by linking areas within the Central and Western District on hilly Hong Kong Island. As of 2010, over 85,000 trips were made per day and in 2015 it was featured on the CNN website as one of the coolest commutes in the world!
The escalators only runs in one direction: downhill from 6:00 am to 10:00 am and uphill from 10:30 am to midnight. Meaning we had a long walk back down once we reached the top!
We admired the first signs of spring!
And we took in the cool street art – I can’t get enough of paintings on stairs, there’s something so wonderful about them!
We wandered the streets at night too.
And lastly, we had the delight of meeting up with a couple we met in Bohol from Canada who are currently living in Hong Kong. We agreed on dim-sum for dinner and Olivia suggested we dine at Tim Ho Wan, aka the World’s Cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant; obviously, I did not argue. The first Tim Ho Wan was a 20-seat restaurant opened in 2009 by former dim-sum master of a three-Michelin-starred restaurant. In 2010, Tim Ho Wan earned a Michelin star of its own in the Hong Kong and Macau Guide, “a distinction which some have stated was a move in response to the criticism that the Michelin Guide was ‘elitist’ and ‘out of touch with local tastes’.” Since then, multiple branches of the restaurant have opened in Hong Kong as well as international locations across Asia. (By 2015, two other Hong Kong branches had also received one Michelin Star.)
When we visited this low-key dim sum restaurant it was filled with regulars who probably had no idea, or at least no care, for the fact that they were dining on Michelin-star quality food. We were visibly outsiders in the restaurant and stood out as the only foreigners. Luckily the checklist style menu was written in both Chinese and English, although descriptions were limited and sometimes we really had no idea what was coming. Everything we ordered (and we ordered as much as possible, wanting to try as many dishes as we could) was simple yet delicious. Even after eating to our heart’s desire it ended up being one of our cheapest meals in Hong Kong!
*We also did a day-trip to Macau, but more on that in another post!