Hong Kong had always fascinated me with its bright lights, unique heritage and ornate temples, and I was eager to experience this alluring culture for myself. As a child, I remember the home of a Chinese friend being adorned with pictures of Hong Kong, ornaments, tea sets and fabrics. All these objects interested me, and I hoped that one day I would get the chance to experience them for myself.
Finally, on day 65 of our round the world trip I had made it and was ready to immerse myself in everything Hong Kong had to offer me on a three-day trip.
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Transport in Hong Kong
Hong Kong airport is a 30 min journey to Kowloon, in good traffic, but it took us nearly 50 mins, and although I had pre-booked a taxi this was the most expensive airport to hotel transfer I have ever paid. There are other public transport options, but for me, a taxi is the easiest way to get to your hotel.
Where should you stay?
Divided into two main areas, Hong Kong Island is the home of Victoria Peak while Kowloon is the home of modern culture and the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade. I had chosen to stay at the 5* Royal Garden Hotel Kowloon as it was only a block from the waterfront and I wanted the iconic view back across to Hong Kong Island.
Day One: Morning
Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade contains the Avenue of Stars, the History, Art and Space museums and a cultural centre. Its main feature is the fantastic views of the Hong Kong skyline towering over Victoria Harbour.
The Avenue of Stars modelled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, is on the waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui and honours celebrities of the Hong Kong film industry. It features a statue of Bruce Lee, one of Hong Kong’s biggest stars.
Things to see and do in Kowloon
The Peninsula Hotel is worth visiting to say you have been! From the supercars on the drive to the high-end jewellery shops inside, it is clear to see that this is a rich man’s playground. You can have coffee and cake in the lobby but if you feel underdressed then have a look around and vow to return another time in a more befitting outfit.
The Hong Kong Museum of History is located along the waterfront and immerses you in the history and culture of Hong Kong.
The Clock Tower is a landmark in Hong Kong. It is located on the southern shore of Tsim Sha Tsu and is the only remnant of the original site of the former Kowloon Railway Station.
Star Ferry Pier is where you embark on taking the ferry across Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island and near to the Clock Tower. It is famous having been in service since 1888, and no trip to Hong Kong would be complete without experiencing what National geographical describes as “one of 50 places of a lifetime.”
Once we left the waterfront, we headed into the main streets of Kowloon with shops selling everything you could imagine and sky-high blocks of flats. Shopkeepers will inundate you with offers to make you a suit, and with every other shop being a tailor, we had no escape. Just tell them firmly “no thank you”, and you will be left alone unless of course, a bespoke suit is something you want!
Day One: Evening
Cruising Victoria Harbour at Night
We booked a trip tonight on Hong Kong’s only original 3-mast Chinese junk with Dukling.com. The trip would sail around Victoria Harbour so we could watch the Symphony of Lights show which is on every evening. Constructed in 1955, the Dukling was used by fishermen as a place of work and also home. There are other similar looking boats in Victoria Harbour, but this is the only original one, and when you step aboard, it feels like you are experiencing a piece of Hong Kong’s history.
We weren’t as impressed with the Symphony of Lights as we had hoped to be as we felt that after visited Singapore where the light shows are amazing this was no match.
Day Two: Full Day
Day Three: Morning
Today we decided to take the Star Ferry from Kowloon across to Hong Kong Island and explore what the other side of the harbour had to offer. Our first stop was to visit Victoria Peak by way of the Peak Tram.
When we arrived there was a long queue to get on the tram, and in the heat of the day, it was quite a long uncomfortable wait. I would recommend having plenty of water with you. After a lot of pushing and shoving, we finally made it to the front of the queue and boarded the tram to make our way up the hill.
Riding on The Peak Tram
One of the world’s oldest and most famous funicular railways, the tram rises to 396 metres (about 1,300 feet) above sea level. It goes quite fast, and you are at a real incline in your seat as it goes up the hill, so the buildings you pass look like they are leaning. The residents still use this tram as a way of reaching their homes, so you do get to stop a couple of times during the journey should you wish to get off and walk the rest of the way. We chose to stay in our seats!!
Before you can get out to the viewing platform of the Peak, you have to walk through an entertainment complex including Madame Tussauds, 3D photo area, many food outlets and souvenir shops. My son who was travelling with me had promised to bring something back for his friends, so we seized the opportunity to buy 15 (yes 15!) golden cats with the waving paw, the Chinese symbol for luck. It’s worth bargaining as we got quite a few souvenirs at low prices.
We exited the complex and were blown away by the view that confronted us. The view was what we had come here for, and it was a clear day to admire the view.
We wandered around The Peak taking in all it had to offer. There is a walking track that we started to investigate which leads all around the Peak and there are maps on the walls to tell you where you are going. It’s good to see there are still some of the original houses dotted around despite everything else being so modern.
Man Mo Temple
Our next stop was to be Man Mo Temple, so we jumped in a taxi and headed to Hollywood Road (yes it is called that), the first-ever street in Hong Kong.
Located between the towering skyscrapers along this iconic road is one of Hong Kong’s oldest and most acclaimed temples. Constructed in 1847, Man Mo Temple pays tribute to the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo) and is one of the top temples to visit in Southeast Asia.
When we entered, the thick smoke took my breath away, and I couldn’t stop coughing! Giant incense coils line the roof having been lit and hung by worshippers. Incense coils are considered food for the spirits and purification of the surroundings. The temple should be on your itinerary as it is a fascinating place to visit and steeped in tradition and beliefs.
Incense urns and roof coils
The ornate door welcomes you into the temple.
After World War II Hollywood Road and its surrounding streets became the centre for antiques and curios and remains the same today. We had a look in the shops and found a curio store that was a treasure trove of antiquities. Inside it was dark and dusty and felt almost magical, and we wondered just what stories these objects could tell us.
We also came across carvings made from Mammoth tusks! Where were they getting these protected items from in the 21st century? Surprisingly the answer was Siberia. From tusks still buried deep in the ice, intricate carvings are crafted from the ivory. The sculptures are beautiful but come with a hefty price tag.
Day Three: Evening
We carried on wandering along the adjoining roads to head towards the world’s longest escalator called the central mid-level escalators. On our way there we noticed how much street art was all around us. There are so many cities in Asia to see street art, but for some reason, I was surprised to see so much of it in Hong Kong.
Mid Central Escalators
We finally reached the famous mid-central escalators and entered them to take a ride to the top. It is a long way to the top, but you can exit at different points to visit restaurants and bars. We stayed on to the top before realising the only way back down was to take the steps! We were both unanimous that this was not an option and jumped into a taxi to take us back to the port to catch the Star ferry home. The sun was setting, and we both agreed it was the perfect end to the day.
Our incredible 3-day adventure had finished, and we would leave Hong Kong with fond memories along with ten gold lucky nodding cats, a silk kimono, incense sticks, silk make-up bags and hundreds of photos!
My honest opinion of Hong Kong and Kowloon
What month did I travel? March
How was the weather? It was hot and dry.
Would I recommend the hotel? The Royal Garden Kowloon offers 5-star luxury, and a separate review is here.
Would I recommend three nights in Hong Kong and Kowloon? Definitely. They both have a different vibe which is good. Kowloon is modern with its ultra-sleek museums and luxury hotels, while Hong Kong Island is more traditional. A trip to Lantau Island should also be high on your trip itinerary.
This destination is continually evolving and has been doing so since the Chinese regained it from the British. It is a vibrant place which will be an assault on your senses sound and colour all around you. It will also delight you with its traditions and history.