A College Girl's Guide to Hong Kong
Back in April, I spent a whirlwind four days in Hong Kong. It was a crazy few days of exploring a city unlike any that I’ve been to before. From the food to the culture, to the people, it was an adventure I’ll never forget. This blog post is the first travel guide I’ve written for A College Girl, so brace yourself, I’m a little new to this category. I thought the best way to break it down is to chat about the best places to see, do, and eat all while on A College Girl budget. So without further ado, let’s get started!
Things to See & Do
Tian Tan Buddha (also known as the Big Buddha) at Lantau Island
Visiting the Big Buddha was an unforgettable experience that I highly recommend you taking the time to visit and spend your day at Lantau Island.
To get there, take a train to Ngong Pine, which is about a 30-minute train ride from Hong Kong Island’s city center. From there, you take a cable car, that takes you from the city to Lantau Island. When I took the cable car, I bought the package that allows you to choose the glass bottom cable car on the way up to the Big Buddha and their standard metal-bottom cart on the way down.
It was breathtaking to watch the city below you transform from a bustling town, to still water, to a lush mountain valley. This whole ride takes about 30 minutes, so make sure your phone or camera is handy, because you’ll be taking pictures the entire time.
Hidden away by the mountains is the Po Lin Monastery, home to the Tian Tan Buddha statue. To get to the base of the Buddha, you have to climb 268 steps, but it’s worth it to see the view of the mountains and even the sea on a clear day. When I went, I got there early in the morning before the majority of tourists arrived (around 10:30 AM). I’m grateful that I set my alarm pretty early that day because it was a tranquil experience, and I was lucky to watch a prayer ceremony take place. If you’re an early bird (or unable to sleep because of jet lag), you should definitely try to get there in the morning.
Tai O Fishing Village
From the Tian Tan Buddha, you can hail a taxi to get from the coastal town of Tai O, which is about a 10/15 minute ride. Make sure you have plenty of cash of you, it’s about 100HK dollars each way ($12.75US), and they don’t accept cards.
This is a great area to walk around and explore the small fishing village that is nestled away by the surrounding mountains. The people that live there are the Tanka people, who are a community of fisher folks who built all of their homes on stilts above the tidal flats that flow through the Lantau islands. You’ll notice how all of the houses are interconnected, which quite literally forms a tight-knit community as a result. I highly recommend seeking out the shop that makes fresh Thai donuts covered in sugar, they’re warm, melt in your mouth, and a great snack. Below are some pics of the village!
Climb up The Peak on the Peak Tram
This was one thing I didn’t get to do because it was under construction, but everyone I talked to recommend taking the Peak Tram to the top of The Peak to get an excellent overview on the city. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even hike to the top of this mountain! Click here for more info about it :)
Get an Octopus card and ride the trains, trams, and buses, oh my!
Once you land in Hong Kong, one of the first things you need to do is get an Octopus Card & an Airport Express ticket. The airport express ticket is a one-way pass to the city on a high-speed bullet train and is the most convenient way to get to the city. Additionally, the octopus card is your one-stop shop for all your money needs. This card you preload with at least 150HK dollars ($19US), and it will allow you to ride the trains, trams, buses, AND it can be used as a debit card at most shops and restaurants. If you’re worried about carrying a wallet around with your cards and cash, this can be a great alternative. It’s also super easy to top-up your Octopus card at any train station.
Ride the Central to Mid-Levels Escalator
This is kind of a quirky thing to try out in Hong Kong. The Mid-Levels Escalator is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world that is over 800m long and connects locals to different areas in Hong Kong’s Central District. I rode it one morning and jumped off to grab a coffee at one shop, then continued up it until I saw a breakfast cafe in the SoHo area. It’s definitely a unique way to get around the city, but I wouldn’t go out of your way to try it if you don’t have time.
Yuen Po Street Bird Garden & Flower Market
If you love strolling around local markets, then I suggest hopping on a train in the morning and make your way to Prince Edward station in Kowloon. This area is home to the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden & Flower Market, which is home to all of the birds & flowers you could imagine (duh). The Bird Garden is designed in the style of a traditional Chinese garden and home to exotic birds, hand-crafted bamboo cages, and related trinkets. The Flower market is next door to the bird garden and a peaceful place to stroll through in the morning with a latte and egg tart for breakfast (side note: there’s a great little stall in the middle of the flower market that sells these egg tarts, and they were delicious. Writing this is making me crave them big time).
Mong Kok Markets
Kowloon is home to the Mong Kok markets, which is home to literally anything you could imagine. From clothes to food, to animals, and toys, each street has a specific area dedicated to selling the items you’re lusting after. A few streets I checked out were Fa Yuen Street (aka Sneaker Street) is is a 200-yard section piled high with every type of sneaker known to man. If you want to buy the latest Nike’s or Yeezy’s, this is the spot to find them. And if you can’t grab the latest style, there’s probably a counterfeit waiting for you at the Ladies Market down the street. Now don’t get confused with the name, this market isn’t exclusively for women, but you will be able to find all the fashion knock-offs over here. This is a great place to test out your bargaining skills and go home with a new designer bag (just don’t tell your friends where you actually got it from).
Some other novelty markets in this area are the goldfish market and the pet store street, which is home to the cutest kittens and puppies I’ve ever seen. It was so hard to not go home with them,
Festival Walk Mall in Kowloon
Now if shopping at different street vendors isn’t your thing, I recommend going to the Festival Walk Mall, which is a massive mall home to over 200 of the most popular name brands in a skylit building. There’s also great food here to try out, and it’s a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the streets of Kowloon.
Hong Kong Park
On the morning of my flight back to the states, I had some time to kill and decided to go to Hong Kong Park. I’m SO happy I went because it gave off Central Park vibes with a green oasis in the middle of a big city. I stumbled across a waterfall, ponds, and a mini-zoo area that featured beautiful tropical birds! Hong Kong Park is a great place to go if you’re ever overwhelmed by the city life and need a place to get away and unwind
Eat / Drink
At a Michelin-starred restaurant
Hong Kong is known to be home to the most Michelin-starred restaurants, at an extremely affordable price. You can visit restaurants with 5-star quality meals and spend under $10USD.
Ozone Sky Bar
Treat yourself to a fancy night out by going to the highest bar in the world at the OZONE, a rooftop sky bar on the 118th floor of the Ritz Carlton in the ICC Tower. The ambiance is incredible and is known for its stunning views of the city. Unfortunately, on the night I went, the outdoor deck was closed due to poor weather, but I still enjoyed my time sitting inside the bar and people watching. If you decided to go, dress nicely as there is a dress code and I highly recommend trying the “Don’t Look Down” cocktail.
Drink & Party anywhere in Lan Kwai Fong
Lan Kwai Fong is the party district of Hong Kong and is home to over 90 restaurants and bars and will suit any of your party needs. If you go on the weekend, prepared the streets to be packed and bouncers, encouraging you to enter their bar. Head out for a drink and enjoy a night you’ll (hopefully) remember.
Visiting this restaurant was a spur of the moment decision, and it was hands-down my favorite meal I had. Zagin Soba is a boutique restaurant with a couple of options on their menu. I tried their signature chicken soup ramen, which is described on their menu as a “cappuccino style chicken soup features a foamy and frothy layer, it gives every bite of noodles a silky texture and heavenly taste.” And heavenly is the best way to describe it. From the pictures, it may not look like a showstopper, but this is the one meal I would seek out if I was ever in Hong Kong again.
Thank you so much for making it to the end of the blog post, I know it was a long one. Let me know if you liked this type of posts and want more travel guides in the future!
xx A College Girl