How To Spend: 48 Hours In Hong Kong

4 December 2018

The first stop of our nine-month long trip was Hong Kong, the vibrant southeastern city in China known for its neon night sky and for being a melting pot of oriental and western cultures. One of my good friends Rachel - check out her Instagram, her Glossier-pink aesthetic's a dream - is from there and sent us off with her ultimate guide to Hong Kong (as well as some eye masks for the plane, thanks Rach) so shoutout to her for being the source of most of these fantastic recommendations!

We booked an Airbnb in a district of Kowloon called Tsim Sha Tsui and were so happy with it! We've had nothing but positive experiences using Airbnb and the location on Granville Road was ideal, with great transport links and tons of personality. One of those places that you can stroll around and know your way home within a few hours! Tsim Sha Tsui is great for fancier shopping (e.g. the malls on Canton Road) but is also packed with cheaper little independent stores and really casual eateries.

The journey was pretty tiring as (after a nine-hour flight) we had a long stopover in Mumbai (before another six-hour flight) so we were dragging our little feet off the plane, but Hong Kong airport is wonderful and the tube-esque Airport Express makes arriving such a breeze, especially if you're disabled or have heavy luggage that makes stairs or platforms difficult. We decided to treat ourselves to a taxi to our Airbnb as we were so sleepy, and it couldn't have been clearer which way to go and which one to get - there are even boards before you get to the taxi ranks explaining how much you should expect to pay. Our driver was as eccentric and hilarious as they come, serenading us with a rendition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer before dropping us off outside our door.

Slightly delirious from travelling for thirty hours with no sleep and with a further three to kill until we could get into our Airbnb, we wandered down Granville Road and ducked into a place called Hungry Pug. I think we assumed we were hallucinating from lack of sleep and food as everything was pug-related: the crockery, the cups, the artwork - pugs as far as the eye can see! We ordered two beers (served in 'pug mugs', obviously) as well as the soup and salad of the day each with a Thai red curry to share (the rice was in the shape of a dog's bone, props for the attention to detail) and tea afterwards which came to about £30. The owner was super friendly and the place was packed by lunchtime.

After a five-hour nap at our Airbnb we headed out in search of noodles, ending up at Mak's on Wellington Street - they specialise in wonton noodles so Will had the beef and tomato and I had the spring onion with ginger and garlic. It came with a vegetable broth (so soothing on my post-flight throat) and we also shared a side of oyster sauce kale, which seemed like tenderstem broccoli to us. If you’re looking for a simple and traditional plate of food with attentive service, you won’t go far wrong with Mak’s!

One of the coolest (or I guess, warmest!) things restaurant-wise about Hong Kong was the tea experience, as we were given hot green/jasmine tea as soon as we sat down in every place we ate in. An evening favourite was HAKU for the coldest glass of white wine I've ever had in my life, served with a side of edamame in gorgeous puffer-fish pottery.

Make sure you stroll down to the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade on Victoria Harbour in the evening for a stunning view of the vibrant skyline (you’ll literally say ‘wow’ out loud when you turn the corner and see it for the first time) and take time to sit and watch the ferries coming and going.

We weren’t sure what the breakfast situation would be like and wondered whether we’d be slurping up ramen at 7am, but we found a great little joint called N1 with an interior that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Hoxton or Shoreditch. Our pot of tea came in the most beautiful tea-set adorned with golden birds for the handles! The breakfast menu was extensive and everything sounded amazing (especially the filled bagels) but we both went for the crushed avo on toast, and I ordered mine sans poached eggs. When they arrived Will’s was this mouthwatering feast with artisanal sourdough and a hefty rocket/tomato/balsamic side salad, whereas mine was plain sliced avocado on one piece of untoasted wholemeal - so maybe don’t go off-piste when it comes to the blackboard!

Central Hong Kong is well worth a visit, especially if you’re staying in Tsim Sha Tsui as you get the pleasure of riding the Star Ferry - the views as you cross the harbour are stunning, it’s also the cheapest option compared to a taxi or the subway and you can also book to see a laser show. If you’re not using Octopus (pretty much Hong Kong’s answer to an Oyster card) make sure you take out some change to buy your Star Ferry token with, then enjoy five minutes of bliss taking in the sights.

The vibe in central felt way more corporate - think lots of expensive cars, groups of men in suits having after-work drinks and a ginormous glowing Apple Store. If you’re a fan of busy city centres filled with skyscrapers and modern wine bars, you’ll love central! 

Craving the laidback feel of Tsim Sha Tsui amongst the hustle and bustle we headed down a quieter side street and decided to eat at Hungry Korean on Wo On Lane, a chain restaurant promising “food that has been prepared with a little bit of love and integrity with no MSG or artificial ingredients”. As a vegetarian I’d been finding some places tricky, so we asked before entering and were assured by the friendly waitress that the vermicelli dish would be one of the best meals I’d have on the trip - and she was so right! It was absolutely delicious, as was Will’s pork bi bim bap which is their most popular dish. The waitress told him that the trick with bi bim bap is to keep stirring so you get all the taste and crispness of the well-cooked rice at the bottom. The panko breadcrumbing on the  shrimp was extremely light, and the laver rolls made a great seaweed-based vegetarian alternative with a slightly spicy soy dipping sauce. It’s happy hour after 5pm there too, so our mugs of beer were 2-for-1!

Lan Kwai Fong is a lively neighbourhood in central know for its nightlife - think the strips of bars you get in places like Tenerife! - with lots of people on the street enticing you into their joint with the promise of lurid green jelly shots. There's a more cultural side of it too however, like Tai Kwun which is a restored colonial prison dating back to the mid-19th century that's now the Centre For Heritage & Arts. Here you can see the original 16 buildings and read about the history of the prison as you explore, and visit a host of restaurants and bars. 

You definitely don’t want to miss out on seeing the skyline from an extreme height whilst you’re in central Hong Kong. We headed to Cé La Vi for a cocktail - it's not cheap (think £15+ per drink, so London prices basically!) but it is 11,000 feet high and a really special place to enjoy the stunning skyline with a tipple. When you come back down to earth in the elevator you'll find yourself on Lan Kwai Fong again where you can choose from the variety on offer. We went for a nicer (read: quieter) wine bar over the club vibes but found it pretty expensive at £50+ for a bottle of wine, so we bought one for £10 from a 7-Eleven and headed back to our Airbnb to watch a movie instead.

On our final day before heading to the Philippines we spontaneously jumped up on a bus and hopped off to Kowloon City in search of a nice breakfast, ideally somewhere with wifi so we could plan our next steps, In reality we landed slap-bang in the middle of the early morning market which in all honesty wasn't very pleasant, with lots of butchering going on and a really heavy stench of drains and fish. I think we might've gone to the wrong place and, with my wine hangover and a downpour of rain zapping my usually pretty endless stream of patience, we dolefully got a bus back to Tsim Sha Tsui. After the hugest portions of noodles at a Chinese eatery on Granville Road, we picked up our big bags from the Best Western opposite our Airbnb (they safely hold them there for a small fee) before getting the bus to the airport.

Now we've voyaged further (to Chang Mai in Thailand where I'm writing this, which funnily enough reminds me of Hong Kong!) and whenever I mention to anyone that this was our first stop, their reply is always "so expensive though!" I guess that comes from a backpacking standpoint, however even if you're on a budget I'd highly recommend visiting Hong Kong for a couple of days at least - you can cut costs by eating and shopping locally, finding free tourist spots etc - as you're guaranteed to leave emotionally richer than when you arrived, and who cares about the whole financial side of it then, right?

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