Business or leisure? Depending on your key purpose, you can decide how you would want to plan out a trip to Hong Kong. In our case, we opted to reach Hong Kong as our gateway to China for the 16 day excursion we planned. In this post, we are going to share with you our recommended itinerary to cover Hong Kong in 2 really long and busy days. Certainly if you have more time, the better – but 2 packed days will be just fine if your main intention to visit Hong Kong is for leisure. To be specific, we arrived in a late April evening in Hong Kong so we had that evening to just check in to the hotel, freshen up, stretch our legs after an 11 hour flight from London , settle down and have dinner. The following day and the day after we had 48 full hours to ourselves to explore Hong Kong and we left on the 4th day.
48 Hours In Hong Kong: A Travel Guide For 2 Days In The City
London to Hong Kong Jet, set, go After a 16 hour long flight Hong Kong airport En route to hotel Did you just say the flight was for 16 hours? I am as fresh as daisy;) Mongkok neighbourhood on a late afternoon Hello hotel room! Rush to dinner Metropark Hotel Mongkok- our nest in Hong Kong
Tanusree made friends with random strangers at the very first hour of arriving
Why did we decide to go to Hong Kong? Although Hong Kong is not featured as one of the destinations to visit before you die or something – we decided to start our excursion in China with Hong Kong primarily because – it is Hong Kong. The name we have heard ever since for so long. The island nation not only made famous by Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, but also because of its financial importance, it is always in the headlines. Not to mention when it was handed over to the Chinese by the British in 1997 – so it does have a colonial past as well which can be explored.
Before we dive in to the nitty-gritty details of the 2 days, some important tips upfront.
As soon as you will exit the airport, you will see taxis of three colours are lined up – red, blue and green. Depending on the colour, the taxis are allowed to travel to certain parts of the greater Hong Kong islands. Check the location of your hotel and confirm with a taxi attendant which taxi to get into. We got into a red-coloured one and it cost us around $HKD 250 to reach from airport to our hotel in Mongkok.
Note that Hong Kong is comprised of 263 islands of various sizes and big ones are Kowloon Island, Hong Kong Island and the New Territories. A taxi from the airport to the hotel may be convenient however Hong Kong Metro (MTR) also connects the city to the airport. Incase you don’t have too many luggages, you may want to get on the MTR. Before you do, buy the Octopus Card (similar to Oyster card in London) which is also refundable when you are leaving Hong Kong. With an Octopus card in your pocket, you will not need to travel by any other means in Hong Kong. It is not only cheap, but very efficient and well connected to the other parts of Hong Kong.
Where to stay
Unless you are in Hong Kong for business purposes and you really want to explore Hong Kong in its legacy avatar then do stay somewhere in Kowloon Island. To be more specific, we stayed in the Mongkok area in Kowloon Island to immerse ourselves in the Hong Kong which is holding on to its heritage. The New Territories or the area around Victoria Harbour is full of excellent hotels overlooking the shopping district and the bay area. Incase you fancy staring at skyscrapers only – then you can stay around the harbour to get a flare of the modern Hong Kong.
What to eat
Dim-sum ofcourse! Mongkok has a number of traditional restaurants serving authentic food from Hong Kong so go ahead and try the different types of Dim-sums on the menu. Incase you don’t challenge your stomach, it would be best to stay away from street food. Kennedy Town has a lot of options as well especially for Western tourists, and we recommend Shanghai Lao Lao where we were treated by our friends. Incase you are hanging around the Hong Kong National Cultural Center, we strongly recommend to have a break and enjoy some quality cooking of local and Western small bites at the Deli & Wine Restaurant. Finally, you have to grab a table before you grab a burger at the very popular Bubba Gump Restaurant located at the highest location in Hong Kong – The Peak Tower – to get the best view of the Victoria Harbour while you pause to feast and gaze at the amazing sky-scrapers.
Prawn dumplings at a traditional Mongkok restaurant Lunch at Deli & Wine
Lunch with Hong Kong Skyline view View from your lunch table at Bubba Gump, The Peak Tower
One of the key differentiators to really feel that Hong Kong is different from mainland China is the ease of accessing the internet. You can happily browse Facebook, Instagram and Google and Wi-Fi speed in the hotel was found to be just adequate. Note that for bypassing the Great Firewall in mainland China, we downloaded and installed in our MacBook and phones the ExpressVPN app to access Facebook and Instagram using VPN in the mainland China.
Those travelling from the UK to Hong Kong will feel at home because there is no need to carry power converters or any other plug. Most of the electric outlets in Hong Kong like in the UK, use the three-pronged plug type G.
£1 fetched around 8 Hong Kong dollars, ATMs are almost in every corner in Hong Kong and most restaurants and hotels accepted foreign credit cards. Note that this was not found to be true in mainland China later where most of the places either accepted only cash or only Chinese debit or credit cards. So another indicator of why Hong Kong is so different than mainland China is how receptive it is to international financial and technology systems.
Even if English may not be widely spoken in the streets, but it is largely understood. The staff at the airports, metro stations and hotel receptions, shopping malls, restaurants near the harbour area spoke manageable English. Cantonese is the language spoken in Hong Kong, unlike Mandarin in mainland China. You don’t need to know Cantonese to travel to Hong Kong – if you do – it should always be welcome with a smile. English will be just fine unless you are planning to dine out at authentic local restaurants- let alone speaking or understanding English, they don’t even have cutleries and napkins in those traditional dim-sum joints.
Hong Kong housing issue
Hong Kong boasts of the highest number of really high skyscrapers in the world. No fewer than 1303 of these buildings are taller than 100m and 316 are taller than 150m. Well although urban man-made development may not float your boat, its worth the sight. So start your day in Hong Kong by getting into the MTR red line and get off at the Central station for heading towards the Victoria Peak, also called just The Peak. You can walk, take a bus or simply take a taxi from Central station to arrive at the entrance. Note that there is a historic tram which takes people both ways to and from the Peak. It just can be too crowded and you may spend your precious time in a queue. So if you are running short of time – which is true given you only have 2 days – skip the tram.
The platform from where you can see the best view of the Hong Kong skyline itself looks outlandish from outside. Full of shopping malls, restaurants and amusement facilities, the entry to the top viewing floor is ticketed (around $150 HKD). Whether you arrive during a clear day or in the evening – the delightful sight will astonish you. Seriously tall infrastructure all standing proudly high next to each other – not one, two or three in sporadic layout – rather a whole handful of buildings as if chopsticks stuck in some yummy food below.
40% of the Hong Kong is protected to conserve green space. As a result there was only one way to grow and that is what has made Hong Kong to top the list of the tallest buildings in the world. So start your day 1 in Hong Kong for what it is most famous for.
After being awestruck by the man-made marvels of Hong Kong skyline, you can return via same route and take the MTR towards the Tsim Sha Tsui metro station. Supposedly the most happening district in Hong Kong filled with top notch hotels, restaurants and shopping malls, the place is alive every moment. After coming out of the station, just follow the road-signs leading to the Star Ferry’s Victoria Harbour Tour. Just a general indication to make sure you are walking along the promenade itself, not recommending that you go with a certain tour.
Along the promenade, you will come across the Space Museum and beautifully designed Hong Kong Cultural Center and the iconic Hong Kong Bell Tower. Coincidentally the day we were exploring here, the 36th Hong Kong Film Awards was also taking place at the Cultural Center. The venue was studded with paparazzi and the celebrities of the Hong Kong silver screen were arriving one after another to walk in the red carpet. Worth mentioning that even before handing over control to China in 1997, the film industry in Hong Kong had a shining past and after some ups and downs it has started to regain its unique identity and influence in the global stage of cinema.
You may wonder why Hong Kong has named its prized and prime location after the name of the Queen Mother of England. Who knows may be it was the British who actually named the harbour as Victoria Harbour because they knew very well that it was indeed the harbour which was the most important location behind Hong Kong’s exponential growth as an economic powerhouse. From a travel perspective as well, Victoria Harbour holds all the prime attractions in a wide angle view for the amused visitors.
Series of skyscrapers on the other side of the Bay in the Hong Kong Islands and eventful banks on both sides make the Victoria Harbour the Mecca of visitors’ delight. The sight from the Kowloon Island witnessing the flashing neon lights of the Hong Kong skyline is a marvellous experience.
The ambience was simply electrifying around the harbour. The Hong Kong Film Awards was going on at the same time so the stars of the Hong Kong silver screen had descended on the red carpet at the National Cultural Center located in the vicinity. While some were busy star spotting, some were simply relaxed and gazing at the skyscrapers in display. And there were those who had a better plan of getting married and photographed while crossing a busy junction along with the bridesmaids and friends!
Note that there are boat rides from the Victoria Harbour which we were tempted to experience. Soon we realised that it was not worth it and the boat itself with its red sails (for Aqua Luna liner) was best watched from the harbour only. Also there are daily light shows to be experienced along the Harbour every evening at 8pm. Although much hyped and anticipated, the 15 minute show turned out to be bit of a damper with only some flashing laser lights on the tall buildings. In absence of corresponding sound effects, the lights how somewhat fell flat to woo the visitors who lined up along the Harbour. Nevertheless, worth to catch a space in advance of 8pm in the evening and see it for yourself.
In the first 24 hours of your 48 hour itinerary, reserve the 1st evening to explore the popular markets of Hong Kong i.e. Temple Street Market, Ladies Market, Jade Market etc. Again – a box ticking exercise only unless you are a shopping enthusiast and are keen to buy some souvenir from any of the Hong Kong markets. When we visited the markets ourselves, we realised the power of branding – much ado over nothing much except series of vendors with their products to sell and ready for haggling. Then why are we still suggesting you to visit these? Because you need to see for yourself to experience.
Garden of the Stars
Today being the last 24 hours of your 2 days whirlwind trip in Hong Kong, start early to take the MTR to arrive at the Tsim Tsa Shui station. Follow the instructions to take the exit leading towards the Garden of Stars. Some 10 minutes of stroll and you will arrive at the cosy little garden displaying some glimpse of the silver screen celebrities of Hong Kong. Unless you are familiar with the Hong Kong film stars, this is the opportunity for you to realise how influential it has been actually. Above all, it is a pilgrimage for every visitor to Hong Kong to get themselves photographed next to the statue of Bruce Lee which is situated in this garden. When we visited, there was another wall display on famous Hong Kong star – Anita Mui. Finally, there were hand imprints of some twenty movers and shakers of the film industry of Hong Kong which are worth the visit.
The concrete jungle in Hong Kong is nicely complemented with enough greenery and surprisingly enough, the Kowloon Park sits right in the centre of the island providing some much welcome green respite in the middle of high-rises all around. Not to compare with parks in Europe for example, but boasting off an area of 33 acres, the park offers a welcome pause in the last hours of your trip. There is certainly the flora and fauna, museums, a bird lake full of flamencos and an aviary as well for visitor’s delight.
After sunset, why not explore the many high end shopping malls in the Tsim Sha Tsui district? Even a window shopping from mall to mall will turn out to be a pleasant experience until you are hungry enough to look for a restaurant to enjoy your sign-out meal. Note that three things are must buy in Hong Kong – clothes, cosmetics and electronic goods because they are always tax free and so always cheaper than those in other countries. The top malls include the Landmark, IFC Mall, Pacific Place and Lee Gardens.
In summary, we found 48 full hours to be just fine to get Hong Kong covered. Incase we had more time, we may have wanted to step outside the main city may be towards the Lantau Island or the New Territories towards the north.
However, as per our route plan, we were ready to head to mainland China in Zhangjiajie and we are going to share that experience with you soon in the next blog post.0