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A Little History

Born during the Qing dynasty and lost to the Brits in 1842 during the Opium war, the city is a melange of Chinese and British culture. From its inception, it’s been an epicenter of International trade. In addition, visitors flock to all the iconic places to visit in Hong Kong. The breathtaking views from Victoria Peak. Bustling ports. Mind-blowing shopping in Mong Kok and the best bleeping Dim Sum you will find on the globe are just a few reasons why Hong Kong is one of the most amazing cities in the world.

However, it’s also one of the most expensive cities in the world to live. For instance, an ‘average’ flat will set you back HK 25,355 or equivalent to about $3250.00 USD per month. If you’re of ritzier tastes, a ‘nice’ place in a neighborhood housing the Corps d’Elite will set you back HK37,854 and up (or $4800+ USD). However, that’s not factoring in utilities or your Dim Sum budget, either.

Places to visit in Hong Kong

Big Buddha

The concierge from our hotel in Hong Kong set us up to go on a tour to see the Big Buddha. The tour bus had designated pick up stops throughout the city and luckily, there was a pickup stop just a brief walk from our hotel. From there, our journey was just under an hour to Lantau Island, through winding, narrow hillside roads surrounded by trees and wildlife.

When you arrive in Lantau Island, you will drive up the mountainside to the top. There, you’ll find yourself amongst the tranquil surroundings of a monastery. You’ll be greeted by the overwhelming feeling of peaceful serenity. Quiet. Calm. Absurd amounts of mist in the air, lingering at your cheek. You’ll climb the steep 268 step stairway incline, and as the thick fog parts, you’ll see … the towering, massive bronze statue of Buddha that was unveiled in 1993.

The views here are breathtaking. Just keep in mind, that in addition to being a museum, this is an actual monastery. Be thoughtful about their practices and customs.

Monastery at the Big Buddha attraction in Lantau Island

Busiest District in the World

Mong Kok

Often shortened to MK, Mong Kok is a bustling area in Kowloon, Hong Kong. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Mong Kok is the busiest district in the world. Kind of makes sense that in the local tongue of Cantonese, Mong Kok literally translates to “busy corner.” Everywhere you turn, the district is buzzing with people, bright lights, noise, excitement. It’s vibrant. Energizing. Definitely crowded.

In addition to all the frenetic energy, Mong Kok is a shopping Mecca. You will find a little bit of everything here. There is a section comprised of well known, luxury brand names, another for boutique shops and then you have, of course, the famed Ladies Market.

Ladies market, essentially, is a massive shopping bizarre, often regarded as a bargain hunters paradise.

All aboard the Star Ferry on Victoria Harbour

The Star Ferry

It’s rated the #1 thing to do in Hong Kong by Trip Advisor traveler ratings for a reason. It’s inexpensive. A token will get you across the harbor. Monday – Friday (excluding Holidays) the lower deck is $2.60, the upper deck is $3.20 for adults. Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays the upper deck is $4.20 and the lower deck is $3.60 per adult. Children, and people with disabilities’ tickets are less than half those prices, and seniors always ride for free! It’s a cool experience. You get to take fun pictures. You may also be entertained to some degree. So enjoy the fresh air and explore the other side of the harbor.

View of Victoria Harbour from the Star Ferry
View from the Star Ferry at Night

All About Victoria Peak

Victoria Peak

One destination that seems to find its way onto every Hong Kong itinerary is Victoria Peak. Victoria Peak is one of the must see places to visit in Hong Kong. This is the highest hill on Hong Kong island and atop it, you will find Hong Kong’s poshest neighborhood. For instance, this exclusive residential area is where the priciest real estate in Asia sold – for a meager $180 million. Affectionately referred to as ‘The Peak,’ a trip to the summit will reward you with spectacular, dazzling city views.

View from the top of Victoria Peak

Visiting the summit of Victoria Peak at night offers electrifying cityscape sights and throngs of fellow visitors attempting to get the perfect shot in unideal lighting.

Getting to the Top of Victoria Peak

  • Buy tickets and wait in the longest line of your lifetime to ride the Peak Tram to the top
  • Hike to the top via the Morning Trail
  • Take a Taxi

While a taxi is the fastest way to the top and a hike the cheapest, we opted to ride the historical Peak Tram. If you have the time to stand in the exceedingly long line that wraps around the city to board the tram, it really is a cool experience. This bright red tram that transports millions of patrons to the summit each year opened in 1888. Current ticket pricing can be found here.

After that, it’ll likely be time for a meal!

The Peak Lookout Restaurant at the Summit of Victoria Peak

The Peak Lookout

Near the summit is the Peak Galleria – yes- a full on shopping mall at the top. Collectively, there is a bevy of eateries to choose from, but I recommend treating yourself and dining at The Peak Lookout. It opened in 1947, originally known as the Old Peak Cafe. It is a fine dining experience complete with alfresco dining and gorgeous views of the Aberdeen and the South China Sea.

While The Peak Lookout seems to be subject to mixed reviews online, from our experience the ambiance at night alone was worth it and the food and service was good as well. The prices may be a bit inflated, but that is par for the course for a restaurant at a major tourist attraction.

Bang the gong in the Peak Galleria for Good Luck!

Dim Sum Around the City

Find a Dim Sum Restaurant

If you like Dim Sum, this is Dim Sum nirvana. If you’ve never had Dim Sum, it’s associated with Cantonese cuisine. It’s essentially a collection of small dishes that is typically enjoyed for breakfast or lunch. If you’re a first timer, this is the place to hand over your Dim Sum V-card. One of the great things about Dim Sum is the variety. Certainly, there is a dish to satiate every palette and dietary restriction. The only other place where I’ve found Dim Sum as tantalizing was deep within an Ancient Water Village, right outside of Shanghai.

Dim Sum lunch in Hong Kong

Gettin’ Around

Ride the Double Decker Bus

Taxi cabs are not as cheap in Hong Kong as they are in mainland China. A more cost effective (and interesting) way to get around is the Double Decker bus. While we were there, we purchased Octopus cards. This is essentially a preloaded card that allows you to pay for the subway, bus or ferry fares in a contactless way. About 95% of Hong Kongers carry an Octopus card. If you decide to pay cash, keep in mind, you’ll need exact change.

We used the Double Decker Bus day and night in Hong Kong and found it to be fairly easy to use, safe and relatively pretty clean. Sit in the front on the upper level and prepare for a much wilder ride than your run of the mill public bus experience. This is likely the best and most economical way to get around to all the places to visit in Hong Kong.

“You can leave Hong Kong, but it’ll never leave you”

Nury Vittachi, Hong Kong based Author

In conclusion, Hong Kong is an effervescent city, with much to explore. It’s urban skyline set ablaze by colorful lights, it’s harbor filled with glitzy yachts and the like. Every corridor is saturated with gastronomical adventures or shopping delights. Above all, go and eat your weight in Dim Sum. Enjoy.

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