The High Life in Hong Kong
Rising up from an amazing island, the magic of Hong Kong is indescribable.
HIGH-TIME IN HONG KONG
This past summer, we had the chance to visit the bustling hub of Hong Kong, a city where East meets West, tradition blends with the haute monde, and the skyline soar against a lush backdrop of verdant mountains. This vibrant global financial hub is a unique fusion of cultures, cuisines, and couture that make it a must-visit destination for travelers from around the world. If you are planning a trip, below are my top finds and favorites, including well-known attractions, hidden gems.
“Life in Hong Kong transcends cultural and culinary borders, such that nothing is truly foreign and nothing doesn’t belong.”
- Peter Jon Lindberg
HONG KONG WITH A VIEW
Take in the breathtaking views of the city's iconic skyline by heading to Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island. You can ride the Peak Tram for a panoramic view of the cityscape or take an Uber to the top (Uber and the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) are two easy ways to navigate the city) . Whether you visit during the day or evening, the sight of towering skyscrapers, sparkling harbor lights, and verdant hills is simply mesmerizing. And The Peak is one of the best spots to watch the evening Victoria Harbor Symphony of Lights, a synchronized multimedia show that illuminates the skyscrapers and landmarks and showcases the skyline every evening at 8PM.
HARBOR CRUISE AND SYMPHONY OF LIGHTS
Another great way to experience the magic of Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour is by embarking on a traditional Chinese junk boat, like The Aqualuna, or on a ferry such as the historic Star Ferry. A leisurely cruise is a great way to take in breathtaking views of the island’s skyline, and many cruises include options for dim sum brunch or dinner, as well. I highly recommend a meal at Hotung before or after your cruise, for spectacular food (trying the flaming Peking duck which is lit tableside), ambiance, and of course, views!
CULTURAL SERENITY: TEMPLES, VILLAGES & ARCHITECTURE
If you are looking to immerse yourself in Hong Kong's rich cultural heritage, explore its historic neighborhoods and temples. Start with the atmospheric streets of Central and Sheung Wan, where colonial architecture blends seamlessly with traditional Chinese temples.
One of my favorite spots on our trip was the simple yet stunning Man Mo Temple. Dedicated to the gods of literature and war, the sun dappled temple exudes peace, and serenity and you can easily loose yourself in its peaceful ambiance. If Man Mo is on your itinerary, don’t forget to stop by Cat Street Market and the nearby antique stores for a little shopping before you head to your next stop.
“You can leave Hong Kong, but it will never leave you.”
— Nury Vittachi
Journey to Lantau Island, a tranquil haven away from the city's hustle and bustle, for your next stop on the spiritual side of the city to behold the awe-inspiring Tian Tan Buddha. Affectionately referred to the as “The Big Buddha” the grandeur of this 34-meter tall bronze statue is striking. I highly recommend buying tickets online in advance for the cable cars, and splurging for the crystal cable car option, if you aren’t averse to heights. While there, after resting from the trek up the multiple sets of stairs up to the statue, explore the monastery and the shops in Ngong Ping Village. Then, venture to the charming fishing village of Tai O, where stilt houses and traditional customs provide a glimpse into Hong Kong's rich heritage.
A TASTE FOR CULTURE
Hong Kong's culinary scene is legendary, and no visit is complete without indulging in its gastronomic offerings. You can sample the famous dim sum at Tim Ho Wan, the Michelin-starred dim sum spot. You can also savor a traditional Cantonese feast at a local dai pai dong (open-air food stall) or explore the dai pai dong's modern cousin, the cha chaan teng (tea restaurant), where you can try Hong Kong-style milk tea and pineapple buns. Other must try local foods include an egg tart and eggies (think deliciously flavored waffles).
If you are still hungry for more, some of our favorite restaurants, both in terms of exquisite Cantonese cuisine and ambiance, included Hotung, Yi Hung Yuen (a brothel turned restaurant with amazing hotpot) and Madame Fu’s.
There are also amazing dining options for Western fare, including sumptuous French and Italian cuisine at places such as Feuille, Noi, and 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bomba. For western breakfast options, check out Mr. Wolf and 14 South Lane (which also offers vegan items).
TEA FOR TWO
There are so many ways to experience tea while in Hong Kong. Two of our favorites were taking a tea workshop and going to afternoon tea (I know you are all shocked I found a way to include afternoon tea…again!). For a serene and educational experience, immerse yourself in the art of tea at a traditional tea workshop. I recommend ones held by Ming Cha or Plantation/Teakah. Through the workshops, you can learn about the rich history and cultural significance of Chinese tea while sampling exquisite blends.
Since Hong Kong has a historical tie to Britain, there are several places where you can experience a British afternoon tea, as well. My absolute favorite was the afternoon tea at The Peninsula. The Peninsula is absolutely stunning and a must while in town, whether it’s for accommodation, shopping, tea or all of the above. The Peninsula does not take reservations for tea, service for which begins at 2 pm, so I recommend arriving at 1:30 to join the queue (we were there at that time and were 4th in line and sat almost immediately at 2pm.)
SHOP 'TIL YOU DROP
Hong Kong is renowned as a shopper's paradise, offering everything from high-end fashion boutiques to bustling street markets. Head to Causeway Bay, home to Times Square and a plethora of luxury shopping malls if haute couture is what you are looking for. For a more authentic experience, explore the bustling street markets like Temple Street Night Market and Ladies' Market in Mong Kok, where you can haggle for everything from clothes to electronics and local street food.
For something a little more timeless, consider Hong Kong’s reputation for its exceptional selection of pearls and exquisite ceramics. If pearls are on your to do list, check out the pearl shops in Central and Admiralty, such as Prince's Building and The Landmark, where you'll find an extensive range of pearls, including South Sea pearls and Tahitian pearls. To add a touch of elegance to your home, explore the antique stores in Hollywood Road and Cat Street, where you can discover beautiful blue and white ginger jars, renowned for their intricate patterns and timeless charm. (Hollywood Road and Cat Street are both near Man Mo temple so these make for a great half day excursion).
Any time I travel, I try to learn a little about the location and culture before I go, and here are a few things that may be helpful:
- Cantonese and English are commonly spoken, and most signs are in English as well as Cantonese. It’s still a nice gesture to learn a few phrases in Cantonese (E.g. Doze and mgoi both mean thank you in Cantonese, with doze a thanks for a gift and mgoi as thank you for a service/help. Peng di may also come in handy at street markets - it’s asking for a lower price). I also recommend traveling with iGoogle or iTranslate, but we rarely needed it on this trip.
- Bartering is common, and even expected, at street markets, but is not commonplace in other establishments.
- Taxis usually only take cash, but Uber is an easy and readily accessible option, as is the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system.
- Taking the MTR is a more cost effective way to get around, and if you plan to use it, I recommend downloading the Octopus app (the version for tourists) on your phone and preloading it before your trip. The app allows you to conveniently swipe your phone at the MTR gates to board the train, and at a discounted fare, rather than needing to purchase full-price tickets at each station. You can also top up your Octopus card through the app, and the Octopus card is accepted at some retail stores and restaurants in addition to the MTR.
- The weather can be quite humid and wet. Plan accordingly. Hand held or neck fans are a great option, as are mini umbrellas or rain coats.
- Place settings usually include two sets of chopsticks - one for serving and one for eating. You should serve food with one set, placing food on a plate, before using the second set to place food into your mouth. It is common to use a soup spoon with chopsticks, but you should not point your chopsticks vertically into a dish (done at funerals) or cross them on your plate (bad luck). Locals will always serve you first out of hospitality, and you should leave a little food on your plate to show you are satisfied.
- Leave yourself room in your luggage to bring back souvenirs! I love these suitcases (or these) and this carry on because of their expandable options for extra room! This makeup bag is an amazing space saver, too, and I love the pearl bee! But the item I received the most compliments on was this stylish laptop bag.
- Wear comfortable shoes - I wore these star sneakers all day for days and they were so comfy! And they looked super cute with this cute pink summer dress with a mandarin collar and this flirty pink and orange maxi. And I love this casual summer midi that can easily be dressed up for a night out, too.
YOU SHOULD GO
Visiting Hong Kong is like stepping into an exquisite kaleidoscope where ancient traditions and modern innovations harmoniously collide. From spectacular skyline views and haute couture to bustling street markets and food stalls, from mouthwatering cuisine to breathtaking natural beauty, Hong Kong offers a a never-ending array of experiences that cater to every traveler's desires. So pack your bags and get ready because you will leave your heart in Hong Kong.
Can’t travel now, but wanting a taste of the city? Here are a few finds that might get you in the mood:
- Open cuff pearl ring
- Pearl collar necklace
- Stunning coffee table book Trope Hong Kong
- Blue and white ceramic vase/temple jar
- Blue and white ceramic serving bowl
- Dragons & Pagodas coffee table book by Aldous Bertram
- Chinoiserie floor/door mats
- Chinoiserie pillow covers
- Ginger jar salt and pepper shakers (also perfect as a hostess gift or your next Kentucky Derby party!)
- Wooden chopsticks
- Stainless steel chopsticks
- Jade facial roller
- Pink Chanel handbag
- Gucci sunglasses
- Lux look a like handbag
- Chanel travel size perfume
- A little lux for the pup with these Chewy Vuitton dog bowls, Chanel dog toy, and Tiffany & Co pup toy (obsessed!)