JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH LAM MEI KA FROM HONG KONG !
Meika, born and raised in Hong Kong, is a freelance dance tutor who works as well as a part time accountant. She is a travel enthusiast who has a penchant for dancing and singing. Her love for travel has taken her to a number of destinations in the world which she dearly documents in her Instagram. She hopes you will be able to see true Hong Kong through the eyes of a local. Follow her visual blog to know more !
Hong Kong lies on China’s southern coast on the east side of the mouth of the Pearl River estuary. It is surrounded by the South China Sea on all sides except the north, where it is bounded by the Guangdong city of Shenzhen. The city consists primarily of three main islands – Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories including Lantau. Island, Lamma Island and Sai Kung Peninsula. Hong Kong has in total 200 islands, most of which are uninhabitable and unreachable.
When China’s Qing dynasty was defeated in the First Opium War in 1842, Hong Kong was handed over to the British. Hong Kong became Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (HKSAR) only when the British colonial rule ended on July 1, 1997 with the declaration that the “current social and economic systems” and “life-style” in Hong Kong would remain the same for next 50 years (until 2047). Two decades later, Hong Kong still maintains separate governing and economic systems from that of mainland China under a principle of One country, Two systems.
Hong Kong is also the city with the most skyscrapers in the world; double that of New York City. The official languages of Hong Kong are Chinese (Spoken Cantonese) and English. It is an important gateway for many destinations in Asia – Hanoi ( 2 h 15 min), Singapore ( 3 h 50 min), Bangkok ( 2 h 45 min) and Bali ( 5 h).
As a local, when do you think is the best time to visit Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is situated in a sub-tropical area with monsoon winds. It is also commonly hit by typhoons between the months of March to September. Warnings are broadcasted on TV and radio.
The best time to visit Hong Kong is autumn because it’s too hot in summer and very humid in spring. Also, in autumn (between September and November), temperatures are around 20°C- 26°C. If you don’t like crowded places, avoid the major holidays such as Chinese New Year, 1st May & 1st October National Day holidays.
Which is the most convenient and favored transport of Hong Kong?
Mass Transit Railway (MTR). It is the best in the world for cleanliness, safety and many other reasons. The system covers all major districts in Hong Kong and the average estimate waiting time is within 5mins. Northern Hong Kong and Kowloon are best explored by the MTR while you can use buses to explore the south side ( Aberdeen, Repulse Bay, Stanley ) of Hong Kong Island and the New Territories.
An Octopus card can be bought from ticket offices in any subway station, railway station, airport or seven eleven stores. It offers excellent value on MTR, LRT, KMB, City bus and HKF ferries.
Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) at Chek Lap Kok on Lantau Island is linked to the mainland by the Tsing Ma Bridge. By the Airport Express metro line it takes only 24 minutes from the airport to Central District. The Airport Express Shuttle Bus service which has provided free connections between AE stations and various hotels for many years has permanently ceased operation since 30th June 2020.
Taxis running in the city areas are red, whilst those in the New Territories are green and those on Lantau are blue. Red taxis run more in the central areas of HK Island and Kowloon but can travel anywhere except for Tung Chung Road on Lantau Island and on the entire south side of Lantau Island while the green and blue taxis may only operate within their areas.
Which are the top three places to visit in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has never fallen short of attractions.
Tsim Sha Tsui : It is Kowloon’s most popular district located on the southernmost shores beside Victoria Harbour. Vibrant and modern, Tsim Sha Tsui is where you will find Hong Kong’s finest skyscrapers. It’s a favourite tourist haunt. You will find everything here from shopping malls to museums to eateries.
Choi Hung Estate Basketball Court : Choi Hung Estate is a public housing estate in Ngau Chi Wan, Kowloon. “Choi Hung” means rainbow in Cantonese. The estate was painted in rainbow colours. This is the top Instagram spot in Hong Kong. To reach here take the green line on the MTR to the station called Choi Hung. Take the exit for Choi Hung Estate after the tunnel. You will find the basket ball court at the top of the parking garage.
Hong Kong Island :
The Peak : It is the highest point at 554m (1817ft)-high, on Hong Kong Island from where you can get wonderful views of Central and Kowloon. You can take the Peak tram, a funicular railway, Hong Kong’s oldest transportation to the top of the mountain. Please make sure you go on a sunny day. Madame Tussaud’s is also on The Peak. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museums are present in 8 countries, one among them is Hong Kong at the Peak. From here, you can proceed to Aberdeen, a traditional fishing village and bustling harbour while Stanley the quaint seaside village are also popular attractions on Hong Kong Island.
Victoria Harbor : Hong Kong itself means Fragrant Harbor. The Victoria Harbor is the natural boundary between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The night view from the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbor (Tsim Sha Tsui) is the best. You can walk along there to enjoy the amazing Hong Kong skyline. The Symphony of Lights show which is the biggest laser and light show in the world can be experienced along the waterfront. More than 40 buildings on both sides of the harbor flash their lights in time to music, while laser beams are shone from their roofs. Each year more and more of the city’s skyscrapers are added to the show. If you have time, I suggest you crossing the harbor by Star Ferry. It is the world’s most popular ferry.
New Territories :
Lantau Island : Take the world’s longest cable car ride to Ngong Ping Village which takes about 25 mins. The cable car service is continuous from 10am on weekdays. Visit Disneyland theme park, one out of five is located in Hong Kong, the world’s largest seated Buddha statues ( 34m (111ft)-high ) and Po Lin Monastery. To reach Lantau, ride a ferry across Victoria Harbour to Lantau Island or use the Tsing Ma Bridge, which is the world’s longest road and rail suspension bridge and a Hong Kong landmark.
Lamma Island : On Lamma Island vehicles are prohibited and Hong Kong’s ancient fishery customs still flourish. It is known for its two main villages, Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan.
Sai Kung Peninsula : For hiking trails.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is known to have the largest fleet of ferries in the world transporting people and goods to Macau which is a great place for a day trip from Hong Kong. It is a former Portuguese colony. In Macau, you might imagine yourself in Portugal, Italy and Paris!
To reach Macau from the Hong Kong International Airport : You can take a bus from the recently built mega bridge which is 2 minutes from the airport, and then board a bus to Macau which takes 15 minutes to reach. However, clearing customs might take 50 minutes depending on the time and day. Or you can take a fast ferry which takes one hour.
Must Visit places in Macau :
Ruins of St Paul (UNESCO) : Located at the top of a hill, the Ruins of St Paul were originally the Church of Mater Dei and the St. Paul’s College, which stood adjacent to the Church, built in 1580 and destroyed by fire thrice (in 1595, 1601 and again in 1835 during a typhoon). Built by Jesuit priests, the church was also referred to as The Vatican of the Far East for being the biggest in Asia at that time. To reach the Ruins of St Paul’s start from the main square called Largo do Senado (or simply Senado Square). Follow the signboards pointing to St Paul’s to reach there.
Taipa Village to admire the Portuguese architecture : Taipa in Portuguese means mud or building material made of a mixture of clay, soil, sand, rice straw, crushed rock, and oyster shells. In the village you will find various structures – temples, churches, museums, galleries, restaurants, hole in the wall eateries and souvenir stores. A popular tourist attraction, Taipa village has all this and a unique mix of Chinese and Portuguese culture.
A-Ma Temple (UNESCO) : It is the oldest and the most visited Chinese temple in Macau. It is the temple of goddess Mazu who is considered as the patroness of the sea. She is widely worshipped in Eastern countries like China, Taiwan, Vietnam etc and is believed to protect fisherman and sailors. Read about an island of seafarers where women rule.
Casino e.g. Wynn Palace, the cable car here is free!
Must eat in Macau : Portuguese Egg Tarts and Pork chop buns @ Cafe Tai Lei Loi Kei
Shenzhen is also nearby, on the other side of the border. It links Hong Kong to mainland China. Products of all sorts such as electronics and clothing can be found in plenty there. It can be easily reached via the metro in an hour. From there, you can catch a bullet train to Beijing ( 10 hours ) and Wuhan ( 5 hours ). However, you need a Visa to enter Mainland, which you can purchase in Hong Kong itself.
Which are the must try local dishes of Hongkong? Which are the popular local places to try them?
Dim Sum, a popular snack, is a style of Cantonese food, try it at Tim Ho Wan, a Chinese dim sum restaurant chain that originated in Hong Kong. Claypot Rice at Temple Street and Sweet and Sour Pork at any Chinese restaurant in HongKong.
Egg tarts, classic pastry in Hong Kong, with buttery tart shell and silky smooth custard inside. You can try it at any bakery in Hong Kong. Pineapple bun with butter at any tea restaurant in HongKong. Hong Kong style Egg waffle at Mammy Pancake and Hong Kong style Milk tea at Lan Fong Yuen.
Where to head for shopping in Hong Kong? Anything that one must bring home from Hongkong?
Shopping : Causeway Bay is a major shopping and restaurant district in Hong Kong along with Tsim Sha Tsui. Among the many shopping malls you can visit the Landmark in Central, Times Square in Causeway Bay and Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui. As a local, I would also suggest Kwai Chung Plaza for shopping. You can buy clothes there and try lots of food.
Weekend/Night Markets : The Temple Street which sells anything from clothes to electronic goods to tourist trinkets to copy rolexes, opens around 6pm and closes after midnight 7 days a week. Stanley Market on Stanley Main Street. The Causeway Bay Ladies Market on Jardine’s Crescent. If you seek for cheap souvenir, Mong Kok Ladies’ Market on Tung Choi Street is one of the most popular street markets in HongKong. Mongkok in Kowloon also has the world’s highest population density.
Tips : Bargaining is a must in street markets!
Souvenir : Minibus sign keychain with Cantonese slang is the unique souvenir in Hong Kong! In food, I suggest Wife Biscuits and Egg rolls.
Where should one head for nightlife in Hong Kong?
Lan Kwai Fong (or Orchid Square in English) in Central is Hong Kong’s party street! There are many restaurants, bars and clubs for night out. It comes to life during evenings and remains crowded each day of the week. Lan Kwai Fong houses more than 90 restaurants and nightclubs. You might also come across talented street performers.
Please suggest places from where one can get the best view of Hong Kong?
The Peak as mentioned before. The views from there are stunning.
Hong Kong’s terrain is hilly to mountainous with steep slopes hence there are a number of hiking trails. If you have time you might go hiking on some of these.
Red Incense Burner Summit on Braemar Hill is an easy hiking trail with beautiful city view. There are two ways of completing this hike, either take a 15-minute hike from Braemar or a 2-hour longer hike from Mount Butler. For the shorter hike, take Exit A1 at Tin Hau MTR Station before taking a minibus 49M to Braemar Hill Road. Get down at Braemar Hill Bus Terminus and walk back lane next to St. Joan of Arc Secondary School. From here the summit is just ten minutes walk. For the longer hike take MTR to Admiralty station and then minibus 24M bus to Mount Butler Block C & D. Once you are there walk towards Mount Butler Radio Station.
At 957 metre, Tai Mo Shan (also called Big Hat Mountain) is the highest point in Hong Kong. An easier option to get on this hike is by taking a taxi or minibus from Tsuen Wan to Chuen Lung, a historic rural village at the foothills of Tai Mo Shan. From there, it’s about an hour’s hike to Tai Mo Shan Lookout via the Rotary Club Park Nature Trail and a two-hour hike to the highest point of the mountain — Tai Mo Shan Weather Radar Station, commonly known as the “White Ball.” Tai Mo Shan is the coldest place in Hong Kong with temperature ranging between -1 to 4 C.
Would you suggest any events in your city to drama, music or art lovers? Where can one spot street art in Hong Kong?
You can check out the latest art exhibitions from Hong Kong Art Gallery Association’s website. For street art visit Art Lane @ Sai Yin Pun (MTR exit B3) or Graham Street wall mural @ Central. You will find many street arts when walking along Central.
Factory district of Wong Chuk Hang ( meaning Yellow Bamboo Grove) on the south side of Hong Kong Island has taken rebirth as an art and design district.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Hong Kong?
Food : OpenRice is Hong Kong’s most popular dining guide.
Transport : MTR & KMB (for bus)
Hidden Gems : There are many hidden gems in Hong Kong.
Tai Kwun : Tai Kwun or the Former Central Police Station Compound has locked within its walls some prominent names, one among them being Vietnam’s communist revolutionary leader – Ho Chi Minh. Located at the eastern end of Hollywood Road, in Central is now a new Centre for heritage and Arts. The compound has two large courtyards: the Parade Ground and the Prison Yard. Overlooked by tall buildings Parade Ground now is an open space for public recreation, events, pubs, bars, restaurant and shops while the Prison Yard is the space for art and cultural programs.
Xiqu Centre : A new venue for Cantonese opera in Hong Kong’s new West Kowloon Cultural District at the junction of Canton Road and Austin Road. It is easily reachable by West Kowloon Station (Express Rail Link) and Austin MTR station.
Lok Wah South Estate : It is a housing estate in Hong Kong that is located in Ngau Tau Kok. Parallel blue walls with a hole running through the middle, this car park is perfect for photo shooting. To reach here get off the Hong Kong MTR at Ngau Tau Kok and then walk 30 minutes or take the 213 Bus or taxi to the Lok Wah South Estate.
Sai Kung : Sai Kung is the second largest area in Hong Kong with perfect natural attractions. It has fishing villages, hiking trails, geological formations, beaches and islands. I recommend visiting High Island Reservoir’s East Dam & UNESCO Global Geopark. The layers of rock at the Global Geopark are formed due to cooling and solidifying of molten magma. To reach here go to MTR Diamond Hill Station, take Exit C2 and then board the bus number 92 to Sai Kung Bus Terminus and then walk to the Volcano Discovery Center. From there a mini bus departs daily.
As a local would you want to give any suggestion to tourists visiting Hong Kong?
Hong Kong people are fighting for democratic freedoms. Please check Hong Kong Protest Schedule and avoid protest hot spots. Hong Kong people are friendly and will always help you.
Things to Know :
Official Airlines : Cathay which is Hong Kong’s home airline.
Time Zone : UTC +8, International Dial Code : +852, Currency : Hong Kong Dollar (HKD), Religion : Buddhism, Taoism.
Visa : Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) with its own visa policy.. Nationals of about 170 countries and territories may visit Hong Kong without a visa. Nationals of the US, Europe, Australia, Canada and New Zealand don’t require a visa to enter Hong Kong for stays of 90 days while UK nationals for 180 days while nationals of Albania, Armenia, Cambodia, etc. require a visa to enter Hong Kong. All visitors to Hong Kong must have a passport that is valid for at least one month to six months (depending on nationality) after the period of their intended stay in Hong Kong. For more information, check the Hong Kong Immigration department’s official website.
Hong Kong Museums : You can get free admission to Hong Kong’s best museums on Wednesdays. The museums which are free on Wednesdays are Hong Kong Museum of History and Hong Kong Science Museum in Kowloon, Hong Kong Space Museum and the Museum of Art in Tsim Sha Tsui, Museum of Coastal Defence in Shau Kei Wan, Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Sha Tin and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Museum in Central District.