Is Hong Kong the best way to start exploring Asia? Five days in Hong Kong didn’t seem nearly enough, once you finally get your bearings (and believe me even for a surprisingly small island this is more difficult that you realise) and once you checked out most of the main tourist attractions; the Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront, Victoria Peak, the pretty and aromatic flower market in Kowloon and the bird market (although slightly nervously as we travelled there only a year after the bird flu outbreak!) you are still left wanting more.
Although Hong Kong is a very different Asia to what I have been used to, having travelled less developed Asian countries, this was definitely Asia but with a much less harder edge. As you would probably expect, evidence of the British occupation is everywhere, all of the information signs are written in both English and Cantonese and even aside from the main ex-pat congregation area of SoHo there is still an increasing amount of westernised restaurants and shops. Marks and Spencer’s anyone? All of this makes the island seem somehow familiar and of course much easier to travel around.
The shopping and food choices were extraordinary, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place so happily obsessed with consumerism. You cannot fail to be impressed by the vast amount of designer shops and even if that’s not what you are into there are plenty of dinky boutique malls most with original designs from Asian fashion students (although unfortunately being an above average height westerner I didn’t stand a chance in hell of ever getting into any of the clothes, still was nice to look).
The smog and the crowds aside (almost 7 million people call 1100 square km home) this place still unbelievably has large areas of natural beauty and on a trip to Repulse Bay and Lamma Island we saw the alternative Hong Kong, the one that attracts many nature lovers, walkers and climbers each year. In my opinion Hong Kong is an exciting and intriguing travelling destination and would deliver no matter what you are into. It would also be a perfect way to begin exploring Asia.
Highlights of Hong Kong and Kowloon
- The 270 degree panoramic view over the harbour, the chic decor and the creative cocktails at the Excelsior Hotel’s Talk of the Town restaurant.
- Dodging the crowds and people trying to sell you fake stuff in Kowloon’s shopping district.
- Giving in and actually buying lots of fake stuff at the Night Market in Temple Street.
- Marvelling at the amazingly clean, modern and efficient and public transport system… you will draw comparisons to our rubbishy old public transport and you will feel envious and hard done by.
- Shopping in Jumbo SOGO, a huge Japanese-style department store – 13 floors of retail heaven!
- Seeing the island cityscape lit up at night from the Kowloon waterfront.
- Enduring a foot massage verging on torture in Happy Valley but somehow coming out feeling so much better…
Hong Kong and Kowloon: The Lowdown
Hong Kong is an island located on China’s south coast, 37 miles east of Macau on the opposite side of the Pearl River Delta. It is surrounded by the South China Sea and it has a humid subtropical climate. Summer (June – August) is hot and humid with occasional showers and thunderstorms and the winter (Mid-December – February) is noticeably cooler but still mild. Spring (March – May) and Autumn September (Mid-December) are usually the best times to visit. Hong Kong is a large city with several districts and Kowloon is a large peninsula on the mainland of China, just north of Hong Kong Island.
Where to stay
We stayed at the Metropark Hotel Causeway Bay which was a large and very comfortable hotel in a fairly central location near Victoria Park.
Popular and good value hotels in Hong Kong and Kowloon:
- Langham Place Hotel
- Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel
- Lanson Place Hotel
- Novotel Citygate
- Royal Park Hotel
- InterContinental Grand Stanford
- Or search all hotels in Hong Kong.