One of the most exciting cities in the world, Hong Kong can offer adventures for travellers on any budget level. Kaye Fallick shows you how.
The Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Hong Kong is one of the most exciting cities in the world. Located in the delta of the Pearl River, Hong Kong remains one of four standout maritime cities of the world, alongside New York, Sydney and Shanghai. But it’s much more than a harbour. At the crossroads of Asia and the West, it is a rich mix of colonial history and Chinese energy, as well as a cultural and culinary bridge.
Although Hong Kong is an archipelago of 235 islands, plus a tiny stretch of mainland China, contemporary Hong Kong is generally understood as four regions; Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, New Territories and the outlying islands, covering about 1100 square kilometres.
When British Captain Charles Elliot landed in Hong Kong in 1841, it was a barren rock. Today it is a thriving financial and retail metropolis, with a population of nearly 7 million, most of whom consider themselves to be Hong Kongers first and Chinese second.
It is possible to spend a lot of money when you visit Hong Kong, staying in one of the many luxury hotels, enjoying Michelin-star cuisine and hitting the luxury brand stores with a vengeance. It’s also possible to adopt a lower-key approach on a more modest budget and still enjoy the highlights, including the bright lights, the Peak and the amazing dim sum cuisine. Or perhaps you’ve scrimped and saved for your Hong Kong adventure and have virtually nothing left over for day-to-day activities. Fear not, for a handful of Hong Kong dollars (worth about one fifth of an Australian dollar) you can still get around this amazing destination and enjoy much of the local colour.
Budget 1: The sky’s the limit
There are many great things to do and see in Hong Kong when money is not an issue.
So many luxury hotels and highly ranked restaurants, so where to start?
There are two historic, iconic hotels which stand out. Firstly, on Hong Kong Island, the Mandarin Oriental, this year celebrating its 50th Anniversary, offers the Hong Kong visitor a wonderful home away from home. Located in the heart of the Central District on Connaught Road, this recently renovated property is the flagship of the Mandarin Oriental Group.
Most rooms boast harbour views. The Man Wah restaurant on the top floor serves an exquisite dim sum luncheon and the Clipper restaurant on the first floor, an endless buffet breakfast of Eastern and Western treats.
Across the harbour on Salisbury Road is the Peninsula Hong Kong. Built in the 1920s, the legendary afternoon tea is a must for those not on a budget. Guests can also be collected from the airport by one of the fleet of Rolls Royces – naturally!
Dining out is only limited by your imagination, but we can highly recommend the dim sum lunch at Cuisine Cuisine, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the IFC Mall, and dinner at Island Tang restaurant (in the Galleria). For those keen to kick on, the nightlife and bars in the Lan Kwai Fong neighbourhood will keep you well amused into the wee small hours.
Budget 2: A more modest approach
So you don’t have Donald Trump’s billions, but you have put a little aside for a memorable stay in Hong Kong. How to make the most of your holiday budget? For those wanting to stay Kowloon-side, look no further than the Marco Polo Hong Kong Hotel in Harbour City. Located right on the harbour, directly across from the Star Ferry Terminal, you are slap bang in the centre of the best stores, museums and markets in Tsim Sha Tsui. The Marco Polo buffet breakfast is extraordinarily generous and the harbour views are not to be missed.
For those wanting an affordable alternative on the Island, the V Wanchai 2 Hotel on Thomson Road offers apartment-style accommodation in very stylish surrounds. Staying at the ‘V’ means you are well-placed to enjoy the bustling food markets in Wan Chai, as well as extended walks to the mid-levels Escalator and nearby attractions, including antique shopping in Hollywood Road and the wildlife in the Botanical Gardens. Pacific Place shopping centre is also close by, as is the terminal for the Peak Tram. Budget at least five hours for your visit to the Peak, preferably late afternoon so you can see the lights of Hong Kong appear as you stroll around Lugard Road. And why not finish with a cocktail or dinner at the historic Peak Lookout restaurant?
Budget 3: Help me enjoy Hong Kong
First things first, as you arrive at Chap Lap Kok Airport, head to the Airport Express counter to purchase a seniors Octopus Card (HK$20 plus HK$50 deposit). This card is your ticket to travel and services from up to 500 providers during your stay.
Low-priced accommodation on Hong Kong Island can be accessed through the Air BnB website. At the time of writing, an apartment with two bedrooms was about $AUD 80.00 per night. Or perhaps you want to stay Kowloon-side, in which case the YMCA, spectacularly well-located on Salisbury Road, is great value starting at $AUD125 for last minute deals. But get in early, as it tends to book out.
Lodgings sorted, it’s time to hit the Hong Kong Tourism Board, just across the road from the YMCA in the Star Ferry Building.
Here you can pick up two essential guides, the first is the list of Hong Kong walks, the best way to explore. Audio commentaries to match your walk can be hired, using free roaming, for $HK60 for three days. The many walks in this booklet would take more than a week to complete, so why not check them out online so you can pick those most suitable to your fitness levels and interests? The other handy guide is for the Hong Kong Tourism Board Cultural Kaleidoscope Program – a rich feast of activities, almost all free of charge, including Feng Shui classes, morning Tai Chi, architectural walking tours, tea-making ceremonies and many more. Again, a preview online will help you choose and book your preferred activities.
And for museum lovers, it’s worth knowing that museums are free on Wednesdays, so why not visit the Hong Kong Heritage Museum or the Hong Kong Museum of History and enjoy hours of air-conditioned cultural enlightenment as a respite from the noon day heat?
And don’t forget, the Star Ferry at HK $2.50 and the Hong Kong Tram which trundles from Kennedy Town in the west to Shau Kei Wa in the north-east. Locals call it the ‘Ding Ding’ and at HK $2 a ride, it competes with the Star Ferry for the honour of being the best value tourist experience in the developed world.
Before your trip to Hong Kong
Download the Mobile App – Discover Hong Kong · AR
The app utilises the latest innovative Augmented Reality (AR) technology which means that as your phone’s camera scans its surroundings, the app recognises what the camera is seeing and provides images, information and directions depending on where and what you’re looking at.