A day in Hong Kong is better than no day in Hong Kong

Hong Kong skyline

Taking a stopover between flights is a good way to get a bonus trip within a trip. Hong kong is one of those places where I’ll build in a stop if I have the time. I figure that a day in Hong Kong is better than no day in Hong Kong.

I first used this phrase when I visited Paris for a day. I was booked on an Air France flight that had me change flights in Paris. At that point I had no idea when I would get the opportunity to visit Paris again, so I scheduled a stopover. It’s been four and a half years since that trip and I haven’t been back, so I’m glad I made that decision. That day remains as one of my most memorable travel days.

If you are going to Paris then you should of course stay longer than a day. I’ve spent a couple of months of accumulated days of my life in Paris, so it wasn’t like I was spending the day trying to see everything at once.

Even if you’ve never been, these one-day morsels can be a satisfactory appetiser. Indeed, my first visit to Hong Kong wasn’t even a day. I was en route from Melbourne to London with a layover of about 8 hours in Hong Kong. A friend who visits Hong Kong often for business suggested an itinerary that I could do in the time between flights.

Hong Kong trams

He gave me a precise game plan of what to do (basically get the airport train, then get the Star Ferry across the harbour, then get back on the airport train). Having a fast and reliable express train from the airport helped make this trip possible. It was a fun introduction to Hong Kong, and it beat sitting around in the airport terminal.

HKIA Airport Express

Now that I’m based in Southeast Asia I get to visit Hong Kong at least once a year. I came here once to visit my family on holiday, and I also met my aforementioned business friend here. Most of the time though it’s usually as a stop on the way to somewhere else. Ever since that first visit in 2002 I’ve been 16 times now.

I was thinking about these stopovers on my latest trip to Hong Kong, which got me wondering how many times I’ve been here. It occurred to me when I was walking around that I’ve never really planned any sightseeing here. I’ve been to the main tourist sites like up to Victoria Peak and the Big Buddha on Lantau Island. For the most part though I just prefer walking around and discovering streets and places to eat.

This post shows what a day in Hong Kong looks like on a stopover. On days like this I don’t usually take my laptop with me, which is my default if I am staying somewhere for a while.

Mongkok

When I say I was visiting for a day, I arrived late at night and I had the entire next day in Hong Kong before departing early the next morning.

I have a preferred area to stay, though I try and mix it up to gain new experiences. Lately I’ve been staying near Jordan Station. From there it’s easy enough to walk to the harbour and then get the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island.

Nathan Road

Since my last visit the harbour front walkway known as the Avenue of Stars has been renovated.

Harbour View

Here you can find the statue of Bruce Lee, shaping up in front of the iconic Hong Kong skyline. As you would expect there is a long queue of people waiting to get a kung fu pose in front. I couldn’t be bothered waiting around so I did some creative cropping here.

Bruce Lee

I already had some cafes marked out to visit in case I get round to posting a best cafes in Hong Kong list. I didn’t budget for the extra caffeine of stopping in a Starbucks. I couldn’t resist the new one on the harbour front, which might be one of the world’s best Starbucks views.

Prime Starbucks location

When I’m visiting a city for a short while I pick out some places I want to visit and star them in Google Maps. I usually star famous buildings, places to eat, and hipster cafes. These stars then become targets to walk to or places of refuge if I happen to be nearby.

If I don’t have a SIM card with data I will save the map for offline viewing. Even when offline it’s amazing what details are served. In this screenshot I was on my way to a recommended cafe, and Google showed a bunch of other places that come recommended. I was nearly swayed to visit Ho Lee Fook just for the name.

Google map of Hong Kong

In the end I made it to my starred destination of Elephant Grounds, which is a great cafe worthy of the climb up to Mid Levels. I have a Foursquare list of good cafes in Hong Kong if you are looking.

Elephant Grounds

It’s a hilly area so you can get the Mid-Levels Escalator there (the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator system).

Mid Levels escalator

I usually eat lunch before 12 to avoid the office worker rush. There’s no point taking up a seat if I can eat earlier. I went back to one of my go-to cheap-eateries, the Michelin-rated Wang Fu Dumplings.

Wang Fu Dumplings

The popular places get so busy here that people queue for lunch. I went by two Vietnamese places that had a lunchtime queue. I rarely eat Vietnamese when I am on the road as I like to give it a break when I’m not in Vietnam. I was curious though about this place so maybe I will go back next time before the lunch rush.

Pho queue

Most of my trips here have been 1 or 2 days, with the longest I’ve stayed being 4 days. Sometimes I think that I should stay here for a month to dig deep and explore properly.

Accommodation is expensive here though, and you need a bankers salary to live in a place with reasonable living space. Rents are so expensive here that coffin cubicles and caged homes are a thing. I’ve experienced my share of box accommodation at the Chungking Mansions to not want to do that for a month.

Coffee is also expensive here, with a cafe latte from a good cafe costing between 40-45 HKD ($5.10 – 5.75 USD). With my current 3-cup-a-day minimum habit I would need to budget about $15 a day, so lets just say $500 USD a month.

I was checking out the real estate ads to see what a monthly rental would be, and I would have to budget for food. I wouldn’t stay here only to live on instant noodles from 7-Eleven.

Apartments Soho

It’s a different expat scene here as well, with most foreigners here working in banking and finance. I feel like an under-dressed slob from the tropics whenever I’m in Hong Kong. I would have to upgrade my wardrobe.

For now though I’m happy to get my annual Hong Kong fix by making a stopover on the way to somewhere else.


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Comments

  1. Gosh, coffin cubicles and cage homes. How sad. With all the tourism money that pours in, you’d think the situation would be better. I guess poor people always get forgotten – or ignored.

  2. The place is nice. Someday I want to try and visit.Thank you for sharing.

  3. Nice one James. Hong Kong is one of my favourite cities – I am the same as you, I visit often but only for short trips… it is somewhere I would love to live for a longer period someday but housing costs (for something with a bit of space) are ludicrous. I spent a few weeks there once as I had to get a new passport and it almost sent me bankrupt!

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