When heading out on a World Cruise you may worry about how much you can really see of each country before getting back on board to continue your grand voyage. Whilst small tropical islands can be the perfect day stop travellers can often leave big cities feeling as though they have only scratched the surface.
Whilst Hong Kong can be perceived as a large and daunting destination, made up of multiple islands and districts, it is actually a great city to do on a 24 stop. With its modern and efficient MTR system, it makes the perfect overnight stop on a world cruise. Keep reading to see my top highlights for those with 24 hours to spend in Hong Kong.
Sacred Po Lin Monastery
The mountaintop Po Lin Monastery is home to the 34m (111ft) high Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha) which faces north towards mainland China blessing all those it looks over. Located above the island of Tung Chung you can gain access through the Ngong Ping 360 cable car which runs between Tung Chung and the Tian Tan Buddha or for those willing to undertake an adventure there is a 4 hour hike up to the site through the rainforest. Pilgrims from all over Asia travel to visit the Buddha and climb the 268 steps up to the top to gain a closer view on the peaceful statue. Erected in 1993, it took 12 years to complete and cost HK$60 million (£5.8 million). ‘The Offering of the Six Devas’ at the base of the Big Buddha offer up flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit and music to Buddha. They symbolise the Six Perfections of enlightenment; generosity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation and wisdom. Don’t forget that if you do go to the top of the Buddha you should complete one full circle of the statue in a clockwise direction.
Located up in the mountains above Hong Kong Island, Victoria Peak is accessible through the Peak Terminus Tram which has an average journey time of 4.9 minutes from the Garden Road Stop to The Peak. Having opened in May 1888 the tram is still exceedingly popular today transporting around 17,000 tourists and locals daily. The Peak Circle Walk is a great way to see Hong Kong Island and Kowloon whilst walking amid lush rainforest and coming into contact with Hong Kong’s wildlife. The walk offers great views back down to the ship and across the bay which makes for some great holiday memories – however, beware of passing rain showers which empty down the steep hills.
The Ladies Market
Any traveller looking for a bargain should definitely head to the Ladies Market in Mongkok. This is a shopper’s paradise and sells everything from electronics and traditional silk clothing to handbags and jade jewellery. Following the long Tung Choi Street you will be amazed as every day at 11:00 the streets are overtaken with market stalls which tower over visitors with their wares spilling out into the narrow walkways. Don’t be afraid to haggle here, most vendors find it unusual for any potential buyer not to negotiate on price, however, don’t take the price down too low initially, some vendors are known to walk away and ask you to leave their stall if they feel insulted by the price.
Nan Lian Gardens
The Nan Lian Gardens in the Diamond Hill area were established in 1934 and renovated to mimic the Tang Dynasty style gardens (618-908AD). The gardens are a true oasis within Hong Kong and are a beautiful way to spend an afternoon. Within the gardens, every single item and plant has been specifically placed to adhere to traditional garden rules and methods. The Pavilion of Absolute Perfection is the highlight of the garden and is a truly exquisite example of architecture. Admission to the garden is free and it is open 07:00 – 21:00.
Hong Kong is well known for its impressive culinary delights with the focus being solely on the quality of food and not on luxurious surroundings. In some restaurants, you will be expected to share tables with other guests which is a great opportunity to view other dishes before picking your own. Most Cantonese meals are designed for sharing and menus are designed to allow couples to pick two or three dishes to share. Also, most restaurants do not accept reservations so do ensure you are prepared to queue, trust me, it is worth the wait.
Kam Wah Café
This café is a delight for those seeking a quick bite to eat whilst visiting the ladies market. They sell a staple of Cantonese breakfasts, the Po Lo bun, a sweet bun which is slightly crispy on the outer edges but contains a sweet middle. The word Po Lo actually means pineapple in Chinese, however, the bun contains no pineapple at all. In 2014 the Hong Kong Government listed the bun as a part of its cultural heritage. The price for a bun is HK$10 (£1) so it would be rude not to indulge in a one or two.
Although not Cantonese, Bep is a traditional Vietnamese kitchen restaurant which is well worth a stop of a lunchtime or evening to enjoy their heart-warming cuisine. This restaurant offers Pho which is a large noodle soup containing meats or fish of your choice with a side dish of seasonal greens, chilli’s and limes so you can personalise your Pho to your own taste. Starters and side dishes are well worth a try as you can enjoy soft shell crab, grilled beef and satay chicken. Starters start from HK$30 (£3) and Pho from HK$60 (£6).
Din Tai Fung
This restaurant is famed for is Shanghainese dumplings (Xiao Long Bao) with four locations across Hong Kong (two in Tsim Sha Tsui, one in Causeway Bay and one in Shatin). Xiao Long Bao is a traditional Chinese soup dumpling which can cater to any taste; meat, seafood and vegetarian. These delicate parcels are filled with broth and your chosen stuffing. Be careful when transferring the dumpling from the steamer to the Chinese soup spoon, you don’t want to waste any of the delicious broth!
Top 3 Etiquette Tips
One of the most contentious points in Hong Kong is personal hygiene. The locals are very careful over the prevention of colds and flu, where the population is so dense sickness can spread like wildfire. Do not be insulted if when in a crowd if you cough or sneeze the crowd parts around you, there is a fear of contamination and is not to be taken personally. Ensure that you always carry a pack of tissues and sanitiser wipes with you whilst travelling in the city so you can easily catch a cough or sneeze then wipe down your hands afterwards. Locals will only wear a face mask when they themselves are ill as a way to ensure that they do not spread their germs, however, visitors do not have to do this.
Whilst it is common at home to wait for a server to approach you to take your order, you will find in Hong Kong that you will be waiting a long time. Servers will only approach a table when you raise your hand and hold your palm flat. This is the general signal for servers that you require a service from ordering to asking for the bill. Whilst this will feel quite rude at first you will soon see that it is used by every table in most restaurants.
In almost every restaurant you will be served herbal tea and you will find that your cup is continuously filled throughout your meal. Although at home it is deemed wasteful and rude to not drink every last drop of tea if you do this in Hong Kong you will find that your cup will be constantly refilled. If you have enjoyed enough tea simply leave the cup full and this will be taken as the signal for the server that you do not require any more. Also if you have a teapot and require more water or tea simply place the lid upside down on the teapot as it signals you require more.
Top 3 Souvenirs
If you are looking for a small gift to bring back from Hong Kong that will be easy to store in your baggage then a silk hand-painted fan is definitely top of most travellers list. Most markets and shops across Hong Kong stocks a wider variety of colours, designs and sizes. It is worth noting that quality is better within shops away from large markets such as the ladies market however the price does go up slightly. If you are looking to bulk buy do not be afraid to haggle as this can significantly reduce the price.
Hong Kong to this day remains one of the centres for international jade trade across the world. You cannot turn a corner in central Hong Kong without walking past a shop selling jade jewellery. Believed by Chinese wearers to be a guardian for its owner, jade jewellery is one of the most popular stones sold throughout China for its superstitious and protecting qualities.
Hong Kong is a shopper’s paradise as there is no tax payable on all items purchased (excluding alcohol and tobacco) within Hong Kong. Almost every store from local brands to the larger global designers have large sale signs in their windows that never seem to come down. For visitors and Chinese residents alike shopping in Hong Kong is a must, it is worth avoiding the larger shopping centres and malls at weekends and evenings as it can get exceedingly busy and the Hong Kong queuing system can leave a lot to be desired. But for those looking to purchase designer items or electrical goods, it is well worth checking out the prices in Hong Kong as you’ll probably be able to bag yourself a bargain compared to UK prices.