During my trip to Nepal I opted to have a long layover in Hong Kong in hopes that I could escape the airport and get out to see the city but I had some obstacles to overcome:
- How easy is it to leave the airport? and what about my bag?
- How much and what should I cram into 14 hours?
- How much money should I budget for this?
So here is exactly how I answered those questions!
1) My preliminary research showed that as soon as you exit the airport you see the gate to get to the Metro and where you can buy an octopus card, which then, in turn, would bring you right to the city center.
Now I’ve taken Toronto Subway for most of my adult life and the simplicity of the TTC was not what I was seeing in HK, so looking at the subway maps got me a bit nervous but once I landed I went to baggage claim to begin the journey. No way was I staying at the airport for 20 hours. I learned that my trekking bag had already been put on the plane to Kathmandu – How convenient?! (so that answers that I guess). I did do some research into where I can lock up my bag and the HK airport does have lockers you can use (for a fee).
I ran to the desk, jumped in line and in plain English asked for an octopus card, paid the refundable fee of 50 HK$ and added the initial value of 100 HK$ for a total of 150 HK (I would end up adding 30 more later). I tapped in and then boarded the train bound for Kowloon station, where I would be able to transfer to other lines.
All in all, leaving the Hong Kong airport was quick, simple and painless. Also, the trains were clean and efficient, by far the best transit system I’ve seen.
10/10 would ride again.
2) Now, what all can I cram into a 14 hour period (5am-7pm)? This clearly is not enough time to see half of the things in Hong Kong so I decided to stick to: Yau Tsim Mong, Kowloon City, Wong Tai Sin, and Sha Tin, basically the southernmost part of the Northern (big) island.
I basically did most of my research based on google maps and some blog posts I had read from some acquaintances and I came up with a list that suited my budget and time-sensitive needs. I wanted to do four main things: Shop in a local market and experience the chaos, hike, eat authentic Chinese food and visit some religious sites.
- Lions Rock and Sha Tin Pass. This was my first stop on my adventure. I chose to walk from Wong Tai Sin station, using google maps as a guide, then walk up Sha Tin Pass to the trailhead of Lions Rock. Totally underestimating the uphill nature of well… a mountain I only made it to the trailhead before I had to turn back due to mild heat stroke. So I would recommend budgeting in a Taxi to take you to from the station to the trailhead. The views walking up were gorgeous though.
- Sik Sik Yuen. I just happened to time it perfectly and be there right when it opened, so I followed the crowd of elderly locals into the temple and walked around observing the customs while admiring the architecture and sculptures. I found this temple to be overwhelmingly peaceful and wished I could stay a bit longer but the clock was against me so I dropped a few coins into the box to contribute to the upkeep of this lovely property, respectfully snapped a total of 3 photos (a running theme during this trip) and continued on my way.
- Avenue of Stars. Clearly, I didn’t do my research too much on this one as it was closed for renovations when I was there. It was still nice to get into the city and see the view from the waterfront!
- Window shopping near the flower market and the goldfish market. Needless to say, both markets were quite unique and PACKED with people! It was fun looking around at all the shops but the mid-day heat was getting to be crazy so I ran to the nearest restaurant I could find to get some authentic Dim Sum!
- Dim Sum. I also didn’t plan this one too well because I just picked a restaurant that was near the goldfish market. It seemed busy enough inside so I could tell that it was good! It was one of the best decisions I made all day!
After eating a ton of food I walked back down Nathan road to view Kowloon Park and all the awesome (expensive) shops that were there. I stopped at a small stall to try some ice cream (again I can’t remember the name) and headed back to the nearest metro station to go back to the airport. My clock had run out.
3) How much money to budget? This is always a pain of a question but in this case, I budgeted 350 HK$ for the whole day (including the octopus card fee), considering most of the places I was going to be visiting were free and I was only going to buy a few souvenirs for family. I would say have 350 HK$ be your baseline budget and add on extra for any extra activity or attraction you would like to see in Hong Kong!
Long story short: Nothing could go wrong in Hong Kong!
I accomplished every HK task that I had on my list, and I left feeling like I had accomplished 1% of the things that there are to do in Hong Kong so I will definitely be returning to Hong Kong in the future!