(via stphn, who has recent HK photos 2304982x more spectacular than mine)
When I posted last week asking for Hong Kong recommendations, I received several emails, tweets, Tumblr replies, and G+ comments from current residents and locals. I thought I’d share the wisdom of my awesome readers, followers, and friends here, in case you’re ever looking for things to eat, see, and do in Hong Kong. (I only made it to a handful of these places, but not one led me astray!)
Tim Ho Wan*: cheapest one-star Michelin restaurant in the world - not great for ambience, but delicious baked char siu baos. expect a 1-3 hour wait - grab a ticket and go shopping
Lan Fong Yuan*: famous tea house and good way to experience a typical HK cafe setting - try the milk tea
Mak’s Noodle*: order the wonton noodle soup
Fook Lam Moon*: popular dim sum spot
Luk Yu Tea house*: oldest tea house in the city, dim sum is steamed to order
Sang Kee: preorder the chicken
Da Ping Huo: Sichuan singing lady
Xiao Ye: a private kitchen! private kitchens are speakeasy-like restaurants (read more about them here) - this one was recommended to me by a hardcore Chinese foodie but unfortunately I didn’t have time to give it a try
Yung Kee*: for the duck rice / char siu
Kau Kee Beef Noodles*: best beef brisket noodle soup
Hui Lan Shan*: HK dessert chain - lots of yummy mango-based desserts
Riquiqui: a 3-course dessert only restaurant
High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel*: supposedly the golden standard for high tea albeit a bit touristy - tea is served between 2-6 p.m. - expect an hour wait (500 HKD for two)
Peak Tram*: take the 15 (10 HKD) to Garden Road, and ride the Peak Tram (40 HKD roundtrip) for the best views of Hong Kong - also check out Edward Youde Aviary in Hong Kong Park
Mong Kok*: the night market is a quintessential Hong Kong experience - lots of touristy items available
Star Ferry*: take the Star Ferry across the harbor on a clear night to see the Hong Kong island skyline
Tsim Sha Tsui*: walk along the promenade for the avenue of the stars and beautiful views of the harbor, especially at night
Horse Races: in Shatin on Sunday
Symphony of Lights*: daily light show at 8 p.m. at Tsim Sha Tsui
Ocean Park theme park: better than the HK Disneyland
Big Buddha*: Po Lin Temple in Lantau
Island Repulse Bay: nice hiking trail
Sai Kung: also good for hiking - rent a boat to go to the outlying islands and try the seafood
Hong Kong trail: by the peak - weather permitting
Macau*: Hong Kong’s wannabe Vegas is an hour by ferry (125-175 HKD). beautiful hotels, all the gambling you could want, and the Portuguese food is supposed to be delicious, though riding the ferry is a huge pain if it’s crowded - err on the safe side and get your tickets early
Lan Kwai Fong*: popular bar/clubbing district with everything from cocktail lounges to karaoke to hookah bars to Irish pubs - people out even at 2 a.m. on a Sunday night
Ozone*: cocktail lounge on the 118th floor of the Ritz Carlton with a viewing deck - supposedly the highest bar in the world
Azure*: on top of Hotel Lan Kwai Fong - panoramic views of the city
Sevva*: another rooftop bar with great views of the HK skyline
Prive: the NYC Meatpacking club equivalent - exclusive and douchey door policy but admittedly a good time
*Places recommended to me by multiple people
Here are some other tips and general observations about Hong Kong:
Public transportation, especially the MTR (subway), is the shit: It’s clean, efficient, on time, and gets you pretty much everywhere you need to go. Even though I didn’t have data on my phone, I snapped photos of the maps available in the MTR (which were clearly labeled with touristy landmarks), and they served me well while wandering the city with little to no concept of geography.
Buy an airport express travel pass: As you’re leaving the airport you can purchase an airport express travel pass for $300 HKD, which includes three days of unlimited MTR, light rail, and MTR bus rides as well as the fare for the airport express to and from the airport.
An Octopus card will be your best friend: If you don’t get the airport express pass, it’d be wise to get an Octopus card - a swipe-and-go electronic payment card for public transportation, fast food shops, and convenience stores. It’s the best for avoiding loose change - I can’t believe we don’t have these in America yet. 150 HKD will give you 100 HKD credit, and the remaining 50 can be claimed back when you turn the card in.
Getting around without knowing any Cantonese isn’t too challenging: Most major areas are well sign-posted and streets have English names. Lots of locals can speak English, and Hong Kong is filled with expats, too. The only time I had trouble was getting back to my friend’s apartment complex one night - the taxi driver didn’t know where the building was, and I couldn’t describe how to get there. Protip: Have a local write down your address in Chinese!
Free wifi is pretty easy to find: I was trying to coordinate meetups with friends all weekend, but I lost my Asia phone my first night out (hmm that doesn’t sound like me at all). Thankfully, I had pretty good luck finding free wifi at government buildings, hotels, shopping malls, and coffee shops in central areas. I was definitely that person walking around buildings trying to catch a signal and then typing furiously into my iPhone for 20 minutes at a time.
Hong Kong is a very safe city: According to all my Hong Kong friends, it’s remarkably safe - even late-night subway stops aren’t sketchy in the least. We were scammed once by someone selling early ferry tickets, and of course you should always keep an eye on your valuables, but overall, I had no safety concerns. Even late at night, the streets are filled with people.
There is no sales tax. (!!!)
Hong Kong was one of the most visitor-friendly places I’ve ever been - it’s not difficult to create and follow an itinerary closely - or just to step out the door and wander the city without an agenda. I was delighted at every turn at the ease of traveling alone there. To any readers planning a trip there - feel free to email me for more specifics!
Ooh, and excuse to talk about the Tumblrs I love! I don’t have time to read blogs as religiously as I used to, so these days I’ve sort of stopped reading non-Tumblr blogs. :(
My favorite bloggers tend to be the kind of girls I wish I were friends with IRL (or have become friends with IRL due to said wishing :). Not unexpectedly, I love blogs that feature the same things I love posting about: food, decor, tech, style, career, and travel with a personal touch. Fresh, irreverent writing and photos of breakfast foods on macro score major points. Off the top of my head, here are a couple I love:
Annieisms, duh. Because her blog is full of three things I love: her huge smile, big bowls of food, and me! </vanity>
Hong Kong was just the weekend trip I was craving, though for me, definitely a small doses destination - I consider myself a city girl through and through, but the island turns the density and intensity up a notch. An extraordinarily good time though.
Thank you for all the emails and recs!
first stop: Mak’s Noodle House
wandering the city solo
tram to Victoria Peak
reunited with Kirby at Miso Cool (we so cool)
ABCs - old friends, new friends, newer friends
painting the town red; Prive
Benny Benassi at Hard Rock Macau
dancing to my own beat
on the harbor (re: background - strangers are horrible photographers)
shopping obsessed culture: lines to get into stores in Tsim Sha Tsui
Sunday afternoon: high tea for two at the Peninsula Hotel
scones, mini cakes, finger sandwiches galore
hello there little macaron
post cocktails at Ozone (meeting two blog readers who responded to my I’m in HK post - hi Sylvia and Cynthia!)
May or may not have been too busy inhaling my char siu baos to actually photograph them.
Do you have recommendations for Asian beauty products?
I’m hoping to stock up on some Asian skincare and beauty products while I’m out east - so far I’ve heard really good things about Kate mascara/eyeliner and Missha BB cream. Anyone have additional recommendations?
Teresa I've been following you for a while and love all your cute apartment ideas. I was wondering, does Google have a really generous vacation policy? It seems like you are always traveling to the West Coast, Florida or out of country. As an avid Google fan I am very curious.
Thanks! I get 15 days of PTO a year. I’m not on vacation now (I’m here for Google’s Top Contributor Summit, a gathering of our power users from our product forums). I work out of Mountain View office once a quarter, so I’m rarely here just for vacation. It gives me the opportunity to meet and work more closely with the community team / the rest of my Consumer Operations department, most of which is based in Mountain View. The Docs ConOps team is the only one in NYC. I opt to stay at home instead of at a hotel since: a) it’s sufficiently close, b) I can drive my car, c) I get to spend more time with my high school friends and my mom.
I typically only take one or two days off when I travel (e.g. when I went to Miami in March), or I’ll time my mini weekend vacays with my Mountain View trips (e.g. Vegas in February). I actually haven’t gone out of the country since my last trip to Korea/Taiwan in 2009, and am using up the rest of my vacation days for the year with this upcoming Taiwan trip.