The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Things to do in Hong Kong

We said farewell to my parents last week when they left Hong Kong after visiting for 5 weeks. Their presence made this household more lively, keeping us busier than usual, and it was special having them over for the boy's 3rd birthday and my birthday too. On weekends we went out as a family, but it was more difficult to bring my parents around on weekdays because someone had to be home by 1pm to receive my son when the school bus dropped him off. That didn't stop my parents from exploring HK on their own, and they discovered areas, street markets and ate wonderfully cheap local food that we ourselves haven't had the chance to experience (having a small child - and one with multiple food allergies too - places limits on where we can go and what we can do and eat). Most of our overseas family and friends who visit us in HK weren't as adventurous or as keen to try any local food, especially if the level of hygiene is questionable, and I think that's where most of the cultural experience is lost. It helps a lot that my dad can speak and understand several dialects in Chinese, and that they are comfortable with eating food that most tourists and even expats would be apprehensive about. I think they had a great time here, and my dad said he would come to HK for a third visit next year.

Here are some shots from what we got up to with my parents that are mostly non-food related. This ought to give some ideas to those who are thinking of visiting HK on what there is to do and where to go. I've linked to other posts where I'd previously blogged about the sight/activity, where you can find more pictures and information on the subject. (The list is ordered mostly in a chronological manner, and not in order of popularity or importance.)

  • See Kowloon Park - known as the 'green lung' of the Kowloon peninsula, there are lots to do and see for all ages. There's an aviary (and a bird lake with pink flamingoes), fitness facilities (including an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a state-of-the-art sports centre), a large children's playground (and a 'discovery playground' for older kids), and did I mention there are cute turtles in the bird lake? Before my son started nursery, I used to bring him to this park weekly - great 25 minute walk to the park for me, and fun time at the playground for him. Kowloon Park is near a major shopping area, and it's great to just pop into the park for some rest from all that shopping that most tourists and locals like to do. More pictures here.

    Turtles sweetly nuzzling in the sun at Kowloon Park:

  • Across the harbour, Hong Kong Island has its own green spot, Hong Kong Park. It contains HK's largest aviary, as well as several historical buildings, a greenhouse, a sports centre and a large playground. It is a hilly area - the playground is split over 5 levels - and there are lots of stairs, so it may not be very wheel-friendly in some parts, but it's not impossible to get around the park with a baby stroller/pram. I used to come here with the boy when we stayed at a hotel for two months in Central after moving here from Tokyo last year. More photos of the park here.

    Beautiful red dragonfly, one of many around the artificial lake in Hong Kong Park:

    The adjacent Zoological and Botanical Gardens is also worth a look, where you can look at primates, reptiles and birds as well as some rare plant species, but we didn't manage to bring my parents there. (Some photos here.)

  • Drink coffee at Holly Brown. Okay, so this is technically not a tourist attraction, but there are seriously good coffee to be had at Holly Brown. The gelato looks good too, but we haven't tried it - yet. Only two running stores in HK at the moment (and I believe Holly Brown is only in HK), and I was excited to see that they are opening another Holly Brown at the mall downstairs!

    Cappuccino, lovely on its own sans sugar (but hubby prefers it sweetened):

  • Do a cruise around Victoria Harbour, or taking an inexpensive ferry ride on the Star Ferry between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central. There are plenty of cruise companies offering harbour cruise tours, and most cruises at night will offer grand view of the light and laser show that is held every night at 8pm.

    A shot of the ICC, the tallest building in HK. It was quite hazy that night:

  • The Peak is probably HK's most popular and well-known tourist attraction, so I shan't write much on it here except to say that it's better to go on a clear non-hazy day (a rare treat in this city), and to go early in the morning and/or weekdays to avoid the queues and crowd. You can pay a little extra to go up to the 'Sky Terrace' where you can see a 360° view of HK, or you can enjoy a little walk around on the road level to look at the view (the Peak Galleria also has a free observation deck). This was my third visit to the Peak in less than 18 months, but I'm still not yet bored of looking at this beautiful city!

    Good views to catch of the cityscape on the right side of the Peak Tram:

    You don't have to pay to use these binoculars. Here my mum is attempting to take a photo of the view with her phone, and my dad is trying to zoom in on our apartment building across the harbour:

  • Go yum cha. Our favourite place to have yum cha is Luk Yu, one of HK's oldest and most famous teahouses. Service might be a little brusque, but we go there for the dim sum (and tea) which is consistently good.

    Barbecued pork and garoupa pie, one of the dim sum we ate at Luk Yu on our most recent visit:

  • Check out Lan Kwai Fong, a lively night spot popular with the expats for the bars, clubs and restaurants. We were in the area for lunch on a recent Sunday, and caught the beginning of the LKF Carnival just as vendors were setting up (the street got really crowded a couple of hours later after we'd finished our lunch).

    Before the crowds descended (or rather, ascended) upon Lan Kwai Fong for the annual street carnival:

  • Scour the street markets for souvenirs and various shopping items. The Ladies' Market in Mongkok is one of the more popular ones (check out my post here). In fact, there are lots to see and do around Mongkok - the Flower Market, the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden and the Goldfish Market are in the area and can easily be worked into the same itinerary on foot. My parents made their way to Mongkok on their own, and came home with some yummy goodies for dinner.

    My mum liked browsing the Jade Market, but she didn't make any purchases:

    Market stalls on one of the streets in Jordan, selling fruits and vegs. These street markets are where the locals get their fresh produce and meat from, and my parents have bought home fruits and vegs from stalls like these ones that they always seem to encounter whenever they go out exploring HK on foot:

    I think that wet markets are also worth a visit, just for the experience - although you might want to go to a less wet one like the one in North Point.

  • Eat the cheap local food from one of the small food shops, a dai pai dong or even inside a public building like this one.

    "Pei tan chok" (century egg congee) and a plate of you char kway (aka you tiao):

    Century egg congee is a favourite with the girls in our family, and my mum have eaten this dish literally all over HK. On their second last day in HK, I took them to eat congee at a super-casual local eatery I found last year, and my mum said it was the best one out of all the bowls she's eaten on this trip. My dad was happy with his fish porridge - he said the fish was sweeter than the others he's had in HK. I don't even know the name of the shop (it's in Chinese), just its location on Jordan Road.

    Where we had the congee:

  • If you have a day or two extra, go check out HK disneyland and Ocean Park, especially if you have kids tagging along. We have done both places twice, and you can check out photos and read about the experiences here, here and here.
As you can see, there are lots to do and see in HK, and I hope this list helps someone who is planning a trip to HK.


  1. Fantastic article on HK! I have seen bits and pieces of Asia but never HK; your wonderful writing will ensure I make it there sooner rather than later. Not a huge fan of century egg congee (although I will of course try it at the place your Mum found, assuming its still there when I get to HK!)


  2. Thanks for dropping by, Claudine! Do visit HK, and definitely before kiddies come into the picture - the HK experience is very different when there are kiddies tagging along (hubby and I came here for honeymoon in '04). Hubby is not a fan of century egg congee either (or congee in general), but there are heaps of other local food to be had here. Eating local food wherever you travel (especially the street food in Asia) is one of the best way to experience the local culture :)

  3. I think sampling the street food would be on the top of my agenda since yum cha in Sydney is pretty awesome too.

  4. Hi Chopinand,

    Yes I agree that yum cha in Sydney is really good (complete with that HK-style service!!), so you've got your priorities straight for your next trip to HK :)