Navigating the tightly-packed sidewalks of Hong Kong, you will be met at each turn with steam-filled canteens, bright neon signage, inundations of traffic and a veritable Babel of chatter. Let the first sensory wave roll over you, then breathe in the atmosphere because Hong Kong is an absolute delight. Well-organized and safe, the joys of exploring the special administrative region are seemingly never-ending. Gaze out over the thrilling harbor vistas, enjoy an inexpensive bowl of beef soup, take afternoon tea in a swanky hotel lobby or welcome the dawn with tai chi at the many parks, like the locals do. Hong Kong is a place of simple pleasures, but you can also easily find the ultimate luxuries. Whatever your budget and whatever your interests, you will satisfy them in Hong Kong.
The lifeblood of the city runs between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, also known as Central. On one side is the financial and business district; on the other is a wealth of shops, hotels and museums that span the tourist areas of Nathan Road and Mong Kok. Take a ten-minute ferry ride over the water to get an amazing view of the skyline. You will see the Convention Center’s curved roof, one of the tallest buildings in the city and the Peak, one of the most famous vantage points in all of Hong Kong. You may even catch a glimpse of a superstar adding his or her hand print to the Avenue of the Stars’ walk of fame.
See the Peak up close by taking the crimson-colored trams that run up the mountain side. After making the steep climb to the apex, you will be greeted with an array of restaurants and shops, a Ripley’s Believe It or Not and a Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. The Sky Terrace at the Peak Tower offers spectacular views of the city, and you can even see into China on a clear day. From this height, 428 meters above sea level, the city’s skyscrapers resemble little wooden blocks stacked together, and the ships in the harbor look like toys.
Hong Kong hosts a jumble of hundreds of markets. Browsing them is one of the best ways to meet locals and get a feel for the real Hong Kong. Yau Ma Tei’s Temple Street night Markets are some of the biggest in Hong Kong. If you are looking for cheap souvenirs, watches, clothing, handbags, DVDs or street food, these markets are the place to go. Busiest around 7pm, the markets start to shut down around 10pm.
The Tung Choi Street Market is nearly overflowing with clothes, all available at steep discounts. Knockoff shoes and bags spill from the stalls, and the best bargains can be found around 3pm.
Hong Kong’s Avenue of the Stars is akin to Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. During the day, you can walk past beautiful views of the harbor, statues of Asian stars, concrete handprints left by celebrities and information boards detailing the city’s film industry. At night, the skyline erupts with a 20 minute sound and light extravaganza called the Symphony of the Stars. Twenty buildings on the harbor’s skyline become washed in a kaleidoscope of colors, creating a truly unforgettable sight.
Hong Kong is also home to the world’s largest outdoor seated Buddha statue, the Tian Tan Buddha. You’ll have to climb 260 stairs to get a close-up view of the statue, but it is worth the trek. Thousands of pilgrims visit the Buddha on his birthday in late April or early May each year.
Other must-see sights in Hong Kong include the Ocean Park theme park, Hong Kong Disneyland, the beautiful Chi Lin Buddhist Nunnery, the Hong Kong Museum of History, the Ngong Ping Plateau and the Hong Kong Museum of Art.