Hong Kong was a city of the unexpected. Every time I left the hostel with an idea in mind of where I wanted to end up, and every time I ended up some place completely different with no idea how I got there. My first few days were spent slowly meandering through the streets, peering into the shops.
I’ve listed below a few hidden gems I discovered in Hong Kong, as well as a few spots you may want to avoid, depending on how much you enjoy being in large crowds.
1. 1881 Heritage Mall
I happened upon the 1881 Heritage Mall near the Star Ferry meant for the rich and famous, where a whole floor was devoted to children’s clothing. A this wasn’t just any children’s clothing. Each store was a different designer label: Prada, Marc Jacobs, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, every name you could think of, and more. I had no idea they even designed for children! The window displays were artwork in themselves. Perfect place to go wandering on a rainy afternoon and people watch.
2. Battery Path
One of my favourite hidden corners that I happened to come across was Battery Path. I wandered up the cobbled streets filled with business men and women, sharply dressed. Benches lined the sides, perfect for having a quick coffee while scanning the headlines. Tall trees also bordered the perimeter, and for a second made you feel as if you had left the large metropolis. It was calm, despite the jumbling crowded streets just outside.
3. Peak Tram / Victoria Peak
Upon exiting Battery Path, I reached the Peak Tram. Tourist trap number one. The Peak Tram takes you up to Victoria Peak, and has been around since the 1800’s.
The line took over an hour to get through, and the people I was in line with were some of the most pushy and impatient tourists I have ever been with. The tram ride wasn’t quite as enjoyable as it could be, mostly because the tram was packed with people, and I didn’t get a seat. After exiting the tram, you end up in another tourist trap, filled with markets and more than a few stores. It took me another 15 minutes or so just to figure out how to get outside. Not what I was expecting! Once outside, I wandered up to the Victoria Gardens to escape the crowds, and enjoyed a quiet (but smoggy) view of the city.
This area is also close to a number of other trails, including the Pok Fu Lam Family Trail, if you’re looking for a nice hike close to the city.
4. Lantau Trail Stage 3 (Pak Kung Au to Tian Tan Buddha)
I wrote a previous post specifically about this hike. It’s challenging, with about 600 m elevation gain, huge steps, and no switch backs, but you’re also rewarded with beautiful views of the Buddha from far off and no crowds. Well worth giving it a go if you’re planning on going to Big Buddha (bonus if you have clear skies).
5. Free Light Show at Victoria Harbour at 8 pm every night
Each night Hong Kong puts on a free light show that can be seen from Victoria Harbour, near the Star Ferry. To avoid the crowds, go on a week day and get there early to ensure a good spot.
6. Art shows, cultural events, Cantonese opera …
Hong Kong has so much going on, all the time, that all you have to do is ask around or look for an events guide and you’re sure to find something! I ended up going to the M+ Sigg Art Exhibition which featured contemporary art from well known Chinese artists, during and after the cultural revolution. This was a free showing, and I learned so much about the history of China at the same time.
7. Star Ferry
This is the cheapest way (costing only $2.50 HKD one way) to get to Hong Kong Island and it is never that crowded! I took it whenever I got the chance – it’s cheaper than the subway, less crowded and you’ll have great views on the ride over.
Hong Kong has just so much to offer, that it’s impossible to do it all. My advice would be to start the day off early and simply explore. My favourite days in Hong Kong were when I went out with not much of a plan in mind. I stopped to listen to some amazing street performances, tried out an authentic Hong Kong breakfast of ramen noodles with pork, bought the most amazing smelling ginseng tea and tried to avoid Starbucks as much as possible (although I wasn’t always successful).
Let’s talk about knitting …
For my knitting friends (I know you’re out there!) who are probably wondering what the knitting scene is like, well, it exists. I noticed a long line of yarn bombing covering the handrails on a well known street in downtown Hong Kong. I also made my way over to a workshop/studio for crafters that sells wool called The Crafties. The selection wasn’t astonishing, but I still found it comforting to know that there are knitters in Hong Kong.
In one of the bookstores I went into, I also found a great selection of Japanese knitting books (another reason to add Japan to my bucket list)! I was so tempted to buy one just for the beautiful imagery, but held myself back, because, well, books are heavy. And heavy backpacks just aren’t fun.
So for those of you who might be thinking one week in Hong Kong is a long time, think again! For me, one week was not enough.