Hong Kong is a fascinating place to travel to. It is constantly changing, modern yet traditional, full of Western businesses and democratic ideals yet ruled by the more austere communist-China way of life. The people who live there love dim sum and pizza, and never seem to stop moving.
You may be surprised to learn that most of Hong Kong is green (other than the mass of high-rises that make up Hong Kong Island of course), with beautiful hills for hiking, and plenty of outdoor activities. Another surprising fact is that the four main areas — Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, the New Territories and the Outlying Islands — are made up of more than 200 islands!!
Because of more lax regulations regarding visas, it is also one of the few places in China that can be accessed by most of the world without one. This has led to it becoming an international hub for people who are waiting to receive visas to enter the rest of the country, or other countries nearby (aka an excellent place for serious people watching).
Here are some things to do, and reasons why I think Hong Kong is worth adding to your travel list:
1. Amazing, easy to navigate public transportation
There is a comprehensive system of trains (one that passes under the harbour area!), boats, and busses that can get you anywhere you want to go quickly and easily. They are modern, clean, and there is even a high-speed train that will take you directly to the airport!
Meaning "nine dragons" in English, this is where you will find a blend of locals, expats, and tourists from all over the world. It is where opulent hotels sit across from crumbling tenements, stores selling cheap knock-offs are wedged between high-end shops, and there is non-stop chaos day and night — it's wonderful! There are markets, shopping centres, great restaurants, street food, and an incredible view of the harbour and the buildings of Hong Kong Island.
3. English-speaking friendly
Unlike other parts of China, there is a lot of English signage and many people speak English here. This is a result of Hong Kong being an English colony for so long.
4. Hong Kong Island
One of the largest islands, there is SO much to see and do here. Ride the outdoor Mid-Levels Escalator, the longest in the world, that transports pedestrians 800m from Queen's Rd Central via SoHo all the way up to Conduit Rd in Mid-Levels in 20 minutes. It passes through areas with incredible nightlife, so is a lot of fun to explore at night.
You can also check out Li Yuen St East, Li Yuen St West and the Graham St market which are right out of a movie with narrow pedestrian alleyways crammed with shops selling everything from bags to shoes to frogs legs.
The spiral incense-filled Man Mo Temple built in 1847 is one of the oldest in Hong Kong, and is an absolute must-see.
Twice the size of Hong kong Island, this uncrowded, forest filled island has a massive monastery and temple complex called Po Lin on one of its highest points.
The temple is beautiful, but the real draw is the Tian Tan Buddha Statue (pictured above) that is the world's largest outdoor seated bronze buddha and can be reached by a steep climb of 260 steps.
My favourite part of visiting Lantau was riding the Ngong Ping 360 cable car which has one of the most incredible views I have ever seen!