What to do after we eat all the dim sums.
December 8, 2011 12:45 PM   Subscribe

[TravelFilter] Two weeks in Hong Kong - what should three twenty-somethings do after we've eaten all the dim sum?

Myself and two buddies are heading to Hong Kong for 2 weeks in late Jan/early Feb as our "we successfully conquered undergrad!" trip. So we're early twenties and looking for some adventures.

Now it's time for the fun part: figuring out what we should do, see, eat, and drink, and MeFi has a knack for personalized recommendations. Personality-wise, I'd place us in the sorta hipster-techie box, degrees in Computer Science and Linguistics amongst us (in case there's anything super nerdy we'd enjoy). Here's some specific areas we'd like recommendations about:

- Cultural immersion -- I personally tend to like to travel places for a while and really immerse myself in it, see the local stuff, don't do more than ~1 touristy thing every couple of days. I tend to spend a lot of time walking around cities, sitting in cafes, blogging as I go, trying to pick up a little bit of the language. It's a personal goal of mine to be able to navigate the dim sum experience in cantonese after this trip, for example (resources on this also welcome -- I already know Japanese so maybe I should focus on the writing system?)

- Nature/hiking/temples/good views from all those mountains surrounding the city -- favorite spots?

- Crazy nightlife -- we're early twenties, we like partying. I've heard the expat nightlife scene is somewhat segregated from the more local one (Wan Chai?)... what shouldn't we miss? We like the whole deal: bars, pubs, clubs, and whatever other shenanigans we can find.

- Maybe some good shopping? -- we're 2 guys, 1 girl, we like fashion.

- Good food, duh -- I imagine it's everywhere, but if there's any special places, please share.

- Places to find other twenty-somethings to hang out with -- maybe student-life kind of places at universities? It'd be cool to make some temporary friends / party buddies.

- Other places we can/should visit -- Since two weeks is a while, even though I like to do the whole slow, hanging out, immersion type of tourism, my travel buddies and I are definitely up for checking out some places elsewhere in Asia. We've had suggestions to go to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (and Macau since it's right there). Should we go? How long would you recommend for these places? We aren't interested in going to Japan, since two of us have been there lots of times before and are looking for new places.

- Anything else we shouldn't miss! We know almost nothing so far!
And yes, I have seen previously but as we're there for longer, maybe some other recommendations make sense as well.
posted by mokudekiru to Travel & Transportation around Hong Kong (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Hong Kong is a wonderful city. I'd suggest:
  • All the famous stuff like the Star Ferry and the view from Victoria Peak is famous for a reason and transcends the 'touristy' label. Make sure you experience it in the daytime and at night.
  • HK is my favourite place for shopping in the world. Go from market to market and take time to wander down random streets - you may be surprised. Learn to bargain and grab some deals. Leave plenty of room in your luggage for bringing them back! It's a great city for the sort of wandering around that you say you enjoy.
  • Eat street food and be friendly with other diners. I went back to one stall and the girl selling beer invited me to go nightclubbing later with her and her friends.
  • A day trip (or even an overnighter) to Macau.
  • Consider getting a suit made, but not at the cheap places. You can get top-end tailoring for middle-range prices and have something that will look fabulous in job interviews.
  • For a break from the city, go to one or two islands (Lamma, for example) and marvel at how peaceful it can be so close to the metropolis. Take a nice long walk or hire mountain bikes.
  • Walk up to Tian Tan Buddha and walk back down the other side!
  • Wander past Tim Ho Wan restaurant a few times and take the plunge when the queues are short. I believe it's the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, but I know it's bloody fantastic.
  • On Sunday all the Filipino maids have a day off and meet together to gossip in the business district. There are thousands of them cheerily having picnics in the street - it's worth experiencing.
  • Shenzhen, especially for electronics, but check your visa situation.

posted by Busy Old Fool at 1:49 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

HK island/Kowloon:

Tsim Chai Kee Noodle has amazing shrimp wonton soup. You'll be there to check out the world's longest outdoor escalator anyway. If it's still there, go to Graham st. market too!

Busy Old Fool was right, the markets are great. The flower market, bird market, and fish market are colorful and fun. Temple street night market has great food (clams with chili bean sauce! these weird clay pot rice things!) and you can buy all sorts of crazy things!

If you're willing to go a bit out of the way, might I suggest a few things in the new territories?

Go to Sham Tseng (you get to take the exotic red mini bus, run by the triads!) and have roast goose with noodle soup. Chan Kee, the one on the main road, is fine, but the far superior goose is to be found at a place up Sham Hong road. You'll need to print out the characters for Sham Tseng to show to the bus driver, and I believe you'll want the bus toward Yuen Long. He'll ask for cash up front, and don't mind if he grabs your money from you, I promise he'll give you correct change.

The temple of 10,000 buddhas is probably not the best, but it's got monkeys and a nice little trek up a hill, and posing with the fiberglass statues will make for some memorable pictures.

Get your fortune told at the wong tai sin temple. It's right off the green line.

If you go to Lantau Island to see the tian tan buddha, take a bus to Tai Po, a small fishing village with plenty to see and eat!
posted by CookieNose at 3:17 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are reasonable beaches on Lantau Island.
posted by rhymer at 3:18 PM on December 8, 2011

I lived in HK for 2-3 years.

You should absolutely go to Macau. It is one hour away by ferry and the tickets are cheap (around US$20), and you can get a visa on arrival. You can definitely spend a couple of days there and have plenty to do. Macau is much more than casinos, it was a Portugese colony for 500 years and still retains a lot of the old architecture and Portugese influenced food - lots of really great restaurants and good, inexpensive wine. Eat at the Military Club, beautiful old colonial building and great food. Fernando's is good too, and worth going for the setting, and because everyone else goes there too. And make sure to get an egg-tart from one of the famous places. Macau has a much different feel than HK, lower density and more relaxed. The casinos are interesting too, especially the Venetian and the old Lisboa, which was the only casino in town for decades.

For Hong Kong, one place I haven't seen mentioned yet is Bowen Road - whether you want to jog or just walk it's an amazing pedestrian-only road about halfway up the mountain above Central, Wanchai, and Causeway Bay. It has a stunning view of the city and is a very pleasant walk.

Also I don't know if its in season but go see a horse race at Happy Valley racetrack. Admission is really cheap and you can have a few beers and see the local color, and it's an amazing setting, a flat racetrack surrounded by skyscrapers on mountains.

For pubs, one of my favorites is Ned Kelly's Last Stand in Kowloon. It's been around for decades and has really decent live music. Another really good bar in Central (right next to the escalator) is Cochrane's - great beer selection (lots of Belgian beer) reasonable prices and good people watching.

The main places for expats to hang out at night are Lan Kwai Fong, Soho (along the escalator) and Wanchai, but there are a few other places. Knutsford Terrace in Kowloon comes to mind.

When you go to the Peak, take the Peak Tram up, but walk down. Its incredible to see these 60-story building on the side of a steep mountain, and the layout of the streets - nothing like it in the world.

An accessible but not too crowded beach is South Bay, just south of Repulse Bay. If you want to go a bit farther away, check out Sai Kung.

The Filipino maids on Sundays is indeed a phenomenon. The epicenter of this is Worldwide house. The Indonesian maids stake out their territory a bit farther east, in Causeway Bay.

Restaurant recommendation: Ngau Kee on Gough Street.
posted by banishedimmortal at 4:28 PM on December 8, 2011

First off: if you're sorta nerdy-ish and like poking around interesting things with no real goal in mind, I would completely suggest you hit up the Apliu Street market at Sham Shui Po (exit C2 or A2 at the Sham Shui Po MTR). It's a massive street flea market full of goodies and near it is the Golden Shopping Arcade, full of computer goods and etc. on Cheung Sha Wan Road.

Food-wise: honestly, pretty much anywhere is good. One of my favourite places to have breakfast is a little hole-in-the-wall (congee and fried noodles, mmm) near the Prince Edward MTR where they keep the money in a bucket that retracts up towards the ceiling on an elastic string, so don`t be afraid to be strike out and try random places, even if they look kind of weird. For English reviews: http://openrice.com . Search by location, so make sure you know where you are - just remember the nearest MTR station.

Language: Hong Kong's got much more integrated English than Japan tends to, so navigating won't be a problem. As far as you picking up Cantonese well enough to get through a menu, you might end up confused by trying to apply knowledge of kanji to hanzi - the major characters probably have the same means (tree, water, etc) but menus tend to be more descriptive and slightly colloquial. As far as speaking, the hardest part is going to be the varying tones and not sounding like a bit of a dork. Um, please don't be offended if you try and order in Cantonese and the server answers you in English. If you can't get the tones, it may be easier for them to understand you in English. For a quick and dirty guide: http://wikitravel.org/en/Cantonese_phrasebook

Shopping: Malls ABOUND. Some of the best architecture in Hong Kong are shopping malls - rule of thumb is expensive places on Hong Kong Island, slightly cheaper things in Kowloon. http://www.12hk.com/shopping/hk_shop.shtml . There's also a pretty massive outlet mall on Tung Chung - just head for the Tung Chung MTR station, there's an exit leading directly to the mall.

Hong Kong also has a bunch of islands (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_islands_and_peninsulas_of_Hong_Kong), and you can take the ferry to most of them. Good for an escape from the urban insanity, and very peaceful.

Nthing Macau. Mmmmm, peanut candy. And gorgeous cathedrals!
posted by zennish at 7:40 PM on December 8, 2011

Oh and er if you're staying for two weeks, I would suggest ponying up and buying an Octopus card - $150 HKD with a useable value of $100 - you can refill it with any amount: 50 and 100 dollar denominations at the machines and any amount at real-person booth. You can get your $50 deposit back at the airport, minus $7. 7-Elevens and most fast food places (McDonalds, Cafe de Coral, etc) will also accept Octopus cards as payments - they're essentially reloadable debit cash cards.

The only reason I suggest this over the tourist Octopus is that if you're three and depending on where you're staying, it may be cheaper to share a taxi instead of taking the Airport Express - single trips from Hong Kong Station to the airport are $100 HKD per person.

Have fun!
posted by zennish at 7:55 PM on December 8, 2011

To be honest, two weeks is way too much for even Hong Kong and Macau. You could see plenty of both of those cities in about 5 or 6 days. You should think about either hitting up some places in mainland China or maybe some cities in SE Asia.

Also, be careful of Chinese New Year. I believe it's from Jan 21st through 29th this year. Tickets will be sold out and getting around will be a general hassle.
posted by alidarbac at 9:14 PM on December 8, 2011

two extra things:

1. at the temple street night market, get an oyster omelet. seriously.

2. Tai O is the fishing village on lantau island. Tai Po is great too, but I believe it's about 2 hours away from Tai O
posted by CookieNose at 11:10 AM on December 9, 2011

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