Hong Kong — Shenzhen — Hong Kong: What should I do and see?
November 26, 2017 7:36 PM   Subscribe

I’ll be tagging along with my wife as her company sends her to Hong Kong and Shenzhen for 10 days this December. (How fortunate are we!!!???) We’ll be staying in Kowloon first, then Shenzhen, then Hong Kong island. The company has lots of stuff planned, but also some down time here and there (and when my wife is working proper, I’ll be left to my own devices). What should we absolutely not fail to do and see while we are there?

Assume the classics are covered (Temple St night market, Star Ferry, the Peak). And also an oddity or two (like treking that covered escalator in the mid levels).

Oh, there’s probably a day trip to Macau in there somewhere.

Shenzhen? We’re visiting a factory or two but otherwise? No idea. Any and all recommendations and advice appreciated. Thanks!
posted by notyou to Travel & Transportation around Hong Kong (7 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Interested to see the answers because my company does the same tour every couple of years and the people that go always dread the trip, which seems wrong to me.
posted by Koko at 8:15 PM on November 26, 2017

I've never spent time in Shenzen, but I spent a couple days exploring Guangzhou last year, specifically the vast tea traders' district -- where I got some of the most delicate, orchid-scented oolong, grown in Guangdong province. Even if you're not a tea aficionado, it's a kind of amazing place. I also really enjoyed checking out the used electronics markets (where lots of traders from Africa go to buy personal goods -- mobile phones and air conditioners, dish washers, things like that). If you hang around outside for a while, eventually you'll meet someone from an English-speaking country who doesn't mind tale telling about the way the supply chain works in developing economies, which I find fascinating but maybe isn't your dream vacation.

As for Hong Kong, one thing I think a lot of visitors forget is that it's a dense little city surrounded by spectacular mountains and plenty of little fishing villages. I've done a handful of truly stunning hikes there (self-link, this was on Lantau), mostly tagging along with groups of friends-of-friends, so I can't recommend anything specific. The city bus would drop us off on the side of a highway somewhere, we'd spend a few minutes walking through a weird infrastructural netherworld of concrete, and then up, up, up to the most striking vistas I've ever seen. I think Mefi user frumiousb might be able to chime in with good specific recommendations.

I'd also spend a while wandering around the Chungking Mansions, a true intercultural nexus of the low-end global economy. It's hard to get a sense of if you're just a tourist (and the Indian food there is mostly so-so Punjabi food that's been sitting under a heatlamp all day -- though the fancier restaurants on the upper floors, much-touted to tourists, are even worse unless you're truly curious about Cantonese-style North Indian fare), but there are a few shopkeepers who are chatty and forthcoming. Message me if you'd like more details on it; I'm hurrying off right now, and so this is a very incomplete set of notes!
posted by tapir-whorf at 9:05 PM on November 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Hi, I live in Hong Kong.

Kowloon and Hong Kong Island are trivially distant from each other so you need not limit yourself to Kowloon side or Hong Kong side when you're staying in either part of the city. Pick up Octopus cards when you get here to make transit a cinch - single tickets are a pain and the Octopus often gets you a discount on single tickets anyway.

I'd sort out some sort of mobile phone/data situation when you're here - all the providers will sell you some sort of short-term SIM and set you up in store, often with access to a network in China/Macau included (like this one from 3 for about $25 USD); more here. If your phone has NFC you can even get an Octopus SIM from CSL. I use my phone for restaurants more than anything else; you'll want the OpenRice app, which is a bit like our Yelp. Most reviews are in Chinese but you'll get a general feel for prices and ratings.

I take people to these places when I'm hosting guests:


- a meal at Above and Beyond at Hotel ICON in East Tsim Sha Tsui/Hung Hom, which has a great view of the harbour and is not super-exorbitantly priced (by HK standards). They do set lunches and dinners, which I always find helpful when dealing with Chinese cuisine since I'm not super-familiar with it; do book ahead, though - perhaps later in your trip when you're a bit more time-adjusted so it's more enjoyable? There are definitely other flashy hotel-restaurant places for a quality Cantonese meal, but I've never had a bad experience with anything related to this place. They also seem to have decolonised the afternoon-tea experience, which is refreshing - many other places will stuff you with scones/cakes/rule-Britannia nonsense but Above and Beyond serve actual Chinese-inspired desserts/savoury options as well.

- Broadway Cinematheque and KUBRICK bookshop next door in Yau Ma Tei for some unique HK visual/literary culture

- In's Point, an insane toy mall full of microshops just worth a wander through, also in Yau Ma Tei

- Lei Yue Mun is at the eastern end of Kowloon and is, according to the Tourism Board, 'where you pick a fish from a market, take it to a restaurant to have it cooked and it alfresco'. This is great fun and not a hugely-touristy experience, but is popular with local folks out with the family for a meal out.

New Territories and Outlying Islands

- Peng Chau is laid-back and very quiet on weekdays - get the ferry from Central Pier

- Kat Hing Wai, a Punti walled village near Kam Sheung Road MTR station

- The MacLehose trail from High Island Reservoir East Dam to Pak Tam Au is gorgeous and doable in a 6-8 hour day hike with a stop for lunch at Sai Wan - take a cab to the dam and walk along the coast via Long Ke, Sai Wan and Ham Tin to Pak Tam Au, then get bus 94 back to Sai Kung (doing it the other way leaves you with no transport at the end!) - it's all signed in English and you'll pass through some villages that are centuries old AND probably meet a buffalo or two. You'll be sweaty but it's not difficult - you could do it in sneakers, not boots.

Hong Kong Island

- Lin Heung for dim sum if you're feeling adventurous, Maxim's City Hall if you're feeling like you want something more accessible; both are fun but Maxim's has more English and is thus a bit more touristy

- Tai Lung Fung (shhhhhh, don't tell anyone)

- Walk under the Canal Road flyover for a glimpse at Petty Person Beating.

- Ping Pong 129, a gintonería in a basement in Sai Ying Pun.

- Wander through the micro-neighbourhood of Tai Hang, which can feel like a quiet little slice of decades past and is still mostly low-rise, for dinner and drinks one evening. 4 School Street is one of my favourite buildings in the city. Walk there from Causeway Bay or Tin Hau MTR.

Also, not sure where you're coming from, but don't underestimate jet lag. Assume you'll be really tired for at least part of the trip. If I were you I'd download the Foodpanda/Deliveroo apps for when you just want some food to appear where you're staying rather than having to get out of your pyjamas and trek out to find somewhere to have something to eat. Also think about getting a Taxi Translator app - many taxi drivers have more limited English than you'd expect.

Finally, if you can, use a bit of Cantonese - people in Hong Kong are proud of their language and there's always a bit of appreciation for tourists who make the effort. (But don't worry: people will still probably instantly switch to English with you.) A few pleasantries here (try for at least hello/thanks!).
posted by mdonley at 10:20 PM on November 26, 2017 [10 favorites]

If you're into tech at all, I'd totally recommend going to the SEG Electronics Plaza. It's a gigantic tower filled with every electronic part you could ever imagine. You could build a fancy phone from scratch there and get it all soldered together if you were knowledgeable enough. Plus, there were some chefs on random floors chopping up meats - I had some shockingly delicious duck on rice for, like, $3 CAD.

People often cross over from Hong Kong to get cheap cheap massages in Shenzhen, but it can be difficult if you don't know Mandarin (some 'extra services' may be suggested if you're a man).

Just a warning that Shenzhen isn't the easiest to get around, especially compared to cities like Shanghai and Beijing, even though it has a metro. Definitely map out where you want to go strategically and prepare to do some walking!
posted by thebots at 11:09 PM on November 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

@mdonley has some great suggestions, so I can only nod and add to them.

Hong Kong

For some Hong Kong history, I generally recommend the Ping Shan Heritage trail. You can combine it with a visit to the Hong Kong Wetland Park. I love the park, but I'm a birdy kind of person. Be warned that the park can (crap shoot) be overrun by school children if it's the wrong time of year.

10,000 Buddhas Monastery in Shatin is worth a visit. They serve great vegetarian food up at the top. Similarly, Chi Lin Vegetarian in Diamond Hill is a little oasis of peace and part of the Chi Lin Nunnery.

For a bit of culture, walking and food, try the Tung O ancient trail to the charming Tai O fishing village. If you book ahead, you can stay at the hotel in Tai O which is built into the old historical police station. What I do with friends is walk Tung Chung to Tai O, stay overnight in the hotel, then hike the Lantau Trail out of Tai O back to Big Buddha and back down to Tung Chung. Try the street food in Tai O, but be careful of the dolphin trips. Many of the operators are not ethical and since the pink dolphins are critically endangered, do some research before you book.

On Hong Kong Island, PMQ is a center for design and the arts in a restored police building and worth a visit. There are small design shops and many little restaurants in the building.

Yardbird is one of my favourite HK restaurants. They've just moved to Wing Lok street, but the food is great. Chôm Chôm is also a Soho favourite with street Vietnamese food. Hong Kong is just crazy with good food, all kinds. I personally like all the Fusion a bit more than I like the Canto food, but ymmv.

Cocktails at the Envoy are my personal favourite, but good cocktails are pretty much everywhere too.

I also do a lot of hiking in Hong Kong, so if you'd like to do more strenuous hikes, feel free to PM me for advice.


I avoid the Casinos and just spend time walking the streets in Macau Peninsula. Lou Lim Ieoc Garden is my favourite place in Macau. I would probably spend a day doing the Lighthouse, Lou lim leoc, the Tea Museum and the St. Lazarus Quarter. Albergue 1601 is my favourite restaurant in Macau.


I haven't spent as much time here, but I can recommend the area of Wutong Mountain. I love hiking Wutong and it's pretty, with some nice nature. Close to Wutong is Dafin Oil Painting village, which is definitely also worth a trip.

Feel free to PM me if you and your wife want to have a mini meetup. I'm busy with work, but around for most of December. I live in Sai Ying Pun.
posted by frumiousb at 11:54 PM on November 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

If you are American, do you have your Chinese visa sorted?

Crossing the border via the MTR is very simple. There are videos on YouTube showing you what to expect, lots of walking, well marked. Going on the weekend, expect large crowds.

The Shenzhen subway is modern and easy to figure out. I stayed in the Dongman Pedestrian area which was walkable, full of shops and, more importantly, street food stalls.

When I wanted a break from the crowds, I took the subway to the OCT (Overseas Chinese Town) which is a lovely area, parks, nice restaurants, and a tiny little monorail glides around above it which was fun. Gives you an overhead view of the Chinese Folk Culture Village which saves you going there. From the OCT metro stop, you can also see over to Windows of the World which is a theme park with small-size versions of the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, etc.

For Hong Kong, I enjoyed walking around the islands which don't allow cars, like Cheung Chau, reachable by ferry. Popular on weekends. My favorite time to go to the Peak is before sunset so I can see it by day and by night. The walking loop around takes... an hour? My favorite sit-down ride is the tram from Kennedy Town to Causeway Bay, around Happy Valley Race Course, sitting upstairs in the front seat.

I knew this but somehow forgot it in the excitement: China blocks a lot of websites so either get a VPN or use Bing (ugh). Getting a SIM card in China was a huge hassle.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:05 AM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Dragon's Back Trail at the south east of Hong Kong Island has some wonderful views, and ends at Big Wave Bay where you can get your breath back with a cold beer. I ate at the restaurant that also does surf rentals, and it was very pleasant.

If you visit the Peak during the daytime, consider walking down the south side of the island through Pok Fu Lam Country Park. You can easily get a bus back into town once you meet the main road.

In the Central district of the island, the aviary in Hong Kong Park is lovely, and at the zoo I've spent hours watching the lemurs in the big enclosure to the west of Albany Road. There are other lemur enclosures in the main area of the zoo on the other side of the road, but they're much smaller and rather depressing.

At 8 pm every clear night, there's a lightshow involving many of the buildings on the harbour along with a commentary that's broadcast in many hotels. I've seen it twice from the rooftop bar at the Kowloon Sheraton, and it is a cheesy delight.

I envy you. December is a lovely time to visit Hong Kong.
posted by kelper at 5:50 AM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

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