Last year I went on a trip to Asia with a really good girlfriend of mine. I wrote about my travels primarily on gogirlfriend.com and you can go back and read my stories there. The trip was everything that I’d hoped it would be…and then some.
For two weeks, we ventured into the unknown – truly, as neither of us had been to this unique part of the world – and it was sublime. Before we went, we created this amazing document on Google Docs, which we titled “Holly & Alaina’s Midlife Crisis Trip 2013” which we referred to constantly during our travels. It was a list of suggested places to visit by friends and family members who had traveled to the parts of Asia we were going to. It was very comprehensive and all the ideas were spot on and really complimented the kind of travel we were both seeking. We were two moms on a mission to have the time of our lives. That’s all we wanted and it made for very happy travels. We saw, we ate, we took it all in one step at a time.
I’ll never forget the night we came together in Hong Kong will forever be etched in my mind. I had spent the entire day walking the streets and getting to know the city prior to Alaina’s arrival and had drifted in a very deep sleep when she walked through the door. But the image of her walking in is still vivid and as memorable as it gets. We traveled so well together and such an amazing time in a city that neither of us knew. So here I bring to you my blog post on “How to Have a Sublime Midlife Crisis Trip in Hong Kong”.
These are truly insider tips!
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
– Get travel insurance.
– Bring mosquito repellant.
– Tap water not safe and no ice in drinks, except top hotels.
– Book train tickets ahead.
– Prices vary widely for tours. Vast majority offer similar tours. Not recommended if you want to see the country and people.
– Haggle for everything.
– Rickshaws can overcharge tourists. Agree price before getting in.
– Taxis are metered and not expensive. Some drivers need persuading to turn them on.
– Show address to taxi driver. Lots of copycat establishments.
– Should check room and bed in hotel. Single room may have single bed. Double room may have 2,3 or 4 beds single or double beds.
– Bargain for rooms, rates fluctuate according to demand.
– 10% government tax added to price. Top class adds a further 5% for service.
– Security a problem in hotels. Keep valuables on you at all times.
– Don’t buy drugs on the streets; they can turn you into police.
– Dong prices will be lower than dollar prices. 20,000 dong to $1.
– Take a GOOD camera. The visuals are outstanding.
ONCE YOU’RE THERE – DO NOT MISS THE FOLLOWING ON HONG KONG ISLAND:
– Happy Valley tram – Ride it to the end & back again – get on in western or central and ride the Sit up top in front. Great street scenes at night.
– The Peak* or Victoria Peak in Central – Great views of the South China Sea. Take tram up, walk around top and back down.
– Aqua Luna – 45 minute boat tour cruising the harbor. Get it at Pier 1 by the Cultural Centre.
– Central Mid-Levels Escalator – Longest covered elevator I’ve ever seen. Get off at any level (29 stops) and shop or eat.
– Man Mo Temple – Oldest and most important Taoist temple – walk west on Hollywood Rd. Great antique/junk shops.
– Stanley Park – Fun market.
– Admiralty – Home to the Pacific Place shopping and hotel complex.
– Hong Kong Park – Best for some peace and quiet.
– Hollywood Walk of Stars – 8PM with the crowds and see the Light Show of HK Island (every night of the year).
– Intercontinental Hotel Lobby Bar – The view is THE view.
– North Point – Hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, but almost no tourists, great shopping, great value.
WHAT TO DO IN KOWLOON:
You must visit Kowloon Peninsula. Take the Star Ferry between Kowloon & HK Island. Great views as you cross.
– High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel – Best afternoon tea. Sit on top floor for view. Elegant, has feel of Hong Kong in 1950s.
– Wan Tai Sin Temple. – Spectacular temple in Wong Tai Sin District (~15 min by train from Tsim Sha Tsui or ~US$8 by taxi). All taxi drivers & residents know it. Have your fortune read or get help from a ‘Feng Shui’ Master.
– Temple Street Night Market – Shopping / eating / fortune telling / cheap fun stuff / knock-offs) in the Yaumatei district, home to Tin Hau Temple and Jade Market, is rich with tradition.
– Kowloon Walled City – Originally a Chinese military fort, the Walled City became an enclave after the New Territories were leased to Britain in 1898.
– Harbour City Shopping Center – Myriad of stores, not cheap.
– Mongkok – Shopping for both tourists and locals. One of the most ‘local Chinese’ places in all of Hong Kong, featuring good street markets incl. the famous Ladies (night) market, the goldfish market and Fa Yuen Street markets.
– Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Gardens near to the Diamond Hill MTR, just one stop away from the Wong Tai Sin Temple.
AWESOME DAY TRIPS:
● Lai Chi Wo – Hakka Village, cab ride thru the tunnel, close to China border.
● *Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery – Sha Tin, cab ride. You have to climb 400 steps. A steep climb to reach, but efforts are rewarded with over 12,000 Buddhas both outside and inside the temple.
● The Tsang Tai Uk walled village
● Che Kung Temple
● Hong Kong Heritage Museum
● Man Fat (10,000 Buddha) Monastery
● Lantau Island – The biggest of the more than 200 outlying islands is Lantau, with the Tung Chung area, the Big Buddha, Ngong Ping 360 cable car, Po Lin Monastery and Disneyland.
● Lamma Island – 3rd-largest island hosts large western population and great seafood restaurants – to get to Lamma, take a ferry from Central (~20-30min one way). Freshest seafood/fish ever! There are 2 different boat docks in Lamma, make sure you take the right one.
■ Tim Ho Wan – Best Dim Sum. Flat 8, Ground Floor, Phase 2, Tsui Yuen Mansion, 2-20 Kwong Wa St. the “Dim Sum Specialists”.
■ Chili club – In wanchai – dive-ish – 88 Lockhart rd, GreatThai 1/F.
■ The China Club – Dim Sum – Phase 2, Tsui Yuen Mansion, 2-20 Kwong Wa St.
■ Zuma – Phenomenal sushi. 15 Queen’s Rd West.
■ Lok Yu – Decent dim sum, but go for the people watching. 24 Stanley St. It’s “old‑school all the way” at this “ancient dim sum palace”, a local “institution”serving “authentic” Cantonese bites and “traditional” dishes in a “classic” art deco–style “teahouse” setting.
■ Red Pepper – Wonderful Szechwan food. 7 Lan Fong, near Causeway Bay.
■ Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao – Causeway Bay (HK side) Yummy noodle dishes & dim sum. Near Causeway Bay.
■ 208 Otto – Italian in Sheung Wan. 208-214 Hollywood. Near Man Mo Temple.
■ Lan Kwai Fong: Great place to kick back and relax. Popular expat place. Near Man Mo Temple.
■ Posto Pubblico – Italian, great vibe.
■ Lily & Bloom -Western, Lan Kwai Fong. Hotel Lkf By Rhombus, 33 Wyndham St. This new bar and supper club takes its inspiration from NY at turn of the century with a luxuriously retro look incorporating wrought iron and blown‑glass.
■ Va Bene – Best western restaurant: 17 Lan Kwai Fong, Central.
■Post 1997 – In Lan Kwai Fong – great place to kick back and relax, old fav. Not interesting food – but good place to relax. Popular expat place.
■ Posto Pubblico – Italian, great vibe.
■Lei Garden – Fab traditional Cantonese – best one is in Houston Ctr, Tsim Sha Tsui East (for dinner or dim sum). In Kowloon.
■Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao in Harbor City, Kowloon (in ferry building) – yummy noodle dishes & dim sum. In Kowloon.
■Din Tai Fung – Best soup dumplings in town – nice for lunch, in Kowloon Silver Chord Bldg. 20 Canton Rd. In Kowloon.
■T’ang Court – Fab traditional Cantonese in Kowlooon Langham Hotel (great for dinner or dim sum). In Kowloon.