Hong Kong is so small in land area but it’s BIG in terms of its economic role in Southeast Asia, and in the tourism and adventurism of Filipinos (there were almost 600,000 Filipinos who went there in 2013 as tourists).
I myself have been to Hong Kong twice but would need 2 or 3 more visits to truly say that I’ve been there. That I have gone to all its nooks and crannies, that I have explored every corner, that I have appreciated its many restaurants.
The lists of things to do, things to buy, places to visit in Hong Kong are long. If you’re going to Hong Kong for the first time, and plan a DIY tour, these recommendations below might help.
- IDENTIFY THE DATES OF VISIT – the Philippines starts its rainy season in July, when monsoon rains fill the dams, and tropical storms keep our roads flooded, but it is actually a very hot and humid month in Hong Kong (usually from May to August). January and February may bring about cool breeze and temperatures drop to 10 degrees Celsius or lower, especially in the New Territories. So plan ahead and prepare your clothes appropriately.
- IDENTIFY YOUR LENGTH OF STAY – a 2-night stay is too short if you wish to do a lot of activities. Crossing the sea for Macau is not advisable for this short stay. 4 nights sounds about right, with a day trip to Macau, or a even a night spent there could be accommodated. 5 nights and up are long and may require a larger budget, especially if staying in a hotel. To save on accommodation, hostels are good alternatives. They provide a place to sleep and shower where you can also keep your things at. Allot one whole day in Disneyland or in Ocean Park.
- IDENTIFY WHICH AREA TO STAY AT – are you staying at a hotel, a friend’s place, a hostel? Is this in Central, Kowloon, Mong Kok? Hong Kong – though a small island, is densely populated. Its train system is superb, the buses have designated stops and terminals, and the pedestrian follow traffic regulations. The affordable hostels are located in Kowloon, Jordan, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok.
- IDENTIFY YOUR BUDGET – now that you know your length of stay, and where to stay at, it’s time to draw up your budget. If the trip is months away, plan a bi-monthly savings scheme to help defray the cost of the trip. In some other situations though, the budget comes first, and depending on the funds available, the length of stay is determined. That’s if you haven’t booked in advance as I do all the time. I book first (usually months ahead) and plan the budget and itinerary later on. If you plan on going to Disney, Ocean Park, or other attractions, the hostels’ owners usually sell the tickets at a cheaper rate since they get them in bulks. So check with them, but don’t forget to check the redemption period at the back. We even bought our Cotai Jet tickets to and from Macau froma hostel owner. I saved a lot. Maximize the power of your peso (or USD) by looking for the money changer with the highest rate. Banks usually have lower rates. At the time of writing, 1HKD is 5.9 PhP.
- IDENTIFY THE ACTIVITIES YOU WANT TO DO – contrary to what we see on social media, Hong Kong offers activities and places of interest that are either free or low-cost. Take for instance a morning stroll along the Avenue of the Stars in the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, or a night’s blissful Symphony of Lights in the same area. Both are free, but offer great photo opportunities for the budding instagrammer that you are. The mid-level escalators are a great way to admire how they have cramped so many people in what piece of land they have and still emerge as a rich country / territory with 274 Billion US Dollars GDP in 2013. There are activities that cost some dollars, like entering the Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, riding the tram to The Peak, entrance tickets to Disneyland and Ocean Park, or getting a ride in the newly-installed gondola. Most establishments also have free wi-fi, some have a 20-minute limit per day, some are free so long as you agree to the terms.
Here’s a sample 3N4D Itinerary that we TRIED to do, based on our flight schedule (typo below. It’s NAIA 3 and not 4):
Are you in Hong Kong for work and can only get out after 5pm? No worries. Here are some activities you can do:
- Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade (Waterfront) – is easy to find because it’s next to the star ferry terminal. You can go there by taking the ferry from Central or Wan Chai or via the MTR, get off at Tsim Sha Tsui Exit E.
- Avenue of the Stars – No entrance fee (more like what we have in Walk of Stars in Eastwood, except they have a bronze statue of Bruce Lee erected in the area). Go there anytime you like, but I recommend either early morning or before sunset.
- Symphony of Lights – every 8pm, around 40 buildings on both sides of the Victoria Harbor light up and dazzle onlookers for a good 13 minutes. No entrance fee.
- The Hong Kong Observation Wheel – It opens from 10am and closes at 11pm, last selling of ticket will be at 10:45pm. Storm signal #3 and above will cancel any activity around the HKOW. Adult ticket at HKD 100, for the rest, please check their website here.
- The Hong Kong Cultural Centre – it’s like our CCP / PICC here, where they stage ballets and other cultural presentations. You can get inside without a fee, unless you’re watching a show. They open at 9am daily and close at 11pm (Information closes at 9pm).
- Hong Kong Space Museum – Closed on Tuesdays, this museum will surely enthrall geeks! The rates for the different activities can be found here but it’s free admission to Exhibit Halls every Wednesday. Museum opens at 1pm on Mondays, Wednesdays-Fridays and 10am on weekends and closes at 9pm.
- The Peak – get there by riding the Peak Tram from the Lower Terminus (queues might be long because it’s usually a tour package). My favorite route going there is by taking the Bus 15 along Pier 5 or 7 in Central. It takes a little longer with all the stops, but you can also see the elegant houses heading up to the peak, at a lower rate of less than 10 HKD. Alternatively, one can take the 16-seater mini-buses which gets you there faster at about 9.60 KHD.
- Sky Terrace 428 – the highest viewing platform and entrance is free with the Peak Tram Sky Pass, opens at 11am weekdays, 8am weekends and holidays, and closes at 11pm nightly.
- Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum – If wax museums are not your thing, you may find the fee here a little expensive. We paid HKD 255 but didn’t stay long because we had a plane to catch (the website suggests that you buy the ticket online a day before and you get about a hundred dollars off). If you have money to spare and spend hours in there marveling at the collection, then go.
- The Peak park – is like a viewing deck for those who don’t want to pay extra and may not have the time to go to the Sky Terrace. It ‘s open for all and doesn’t close but transportation to and from the Peak is only until around 1am, though the Peak tram closes at midnight. Savor the view in the morning, sunset or at night. Though I’ve never been there in the evening.
- The Temple Nights Market – one street. Everything Hong Kong. Located between Jordan and Yau Ma Tei MTR stations in Kowloon, transportation to and from this flea market last until a after midnight. You can find almost anything there, from novelties, to food, to electronics, clothes, “pasalubong”. A place where you eat, pray (Tin Hau Temple is right there too), love, buy. One photo won’t be enough to describe what you can do and get there so visit their site here.
- Take a bus, train or tram and just tour the place. Nothing beats an open-air double-deck ride. Click your camera for high rise photos if you like.
Whether you’re in Hong Kong for business or pleasure (or a mix of both, there’s a place for you, something for you to do, authentic cuisines to try, kababayans to meet and overhear, and memories to make. So take the plane and get there now (or book your ticket and get there, whatever!)!
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