Before I start talking about my amazing (spoiler!) time in Hong Kong, I would like to thank each and everyone of you who reached out and gave their feedback regarding my last blog post. It wasn’t easy for me to talk about my past and I wasn’t sure what kind of feedback to expect. Receiving so many kind words and thoughts was simply amazing, so thank you very very much!
After almost three weeks in mainland China, I was very excited for Hong Kong. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the metropolis – from very negative to super positive – and I was thus very curious how I’d experience it! To be honest, I didn’t have very high expectations as I thought that it would be like any other big city – loud, crowded and busy.
My preparation for a new destination usually involves two steps. First of all, I check out the so-called must-do’s, the classics, so to speak. Secondly, I look up walks or hikes. Walking / hiking is my favourite hobby. It mixes up the whole sightseeing part. Often, walks / hikes can be combined with sightseeing, which is the greatest option of all. According to my research, Hong Kong seemed to be quite a hiking paradise and major sights like Victoria Peak or Tian Tan Buddha could be combined with a hike. Would I like Hong Kong after all?
When I finally arrived in Hong Kong by train, my first mission was to get an Octopus card. I can highly recommend this to anyone staying in Hong Kong as it really makes travelling around Hong Kong so easy! You can use the card for any bus, tram, subway or ferry! It’s so easy and you get the rest balance as well as the deposit back when you return the card! After this was set, I took the bus to my hotel, the Ovolo Southside. I entered the lobby and I immediately fell in love with this hotel! It really was love at first sight. The interior design is modern, edgy and innovative but at the same time also warm and extremely welcoming! As a SPG Plantinum Member, I got once again amazing benefits! I loved my room and the window front, which offered amazing views over the South of Hong Kong Island.
After enjoying a nice lunch in the Ovolo restaurant, I embarked on my first adventure in Hong Kong, a hike up to Victoria Peak. The peak was about 7km away from my hotel and as soon as I’ve passed the area around Aberdeen, the scenery completely changed. I found myself in a forest with rivers, waterfalls and the most colourful butterflies I’ve ever seen, and I sensed that I was going to fall head over heels in love with Hong Kong. I made it to the top in a bit more than an hour and I couldn’t have been happier! It was as if all the stress from the last three weeks had fallen off. I’d read on a website that one should go up to the top floor of The Peak Galleria instead of the observatory platform as the former is free whereas the latter is pretty expensive. Unfortunately, the shopping mall was under construction and so I didn’t get to see the view from the top floor, but if you just pass the entrance to the observator deck and follow the path, you get a stunning view for free. I honestly can’t imagine that the view from the observatory platform is any better!
The best reward after a hike is always the view and this one was definitely stunning – despite the fog. I’d just bought some ice cream (the most expensive ice cream of my life, by the way!) when I ran into the two Dutch guys that I’d met in Guilin. It was nice catching up with them and learning what they’d been up to. After saying goodbye to the guys, I strolled around a little longer before I made my way down again. On the way down, I took the path on the other side of the peak and guess what – I ran into the Dutch guys again! We laughed and they joined me for the walk to the pier where we said each other goodbye one last time! This time, it was for good!
At the pier, I took the Star Ferry over to Kowloon. This is definitely a must-do as you get a great view over Hong Kong Island’s skyline from the water! Watch out for the dragon boats as they look spectacular!
The crossing doesn’t take more than 10 min. You can either stay on the ferry to return to the other side or explore Kowloon. I decided to do the latter as a friend of mine had recommended the Flower Market. It was pretty far away from the pier but I nevertheless decided to walk in order to explore that part of Hong Kong as well. If you don’t want to walk, you can easily catch the subway to Prince Edward Station. The Flower Market was really nice, a quiet corner in an otherwise pretty busy part of Hong Kong.
On my way to the Flower Market, I passed the Goldfish Market and that broke my heart. There were hundreds of goldfishes packed up in tiny plastic bags. Other animals were on display and even though I knew that I would come across caged animals sooner or later on my trip, I was nevertheless heartbroken.
After my visit to the Flower Market, it was already past 7pm and I was so tired after a full day of travelling and walking that I just wanted to go back to the hotel and relax for the rest of the evening. It definitely was an amazing and very exciting first (half) day in Hong Kong. I think the minute I lay down, I closed my eyes and fell asleep.
I started the next day early as I wanted to go all the way East of Hong Kong Island to do the Dragon Back hike. The Dragon Back is the eighth and last part of the Hong Kong trail and apparently also the most picturesque part. Getting around in Hong Kong is super easy and so I made my way to To Tei Wan without any problem. Google Maps does help a lot to find subway, bus or train connections to your destination – it’s really been a life saver on my trip!
After getting to To Tei Wan by subway and bus, I took off and immediately had the feeling that I would love this hike! And I really did! In retrospect, it really was one of the most picturesque hikes I’ve ever done. The scenery was breathtaking and I felt as if I was in a totally different place. It’s still so surreal to me that it only takes 45min to get out of the hustle and bustle of downtown Hong Kong and find yourself in such a scenic place. I felt so lucky and grateful, especially since I’d dedicated this hike to my granddad whose funeral was on that exact day back home in Switzerland.
The weather was perfect and made the whole experience only better. It was just perfect! I ended my hike at the Big Wave Bay Beach and because I’d loved the hike so much, I went all the way back again.
On my way back, I met a guy who ran the whole trail. He inspired me to do the same thing, so I just followed him. I caught up with him at the bus station and we started talking. Turned out that he’s French and has been living in Hong Kong for the past few months. He seemed super happy with his life in Hong Kong and, man, was I jealous! There really is something for everyone in Hong Kong – mountains for outdoor enthusiasts, big city life for the ones who like the hustle and bustle, sights for the explorers, water for the beach fanatics, etc. The list goes on and on.
After getting back to Shau Kei Wan Station from where the bus to To Tei Wan leaves, I said goodbye to the French guy and walked to the Yick Fat Building, one of the most amazing apartment complex I’ve ever seen.
When you’re in the middle of the complex, look around and see nothing but apartments in every colour you can imagine, it leaves you speechless. It was amazing!
I planned another hike for my last day in Hong Kong, namely the one from Tung Chung Station to the Tian Tan Buddha, also referred to as the Giant Buddha. I checked the trail details on the internet and according to the different blog posts I’ve found, I already anticipated that it wouldn’t be easy to find. And it really wasn’t. Turns out that not that many people are hiking up to the Buddha but rather take the gondola or the bus. Well, I am a hiker so I just wanted to give it a try and find the trail. When I finally found it, it was closed. The guard at the entrance of the trail explained to me that they are doing maintenance work on the gondola. They closed the trail because the gondola is going right over the trail. He was super nice and tried to explain to me how I can find another, more inofficial trail up to the Buddha. I wasn’t very optimistic to find it and I did get lost a few times, but I finally made it to the start of the trail! It was an endeavour, but totally worth it! Again, I felt as if I was in another place. The wildlife was so rich and the nature just stunning. It was amazing! Once I got to the top, I ran into a local couple, who’d just finished their camping trip, and I asked them for directions to the Buddha as there were no signposts. They needed to walk into the same direction anyways, so I just walked with them and we started talking. We had a very interesting conversation and I was able to ask them a lot of question concerning the political situation in Hong Kong. When I arrived in Hong Kong, first thing I noticed were the flags, proclaiming the 20-year anniversary of the independence from Britain. Therefore, I got the impression that the contemporary political system under China works better for Hong Kong people. Yet, according to the couple, they were better off under British Government than they are now under Chinese Government. I asked them if Hong Kong plans to get entirely independent. According to the couple, a lot of people in Hong Kong strive for independence. However, as they said, it is unrealistic at the moment because Hong Kong is still so dependent on China, especially in terms of military forces and certain trading agreements. It was really interesting for me to get that insight because previously I had a totally different view on the current state of mind. I just hope for the Hong Kong people that they figure out a way how to maintain their own unique identity and get more independent from China.
After getting to the Tian Tan Buddha, I said goodbye to the couple and made my way up to the top of the statue.
The Buddha is magnificient, but to be honest, I liked the views from up there much better than the actual statue. On a clear day, you can see pretty far. It was just stunning! I spent maybe one hour on the top before hiking down again. I was sad because I knew that I’d have to leave the next day. Of course, there would have been so much more to see and do, especially the fisher villages on the smaller islands. Yet, at the same time, I was also very happy and grateful because I’d seen and done so many amazing things within just three days.
I honestly never thought that I would love this place so much! It was a picture perfect stay! I did three hikes in three days and I was able to explore some of the highlights of Hong Kong while doing the hikes – nothing better than that! Thanks for having me, Hong Kong! I will definitely be back!
Accommodation: Ovolo Southside
Sights: Victoria Peak, Star Ferry, Flower Market, double-deck trams, Yick Fat Building, Tian Tan Buddha, Dragon Back (Hong Kong Trail)