You can check out more pictures from our trip here.
Flight: Cebu Pacific Air
Cost: Php 7,880/person (U$181) with carry-on only, no checked bags. Direct flight Manila-Hong Kong and back.
For our second trip, Cebu Pacific once again had the best rates. The flight was uneventful, only a couple of hours from Manila. We had about a half hour delay leaving Manila, and an hour delay leaving Hong Kong — the HK late departure was due to airport traffic, not Cebu Pacific’s fault as we were all boarded, and ready to go before the scheduled departure time, then we were told to wait on the tarmac. We checked in online leaving Manila, we saved us a BUNCH of time (I can’t wait until our printer gets here, and little things like that can become a lot easier).
Hotel: City Garden Hotel
Cost: HKD 781/night (U$100) – Booked through Zuji. Nightly rate averaged out from our total cost of HKD 3124 for 4 nights).
It was really hard finding an affordable hotel in Hong Kong, specially when you’re not familiar with the area. But after a lot of research online, we were able to find a great deal on City Garden Hotel, on the Hong Kong Island. Though the hotel is not close to any of the places you want to visit, it’s only a block from the Fortress Hill MTR station, putting you a 10 minute ride away to Causeway Bay (2 or 3 stops away, I can’t remember). The staff was friendly, the hotel was clean, provided enough toiletries for our stay (aside from your usual shampoo/conditioner/soap, we also had a sealed comb, toothbrush and toothpaste, which was a really nice touch, since I’m known for forgetting my toothbrush and having to use Karl’s instead – of course, this time I remembered to bring it).
The hotel had a restaurant, a gym and a pool. I have to admit we didn’t visit any of it (we prefer to explore things outside of our hotel). They also provided two complimentary bottled waters a day, which was perfect to take with us for sightseeing. There is a 7 11 just a block away from the entrance, so we also easily loaded up on more water, beer and snacks as well.
Getting Around: People told us we couldn’t really walk around Hong Kong, that we would need to take taxis (we didn’t take any) or the MTR to get to places. And though we did take the MTR to get to/from Kowloon, Lantau or the ferry station, we walked pretty much everywhere after getting out of our first stop. We basically took the MTR in the morning to where our adventure would start and at night on our way back to the hotel. Everything in the middle we walked to.
Traffic in Hong Kong is not great, so I wouldn’t recommend taxis. You can take the airport express (HKD 65 – U$ 8.35 – each way) to get to/from the airport, and it includes free shuttles to most hotels.
I recommend getting a hotel close to the MTR. The metro is cheap, fast and frequent, and it runs until about 1am or so (it varies with the day of the week). Our most expensive metro fare was HKD 24.50 (U$3.15), when we went from Fortress Hill all the way to Tung Chung station on Lantau Island. Most times our trips would cost around HKD 6 (U$0.75). They sell a “tourist pass” for HKD 50 (U$6.50), but for us it would only have been worth it on the day we went to Lantau Island and the airport, aside from that, our daily total for the both of us would come out to less than HKD 30. We usually just bought a one-way fare each time. (Please note that they expire at midnight, so don’t do like us and buy an extra to use the next day so you don’t have to worry about waiting in line for a machine. Lesson learned.)
You can buy the passes on the machines at any MTR stop. Note that they do not take credit cards or bills larger than HKD 20 (but the customer service desk will give you change if you don’t have smaller bills).
If you’re like us and prefer to walk a city in order to see it, make sure to grab a map from your hotel, it’ll make it a lot easier!
Food: Eating in Hong Kong was very expensive. Though we ate some yummy Vietnamese and Korean food, both in Causeway Bay, and delicious Japanese food in Kowloon, I didn’t write any of the names of the places down. It’s not hard to find good food in Hong Kong, however, you just have to be willing to spend money. It’s a foodie’s paradise, that’s for sure.
What I do recommend, not for the food which is far from exotic, but for the spectacular view, is a couple of drinks and snacks at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at The Peak. I usually avoid chains when travelling (because what’s the point?) but it’s worth making an exception for this because of the amazing view (we had arrived late afternoon, so we killed time there in order to see the view both during the day time and during the night). I recommend the lychee pomegranate margarita.
I also HIGHLY recommend grabbing a drink at the Coconut Master, just a couple of blocks from the Temple St. in Kowloon.
I had the most amazing Mango + Coconut Juice drink. And though it sounds boring, the coconut juice is made of fresh coconut water mixed with dried coconut and milk. Add fresh mango to that, and I about died. We went there three times, once late at night after visiting the market, and two more on the same day, while we were exploring Kowloon. He also sells fresh squeezed sugar cane juice, which I was never a fan of, but we drink it in Brazil as well, so Karl grabbed a bottle of it for himself. And the price? A steal at HKD 23 ($3) for the large juice.
The Peak: HKD 65 (U$8.35) for the round-trip Peak Tram ticket + the Sky Pass. The Peak is definitely a must see activity in Hong Kong, since you can’t beat the view!
The train ride was frustrating, as you deal with a long organized line to buy your ticket, then after buying it, it’s a free for all, with no proper line and people just pushing through to the entrance (the rudest people I encountered in Hong Kong were during the tram ride – in both directions – and at the Sky Pass view). There was a bit of wait since we had to wait for a few trams to come and go since it was crowded, but it wasn’t too bad – looking at how long the line can be, it’s good we went in the off season!
I recommend going there late in the day, seeing the daytime view, killing time at one of the restaurants in the place, then going back after the sun sets (which will cost you HKD 30 – U$3.85 – for another Sky Pass).
Star Ferry: HKD 3 (U$ 0.40) each way. We took the Star Ferry at night to cross to Kowloon Island from Hong Kong. The ride was quick, we got the tickets right at the port a couple of minutes before leaving, and once again the view was amazing!
HKD 65 (U$8.35) The Sky 100 is BRAND NEW, so I don’t think a lot of people know about it – we didn’t either, we just pointed at the tall building and asked a waiter “do you know if there’s an observation deck there?” He had no clue, but he asked around and we found out it did.
It just opened up in April, at the ICC building, one of the tallest in the world, and the views are amazing. If I could do it again, I’d go back during the night time as well to see all the lights. There weren’t many people there so there were no lines, which was the complete opposite of The Peak.
Ngong Ping 360: HKD 169/person (U$ 21.70) for the round trip on the Crystal Cabin. This was AWESOME! I totally recommend the trip and splurging for the Crystal Cabin (glass floors). The standard cabin is HKD 115/person.
You can go here for more pictures of our trip to Ngong Ping.
The cable car takes you from the Tung Chung MTR stop to the Tiang Tan Buddha Statue. There’s a few more things to see around Ngong Ping, but since we had a flight to catch, we only visited the Buddha and took the the cable car back to the station.
Temple St. Market: This Kowloon market is also called the Men’s Market because it’s at night. There’s nothing male-centric about it, so don’t let that turn you off. If you’re white, pretty much everything you want to buy, you’ll be quoted the “white price” which most times it’s more than what the same thing would cost in the US. So make sure to bargain, bargain, bargain, and for the most part, you can get things for half of what you were quoted.
I got two oil paintings on canvas (though Karl says they’re likely mass produced, and they might be since they’re not signed and you see the same things everywhere, they’re still oil paintings and super cheap, so it doesn’t bug me much, I just wanted something from our trips on our walls!). I should add that framing in Manila is not expensive (I just need to find out where to go).
I got a canvas with the amazing view of Hong Kong (HKD 80/U$11.30) Though in the picture it looks like a drawing, in person you can clearly see the brush strokes and the texture details.
And for the same price, this one with a view of a Chinese street (yes, they really do have those skinny double-decker light rail cars in Hong Kong).
And to have an idea of how big these frames are, here is a shot from further away, they’re about 4 feet long, I think:
Ladies Market: The Ladies Market is the day market in Kowloon Island. The bargaining stuff works the same as the Temple St. Market. To be honest, I bought a lot less than I would if you only had to bargain a couple of bucks. Knowing that you are being quoted ridiculous prices at first gets so frustrating after a while, that you don’t even bother looking at something and asking for the price unless you really really really want it. Before I got frustrated, I got a few things for myself there…
A purse holder (HKD 20/U$2.60), so when I’m out for dinner, I can have my purse dangling from the table instead of behind a chair (a no-no here in Manila, since you are guaranteed to have it stolen if it’s on your seat). I was tired of having my bag in my lap every time we went out to eat. The other good thing is that the holder clips to the bag, so no chance in forgetting it!
Please ignore the condition of my bag – I have a TON of handbags, but it’s all coming in our move (which has arrived in Manila, but we’re still waiting for it to clear customs so we can finally have our stuff home – car included!). So in the meantime, I’m using this Nine West bag, that for some reason is falling apart after using it for only month (it’s an old bag, but one that never got much use until now).
The dining table we have now (ours is coming in our move) has a ledge, so excuse me for using a bookcase to demonstrate how it works (and ignore Lucas tail sneaking into the picture).
I also got a rubberized tote bag (HKD 35/U$ 4.50) that you roll up into this tiny little bag and attach it to your purse (I ended up using it every single day of the trip, since it made everything we bought easier to carry!).
And this cute wooden little Chinese doll (HKD 50/U$ 6.50). The enameled metal owl box next to it I bought at the Temple St Market (for the same price, even though it was first quoted at HKD 180).
I also couldn’t resist and bought another painting. The cheapest I could find was for HKD 100 at one of the stands. Since she was the third stand I visited that day, I told her I was going to look around and come back. I did go back, after only finding it for HKD 120 (U$15.40). So I went back to her, and said “Ok, 100, I’ll buy it!” And she REFUSED to honor her price. The lowest she would go now was HKD 120, and she didn’t want to talk about it! Out of principle I didn’t buy it from her (WTF, I have never seen stuff getting MORE expensive an hour later, heck she had followed me 4 stands down trying to get me to buy it for 100 and I told her I’d be back!). I ended up buying it at the another stand that had quoted me HKD 120 and didn’t change their price (and yes, I made sure to cross in front of the rude vendor chick with a smile on my face and my new painting in tow).
I love the painting though! I can’t wait to get them all framed!
Jade Market: This market was a bit strange, because even though it was called Jade Market, which would lead you to think it’s where you buy real jade, I saw way too many fake things, to the point you don’t know what’s what, and then how can you trust when people tell you it’s real? None of the prices were good even for the things that were obviously fake. So we were in and out, and I left empty handed.
Victoria Park: If we ever move to Hong Kong, Victoria Park is where I’d go for my runs. The place is very relaxing! Now is it worth a visit when you’re there on vacation? Not really, unless you have plenty of time in Hong Kong (or you are looking for a place to jog!), otherwise, I’d prioritize other things to see.
Causeway Bay: If you want to shop (in stores, not markets) and find the delicious (but expensive) restaurants I told you about, Causeway Bay is where is at! A ton of buildings with multi-floor malls, and restaurants you need to take elevators to get to (but worth the trip!).
I think these were all the spots we hit that are worth mentioning. I know we did miss some places, like the long escalators and the A-Ma temple, but when you only have 2.5 days in a city, you really have to learn how to prioritize!
Next: details of our trip to Macau!