When travelling, you want to be able to make the most of your time there and see as much of the place as you can. For our quick trip to Hong Kong, there is so much to see in so little time. So here’s how we squeezed our time in Hong Kong. And also the mistakes we made and the tips we learned along the way.
DAY 1: Exploring Hong Kong + Night Market Scene
Your first time in another country (heck, even a new distant city) is exhilarating and nerve-wracking at the same time. We got out of the airport not really knowing exactly which way to the hotel. It’s a good thing Hong Kong has a very efficient train system called the MTR which has stops in almost everywhere you need to go.
Tip#1: Get your octopus card at the airport and familiarize yourself with the train system. It’ll get you anywhere in the city. An octopus card is a stored value card that you can use to pay for the MTR, buses and other public transport systems. You can also use it in 7elevens, restaurants and other stores around HK. It’s great because you don’t have to be carrying out all your travel money in cash.
From the airport, our supposed first destination was the Big Buddha in the Po Lin Monastery. It is near the airport and we had time to kill before we can check in at the hotel. You can take the train or the bus from the airport to Tung Chung station. We opted to go by bus because if we went by train, we’ll have to get off at Tsing Yi station interchange and get on another train to Tung Chung.
The Big Buddha was a fail for us. With the big bags we had, it was impossible for us to climb up 268 steps up to the Big Buddha. There is the option to go up via a cable car but that wasn’t in our budget. Hence, Tip#2: If you are going somewhere before checking in to your hotel, make sure to secure your baggage first. We didn’t know at the time, but there were self-service lockers at Citygate, which is the mall in Tung Chung Station. And the rates are not bad at all (HK$10-$20 for the first 6 hours)
After accepting defeat, we decided to head on to our hotel anyway and try to check-in early. Despite it being an avenue for high-end shopping, you’ll find that most of the cheap hotels in HK are located in Tsim Sha Tsui and that’s where we were staying.
From Tung Chung station, we could have easily taken the train straight to Tsim Sha Tsui but for the experience, we decided to get off at Central Station to have some lunch. Then take a nice short ferry boat ride across to Victoria Harbour to the Kowloon District where Tsim Sha Tsui is.
After dropping off our bags at the hotel, a friend of a friend was sweet enough to meet with us and toured us around. We had dimsum at Tim Ho Wan, went up the nauseatingly high escalators of Langham Place and watched street performers at the heart of Mong Kok night market. We went to other places as well but Mong Kok at night is just a sight to see.
Our feet hurt so bad from all of the walking but we enjoyed so much that night. They said walking that much is normal in HK so hey, we got our authentic HK-local experience that night. I could not think of a better first day experience. So, Tip#3: Wear comfortable walking shoes. I cannot stress this enough. Just do it.
It wasn’t until we arrived back at the hotel that our day took a dive from great to bad. But that’s a hotel horror story we can save for later. We’ll post it here as soon as it’s up.
DAY 2: Crossing over to Macau + Climbing up to Victoria Peak
It was a weekend. And instead of joining the crowd at Disneyland and Ocean Park, our friends from the night before suggested we make a quick day-trip to Macau. The China Ferry Terminal was only a few blocks away from the hotel and we just walked all the way there. We took our time walking around the Kowloon District, taking pictures and had breakfast at a nearby McDonalds.
In hindsight, we wished we went to the ferry as early as we could because by the time we got there, most of the early trips were already fully booked. And that’s our Tip#4. The earliest ferry we could find was already at 10:30AM and our return ticket was for 6PM. The tickets cost us around HK$300 each which wasn’t too bad, considering you are going to another country. Remember to bring your passport! The ferry itself was better than I expected. The seats were comfortable enough for you take a nice nap during the hour-long trip and there was Wi-Fi on board. From the ferry we rode on those free buses that went around Macau from hotel to hotel.
Macau just blew my mind. As someone who works in real estate, Macau is just on another level. Some areas looked fairly deserted while some areas look evidently residential, and then you get to the hotels and casinos and BOOM. An explosion of out-of-the-box architecture and gold-gilded casinos.
We checked out a bunch of the hotels and casinos but we made it a point to visit The Venetian. It did not disappoint. Just remember to always keep your passport accessible. My friends and I got blocked by security a number of times to verify our age while we’re passing through the casino areas. (We’re totally in our 20’s, just so you know.)
Tip#5: Try some of the egg tarts. You can’t miss it because they’re sold everywhere in Macau and they are to die for! I’ve never had egg tarts as good as the ones they make there. Inside the Venetian, who’s to know if they added gold into their egg tarts. I mean, it’s gold everywhere.
The day in Macau was over all too soon and we were back in Hong Kong. But the night was young so we head on to Central Station and took a short cab ride to get on the Peak Tram to go up to Victoria Peak. Although the Peak Tram is not part of the MTR train system, you can use your octopus card to pay the tram fee. Convenient. The tram ride in itself was an adventure. I remember it climbing up so steeply up the mountain side that you could just feel your head being pulled back by gravity.
Once at The Peak, there are a lot of things you can do. One of the major attractions up there was Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum which was already closing when we got there. We went up to the Sky Terrace of the Peak Tower and had the most amazing view of Hong Kong’s skyline at night.
DAY 3: Shopping at Tung Chung + DISNEYLAND!
This is seriously touristy of us, but I can’t lie. This day is probably the day I was most excited for in Hong Kong. Truth be told, if we didn’t arrive on a weekend, this would have been our Destination#1.
Disneyland opens at 10AM so we time to go to shopping at the Citygate in Tung Chung. It was one station away from Sunny Bay, the station interchange where you can board the train to Disneyland. I know what you’re thinking. Shopping before going to Disneyland? Why would anyone do that? Well, we did most of our souvenir shopping at Monk Kok and the nearby malls and night markets by the hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui. But, Citygate is a known hub for Outlet Stores in HK and we just had to check them out. If you end up buying more than you carry, remember Tip#2 😉
While you can find almost any brand at the night market, we have to admit the inventory and the options in Citygate were better. We bought a few things and we made sure they fit our bags and were easy to carry around in Disneyland.
Tip#6: Have an early lunch in Tung Chung just before leaving for Disneyland. That’s another tip we learned from our friends here who told us that food inside the theme park will cost you a bit more.
Tip#7: Don’t buy your tickets onsite. A cheaper alternative is to buy them online on discount. We didn’t know about it beforehand so we’re glad our friends hooked us up with a good deal for our tickets both for Disneyland and Ocean Park. Also, we recommend you guys check out sites like Klook and iVenture for really good deals.
We arrived at Sunny Bay Station just before 10AM and the place was packed! But it didn’t take too long for us to get on the train and 5 mins later, we were in Disneyland skipping around like kids. With so many attractions and lines that were hella long, make sure to plan out your route, take note of the show schedules and MOST IMPORTANTLY, get fastpass tickets on the most popular rides. My personal favorites were Hyperspace Mountain and Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars.
I’d say we successfully went through all the major attraction in Disneyland. At around 6PM, we head on back to the Main Street and got a great spot in front of the castle to watch the parade and the fireworks show. It was magical.
The moment all that was over, my friends and I realized that we were so close to the castle which meant we were the farthest people to the train. Appropriate only because of how childishly we’ve been acting all day that day, we raced each other back to the train. And while the crowd was walking leisurely, we were going bananas running and laughing all the way. We got to the platform huffing and puffing and sweating. I don’t recommend you do it. Save yourself from the shame. It was embarrassing but I guess we just thought at that moment (and I never thought I’d say this but), YOLO.
DAY 4: Ocean Park + Last Minute Shopping
We almost decided not to go to Ocean Park because of the many other things we wanted to do in Hong Kong. But My God, that would have been a gigantic mistake.
It was a good thing our lovely friends in HK talked us into going to both theme parks because they could us get a bigger discount on both tickets rather than just one ticket. My friends and I were dead set on going to Disneyland that it wouldn’t even be a question which one we’d choose if we had to. How we underestimated Ocean Park Hong Kong.
From the hotel, we took the MTR to Admiralty Station where we took the Citybus Ocean Park Express and we arrived at Ocean Park after a 20-minute bus ride. We noticed that there was a huge MTR station visible from the entrance. It wasn’t operational yet but when it does open, getting to the theme park would be much easier. (I checked online. Ocean Park MTR station is already operational since December 2016 along with the rest of the South Island Line (East))
While Disneyland was more family-friendly, Ocean Park offered more daring rides for adults to enjoy as well. After going around the Grand Aquarium, we hopped on a cable car to take us to The Summit where most of the major attractions were. The view was breathtaking, and in my own opinion, a tiny bit terrifying. The cable car climbed up the mountain and passed the side of the island during which part of the ride, a bit of paranoia kicked in at the sight of the jagged rocks at the foot of the mountain side.
Roller coaster after roller coaster. Personal favorite attractions: South Pole Spectacular (because I love penguins!), The Ocean Park Tower (technically a ride, but it is a chill ride where you just sit and enjoy a 360-degree view of the theme park and the sea) and Shark Mystique. Personal favorite rides: The Flash (OMG!!!), Hair Raiser and the Abyss. When it was time to go home, we took the Ocean Express to get back to the Main Lagoon area where we made it just in time for the lights and water show.
Ocean Park offers so much more in terms of variety than Disneyland. But we had such wonderful time in both parks. We got to the theme parks in opening time and we left at closing time. The theme parks really are for all ages. We saw a lot of families with young children in strollers. Grandparents were even in the mix. Some were accompanying their grand kids, some were on their own. Then there’s us who are 20-somethings enjoying both baby-safe rides and the nail-biter ones.
After our day at Ocean Park, we went back to our hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui for our last night in HK. We go in the hotel to rest for half an hour or so and it’s back out again to look around the night market in TST and squeeze in some shopping.
I was quite satisfied with all the things that we were able to do while in HK even if we ended up spending most of our time at the theme parks. Maybe someday if I ever get the chance to visit again, I would love to see more of the culture in HK.
DATE OF TRAVEL: July 2016