*I spent 6 days in Hong King in July 2014 and it turned out to be one of my favorite cities in Asia! In this blog post, I am going to give you an overview of the city, and provide travel tips and recommendations for things like culture, attractions, food, nightlife and more. Everything you read is based off my own experiences.
If I had to describe Hong Kong in one sentence, it’d be this:
Hong Kong is one giant shopping mall.
Literally, try to imagine this: The busy streets and craziness of New York City, and then multiply that insanity by 5 and throw it on a tropical island in Asia. That is Hong Kong in a nutshell.
It is absolutely insane. There is “stuff” everywhere.
Aside from the crazy amounts of consumerism and shopping, Hong Kong is a pretty cool place that blew my mind on multiple levels during my 6-day visit.
Before my trip, I didn’t realize how small the country is. Hong Kong is tiny. Even though the entire ‘country’ is made up of 260 islands in the South China Sea, there are 3 main territories where all the people live and all the action takes place. They are called Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories. That’s it.
The rest of the land of HK — which makes up about 60% of Hong Kong’s total landscape- is just tropical mountains, national parks and natural reserves. With such small area and so many people, everything in Hong Kong built up towards the sky. Seriously, it’s like NYC on steroids.
I didn’t really know what to expect before my trip. All I knew was that the food was apparently amazing, there are lots of skyscrapers, and it is home to both Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee.
So before I proceed, here is a brief history lesson of HK so you can get a better understanding:
Hong Kong was a colony of United Kingdom for a long while during the 20th Century, but the British returned the city to the Chinese in 1997 on the condition that Hong Kong will be separately administered from the rest of China and retain it’s own laws for 50 years (until 2047).
Make sense? You might need to re-read that again.
Despite having it’s own national flag, government and unique currency, Hong Kong is “technically” considered to be a part of China today. But to me, that doesn’t make sense because the locals carry their own passport (separate of China) and there is a border control inspection when you cross borders between Hong Kong and China. Furthermore, Hong Kong has its own participants in the Olympic Games, separate from the People’s Republic of China. So, everything proves Hong Kong to be it’s own unique country, right?
The argument goes both ways, but in my eyes, Hong Kong is its own country.
Another notable thing that come to mind when thinking about Hong Kong is the excellent metro system. It’s without a doubt one of the most efficient in the world. You will never wait longer than 3 minutes for a train, and transferring between lines is a breeze. Each train is obnoxiously long and can seemingly hold thousands and thousands of people at once.
And for the cherry on top, the escalators move SO FAST to you will never be late.
Alright, before I get carried away, let’s get into some quick facts:
– Currency: Hong Kong Dollar (HKD or HK$)
– Language: Cantonese, although English is widely spoken
– Population: 7.3 million
– The name “Hong Kong” literally translates to “fragrant harbour”
– The population is 93.6% ethnic Chinese, and 6.4% other groups (Indonesian, Philippines, USA are the most common)
– With over 1,000 locations, Hong Kong has the highest density of 7/11 stores in the world
– Hong Kong has the most skyscrapers (classified as 14+ floors) in the world… More than double of it’s rival New York City
– The MTR (Mass Transit Railway) consistently achieves a 99.9% on-time rate for every journey
– Hong Kong ranks 3rd most important leading international financial centre, after London and New York City.
– H.K. is the world’s 9th largest trading economy
– According to the UN, Hong Kong has the longest life expectancy of any place in the world in 2012.
– Hong Kong has the highest average IQ score in the world
– There are 6,620 people per square kilometer, making it one of the most densely populated areas on the planet
Culture & People
Given its history under Chinese and British dominance, the culture in Hong Kong is pretty unique and interesting.
Everything from the law, education, language, food, politics and way of life has been shaped by elements of traditional Chinese culture combined with British Western influences. But the majority of the British influence occurred up until 1997, and since then, Hong Kong has slowly developed an identity of its own.
This is the reason why ‘Hong Kongers’ are so incredibly proud of their own culture, and they DO NOT like to be referred to as “mainlanders” or People from Mainland China. Don’t forget what I just said- Never mix up a local Hong Konger with a Chinese person, or you will regret it
Along with almost every other big Asian city that I’ve been to, I found the younger generation in Hong Kong to be much friendlier and open-minded than the older generation.
The older folks seemed to have a permanent frown on their face and would always stare at the ground. But, I am used to seeing that because I live in Korea, and it’s the exact same here. The younger people that I met were very kind and were happy to meet me. The good news is that nearly everyone speaks English, so there is never a communication barrier!
It’s truly a place unlike I’ve ever been before, and I am more than certain that you will quickly adapt to the culture and lifestyle in Hong Kong.
What to Do
It’s almost impossible to run out of activities around Hong Kong. There is always something to do, something to eat and somewhere to hang out 24 hours of the day.
If you like to shop, then you have found your soul mate. You just might never leave Hong Kong until your credit card is bottomed out… You can L.I.T.E.R.A.L.L.Y find anything under the sun that you are looking for. From top notch designer clothes to local hand made goods, markets, malls, bazaars, electronics, antiques, clothing, (you name it!)
It seemed like every metro station led into a massive, multi-story shopping mall. I must’ve entered two dozen different malls without even realizing that I was in a mall.
There are several awesome street markets around the city that are definitely worth checking out. My favorite was the Ladies Market on Tung Choi Street (in Kowloon) and the Electronics Market (called Sham Shai Po). Use your bargaining skills because you are going to need them!
Another thing that you must do is go to a horse race! The locals take gambling to an entirely new level, and the horse races are always a blast. There are two main stadiums, one on Hong Kong island and the other in Kowloon. I went to the one on Kowloon and it was a blast (I won $70USD!). You can bet as cheap at 10 HKD ($1.25USD) on each race, and you can drink as much beer as you want. It’s quite the experience.
Perhaps the thing that Hong Kong is most famous for is the famous night view of the glowing skyline. There is a light show (the biggest lightshow in the world) that plays at 8PM every night, so make sure to get there around that time. The lit up buildings will take your breath away.
After you’ve walked around all day, make sure to get a famous hour-long foot massage for only $100 HKD ($12USD). You will be in ecstasy.
For a more complete list, check out my post on 10 Things to do in Hong Kong!
As I am writing this post- 4 days after my trip- my stomach still feels uncomfortably full. I was constantly eating my heart out in Hong Kong.
The cuisine in Hong Kong is fantastic, and quite possibly, the best of any city I’ve ever been to. I ate a meal every few hours, and I tried lots of new foods and animals like frog, snake, chicken feet and peeking duck.
But above all, and one of my favorite dishes in the world, is the Dim Sum! Hong Kong, at the epitome of Cantonese food, is world famous for it’s dim sum. If you’ve never had it before, dim sum is food prepared as small bite-sized dishes, that is traditionally served in small steamer baskets. It always comes fully cooked and ready to serve, so you’ll never wait more than 10 minutes to eat.
For all of you adventurous eaters, there are plenty of options that you can try. My favorite was fried frog (it was better than most chicken), and snake soup was hearty and delicious!
Tea is served everywhere, mostly instead of water. You can get some amazing milk tea or bubble tea from street vendors as well.
Make sure that your stomachs are on empty when you arrive, because they will be overly full for the next (while) after you leave.
Read more about Hong Kong’s food in my Top 6 Cantonese Foods to Try!
The nightlife in Hong Kong is interesting.
You’d think a giant city with a huge population and a million things happening at once, that there’d be a crazy nightlife scene. Right?
Well, don’t get too hyped up, because it’s nothing that crazy. The reason why is because the locals don’t really like to get drunk and socialize. Most of them are homebodies. I guess I am spoiled because I have been living in Korea for over a year and I tend to compare everything to the insanity of Seoul…
That being said, I still had a blast. There is one area where everyone goes to party called Lan Kwai Fong. Basically, L.K.F. is a small square of streets with hundreds of mini bars, food vendors, clubs and madness. This area is 95% catered towards foreigners, and I definitely prefer to party with the locals, but nonetheless it is still a lot of fun. You will see drunk people out dancing in the middle of the street and contributing to the wild scene on any night of the week.
There are also a few other areas to go out if you want to have a drink with the locals. The areas are in Wan Chai and East Tsim Sha Tsui. Check them out if you get the chance!
The nightlife sort of shuts down around 3-4AM, so don’t expect to be out until the sunrises.
Check out my Video that I made in Hong Kong!
I hope you enjoy Hong Kong as much as I did 🙂 Please comment and let me know how your experience went!