On our way to Mongolia this July, M. and I opted to spend 2 very whirlwind days in Hong Kong on the way.
Exploring the mega-cosmopolitan city was a great way to transition between a stressful month of work and an adventure in the wilds of Mongolia– we got to get in a bit of shopping and eating delicious food before we started roughing it for a fortnight.
We’ve begun to make a bit of a routine of exploring our layover stop. Coming from Australia, you almost always endure a 20-40-hour-straight journey through airports, so cutting that in half with a bit of exploring becomes key to saving your sanity.
For us, though, it’s become a way of squeezing an extra destination and some different experiences into our short breaks from the daily grind.
Our travel mantra could probably be summed up by the phrase “Walk til you drop,” so keep that in mind when you read our itinerary below. You may want to take things a bit slower than we usually do; but then, we do tend to see a lot when we’re roaming around a city non-stop!
Day 0 – Arrive in Hong Kong
Travel from airport – Our flight arrived in around 7pm. We took the quick and easy Airport transfer shuttle to Kowloon, where we’d booked a hostel.
Check in – We got settled in our room at UrbanPack, a hostel in the middle of bustling Kowloon.
Eat – After the aforementioned stressful month at work and then a 12-ish-hour trip to HK, we abandoned our plans to find a great restaurant and instead stumbled to the only place open, around the corner from our hostel.
Pass out – We were tired and knew there was a big day ahead of us, so we were fast asleep before 11. No nightlife for us.
Day 1: Explore Hong Kong
Star Ferry to Central – In the morning, we got up early and walked from UrbanPack to the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier to take the ferry to Central. We got great views of the city on the water and managed a bit of breeze on a very hot day.
Eat – We grabbed a warm egg tart and melon bun from a little shop in the Tsim Sha Tsui ferry terminal to keep us going until we found a café later in the morning.
Walk to Sheung Wan – We walked from the Central ferry terminal to Sheung Wan, mostly via Hollywood Rd, which takes about 25 minutes. We did get lost a few times looking for PMQ, but it was mostly because we were busy taking in every detail of Hong Kong.
PMQ – I had really wanted to see this former police barracks turned open-air shopping centre, which is why we headed towards Sheung Wan first thing. It was a Sunday, though, so many shops didn’t seem to be open before noon, if that. We got to see enough of them, though, since we arrived at around 11:30. Our favourite was Good Design Store, which stretches through several rooms on one side of the building.
Eat – By then I needed a coffee too badly to bother hunting down one of the interesting cafés near PMQ that I had researched before we left. We stopped at a (definitely over-priced) café in PMQ and had an iced coffee and an earl grey fig cake. If we’d wanted to spend more time there, though, we could have gone in to the café at the front of PMQ, which seemed to do a big, all-out brunch.
Explore Sheung Wan – After PMQ, we spent a few hours wandering around Sheung Wan, looking into shop windows (most were closed on a Sunday) and getting lost in alleys and side roads.
Man Mo Temple – It was fitting to visit a temple dedicated to the God of Literature, since we both love to read. This temple in the middle of a bustling city street is also dedicated to the God of War.
Sit in the gardens – We found a little park with benches to sit and watch turtles and koi swim around in ponds. We also got to watch a few people do their Sunday afternoon tai chi.
Eat – By this point it was about 1:00pm and we were starving. We stopped at a restaurant that M. thought looked good called Chachawan. It turned out to be a somewhat upscale Thai restaurant, where we had a drink (ginger cocktail for me, beer for him) and shared a crunchy duck salad. We only found out later that it was a sought-after location for locals and usually had wait times of up to an hour to be seated– we’d just wandered in!
Shop – We continued to walk around Sheung Wan and found the InBetween Shop, which was full of quirky antiques. Sadly, no antiques from Hong Kong would have survived our backpacks in Mongolia.
Walk to the Peak Tram – Yes, we walked from Sheung Wan to the Peak Tram in the heat and humidity; about a 30-minute walk.
Queue for the Peak Tram – It took about as long to wait to get on the Peak Tram as it did to walk there. It was pretty hot and the sun beat down right on top of us.
Ride Peak Tram – Where I discovered how insanely steep the Peak Tram tracks are!
Explore Peak – This mostly meant going into the air-conditioned shops (they have a shopping centre even at the Peak), using the Wifi at 7-11, and eating delicious popsicles.
Walk around the Peak – Despite our aching feet, we did the 40-ish minute walk around the Peak and saw some stunning views.
Ride Peak Tram back down – Pure terror for me!
Walk to Lan Qwai Fong pub district – We knew this area was cheesy, but that was part of the fun.
Drink & Eat – We found a pub that had its own micro-brew, but they had run out. In the end we drank Sam Adams and ate a gigantic pile of cheesy fries while watching a EuroCup match. By this point we were just dead on our feet (see the entire itinerary above).
Ideally we would have gone to a fancier restaurant that served the famously delicious goose, but we’d lost the ability or energy to continue. We took the Star Ferry back to Tsim Sha Tsui and walked back to our hostel in Kowloon to collapse for the night.
Day 2: Kowloon & Departure
Check out of hostel – Again, we woke up early on a Monday morning because we had our flight to Ulaanbaatar at about 6:30 that evening. We stored our bags at UrbanPack and headed out for a day exploring Kowloon.
Eat – We found our favourite part of the Hong Kong trip for breakfast in Kowloon: The Star Café. I’d been looking online that morning for a typical Hong Kong-style brunch, and this did not disappoint. M. loved the tomato nissin noodles and I still dream about my peanut-butter-filled Hong Kong-style french toast. We were the only people in this tiny basement restaurant and had to mime our orders to the lovely older couple running it.
Explore Kowloon Park – Despite the heat, we continued walking everywhere. We were very tempted by the vast pool in Kowloon Park, but stuck to walking under the shady trees.
Walk out to a pier – We picked a random pier to walk out to from Kowloon Park and got another great view of the city.
Harbour City Shopping Centre – I had left my camera’s lense cap at the pub the night before, so we spent awhile in this gigantic shopping centre asking every photography store (there were about 10) if they sold lense caps for my smallish camera. None did, but we appreciated the air conditioning.
Walk to DimDimDimSum Dim Sum Specialty Store in Wan Chai – This took us about 20 minutes; we did get a bit lost along the way, as usual.
Eat at DimDimDimSum – A welcome break from all the walking. It was full of tourists (we had a nice chat with the family from California next to us), but just as many locals seemed to be there. We ordered chicken feet just to try (disgusting) and liked the steamed dumplings and pork buns. The real winner were their pineapple-filled pineapple buns, a little twist on Hong Kong’s specialty pastry.
Walk back to hostel – We had thought about going to Shanghai St to see the cheap kitchenware, but decided that might be pushing it for our flight timing. We walked back and stopped at a few of the shops along Kowloon’s main streets. Oh, and I did find a lense cap on the way back.
Free shuttle to Airport Express Station – We walked with our backpacks to the Sheraton, which has a free shuttle to the Airport Express Station. By this point we were heading into rush hour traffic and had less than 3 hours til our flight left for UB. It was not a stress-free ride, let’s just say that.
Check in at Airport Express – BUT! Hong Kong has this amazing service for many airlines (including Qantas and MIAT, the official airline of Mongolia), where you can actually check in, get your ticket, and check your bags for your flight at the Airport Express Station. We would have been panicking about the time had we not checked in before leaving on the 25-minute train ride from Kowloon to the airport.
Phew. That was our whirlwind 2 days in Hong Kong! You can probably take that entire itinerary and stretch it into 4 days (or even 5) and still feel exhausted when you’re done. We are a bit insane about our layovers….