Hong Kong (not a backpackers haven)
Updated: Mar 28, 2019
Our time in Hong Kong got off to somewhat of a rocky start.
Before I explain why, it’s worth mentioning that on the day we arrived in Hong Kong Bloomberg published a new World’s Most Expensive Cities report, and Hong Kong (along with Singapore and Paris) was #1. So needless to say, it’s not the best place to go when on a budget. We had expected Japan to be expensive and as such had done our due diligence to make sure we planned ahead to get affordable & quality accommodation, but with Hong Kong we booked a very inexpensive option, figuring it couldn’t be that bad. It was. (FYI it’s called Micro Hotel, DO NOT stay here)
I think Will could have toughed it out, and I ultimately did for 2 nights. It’s not that I’m not willing to be a little rugged; that is something I fully expect from this trip and look forward to moments of. But in my mind at least, there is a big difference between the ruggedness of doing a home stay in a rural village somewhere in the middle of nowhere, for instance, and staying in a hotel in a run down building in the midst of a city with endless options at all cost levels.
I had a number of concerns with staying there which I won’t begin to get into, but most importantly we were able to compromise and fortunately we were able to use Chase rewards to get ourselves a nice hotel for our last 2 nights in Hong Kong, so it all worked out.
Beyond the hotel, our first attempt to go explore the city wasn’t the most welcoming either. Buying tickets the subway system was seemingly easy, until we discovered it is a cash only system and unwilling to accept large bills. It would have been fine except no stores were willing to make change for us and we even had one person tell us his store was closed, a blatant lie. After the unbelievable politeness and kindness we had experienced in Japan, we weren’t ready for the rougher edge of Hong Kongers.
Once we got our bearings though, we managed to have fun, eat well and see some great views over the days we had there.
What surprised us:
So much of what I had heard about Hong Kong before going is about what an international city it was, and it is, but having been to mainland China years ago, I felt that we were in a distinctly Chinese city, which I hadn’t expected.
It was a really busy city. The streets were crowded, taking the trains was very similar to taking a NYC subway during rush hour (jam-packed with people).
Just how expensive it was! A decent coffee could cost around $6 in some places.Don’t go if you are on a budget / backpacking.
The fastest escalators I’ve ever experienced (no joke, they were kind of terrifying. I felt like I was ‘learning’ to ride one for the first time).
What we did:
Lion’s Back Hike: This was a hike near our first hotel (so it was good for that!), on the same island as Tsim Sha Tsui (TST). It was a pretty hard hike, starting with a steep uphill climb (took about an hour!) just to get to the trail head. It was a hazy day so views from the top were limited, but it was still awesome to hike to the top and see some of Hong Kong Below
Dragon’s Back Hike: This was a great hike. Not only did we get a perfect day, but it was a good combination of initial climbing challenged, followed by a relatively flat walk to the beach at Big Wave Bay. It was longer than we expected, but it was really nice to put our feet in the cold water and enjoy the sandy, sunny beach at the end.
Where we ate:
Din Tai Fung: We had both been before (I went in China, Will in LA) but Din Tai Fung is just unreal. I could live off their veggie dumplings and their red bean dumplings just don’t compare to anything I’ve tried elsewhere.
Tim Ho Wan This is one of the cheapest Michelin Star Dim Sum restaurants. We went to the original location and it didn’t disappoint. Great food that satisfied our backpackers budget. There is actually a location in NYC, though we have never been. Let us know how it is if you decide to check it out.
Wang Fu: Beijing style dumplings. These were also delicious, affordable and filling dumplings
Oddies - Ice cream & egglette (which is kind of like a waffle, but at Oddies they add flavors to it). Kelsey introduced us to this and I got so hooked we had to go back the next night.
Lee keung kee north point egg waffles: After discovering egglettes, I was determined to try more. These ones are traditional (no fancy flavors/ fillings) but was delicious with crispy outside and doughy within.
Got to hang out with some old Montclair friends! I was happy to learn that two old friends from Montclair (Kelsey & Sam) are now living in Hong Kong. We ended up getting to reconnect with them and learn the ways of a night out in Hong Kong (enjoying Hong Kong beers outside on the steps in Central, going to dinner and getting post-dinner dessert egglettes!)
Working out: Hong Kong is a very active city. I still had some credits left over on Classpass so was a fun treat to actually go to a class while in town. If you’re curious, I went to a studio called H-Kore (a pilates megaformer class similar to SLT in NYC).