I have often heard the slogan “East meets West” thrown around to ascribe an identity to chic new hotels, fusion restaurants, and trendy travel destinations. While certainly trendy, Hong Kong truly is the indisputable perfect merging of East and West – offering both high-noon tea and beef noodles within arm’s reach of one another. In few other Asian destinations can one experience a one-stop-shop of old vs. new, Chinese vs. English, and crumpets vs. dim sum. For those looking for a truly unique travel experience, Hong Kong is sure to impress.
While initially, Hong Kong can seem like a bit of an overwhelming, bustling city (which I can’t deny it is), once one gets a chance to visit the extraordinary attractions it has to offer, it becomes easy to appreciate its true uniqueness among other Asian destinations. The following are my top five reasons to experience the awesomeness that is Hong Kong:
Green Beams of Light
Victoria Harbor, which can be viewed via access bridge directly in front of the Intercontintenal Hotel, is a great place to be at 8pm when the buildings on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbor light up. They put on a Guinness-World-Record-holding performance of green beams of light radiating across the harbor and dancing to synchronized music. Around the Christmas and New Year holidays, an even more spectacular show can be viewed every hour on the hour.
Victoria Peak is one of the most famous and often-visited destinations in Hong Kong, and it’s easy to see why. Most jaw-dropping and awe inspiring photos of Hong Kong are taken from there. This vantage point provides a panoramic view of the city while allowing for a momentary break from the madness as well as a history lesson on your way up.
Additionally, time of day has everything to do with the experience. In the morning, before the city starts buzzing, the sun lights up the sky scrapers that Hong Kong is so famous for, providing an excellent photo op.
During the evening, the city lights come on and provide yet another exhilarating photo opportunity.
Tea and Crumpets
Noon tea at the famous Peninsula hotel is an experience all its own. The lobby is richly decorated in gold and cream – which serves as a preview of what you can expect from the tea spread. Be prepared for loads of sugar and creamy goodness from the tower of treats that accompanies the flavorful and piping hot tea. During the holidays, you can even get some nice spiked egg nog to help it go down.
If you’re like me, and you can’t quite afford to make this hotel your home during your stay in Hong Kong, at least give it a visit for tea time, if nothing else, just to sneak a peak at the grandeur inside. Sidenote: get there early so that you can get a table!
Shop ‘Til You Drop
Hong Kong is very well known as a shopping mecca not only for Asia, but for the world. It’s both the home of haute cuture retailers and just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the famous fakes of Shen Zhen – meaning it truly has something for every spectrum of the financial rainbow.
My main shopping favorites include the malls and shops sprinkled around Kowloon, and Pacific Place when I feel like spending a pretty penny. When I want to be more thrifty, I hit up some of the street markets. Causeway Bay is a good spot for trendy fashionistas looking for something unique. Lastly, just take a walk down any major street and you’ll be asked if you’d like a fitted custom suit. I have not personally bought such a suit, but I’m guessing it’s a steal for those in the market.
Depending on what kind of experience you are after, other sites of note include Hong Kong Disney or Ocean Park theme parks.
If you want to delve even deeper into local culture, visit a religious site such as Tian Tan Buddha monastery to view a giant Buddha statue. Chi Lin Nunnery is an equally famous site complete with pristine lotus ponds and bonsai plants. These are just my two favorites out of dozens of religious sites to see in Hong Kong.
If you’re looking for a slightly more sinful experience, head over to nearby Macau, which is regarded as Asia’s Las Vegas. While it’s hard to narrow Hong Kong down to just five attractions, these are my favorites. What’s more, Hong Kong, unlike China, does not require a visa from most visitors. So, if you find yourself in Asia, don’t miss this spot. It’s the most likely to remind you of ease of home with widely spoken English and least likely to disappoint in terms of excitement.