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Reader Steve M. just got off a trans-Atlantic flight today and in true Rapid Traveler style is tomorrow flying across the Pacific for a holiday in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Frugal Travel Guy is en route to Beijing today on The Rapid Traveler’s itinerary, but Steve’s request gives The Rapid Traveler a chance to explore one of his favorite cities. He first visited Hong Kong in 1997, taking home a sealed, empty can of the ‘Last Breath of Colonial Air,’ just prior to the British handover to China, went back in 2001 for a semester at Chinese University of Hong Kong, and in subsequent years has returned several times a year for China ‘visa runs’ and vacations.
A Rapid Traveler day in Hong Kong:
Get an Octopus card from a MTR station. Do not get a one-day MTR pass. This itinerary uses about half a dozen modes of transport and all require exact change. The Octopus card can even be used at many convenience stores and fast food restaurants.
Start early, heat and humidity are in hot pursuit. Full-blown dim sum is not as easy to find as might be expected but cafe diners (茶餐廳) are several to a block and have a baffling array of menus and combos for breakfast. Not all is inspiring, but enjoy a pineapple bun with slab of cold butter (菠蘿油) and strong milk tea (奶茶). Perhaps indulge in the sinful Hong Kong-style French toast since you will have an active day. If you want the dim sum experience and are willing to devote a few hours, try a Maxim’s Palace, particularly recommended is the City Hall location.
Head to Hong Kong Island for the Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak. Bus 15C from the Star Ferry Terminal goes right to the tram. Up on Victoria Peak, leave the tourist crowds behind and discover that much of Hong Kong is lush nature. Follow this Peak Circle Walk, making sure to print the map, and instead of following the circle, take the blue side trip on Hatton Road, down past Hong Kong University and get a bus on Kotewell Road back to Central.
Back in Central, you should be just about in time for the Mid-Levels Escalator to start running uphill at 10:30 and you can ascend the layer cake of Hong Kong Island. You’ll have to walk, bus or taxi back down to Central where a nostalgic trolley ride over to Causeway Bay is in order. Take the trolley back to Central for the Star Ferry to Tsim Tsa Tui in Kowloon. You may want to ride the Star Ferry a few more times throughout the day, it is that special. The rest of the day is in Kowloon, first stop is a quick two-part lunch.
Take the MTR to Jordan and walk to Parkes St between Jordan St and Bowring St. Lunch phase one is beef brisket noodles at Mok Man Kee, then head next door to Australia Dairy Company for phase two: steamed milk or egg for dessert (and check out this excellent, student-run site with a hand-picked selection of the best Hong Kong eats: Tasting Hong Kong).
After lunch you can take the MTR up to Mong Kok and push cheek to jowl through markets and shopping streets, including Ladies Market, and a great, funky exemplar of Hong Kong’s endless upscale shopping malls, Langham Place. Lots of electronic stores in the area but make sure that ‘deal’ really is one.
If shopping is of no interest, head down to Tsim Tsa Tsui and walk along the harbor promenade. You can walk east to the excellent Hong Kong Museum (or go direct by bus right after lunch) to learn something while bathed in Hong Kong’s trademark frigid air conditioning. These walking tour maps provide good overviews of the two areas, but you’ll need to cut them short to fit into limited time.
Exhaustion will be setting in and it is a good time for a nap or a movie (don’t underestimate the value of a couple hours sitting still, out of the sun and bathed by air conditioning – The Rapid Traveler has been in cinemas all over Asia). A stop for a fruity delight at one of the dozens of Hui Lau Shan outlets will be invigorating.
In the evening return to Jordan for the Temple Street Night Market and its open-air seafood restaurants. Pick what you want from the tanks coolers, don’t be bashful, and look at the photo flip books for non-seafood dishes. Great food and great value. The Rapid Traveler feels bad for all the ducks that have been sacrificed over the years for his plates of roast, smoked duck at the restaurant on the eastern corner of the market.
Head to Tsim Tsa Tsui. If filled with energy, consider a roundtrip on the Star Ferry for the night view.
Or go straight to the grand, colonial-era Peninsula Hotel, with its trademark green Rolls Royce fleet and up to the Philipe Starck- designed Felix Bar. The view from the picture window in the men’s restroom is justifiably lauded as one of the best in the world, though it is reported that the ladies have a less choice placement.