Hong Kong is one of the most crowded city’s I have ever visited. It’s densely occupied with countless skyscrapers, however, there are some pockets of nature, thankfully. This past week I got to spend a full day exploring in the city.
I have been in Shanghai, China mainland for the last month, on a L1 (visitor) visa, which only permits me 30 days stay at a time in the country. Since my 1st 30 days had expired, I decided to go to Hong Kong, which is a nice 2h30min-3hr flight from Shanghai.
Hong Kong is a harbor city, with a combination of the oriental cultural foundation and a blend of the west. As its summer in the northern hemisphere, the city is boiling and humid which can make exploring quite sweaty, so brace yourself and prepare accordingly.
The best and most cost-effective way to get into the city from the airport is the bus (depending on where you’re going, it can cost 20-40 HKD).
Accommodation: Chungking Mansion
Hong Kong is not the most budget-friendly city, but your best bet at cheap accommodation is Chungking Mansions in Kowloon, which is where every budget traveller usually stay’s at.
It’s a huge building divided into 5 blocks where all small hostels are placed on each floor.
TIP: If you’re looking for comfort, cleanliness and all the amenities I wouldn’t really recommend Chungking Mansions. It’s extremely budget, the rooms are quite compact and hygiene is not a top priority. There is very little space so expect to basically be in a shoe box and a world in itself. Since, I was on an EXTREMELY TIGHT BUDGET, I had no choice but staying here. Don’t think I will be doing that again. I found it overpriced for the offering. Mistake I did was booking on booking.com instead of negotiating when I got there.
Note: Chunking Mansions is located at 36-44 Nathan Road. The closest MTR station is Tsim Sha Tsui. Many owners will approach you to offer accommodation, which you can try bargain down the price initially offered, and try get it for less than HK$100.
However, the great thing about this place is that it’s filled with everything from curry restaurants to African food stands. There is a shopping mall and even a mosque.
Since I had limited time, I started my day with with dim sum of course.
I’m not a morning person so I started my day of exploring just before midday. I made a stop at Hong Kong’s Tim How Wan (the one in Sham Shui Po area), reportedly the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, earning the accolade in 2010. It’s the brainchild of former Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong chefs Mak Gui Pui and Leung Fai Keung.
I ordered their famed and best-selling BBQ pork buns, which was delicious; a sweet savory fluffly bun stuffed with sweet and sour sticky pork. It’s a Cantonese speciality known as cha siu bao. After that I ordered pork and shrimp dim sum (點心), which are bite-sized portions of food that are often served in traditional bamboo steamer baskets – can be cooked, steamed, fried, baked. Honestly wasn’t the best dim sum I have had but it was good.
Taking Time To Smell The Roses At Mong Kok Flower Market
To burn off the dim sum calories I took a 20min walk to the well-known Mong Kok neighborhood Flower Street, which is lined with vendors selling all sorts of different flowers: from roses to orchids and everything in between. It’s perfect for anyone with an interest in either horticulture or people watching.
Once I had soaked in all the beauty I could with the flowers and plants, I had to make my way to the well-known Choi Hung Estate basketball court. After taking the internet by storm due to its colorful apartment buildings, the Choi Hung Estate has become an overnight Instagram sensation. Usually, residential areas are not considered tourist attractions but this colorful basketball court in Hong Kong is now one of the busiest and most popular attractions in the city.
NOTE: You can use google maps to find any destination in Hong Kong, and it will have up to date pick up times for any buses or subway trains you need. It will even tell you the correct exit to take out of the subway station!
IN GENERAL: The city is connected via MTR (Mass Transit Railway) which offers a fast way to explore the city. It can be a bit pricey, depending on where you go. I recommend getting an Octopus card, a debit-style card where you can top up.
After I had wondered through the flower market and indulged my love for blooms, I made my way to one of the most Instagramed basketball courts at the colorful Choi Hung Estate.
How to find the Choi Hung Estate basketball court
Finding the basketball court can be a bit challenging but if you follow the directions, you’ll get to the Choi Hung Estate colorful buildings in no time.
• Take the MTR Subway – the Kwun Tong Line
• Exit the subway at the Choi Hung MTR Station
• Follow exit signs for C4 or C3 – these are the exits near the Choi Hung Estate
• Enter the estate, turn left and look for a multi level car park
• The famous Hong Kong basketball court is right on top of the car park on the second level.
Once I had dinner, as the final activity of the day, I went to see the much “raved and reviewed” symphony of lights, which is a light show that happens at Victoria Harbour every evening at 8pm for about 10min. The cityscape of Hong Kong is beautiful from the Victoria Harbour during the day but so much more impressive at night. However, the Symphony Of Lights is not the great magical spectacle that it’s made out to be, but still an experience worth witnessing.
Since I had such a short amount of time in the city, I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do, like Victoria’s Peak, which I was told by a friend was a must do. Hopefully next time. Victoria’s Peak is the tallest mountain on Hong Kong Island and it just so happens to have the best view of the city. I missed it since the tram was not in service and I was not willing to spend on a taxi fare just for a view, even if it’s the best. Unfortunately when budget traveling, sometimes you have to pick and choose what is worth spending money on at that time. I chose to spend my money on food, accommodation and the train around the city, and I don’t regret it.
At first after coming back from Hong Kong, I felt that the city is kind of over-rated and was slightly underwhelmed. However, to be fair, I had only 24hrs and think I would need more time to get a proper feel of the place. I did enjoy my time in Hong Kong though, and plan to return at some point. 24 hours is definitely not enough time, but then again you gotta do what you can with what you have. There have been some pretty extreme protests happening in the city recently but somehow I managed to miss those, thank God.