With Hong Kong dominating international news lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the city. Last November I spent 5 days in Beijing followed by 3 in Hong Kong with my two older kids (full trip recap). While both cities were immensely enjoyable, they couldn’t be any more different.
What a Skyline!
The Hong Kong Skyline is unmistakable. With Victoria Peak towering above a city of skyscrapers, there are few others in the world that rival it. The setting is just perfect, with ocean in the foreground and mountains filling out the background. It is truly incredible.
Hong Kong also holds the title as the city with the most skycrapers. With a population of over 7 million people, the city boasts the most buildings over 40 stories, many of which are densely packed apartment high-rises, allowing the city to hold over 17,000 people per square mile. With only a narrow strip of coastline on Hong Kong island that is ideal for construction, there is nowhere to go but up!
Collision of East and West
One of the most tired cliches out there is that Hong Kong is the New York of Asia. In a few ways, this rings true. Both are bustling metropolises, both are financial centers, and both have fantastic skylines. But the cities are also vastly different.
It’s the mix of eastern and western culture that makes Hong Kong unique. A British territory for more than a century, the city is both modern and westernized when compared to the rest of China. But its roots are unmistakable. Cantonese is the most widely spoken language by far, with English (the second official language) being spoken by a far smaller segment of the population. Cantopop dominates the music scene, but Hong Kong also has a taste for other western music.
I was a bit unenthusiastic about staying in Mongkok, a densely-packed neighborhood in Kowloon. But it turned out to be exactly what we needed to really get to know this city.
The food is a fusion of dim sum, hotpot and other traditional Chinese offerings are side by side with fast food chains and other cuisine from around the world. Which brings us to the next point…
Food Of All Kinds
This is where the New York comparison might ring true. Hong Kong has much to offer the foodie. We didn’t have time to try anything close to what the city has to offer. But we did hit up Tim Ho Wan, the only Michelin-starred restaurant at which I have ever dined. The final damage for dim sum for three came to ~$27 USD.
Beyond traditional Chinese options, you can expect to find every major fast food chain in the city. Looking beyond the prolific McDonalds and KFC, you can expect to find upscale places offering anything from haute French cuisine, to Japanese standards, to Italian staples, to food that is as American as you can possibly get.
The Star Ferry
Between meals I suggest you take a ride out over the bay. There are few things more fun in Hong Kong than simply taking the Star Ferry back and forth from Kowloon to Central. It is a short ride, but the postcard-worthy views of the city are worth it every time. And there is no way it is going to break the bank! The ferry cost $5.90 HKD (less than a dollar) for both my kids and I one-way. I would happily ride it over and over again. We actually took it to and from Central during our last evening in Hong Kong, just because.
I will never forget Hong Kong. My older kids and I had three great days of adventure. It is an amazing city, and one that I hope to come back to again, even if just for 24-48 hours at a time on a stopover. A day or two is enough to see a few sites and eat some great food. Given that it is such a consistently busy destination in Asia and a major air hub, I’m sure we’ll be back again. I just hope the turmoil and tension that has engulfed the Hong Kong are resolved, and peacefully so!
Have you been to Hong Kong? What do you love about the city?