A city break in Hong Kong, with its bustling modernity, awe-inspiring skyline, and delicious food is an excellent holiday choice. There are some fantastic hotels in Hong Kong as well, so you can spend your city break living in the lap of luxury. However, travelling to a place that is so different to home can be daunting, and the notion of familiarising yourself with the city and its resident culture can seem overwhelming. Here are a few ideas for where to go and what to see if you’d like a taste of what Hong Kong truly is today, as well as learning about its past.
Cha chaan teng
In the UK we are often told that Chinese takeaway food doesn’t taste much like real Chinese food. In the 1960s Chinese restaurateurs tried to serve Western food in Hong Kong and cha chaan teng establishments sprang up across the city, serving bizarre twists on European food. Many of these restaurants have perished over the years, but a few have survived, becoming living relics of a time gone by. Try Mido Café in the Kowloon area for its 60s interior, and consider giving yin-yang (tea and coffee, mixed together) a taste. Though these restaurants are now only cool in the respect that they’re enjoyed ironically, they provide an interesting glimpse into the past.
Out to sea
Though the cross-harbour ferry journey now takes less than ten minutes, hopping on it is cheap and interesting; just be sure to get a seat on the top deck. Considering how much of Hong Kong’s livelihood is based around its access to the sea, and the number of islands that make up the Hong Kong area, you should probably get out on the water at least once during your visit. We recommend timing your journey so that you’re out on the water at 8 pm, as this is when the nightly ‘A Symphony of Lights’ show occurs. The ferry even stops momentarily to allow curious tourists to take a few photos of the event. Another way to get out to sea is to hire a boat – this is a particularly pleasant and financially viable option if you’re travelling in a group.
Head to the Sheung Wan area, and either book a walking tour, or simply go for a stroll. This is an old neighbourhood, and you’re sure to see plenty of signs of Chinese tradition alive and well even today: Koh Shing Street offers some fascinating insight into the practice of ancient Chinese medicine, for example. Wander through the Western Market, where an array of shops sells handicrafts. The Western Market is particularly fascinating for those with an interest in architecture, as it is housed within an Edwardian mall.
Lin Heung Tea House
This is home to what is argued by some to be the best dim sum in Hong Kong. Be prepared to gesticulate wildly to get your message across to the waiting staff, as they’re very unlikely to speak any English, and don’t be surprised if you end up sharing a table with other patrons. Be sure to try the lotus paste buns while you’re there. As this tea house appears to be frozen in time, it’s a great way to see some authentic, traditional Hong Kong culture. We suggest that you visit during the morning and have tea with the locals for a unique, memorable experience.
Eat authentic Chinese food
Some claim that the less aesthetically pleasing the food is in Hong Kong is, the better it tastes. Black sesame Tong Yuen are a prime example; these glutinous rice balls are coated with chopped nuts, and stuffed with a sweet sesame seed paste. They look like nothing you’ve ever eaten before, but they’re quite simply delicious. Gai daan jai, or egg custard waffles, are a relatively common street food, and are a great nibble for when you’re on the go. For breakfast, consider trying congee, which is a porridge made from rice, topped with pork floss – again, it’s different to anything you’ll find at home. The Chinese truly know how to cook duck and goose, and Hong Kong chefs are no exception.
Be sure to take some time to stroll through the local markets while on your holiday to Hong Kong, as they offer a vibrancy than can be found in few other places. Indulge in the incredible food, explore the surrounding area, and you’re sure to have a fabulous city break.