Our first trip to Hong Kong
I’ve been thinking about Asia a lot lately. We used to spend a lot of time traveling around Asia but it’s been almost 6 years since our last visit. One of our favorite cities in the world is Hong Kong, yet we haven’t talked it about much on this blog.
Our first visit to Hong Kong happened shortly after we began our corporate careers, way back in 2005. This was a year after we lived in Malaysia while on a student exchange – an experience that changed everything (read about it here).
The decision to visit Hong Kong was practically made for us when Nicole scored a free first class airline ticket at a corporate event she attended for work. Naturally, we took full advantage of a partially paid trip to Asia.
It wasn’t long after arriving in Hong Kong that we realized our travel style had changed significantly. We didn’t want to sleep in cheap, dirty hostels any more and we didn’t feel the need to pinch every penny at every opportunity.
It was nice to finally travel in a big city with a little extra money in our back pocket.
We still let our curiosity guide us, but we opted for nicer hotels and restaurants – well, comparatively speaking. We’ll always be budget-conscious travelers, but we no longer wished to sacrifice convenience and comfort to save a few bucks.
A Symphony of Lights
The Hong Kong skyline is arguably one of the most spectacular in the world, especially at night when the city puts on a dazzling laser show called A Symphony of Lights. It is said to be the world’s largest permanent light and sound show, according to the Guinness World Records.
We witnessed the daily light and sound show from the Aqua Spirit Bar, a rooftop bar located on the 29th floor of a skyscapper on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour – this is a must-do for any visitor to Hong Kong.
In our opinion, Hong Kong ranks in the Top 5 for most interesting mega city – with Tokyo, Prague, Paris and Istanbul rounding out our Top 5 (feel free to debate in the comments below).
Kowloon and Victoria Harbour
We enjoyed riding the Star Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island and visa versa. The crossing only takes 10 minutes and it’s an inexpensive way to cruise the historical harbour get snap some pictures of the skyline.
Many visitors will end up staying in Kowloon and, if not, it’s worth a visit. It’s been noted as one of the most densely populated places on the planet, and has an array of places to shop, eat and sleep. The tallest building in the area, the Sky100, has a 360-degree indoor observation deck on the 100th floor of the International Commerce Centre.
The Temple Street Night Market on Kowloon is a great place to eat spicy noodles at street-side restaurants and sit on tiny plastic chairs at wobly plastic tables – it’s a people watching paradise. You’ll find market vendors selling almost anything, from fake designer purses and wrist watches to knock-off clothing and DVD’s.
As we explored the city, it became clear that Victoria Peak, a mountain peak on the western half of Hong Kong Island, is THE must see tourist attraction for first time visitors to Hong Kong. The Peak Tram funicular railway that takes guests up and down the mountain is an experience all on its own.
The panoramic city and harbour views are outstanding – you really get a sense as to just how insanely huge Hong Kong is. That said, if the weather is foggy or rainy you might want to wait for a clear or sunny day because it will be difficult to see the city.
Tian Tan Buddha
A highlight from our trip to Hong Kong was visiting the Tian Tan Buddha that’s located at Ngong Ping on Lantau Island. The Big Buddha is a giant bronze statue of a Sakyamuni Buddha that symbolises the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and faith.
We took the MTR train to Lantau Island and then jumped on the Ngong Ping Cable Car to the Ngong Ping Village, which is a short walk to the Big Buddha. The 200 stairs to the base of the Buddha can be challenging on a hot day, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
It’s a special place for Buddhists, both residents and pilgrims, so you’ll see lots of people praying and lighting incense. It’s a very popular attraction so plan to arrive early, before the crowds start showing up after 10:00AM.
An update from our travel partner
Aeroplan recently announced that members can now use their miles for Air Canada’s Premium Economy cabin from Vancouver to Hong Kong. Other destinations from Vancouver where members can use their miles to fly Premium Economy include: Beijing, London-Heathrow, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo-Narita.
Premium economy offers a greater recline and a larger seat compared to Economy Class with a comfortable seat pitch with ample room to stretch out. As well as a next generation entertainment system featuring a personal touch-screen TV with hundreds of hours of top-rated, on-demand entertainment. There’s also in-seat power at every seat, complimentary wine and spirits, as well as premium cuisine and increased baggage allowance.
The flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong is around 13 hours, so having a little extra room is definitely worth the few extra Aeroplan miles to upgrade.
Have you visited Hong Kong? What was your most memorable moment?
Share your tips and tricks in the comments section below.