While travelling long-haul to Australia, I chose to stop-over for one night in the lively and cosmopolitan city centre of Hong Kong and enjoyed a brief whirlwind visit. The vibrant capital merges Eastern and Western culture, with fine-dining restaurants and luxury hotels nestling alongside junk boats and Chinese market stalls.
(Downtown Hong Kong. Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)
Transport from the airport to my hotel was super-easy to navigate, the subway system (MTR) is clean and frequent and connects you to all the main attractions and large hotels. There are maps on the train that light up to show which station you’re at, especially useful as the tannoy announcements can be a bit tricky to decipher. I was also pleased to find WiFi and charging ports absolutely everywhere throughout trains and stations; this was a huge bonus to me, travelling solo and wanting to check maps regularly. I picked up my Octopus Travel card from the desk at arrivals in the airport. You can use the card on all public transport in Hong Kong and, unlike travel cards elsewhere, you can also use it to pay for items in shops.
As I only had a short time to sight-see, I decided to do my best to get an overall ‘flavour’ of Hong Kong. Indeed, my first point of call was to choose somewhere to eat among the plethora of tempting restaurants. Hong Kong is well-known for having fantastic chefs who use fresh ingredients to create food for all palates. Despite the city hosting the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, Tim Ho Wan, I opted to eat my personal favourite of dim sum at Maxim’s Palace in City Hall. I had great fun choosing my delicious dishes from trolleys that are pushed past your table by waitresses, in a beautiful dining room overlooking Victoria Harbour. Average price: QR 102 per person.
(A dim sum trolley at Maxim's Palace. Photo credit: Lonely Planet)
After my meal, I stayed harbour-side to view the amazing free light show ‘A Symphony of Lights’. The show takes place every evening from 8:00 p.m. and projects beautiful coloured lights over the buildings that surround the harbour, synchronized to music and with narration. Proclaimed as the world’s largest permanent light and sound show, it’s definitely not to be missed.
I then headed back to my hotel room at the Four Seasons Hotel in the heart of the Central District. My room was spacious with décor that was a blend of Western and Chinese styles and I had a fantastic night’s sleep on the super-comfy bed. Service in the hotel was second-to-none, and when I requested some ice for my room, there was a knock at my door before I’d barely had a chance to hang up the phone! I even had time for a quick work-out in the on-site, well-equipped gym. Prices start from around QR 1,980 for a Deluxe King room.
(A funicular on the ascent up Victoria Peak. Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)
The next day I set off to Victoria Peak, the highest point in Hong Kong, reached by the Peak Tram (a 120-year-old funicular) that travels along a steep track through towering trees and buildings. I was lucky and didn’t have to queue for too long, but queuing time can be up to two hours in high tourist season. You can, however, pre-book a tour which will shorten your wait. Once at the top, there are wonderful views across the city skyline as well as boutique shops, restaurants, and some great nature trails for exploring. A two-way tram ticket will run you around QR 42.
Hong Kong is a fantastic place to shop. Unfortunately, I didn’t have room in my bag for any new purchases but I certainly did plenty of ‘window shopping’ on Nathan Road, where there’s an abundance of boutique and designer stores. If Rolex and Harvey Nichols are slightly out of your budget, then you can explore the many bustling markets. I hugely enjoyed wandering through the stalls, checking out all the beautiful, cheap, weird, and wonderful items for sale! Stanley Market has everything from colourful silks and traditional artwork, to jewellery and antiques – and there are plenty of souvenirs to be found. Other local markets also specialize in items such as goldfish, flowers, and birds.
(Hong Kong's iconic Nathan Road. Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)
If you have time to squeeze in a bit of history and even more culture, then the Hong Kong Museum of History and the Hong Kong Science Museum are located right next to each other in Kowloon. I only had time to take a brief tour of the former and wished I’d had a few more hours to explore both museums properly. I enjoyed my whistle-stop tour of the natural and local history of Hong Kong, and learning more about the territory’s return to China in 1997. Admission is a mere QR 5.
All too soon it was time for me to head back on the MTR and make my way to the airport ahead of the next leg of my travels. I cannot recommend Hong Kong highly enough as a stop-over destination. The ease of transport, Chinese culture, fantastic food, and activities for all budgets make it the perfect place to explore.
Qatar Airways operates daily service to Hong Kong.
Have you travelled from Qatar to Hong Kong? Tell us about your experience in the comments below and which must-see pit-stops you’d add to this list! Also, don’t forget to like and share this article!
(Words by Eleanor Graff)
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