Hong Kong has this fast-paced, modern, thriving image, but did you know that they also have beaches? How about a giant Buddah sitting on top of a mountain? No? Then you better read on! 🙂
The first thing that comes to mind when Hong Kong is mentioned, at least to most people where I’m from, is shopping. Upon exiting baggage claim, you’ll already see an abundance of shops lining the waiting area. You can do a full-on shopping spree inside HKIA alone! It’s one of those airports where I don’t mind waiting for a delayed flight or going early to because there’s so much to see and so many different, GOOD FOOD spots to choose from! As expected of the 4th best airport in the world.
I’ll gush over HKIA more in a future post. But for now, I’ll introduce to you 5 places that I think aren’t very well known to travelers (especially first timers) to HK.
At first glance, in a tourist perspective, HK can seem like one huge shopping mall. You can actually go from mall to mall without stepping outdoors! However, this isn’t even scratching the surface of the treasure that is Hong Kong. I mean, come on, it’s the land of Jackie Chan! There’s so much more to it than just shopping!
It’s also filled AMAZING FOOD!
Our first unknown spot is a qualified representative of good HK food:
1. Tai Woo Restaurant
It was like, 10PM and The Emperor (my dear brother – he used to be Mr. President, but then he promoted himself) and I hadn’t had dinner yet. Most places that serve food that aren’t party places were already closed, so it’s between getting pre-packed food from Wellcome (which are terrific and our go-to food) or walking further to look for a decent place to eat. I mean, it’s Hong Kong. It’s mandatory to have authentic dimsum!
I really can’t remember how to get there exactly, but The Emperor is in HK so often that he’s practically a citizen, so he knew how to navigate the streets even at night. He told me about this place he discovered on a hunger-driven exploration night much like this night.
We arrive at this unassuming building at the corner of somewhere. Most shops around are closed, and if you don’t look closely, you’d also think that this whole building was, too. I wasn’t expecting much. But then we rode this tiny elevator to the 9th floor, and it opened to lively chatter and clinking of china. We were even asked to sit and wait for a while for a table. At 10PM!
When we were finally seated, I looked around and realized that most of the customers were elderly! One would expect youngsters to be up and energetic this time of night, but I watched as a grandpa happily went around his table to pour drinks for his friends and I’m like, wow, I wish I had his energy. To think that I was already ready to hit the sack, if I weren’t so hungry.
The service in Tai Woo is very quick, which is perfect for starving tourists. One thing I have to emphasize though, is that most Hong Kong citizens are fluent in English. There are a few places that have difficulty with the language, but HK being a British territory for some time, you can rest assured that they’d understand English almost everywhere. This means that ordering food wouldn’t be a problem.
Tai Woo (Causeway Bay branch) is actually listed as a Bib Gourmand in Michelin Guide 2015 – this means that they offer scrumptious meals at an affordable price.
Check out directions to Tai Woo here.
2. Stanley Point
Want good food AND affordable shopping? Did you know that you can do both by a beach in Hong Kong? Yep, all that can be done at Stanley Point!
The Emperor and I suddenly found ourselves with a lot of free time after stuff was cancelled off of our itinerary. Even though we’ve been to HK several times already, this is probably the first time we had no plans. So The Emperor looked up places he’s never been to, and decided that now’s the perfect time to check it out.
Simply put, we stumbled upon a tiny gem atop the mountains.
Stanley Point can be reached by bus (it’s along the same route as the one to Ocean Park, but further down the road/up the mountain) and, if you’re too tired or too lazy, taxi.
You can find directions to Stanley Point here.
If you take the bus, you will get off at the Stanley terminal. Just follow the people when you get off. Or if you don’t want to, look for the road going into Stanley Market. You can’t miss it. It’s right beside the terminal.
Stanley Market is a haven for cheap souvenir shopping. There are t-shirts, local crafts, and traditional clothing that scream “I’ve Been to Hong Kong!” left and right. What’s great is that they actually have larger sizes! Hurray for size equality!
But don’t buy from the first stalls you see just yet. Go into the maze of stalls inside the roofed area (see Google Map Image). Chances are you’ll find the same things outside in there, and maybe at a cheaper price. There are artworks, factory overrun clothes (good quality, super cheap!), electronic trinkets, etc. Take your time and look around. Beware the crowd though. It can get pretty tight.
If you’ve had it with squeezing through the narrow corridors between stalls, just walk on until the roofed area ends. This is the outside area, and depending on where you exited (left wing or right wing), you’ll probably see the beach already. Don’t be afraid to walk around because it’s not big enough a place to get lost in.
Walking along the open area will bring you to the restaurant strip. Here you’ll find different cuisines that’ll most likely satisfy most cravings. It’s nice to sit by the window and look out at the water while sipping a cool drink. It’s pretty relaxing here compared to the CBD where everyone seems to be in a hurry.
If you happen to decide to stay a night, there’s a hotel nearby. Also, a mall to walk around in.
Below is a 360deg photo of the Stanley Beach (credits to owner).
3. Tung Chung Citygate Outlets
Like branded items but your wallet doesn’t? Then this is the place to be! If you don’t mind them being a bit out-of-season, then you’ll find high-end brands such as Coach, Armani, Ralph Lauren, and Gucci in the City Gate Outlets. More within reach budget-wise like Esprit, Guess, Calvin Klein, and Giordano are present as well. Footwear brands like Nike, Adidas, New Balance, and Rockport, luggage brands like Samsonite and American Tourister, jewelry and watches – they’re all there, and all selling items that are priced at least 20% lower than original. There’s also a large supermarket at the basement level.
When you get hungry from the shopping, there’s Food Republic on Level 2! It’s a food court type place filled with delicious cuisines from different countries. Of course, since you’re in Hong Kong, try Cantonese!
Other standalone restaurants and cafes are scattered around as well. If you get bored, there’s a cinema upstairs. If you get too tired from all the shopping and just want to crash (and still have loads more money to spend), there’s a Novotel nearby.
Tung Chung City Gate Outlets is near the end of the subway line, so it’s quite a ways away from CBD. But it really is worth a visit. It’s only 10mins. away from the airport, and also close to Hong Kong Disneyland. If you want a more culturally-focused adventure, then it’s the perfect place to go. The Ngong Ping Cable Car going to Lantau Island is right outside. There you’ll see the Giant Buddha!
Check out directions to Tung Chung Citygate Outlets here.
4. The Giant Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha)
Away from the bustling city streets, less than an hour from Tung Chung Citygate Outlets, there’s a quiet little village called Ngong Ping. It can be reached by either cable car (pick this – faster and better view) or bus (beware those who get carsick easily – there are loads of twists and turns on the road). Upon getting of the unloading area, the Ngong Ping Piazza, an intricately carved, white archway, can be seen. It frames a walkway lined with stone statues of different Buddhist beings. As the clearing opens, one cannot miss The Big Buddha, sitting on a lotus flower, on top of a 268-step staircase. There’s a monastery opposite it, and hiking paths around.
Coming back from the Big Buddha, going through the Ngong Ping Piazza once more, follow the path to the right – this will lead to a small village-type shopping area that sell cool souvenirs. There are also snack shops and a restaurant in case you get hungry.
Check out directions to The Giant Buddha here.
Below is a photo sphere (you can move it around to look around) of the Tian Tan Square. On the right, the small archway you see is the Ngong Ping Piazza. On the left is the Tian Tan Buddha.
5. Sham Shui Po
This is a haven for anything electronics. From phone cases, to adaptors, to chargers, to old radios – whatever electronic you need, you will probably find it here, and for LESS! That’s right, buy as many iPhone charger wires as you want. Sure, some may break after a few months, but hey, you can put one in your car, one in your purse, and one at home. No more unplugging and replugging!
Sham Shui Po street market is packed with accessories. If you want to buy a phone, there are also myriad stores to choose from. But I suggest going here mainly for accessories, since there’s risk in getting duped when buying from resellers. Since Hong Kong doesn’t have import tax, buying from official stores like Apple or Samsung is still cheaper than in most other countries. And you’re sure about the warranty this way.
If you need external hard drives, flash drives, etc., there is a mall in Sham Shui Po with all that.
Check out directions to Sham Shui Po here.