We chatted to Infinity staffer Simon McNally about his week in Hong Kong. He discovered it is much more than just a stopover. Here's what he had to say.
As a travel professional, I had sold Hong Kong as a place to stay for one to two nights to break up a long-haul flight to Europe, but not as a destination itself.
I was pleasantly surprised by the extent of great things to do and beautiful places to see, which makes Hong Kong so much more than an overnight stop, not to mention somewhere to damage your credit card with some serious retail therapy.
Hong Kong (and I am talking about Kowloon and Hong Kong Island) is a place you could spend a week with the family, your partner, or a group of friends.
For the kids and us bigger kids, Hong Kong has a Disneyland that is much smaller than its American cousins. For this reason, I found it a much better experience because it is not so overwhelming and you get to do more as it is in a smaller area.
The park is divided into 'lands' and once you enter a land, you are completely immersed in it – you feel like you are in a movie. The lands are:
• Main Street, USA, designed to look like an old Midwest town
• Grizzly Gulch, an abandoned mining town set in the mountains and woods
• Adventureland, featuring jungle-themed adventures
• Fantasyland, full of characters and places from Disney movies
• Tomorrowland, a vision of the future
• Toy Story Land, based on the Disney·Pixar film series Toy Story
• Mystic Point, a dense rainforest where supernatural events take place.
A trip to Hong Kong has to include a visit to the highest point on Hong Kong Island – The Peak. The view makes The Peak one of the must-do attractions in Hong Kong.
During the day, you can see skyscrapers and Victoria Harbour, all the way to the green hills of the New Territories.
We went during the day but if you go at early evening, you get to see a pink and orange sunset and then a great panoramic view of the amazing light show that is Hong Kong at night.
Another must-do is to visit the islands just outside of the central city area.
We went to Lantau Island, Hong Kong’s largest outlying island, a 30- to 40-minute ferry ride away. It is a very pretty island and home to a 34-metre Buddha known as the Big Buddha.
On the way to Lantau, we stopped at a small fishing village to experience a little of village life and see how the inhabitants lived – quite surprising when the heaving metropolis of Hong Kong is so close.
Staying in Hong Kong for a week also enabled us to visit a weekly institution in Hong Kong, the Happy Valley Races. Races in Happy Valley usually take place on Wednesday nights and are open to the public.
The Happy Valley Racecourse is one of two used by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the other being the Sha Tin Racecourse.
Not only can you have a flutter at the races, you can also visit the Hong Kong Jockey Club Archive and Museum.
The museum has exhibits on the construction of Sha Tin Racecourse, as well as the skeleton of three-time Hong Kong Champion Silver Lining.
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Out and about
We also ventured to Mongkok, in the Yau Tsim Mong District, on the western part of Kowloon.
The area is less touristy and has a mixture of old and new multi-storey buildings, with shops and restaurants at street level.
The area has been portrayed in films as a place where triads run bars, nightclubs, and massage parlours but it was good to see another side of Hong Kong. Our small group went into a restaurant for lunch. Note for the visitor – not a lot of English is spoken in this part of Hong Kong. We ordered beers and somehow got chicken feet.
Our last night topped off a fabulous week, as we had drinks at one of Hong Kong’ most famous hotels – the Marco Polo. It was truly relaxing and exciting, watching the lights twinkle over the harbour.
My Hong Kong experience just highlighted that this humming city offers something for everybody, from shopping and great food to sightseeing, kid-friendly activities and jaw-dropping scenery. Come and see for yourself.