9 hours in Hong Kong
Initially, on our way back to US from India, we had planned to spend 3 days in Hong Kong, however, with the news of unrest and protests, we decided to only do a 9 hour stopover in Hong Kong. Visiting Hong Kong was easy mainly because we did not have to worry about visa and immigration. Indian nationals have a visa on arrival at Hong Kong.
So we got on an early morning flight from Singapore to Hong Kong, reached hong kong at 10:00 in the morning. My expectation based on other airports was that it would take at least an hour for immigration and visa, however, the immigration was super quick and easy. We were out by 10:25am. Also, we had checked-in our baggage until San Francisco so did not have to worry about luggage. With two backpacks, we entered the arrivals area.
There was a ticket counter for express train tickets to the City. We asked for the fare and got a one terse reply — 120 Hong Kong dollars. I don’t know why but I asked, would it be cheaper than 240 if I buy a return ticket — the answer was - return ticket is 100 Dollars. What??. Yes the return fare is cheaper than one way and the lady on counter didn’t tell us that — weird.. tourist trap? anyway, we got 2 return tickets for Central (Hong Kong station).
In 2006–07, I had seen a documentary about the construction of Hong Kong airport, and so I was very excited about the 25 mins train journey. To be honest, there are no spectacular views or anything, but the train service is very efficient, fast and convenient.
We reached Central — the main station in Hong Kong at about 11:30am. There were so many people and shops that we got a little confused. Nevertheless, I had a travel plan in mind and my first stop was Maxwell’s palace. It’s a famous Dim Sum place 10 mins from the station (on the 3rd floor of City Hall building). We walked while it was drizzling (tip: Carry umbrella when in Hong Kong) and reached Maxwell’s palace for lunch. By the looks of it, the place is big, busy and neat.
We asked if they have vegetarian Dim Sum, and we were pointed to a veg Dim Sum on the menu. We sat and ordered the Veg Dim Sum on the menu, but within 10 mins, the servers started bringing different varieties of Veg Dim Sums — all of them were delicious and had very different flavors. It was absolutely a good decision to walk in rains for dim sums at Maxwell’s palace (Must try place!)(hong kong $160 per person for amazing dim sums)
After trying 5 different vegetarian dishes, we started to walk for our next destination — Victoria peak. We walked from Maxwell’s palace to peak tram, it was a very nice 25 mins uphill walk. Saw HSBC building and some other nice building on our way to peak tram. From there, we got tram tickets to the Victoria Peak. The tram ride is absolutely beautiful. sometimes the tram is at 45 degrees angle going upwards. Victoria peak is an amazing natural beauty nestled between the high rises of Hong Kong.
The views are spectacular and the weather is perfect to grab a hot coffee or get some espresso shots. There are several shops and restaurants on the top, so depending on how much time you have spend anywhere between 1–3 hours here. We spent 90mins on the top- went to sky view 428 lounge and took a lot of photos there and afterwards a short hike on the mountain. (hong kong $84 per person for tram+lounge)
After taking tram back to the peak tram terminal, we started walking towards the main market. I had heard a lot about the Mid-level escalator so reached at a place where we could get on the escalators. I assume they were quite popular 20 years back but now every airport has them so nothing new in these escalators. Anyway, we took the escalator to SOHO, a famous market place in hong kong. We went into some shops and galleries, quite nice tiny shops all over when you start walking towards your next destination via hollywood street — The famous Man Mo Temple. The temple is a different experience but not a must for someone who has limited time to spend in Hong Kong. After a quick visit to the temple we started walking towards the Star Ferry Terminus near Central and walked via the famous Cat Street (Tiny old shops).
From the terminus, we took the ferry to the Tsim Sha Tsui terminus. The Ferry is dirt cheap (2.20 HKD per person) and you get to see the amazing view of Hong Kong skyline. Once you reach the Tsim Sha Tsui terminus, there are several places from which you can see the Hong Kong skyline. One of the best places to view the skyline is the “Vantage Point”. Every evening there is a “Symphony of Lights” show.
I would definitely recommend watching that show from the vantage point. We had a dinner at the Prince hotel (pretty good food) and then took the free shuttle from Marco Polo hotel to Kowloon Station. There are frequent Airport express trains from the Kowloon station to the airport. We reached the airport in ~20 mins to catch our flight to San Francisco.
Hong Kong is a perfect place to stop over, go out and enjoy for a day while transiting through this city.