21/08/2016 – 26/08/2016
Hong Kong! You hate it or you love it, and we loved it! The city has a reputation of breaking your wallet, but with less than 29 euros a day we’ve proven this wrong. Here are some tips how to explore Hong Kong on a shoestring.
By far the biggest expense in Hong Kong is accommodation. If you’re looking for low budget the Chungking Mansion is the place to be. In these five highrises located right in the heart of Kowloon district you can find 106 guesthouses! For the best offers you enter through the front door and you will get hotel deals, fake handbags and watches thrown at you from all directions. We paid 25 euro per night for a 7m² room, but you can find as low as 10 euro per night (the rooms will all be that small though). Change your foreign money at the first floor as these exchange offices will offer you a much better rate than the bank.
Buy yourself an Octopus card in the nearest metro station and enjoy Hong Kong’s highly efficient Mass Transit Railway (MTR). For a few cents you get around the entire city in a cool air-conditioned wagon. The Octopus card also works for the sluggish Ding Ding tram which can give you a very cheap city tour for the flat rate of 0,26 euro (2.3HKD), and it also works for all public busses. The bus is by the way recommended to get from and to the airport to avoid the ridiculous airport tax on the subway and also to avoid the enormous queues at the Peak Tram. Bus nr15 takes you up to the same point on Mount Victoria for a fraction of the price, and you get some nice views along the way too. Going up the panorama itself is free and it cannot be missed during your visit. Looking over the city by night was a magical experience. If you want to avoid the queues again to go down, it is very steep, but doable on foot. It took us just 40minutes to be back at the harbour. Yes, the harbour, because the famous Star Ferry is a beautiful attraction in itself and it will get you back to Kowloon for only 25 cents (2,2 HKD), also paid for with the Octopus card. Brilliant!
Being poor is no reason to get bored in Hong Kong. The huge museum of History and the interactive Science museum are both free to visit and can easily take up an entire day. If you choose to ignore the tips above and plan to walk around, foresee some extra time because Hong Kong is a multidimensional maze for pedestrians. Sometimes the street just stops and you have to continue underground to pop up on the second floor of a fancy mall few hundred meters further. This is how we discovered the impressive entrance of the Central with lots of bling, and with some local tips we found the roof terrace of the IFC mall, a hidden germ in the city. This terrace is public territory and thus free to visit. Buy yourself a bottle of wine in the shop below and enjoy a million dollar view at sunset here.
If you are looking for some rest, the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade and definitely the Kowloon park are small oases of peace. You can even visit a true bird zoo in the latter one. If you want to escape the city you can hop on a train to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. The monastery is free to visit and includes a good workout of 430 stairs. There are 500 golden statues of monks on each side of the stairs to encourage you to the top where you’ll find a beautiful pagoda and a temple with the promised 10000 Buddhas (we counted them). You can find an excellent route description here.
Only three words: Tim Ho Wan! This dimsum restaurant has been rewarded with a Michelin star six years in a row, but don’t expect anything high end. The service is basic, you order food by placing numbers on a checklist and during peak hours the tables are put together to fit more customers in. This place has only one reason to visit, and that is the food! It is so good and so cheap we went here several times during our stay. 7 euros buys you multiple dishes and the thee comes free. The address of the original restaurant: 9-11 Fuk Wing Street.
For those looking for quantity rather than quality. At Mister Wong you can eat AND drink as much as you like for 7 euro per person.
Besides having an excellent time exploring this world city we also had some paperwork to do, namely obtaining our Chinese visa. Because this is considered one of the more difficult visa documents we decided to get some help from a visa agency for a small fee. They informed us however that there was a big chance our application would be denied because of our visit to Turkey and the Middle East last year. We decided to give it a try nonetheless and with success. We celebrated our victory with one more diner in the Michelin Star Restaurant and said goodbye to Honk Kong while we marvelled at the spectacular ‘Symphony Of Lights’ at the harbour front, the biggest permanent light and music show in the world. We were off to mainland China, but this place will have a place in our heart forever.