Though it wasn’t high on my bucket list, I found myself celebrating my birthday and enjoying a girl’s trip in Hong Kong in December 2018. I had heard great things about Hong Kong and how it was a must-see travel destination for all travel bloggers and so, as the old saying goes, “Don’t listen to what they say, go see.”
So, “go see“, I did! My adventure started on December 8 out of JFK. I had an overnight flight, 13 hours, to Beijing, where I had a quick layover before finally heading on a 3 hour flight to Hong Kong. We flew via Air China, check HERE for my detailed review of Air China. After what seemed like days of travel, we arrived at the Hong Kong International airport where we caught a cab to our hotel. Catching a cab was fairly simple as they have an easy to use system set up to help tourists seamlessly navigate their way.
We stayed at the beautiful Royal Plaza Hotel in Kowloon, and I would absolutely recommend this hotel to anyone looking for lodging in Hong Kong. From the central location, to the easy accessibility to public transportation, the delectable breakfast buffet, state of the art gym and charming rooms, this hotel had anything you could possibly need. Did I mention that it’s attached to a mega-mall? Royal Plaza was about a 30-40 minute ride from the airport via taxi and we were able to negotiate with our taxi driver for about 250 HKD ($30 USD).
Aside from the option to hail a cab, as mentioned above, Hong Kong has a spectacular train system, easier to navigate than that of other large cities such as Paris or NYC, and much cleaner. Getting an “Octopus” or train card is fairly simple, literally go to almost any 7 Eleven or train station and a kiosk worker will be able to assist you. You will have to give a 50 HKD deposit to receive the Octopus card, but this can be retrieved upon departure by visiting a kiosk in the airport. We caught the train 98% of the time, excluding our initial trip from the airport and our trip to Victoria Peak, it was just that convenient and inexpensive.
For the entire trip, aside from hotel and airfare expenses, I budgeted around $500 in cash, split between US and HKD and had access to funds via my credit card. We exchanged funds in the US, at a friends bank, but it would be easy to exchange once in Hong Kong. For our 7 day trip, this was not enough! Meals are affordable, depending on where you go, shopping, however, can get out of hand. Our first night we had a traditional Dim Sum at Tim Ho Wan restaurant. We filled up on pork buns, spring rolls, fried noodles, sponge cake and, shrimp dumplings, all for $150HKD ($19 USD) feeding 5 people.
Adventure wise, we explored the beautiful Nan Lian Garden, had our breathe taken away at Victoria Peak, “hiked” up to the Tian TIan Buddha, where we had a peaceful moment; were pampered at a local massage parlor, visited the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple and, shopped until we dropped, a few nights, at the Ladies and Night Markets. Though this list sounds exhausting, we were able to spread out our trip in a manner that made it easy to digest, while being able to enjoy each location for what it had to offer. Learning and navigating the train system also made us 10x more efficient. My favorite you ask? A tie between the Ladies Market, our massages and the Big Buddha. There is an option, a crazy option, to hike Big Buddha, but the only other real way to get up close and personal with this true marvel, is to take the 360 cable car, which was approximately, $170 HKD ($22) for one way. We did not book any excursions before getting to Hong Kong, partially for flexibility but mainly to be able to negotiate on prices.
If you really ask, I suggest budgeting time in your trip for all of the destinations above, from seeing the true serenity and peacefulness of the sights in the Nan Lian Garden, taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, to getting a deep tissue massage, there is nothing I would suggest skipping. I’d go as far as to say, visit one of the Hong Kong “mansions,” such as the infamous Choi Hung estates. If not for more than anything than the picturesque moment.
One of the last places we visited, a good place for all of my beauty lovers, was “Be Good to Life“, a chic shop, located in a warehouse in Hong Kong’s Kwun Tong neighborhood, nearly impossible to find. Recommended by a friend and our Hong Kong tour guide, this boutique offered products that would not only be free of harsh chemicals/whitening agents, but would also have products that were good for and designed with black girl’s and boy’s skin in mind. My friends and I eached purchased several masks, cleansers, oils and creams, looking to bring back some ancient chinese beauty secrets to spruce up our daily routines.
Despite my first hesitations, Hong Kong owes me nothing, as you can see above. I ate delicious food, shopped, explored and even found a few moments to step back and take in and reflect on the beauty that surrounded me. I legit leave a piece of myself in every country and new city I visit and feel I carry a bit of the culture back with me, Hong Kong is no different.