Whether you’ve been to Hong Kong a thousand times or have never set foot on this amazing island, you’ll know that there are certain sights that are essential viewing, such as the Peak, the Star Ferry and the Buddha on Lantau. There’s no denying that they are all breath-taking and I try to experience all of them whenever I’m in Hong Kong.
There are also a few other things help sum up the sheer intensity and craziness of living in Hong Kong: here are my favourites:
1. Mid-level escalators
Hong Kong is extremely hilly so naturally in the 1980s, the government decided that it would be helpful to install an outdoor escalator that takes people from the Mid-Levels down to the Central district in the morning. In the afternoons, it’s reversed and takes people up the hill, back home.
It’s absolutely free and a fascinating way to see the city – you can hop on and off and various points amid restaurants, bars and shops. Small son and I spent literally a whole day going up the escalator and then walking back down, through market stalls and the antiques area of Hong Kong.
- Yee Shun Milk Company
This is a Hong Kong delicacy and comprises a chain of shops that sells steamed puddings in a variety of flavours such as chocolate, vanilla, almond milk and papaya. Their trademark offering is the double-skin milk custard pudding but I always have the ginger one as I’m convinced it clears the sinuses! In a place known for its food, I always find that Chinese cuisine lacks in the dessert department, so these little shops feel like a big comfortable hug.
- Tram ride
The cost of the trams shot up recently to HK$ 2.30 (for adults), making this less than 20p for a journey and therefore one of the best value forms of transport in the world. There are six main routes that more or less hug the front of Hong Kong island taking you all the way from Kennedy Town to Shau Kei Wan and you can stop off at Central, Wan Chai or Causeway Bay amongst others, but why not stay on all the way across the island?
While there are a couple of air-conditioned trams, many of them are the old traditional wooden versions that haven’t changed since I was little, making it one of the most authentic experiences in a Hong Kong that is always modern and rapidly changing.
- A swim in an outdoor pool
If you’re staying in a hotel, most of the big names have a roof terrace with scenic swims available. If you’re not, day passes are available from about £50 upwards for a day. However, I don’t mind visiting the municipal pools; most of the outdoor pools are 50m and set amongst tall residential buildings, making it a very scenic form of exercise. My favourite is the one at Lai Chi Kok which costs $17 (which is less than £1.50)
- The beach
As a busy city, it’s easy to forget that Hong Kong has some beautiful beaches, although perhaps not always as clean as they could be. My favourites are Repulse Bay, Lamma and Shek O.
- The Peak
While the tram ride to the Peak is a must-do, don’t forget that there’s also the number six bus that goes up to the Peak which provides a more local experience and is much cheaper. If you close your eyes, it’s not far off a roller coaster ride and the views are incredible. Last time I was there, a group of schoolchildren bagged the front seats on the way up, and then proceeded to stare at their phones for the duration so I got this footage on the way back down again:
Make sure you get there late in the afternoon so you can experience the view as the sky gets dark and the city illuminates – it really is one of the best views in the world. However, at $45 (about £4) for a scoop of ice-cream at the top, I’d recommend taking your own!
Let me know if I’ve forgotten anything! Clearly I need to return!