Hong Kong: A Mix of English and Chinese Vibes
Hong Kong is very international. You can see people from all over the world running around, especially businessmen. As the country used to be a British colony the English influence is still strong. A lot of people speak English, there are double decker buses "London style" and the names of the streets are in both English and Chinese. If I had to define Hong Kong, I would call it "a mix of English and Chinese vibes." The city structure is peculiar. There are many above ground walkways to help traffic and help pedestrians cross different areas. A huge shopping mall stands between the downtown and the central station. It's the shopper paradise with thousands of fancy shops, owned by the biggest international brands. If you prefer a more modest style, you can find local shops in the alleys and a more Chinese vibe. The city is built on different levels and there are many staircases around. This structure gives it more personality and reminded me of Lisbon. There are a lot of cool bars with open doors and tables facing the street that reminded me of Spain as well.
Po Hing Fong and Tai Ping Shan are two nice neighborhoods next to each other. You can take a stroll and look at vintage shops and art galleries. "Chachawan" is the perfect spot to grab a bite. It's creative Thai kitchen with great flavors. If you sit at the counter you can admire the skills of the amazing cooks.
Hong Kong is famous for the beautiful skyline and you have different options to admire the panorama. You can take the Star Ferry and go to the other side of the bay (Tsim Sha Tsui). There is a promenade that offers a great view and takes you to the Hong Kong walk of fame and to the statue of Bruce Lee. The best panoramic point is "The Peak" on top of the hill that overlooks the city. The terrace opens at 10 AM and the best time to arrive is right before opening time. There is no line to purchase the ticket for the tram and once you get to the top of the hill, you can admire the view from the balcony just below the building where the panoramic terrace is located. If you want to avoid lines don't go at night.
The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery was completed in the 1950s and it's located on top of a hill in the Sha Tin district. The surprising thing is that once you get to the temple on top of the hill, you will see more statues and more shrines. Go up until you find a peaceful and purifying waterfall with a white Buddha statue.
HOW TO GET THERE:
From central station take the red metro, change at Mong Kok and take the green line until Kowloon, then take the light blue line until Sha Tin. The metro is fast and it will take you around 30min. When you arrive at the Sha Tin stop, you won't find any signs for the monastery because not many tourists make their way there. Look around and you will see its red shape coming out of the green forest on top of the hill. Cross the freeway, pass the mall on the left side and you will see a small path and a sign for the monastery. As soon as you turn the corner you'll see the Buddha statues path.
The best way to top off your day is enjoying a cocktail at the Sugar (Bar Deck) where you can admire the night skyline without tourists. It's a bit pricey, but because it's not centrally located, it's less expensive than others. If you get there around 8 PM on a weekday, you will get a prime spot on the terrace. We got two cocktails each and shared a pizza for a total of $80. This is not exactly backpackers style, but the view is stunning and the cocktails are amazing. "Victoria's Secret" is probably the best girly cocktail I have ever had in my life (vodka, strawberry, pineapple and passion fruit). The best thing you can do to balance the expenses is eating at a cheap Mc Donald's the day after and that's what we did.