This year’s winter escape trip was a little different from ones in the past. Normally we go to places like Southeast Asia or Central America, or we pick a base in a location like Sevilla, Spain so we can work from somewhere else. But this year it made more sense for us to just take two weeks off to go somewhere a little warmer, and we decided on a trip to Hong Kong and Macau. Here’s how we spent a little over one week in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong: Not as warm as we hoped
My research told me the temperatures in late January should’ve been in the mid 60s. So not as hot as some of our past winter trips, but still warmer than Berlin and a nice break from the cold.
What actually happened though was Hong Kong’s brief “winter” weather hit right at the time we were visiting. Most days the high was in the 50s or even 40s, lows were in the 40s, it was rainy a few days, windy most days, and overcast almost the entire time.
To make matters worse, everyone was still running the air conditioning. We were told that they’re so used to having the A/C on that even when it’s cold for this short period of time each year, they don’t bother turning it off. And our hotels didn’t have heat, so we were freezing at night. We basically spent two weeks in Hong Kong and Macau bundled up, wearing layers, and lamenting that we would’ve been warmer staying home in Berlin.
Hong Kong food tour
One of the first things we did in Hong Kong was take a food tour. This is usually the first thing we do anywhere because it’s not only a fun way to learn about the food culture, but it makes it a little easier to find things to eat for the rest of the trip. This was especially true for Hong Kong, where the food was a little more intimidating to us.
The food tour we chose was a little different than ones we did in the past. Normally the cost covers everything except maybe a drink or two, but this one was cheaper because the fee covered the guide only. We actually paid for our own food along the way, which I thought was weird at first, but once we got going, I liked it because it meant I didn’t have to get anything that truly didn’t appeal to me.
Our guide showed us a street food stall selling some strange eggs, which we did not try. But we did try some odd treats from a bakery at our next stop. We walked through a market that was open certain hours of the night only for wholesalers. He also took us to a couple of diners where we tried the famous duck, a pork dish we saw everywhere, and a few different kinds of soup. And the restaurant let us bring in our own alcoholic drinks purchased from a nearby convenience store. Sure, why not. To finish up, we had some dessert that was like soup. I’m really not sure how else to describe it, but it was interesting.
Aside from the food, our guide told us about Hong Kong, and more specifically Kowloon, where the tour took place. We learned about the street markets and how the city stopped giving out licenses to run stalls decades ago, so anyone who had one is allowed to pass it down to a family member once. Then that’s it. So the number of markets and market stalls has been on the decline, and it won’t be too long before they will disappear altogether, which I think is really sad given that they have been such a big part of the culture for so long.
Our guide was friendly and knew tons of info about the city, the food, and the culture. Taking this tour definitely made it a little easier for us to venture out on our own to find food during the rest of our stay in Hong Kong.
For more info and to book the food tour we took, click here.
Hong Kong cooking class
Because the food tour wasn’t enough, we also signed up for a half day cooking class. The guide/teacher met us near a market and took us around to buy some ingredients. I always like going to markets as part of a tour because they point out things I’d probably miss on my own.
Then we went to their cooking studio, which is in an old factory. Definitely not an area I would’ve found without taking this class. She taught us how to fold and roll dumplings three different ways, each one a little harder than the one before. We pan fried them, and they were so tasty!
Then we learned how to make Gong Bao chicken, which was simple enough I’d try it again at home. There was a nice spice to it, but not overwhelming. At the end, she showed us how to make an egg cream pudding type dessert, which I skipped, but Andy enjoyed it.
I loved this cooking class! I liked it better than the food tour because it was fun to learn to make these dishes on our own. The teacher was so friendly and helpful, and I’d definitely recommend signing up for this class. It started in the morning, and we were done cooking by lunchtime so we could eat the delicious things we had cooked.
For more info and to book the cooking class we took, click here.
Victoria Peak is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Hong Kong. I remember visiting when I was in Hong Kong in 2010, but I do not remember the hoards of people, so maybe it’s gotten more popular. Andy and I bought our tickets for the funicular and waited…and waited…and waited. I didn’t time it, but it took a really long time to get through the lines to buy the tickets and then to get on the funicular.
Once we finally got up to the top, we had to weave our way through a multi-level mall to get up to the viewing platform. It was a constant spiral of souvenir shops, cheesy-looking restaurants, and candy shops. Then we had to navigate through crowds of people and photographers trying to twist your arm into taking an over-priced souvenir photo. And the view wasn’t great, but that was to be expected. Hong Kong’s sky is so often obscured by smog.
So if you go, and you probably should, just be sure to bring lots of patience with you.
Scenes from Hong Kong
Of course, simply wandering around Hong Kong can be entertaining all on its own. It’s a fascinating city, super modern in some ways while still incredibly old fashioned in others. Hong Kong is about more than just the sights, so be sure to give yourself plenty of wiggle room to walk through neighborhoods without an exact destination in mind.
On our first night, we went to a street known as Goldfish street on the Kowloon side, which had mostly stores selling animals. They were supposed to be pets in most cases, but OMG it was so sad. The puppies looked desperate, fish tanks were overfilled with fish, and buckets of little turtles had more dead turtles than live ones, while the live ones scrambled in a hopeless effort to escape.
We saw chaotic streets with crazy traffic and more neon signs than you could imagine.
Another day we found the oldest street in Hong Kong (Hollywood Road) and an old temple. To get there, we tried out the famous escalators that go up and down the extremely steep parts of the city.
And even though, according to our food tour guide, the days are numbered for Hong Kong’s street markets, there are still lots of them around.
Hong Kong’s skyline
Hong Kong’s skyline is impressive. Everywhere you go, there are giant buildings and tall skyscrapers, and the waterfront promenade at the edge of Kowloon is the perfect place for photos. We wandered down there during the day and again a few days later at night to see the light show. Definitely get there early if you want a good spot to see the lights.
Hong Kong tram tour
We split our Hong Kong time between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, and while staying on Hong Kong Island we booked a tram tour. The trams, or streetcars, have an interesting history dating back to the early 1900s during Hong Kong’s colonial time. The tram is affectionately known as the ding-ding, and Andy wanted to check out the double-decker fun on rails.
Unfortunately it was raining that day, so we couldn’t sit up top for the good views. I didn’t get a lot of pictures, and certainly no good ones, because of this. But the tour was still fun, and we got to see lots of Hong Kong Island. The tour comes with an audio guide so you can listen to the info in English or a number of other languages.
For more info and to book a tour, click here.
By chance, we happened to be in Hong Kong for the lunar eclipse at the end of January. It was really cold outside, but we spent a few hours wandering around for views of the moon and watched most of the event. Clouds covered it for a little while during the peak of the eclipse, but not for too long. It was definitely a happy accident that we were able to see the eclipse while in Hong Kong.
Rooftop bars in Hong Kong
In a city like Hong Kong, it’s no surprise that there are lots of rooftop bars with fantastic views of the city. We couldn’t go to all of them, but we did check out two.
The Horizonte Lounge was the rooftop bar of the Madera Hotel. They had a small outdoor section and an even smaller inside section. It was really worth stepping outside for views, but it was rather windy, so we didn’t sit out there. Also, the bartender tried to charge us twice for our first round of drinks, and it took a lot of back and forth to convince him that we had already paid for them when we ordered. They were tasty drinks though, and I recommend checking it out for some fantastic views.
The Garage Bar was more of a rooftop restaurant with a bar attached to the Cordis Hotel, so it was a much bigger place and entirely outside on top of a shopping mall. The view was different from the other place because it wasn’t quite as high and there were quite a few buildings nearby that were a lot taller, but it was an interesting perspective. We ordered food and drinks, and we liked the atmosphere.
Where to stay in Hong Kong
Since we had a good amount of time in Hong Kong, and we were splitting it up with a few days in Macau, we decided to stay on the Kowloon side for half the time and on the Hong Kong side for the other half. If you are visiting Hong Kong for more than a few days, I highly recommend doing it this way so you can get a good feel for both sides.
On the Kowloon side, we stayed at the Royal Plaza Hotel for 4 nights. It was in the same complex as a big mall, which isn’t normally a plus for me, but in Hong Kong it worked. It meant we had easy access to the MTR (metro/subway system) and easy access to food if we were too hungry to wander around the neighborhood for too long.
The bed was comfortable, and the shower was really nice. Our room overlooked the pool, though we didn’t go down there because it was too cold during our visit. The staff were really helpful, and we were able to book our ferry tickets to Macau through their travel desk.
Speaking of ferries, certain days and times sell out fast. We couldn’t get a time for a reasonable price from the Kowloon port, so we ended up having to book a ferry from the Hong Kong port. Not a huge deal, but it meant going a little farther on the MTR to get there. Book your tickets ahead of time if you know when you want to go.
On the Hong Kong side, we stayed at Butterfly on Wellington for 5 nights. I thought the location of this one was great, easy walking distance to lots of restaurants and shops, and not far from the MTR. It was also only 10-15 minutes walking from the ferry, so it was easy to reach when we got back from Macau.
The bed was more firm than we like it, so if firm beds are your thing, this could be a good choice. And despite being centrally located, our room was quiet and we couldn’t hear any street noise. The room felt cold because Hong Kong was so cold during our trip, but outside of a few weeks in January or February, I don’t think this is a problem.
Hong Kong has a lot to offer and we certainly didn’t get to everything. Spending a little over one week in Hong Kong was a good amount of time. I’m definitely glad we stayed in Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island. It’s unfortunate that the weather ended up being cold, but if we had gone there even a few weeks later, it would’ve been fine.
You might also enjoy:
- How Much We Spent Traveling in Hong Kong and Macau
- How Much We Spent Traveling in Singapore
- Discovering Delicious Food in Ao Nang, Thailand
- How We Spent 3 Days in Macau