"Hong Kong in Three Days"
What's on your bucket list? I bet Hong Kong is somewhere up there. For some it's close to the top, for others closer to the bottom. No matter what number Hong Kong is on your list, you'll definitely want to go. It's a city for everyone on every budget, every taste and every Vagabond sticking to a tight one-bag travel policy! So you want to be a cool, efficient, minimal packing but maximum adventure seeking traveler? Here's an itinerary to help get your adventure in Hong Kong started without a hitch while checking off the must-see, Instagrammable, and selfie worthy places in three days.
Flights: To find the cheapest and best deal on flights to Hong Kong, download Hopper. An airfare watch app that helps you find and figure out when is the best time of year to go and cheapest price.
Accommodation: If you’ve racked up enough airline miles, convert them to a stay at higher end hotel like The Langham or the Intercontinental. Both of these are centrally located and easy to get around in the city from both points. If airline miles and five star hotels aren’t your thing, you can have a taste of how many locals live, in a micro mini hotel suit at Mini Hotel. If you like to be around people, a good hostel in Hong Kong can be gold. My favorite hostels are the Mahjong and Campus. I like to think that the Mahjong is an elevated hostel in terms of quality and aesthetic with bunks that don’t squeak and each has their own personal space and privacy. Campus is a cool, fun hipster hostel offering some rooms with desks, others with full out kitchens. Both have ample room to store your one-bag luggage safely.
Luggage: Keep it light, keep it smart, and don’t over pack. Stick to your essentials and add a few extra t-shirts (or buy them while there) because you’ll be sweating. A lot.
You've got your flight and a place to lay your head sorted so let’s get real…
Day 1: Hong Kong, roll out the red carpet because you have arrived!
Most flights from the U.S. or Europe arrive at the crack of dawn in Hong Kong. Pick up your luggage, get a taxi, check into your hotel but whatever you do, DO NOT tap a nap! No self-respecting one-bag traveler would fall for this! Or else your circadian rhythm will go haywire a second time. Instead, find the gym facilities and shower off that plane ride, wash your hair and swagger out of that hotel and start exploring.
Now let’s start with the basics. Go to the MTR station near your hotel and get yourself an Octopus Card. It is the metro card you'll use to take the subway from point A to point Z and everywhere in between. It can also be used on buses and ferries as well. At the service desk, it costs 50 HKD deposit and add more money to get your card topped up. If you just pay the deposit on the card, your card balance is zero. Top it up. Start with another 50 HKD and see how much you end up using the card. At the end of your stay in Hong Kong, you can return the card and be refunded the balance it carries.
Next order of business is to go to Victoria Peak. Whether you hike up it or, like most people, take a tram, or taxi it up there. It is worth seeing. The peak is where you get that iconic Hong Kong skyline spanning from left to right in the middle of a forest. This is also a great place to go to at night, just past sunset to see the buildings light up. But stay for the Harbor Light Show at 8:30 every night for something different.
Take a walking tour of Hong Kong. It's easy and the best way to see the city from a locals perspective. There are many guided walking tours to choose from so choosing the one that's right for you can be difficult. I found that reading other travelers' reviews should be taken equal parts with salt and gut intuition. If you find a tour that speaks to you, do it. Either way, at the end of the tour you'll have seen and heard more about Hong Kong than most tourists do.
The trek up to Victoria Peak and walking tour around Hong Kong on the day of your arrival should fill up your agenda as you'll be feeling quite knackered once you stop. Before your feet take you back to the hotel you've got to find dinner. For your first night, visit one of the shopping malls around and you'll be blown away with the food choices. These are actual restaurants in shopping malls. A huge majority of them are worth going to if only for the food. I say this as when the weight of your exhaustion is hanging upon you, you want to make quick decisions.
Dinner Idea: You honestly can’t eat enough of dim sum so here is a great place to start, Sun Hing. A wallet friendly, self-serve dining experience with the best molten custard buns.
Now after you've eaten, you can go back to your hotel, order that lavender scented pillow off the pillow menu and sleep off the jet lag.
Day 2: Discover Kowloon Bay
Kawloon bay is chock full of everything. Literally. The best way to see this "everything" is to start with the markets. What are you shopping for? A souvenir? Something traditional? An antique? Live fish? Hello Kitty branded things? Your fortune being told? Whatever your fancy, you'll see it all. Start at the highest point, the Yuen Po bird garden is a unique glimpse into the old Chinese tradition of keep song birds. Find the entrance at a Moon Gate on a pedestrian alley in the Mong Kok district and be transported back into time down this small street. After you've finished there, you can visit the flower market for a pop of color and assortment of beautiful flowers for sale. You'll be sorely tempted to buy a lot!
If you're saving the Ladies Market for a night time jaunt, head over to the Goldfish market. It's not even close to the pet store selling fish back in your home town. I guarantee you haven't seen so much color in fish until you've stepped into this market. You'll find every seller has bags upon bags of goldfish, hence the name. But you'll also find a number of other fish that you're more likely to find in aquariums. Stroll through this interesting market. In the midst of the fish you can also find the occasional frog or hamster. Once you feel like you could handle something more challenging, head over to the well-known Ladies Market near Mong Kok station.
It's best to visit the Ladies Market at night for the full experience of the crowd, bargaining, souvenirs and totally hilarious knick-knacks. This is a long stretch of a straight road full of stalls and you'll see a lot of the same things. Don't give up, keep walking and be on the lookout for that one different item. Here you can be surprised to find a good quality knock-off, funny toilet paper dispensers, traditional tea serving sets, and elaborately hand decorated hand fans. If the crowds are too much for you here, at the nearest intersection, step behind the stalls for a different view. Behind the stalls there are shops and store fronts that normally people miss. Here, you can also find some quality items like silks, paper craft, gourmet food, and late night food.
Once you’ve survived the Ladies Market, you can easily find some easy and quick food to scarf down but if you need a break, head towards the Langham Place mall on Argyll Street and find a restaurant where the locals are sitting. Yes, it may look dodgy but the food is excellent. The locals are there for a reason and you want an authentic experience, right? Once you find yourself this local place, keep in mind that the cup of hot water they put on the table is not for drinking; it is to rinse your chopsticks. It is also a tradition to rinse your chopsticks at such restaurants so don't feel weird about doing it.
Dining Idea: Need a little themed excitement? Head over to 9 ¾ Café in Mong Kok which proudly displays Harry Potter paraphernalia and décor and menu influenced by non-muggles.
Day 3: Relax a bit
You've had a full itinerary the prior day, treat yourself and sleep in a bit. It's easy to start stressing on your last day of your trip but try to feast on breakfast and don't feel rushed. Once you're ready, take the ferry over to Hong Kong Island and get lost for a couple of hours. By not having a plan for a while is the best way to see the city. It forces you to look in unexpected places and you end up discovering things you normally would have missed. If you need a little caffeine boost, head over to Coco Espresso. Even if you don't like coffee, order it anyways just to admire the beautiful latte art these baristas come up with. It's also a nice and air-conditioned place to enjoy a snack when you've had enough of being lost.
Dining Idea: Love Hello Kitty? Have a snack at the Hello Kitty Secret Garden where everything is branded with the signature kitty cat in any way possible.
Notice I wrote snack. This is because you're now on your way back to Kowloon to experience High tea. It should be 1:30pm now that you’re boarding the ferry. High tea is usually served around 2pm and the best way to experience this British heritage is by strolling into The Langham Hotel, The Peninsula Hotel, The Marco Polo Hotel, or the Intercontinental Hotel. These hotels serve up a shining up glam complete with canapes and petit fours. Come slightly hungry.
After tea, walk off that extra cake by walking around the harbor and watching the boast pass by. Or take a million selfies. Both are perfectly acceptable activities. When you've walked yourself into a new kind of hunger, get dressed for your final dinner in Hong Kong and head over to affordable, Michelin Star rated dim sum restaurant Tim Ho Wan. While it's not a black tie dress code, or any dress code at all, looking good will make you feel good. Just don't wear anything that you'd get sauce all over as you'll be having cocktails after wards.
After dinner cocktails will be served at rooftop venue, Eyebar. Near the Langham Hotel, just off of Nathan Road, it has some of the most stunning views of Victoria Harbor and the nearby park. It is the second best way to take in the skyline of the city at the end of your stay. If heights aren't your thing, head over to Ned Kelly's Last Stand on ground level 4 minutes’ walk from Eyebar for some feel good jazz and interesting drink coasters.
Day 4: Wave Goodbye
Now you've walked and occasionally taken the metro all over Kowloon and parts of Hong Kong Island, and eaten some seriously delicious food, it is time to bid farewell to Hong Kong and start planning your return visit.
If you need more inspiration for your Hong Kong fix; I can't get enough of these Instagram accounts: Photography Zirosou; TimeoutHK for offbeat things to do; Thisgirlabroad and HKFoodLover for my food inspiration and best cheap eats in Hong Kong.
Talia is an American expat currently calling the Netherlands her home for mail purposes but is frequently on-route to the airport, hotel, restaurant or next adventure. As a non-selfie stick wielding solo traveler, she adheres to her one-bag limit and seeks the most unique and authentic experiences in the most tourist capitals and off-beat villages capturing each destination through her love of photography and indulging in local desserts.