Arriving at Hong Kong International Airport immigration and customs is a smooth process although the immigration can be slow. There is a fantastic Airport Express train which takes you to Kowloon in 20 minutes, slightly longer to Hong Kong Island. From either station there is then a series of free buses which drop you at the main hotels, this system works in reverse to the Airport.
The second time we visited HK we arrived by train overnight from Shanghai, a great experience. The train arrives at Kowloon station and you have to go through the same immigration and customs checks as arriving by plane. The station has excellent transport links by metro, bus and of course taxis.
Travel in Hong Kong is easy and cheap, get an octopus card from any MTR metro station. There is a minimum amount and a deposit but it covers the ferries, MTR, trams, the peak tram, and most buses. It is incredibly cheap as you get slightly discounted journeys with the card.
The MTR stations are all huge and have dozens of exits some a long way apart, any good guide books will reference places to see and eat with the correct exit number, simply follow the instructions.
Check out the usual booking sites such as www.booking.com or www.venere.com we chose Kowloon for its easy access, the views to Hong Kong Island, the night markets and also for the number of places for eating.
On our first visit we stayed at The Salisbury Hotel which is run by the YMCA and is on Salisbury Road in Kowloon, next door to the Peninsula Hotel, probably the most famous and expensive hotel in Hong Kong. Don’t be put of by seeing the mention of YMCA, this is a modern well appointed hotel and you can have an excellent harbour view room for a very reasonable price. Hotels in Hong Kong seem to fall into two categories, very expensive or not where you would really want to stay, so the Salisbury is a fantastic alternative. The K2 Airport Express shuttle bus stops outside the door at the side of the Peninsula.You need to book early as we were unable to stay there on our second visit.
This time we stayed at the Royal Pacfic Hotel, in Canton Road, Kowloon. While it did not have the views of the Salisbury, staying in a complex with it’s own outlet shopping mall, supermarket, food court, ferry terminal and airport bus stop did have some advantages. The location, service and facilities made this a good second choice.
This is probably best dealt with in two sections Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, there is no shortage of all types of options in both areas, so wherever you are staying make sure you eat and drink on both sides of the harbour.
There are loads of places all over Kowloon, cheap Chinese street food should be tried at Temple Street night market, pick somewhere you like the look of that is busy and order lots of dishes.The best choice is in the second section of the market where it is mainly eating places.
There is more upmarket dining at Knutsford Terrace just up from Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station. Ashley Road is also packed with places, we tried Pho Vietnamese at 23-25 and it was good and reasonably priced, as was the Satay Inn at the Royal Pacific complex. The Harbour City Mall is packed with some great eating places but particularly on weekend evenings the queue can be horrendous. The upmarket hotels in Kowloon have some top end restaurants many with at least one Michelin Star.
One Dim Sum, also has a Michelin Star and is the best Dim Sum I have ever eaten. It is located at 15 Playing Fields Rd, Mongkok Kowloon. The nearest metro is Prince Edward, there are no reservations you just get a number and wait but boy is it worth it. we had six different Dim Sum dishes and the bill was the equivalent of £10, fantastic food.
Hong Kong Island
Central area has a variety of places to eat, you can try lunchtime Dim Sum at Maxim’s City Palace in the low block at City Hall, Connaught Road. Not easy to find but once you get to City Hall ask. It is a huge place where you will probably have to queue but it is worth it, trolleys of all sorts loaded with different types of Dim Sum, very reasonable and a great HK experience.
Lan Kwaii Fong, LKF, is one of the main bar and restaurant areas centred around D’Aguilar Street, there are all sorts of places to try but the best eating places seem to be spreading towards Shueng Wan and Wan Chai.
Wan Chai was the slightly sleezy area with some basic bars but now along side the old bars are some great trendy eating places and bars, this really is a good area to explore a couple of highlights are below.
22 Ships, at 22 Ship Street, is owned by Michelin star chef Jason Atherton, the menu is Spanish style tapas dishes, they do not take reservations. The food and service are top notch, we shared two dishes for Sunday brunch and were delighted with our choices.
The Yuu Japanese Restaurant, 183 Queen Road, we visited for a drink and some snacks but loved the atmosphere and watching the chefs prepare the Japanese dishes, would definitely give this a try on another visit.
Chilli Club, 88 Lockhart Road, does excellent Thai food, the whole baked fish is fantastic, great to see it still gets such good reports but did not get a chance to revisit as there were so many new places to try.
Sheun Wan is the area where we had two great dining experiences. ABC Kitchen, Queen Street Cooked Food Market, 38 Des Voeux Road West, serves top notch French cooking at bargain prices. The setting in a food market where there are other eating places is different for this type of food but every dish was excellent, the service very good and the price an absolute bargain. Booking is advised for dinner st weekends.
Yardbird, 33-35 Bridges Street, is at the other end of the spectrum, very cool and trendy and no reservations for “beak to tail” Japanese yakitori cooking. We arrived just as it opened and got a table end before the queues. The service and food was excellent, take advice on the number of dishes and size from the very knowledgeable staff and you will have a great experience.
Soho or the Mid Levels you explore by going up the series of long escalators from Queens Road and this takes you up to a great area for eating and drinking, as you go up the escalators you can look down and see where you want to eat or drink, see some recommendations for bars below.
One excellent eating place is Gianni’s at 51 Elgin Street, overseen by the charming Gianni from Puglia in Italy, this is old school good Italian cooking. The set lunch is a great way to sample the cooking and also to chat to Gianni as he makes sure all the customers are being looked after.
The Peak, if you are visiting the Peak and want some lunch then in the Galleria complex is an excellent Vietnamese called Pho Yummee, the dishes were excellent and reasonably priced.
Most places do Happy Hours some lasting many hours, take advantage of these as drinks are not cheap in this city.
Minden Avenue near Tsim Sha Tsui has some very upmarket trendy drinking places but also in the area are a few pub style places, one the Roadside Bar in Hart Avenue is a tiny bar always packed, good music and nice staff.
Mes Amis, 15 Ashley Road is a lovely local bar that does food and stays open late, there are loads of other places in this street, some pub type and stacks of places to eat, it is 5 minutes from the Salisbury. Ned Kellys at number 11 has a long happy hour and live jazz most evening, popular with an ex-pat crowd.
Felix Cocktail Bar on top of the Peninsula Hotel is worth a visit, to see the hotel and to see the views, not cheap. I preferred Acqua, at 1 Peking Road, a shopping centre nearby, the views are as good and the service better, worth every Hong Kong dollar.
Utopia, on the 26th Floor of the Jordan Centre, 7 Hillwood Road, gives you excellent views with drinks at very reasonable prices especially at happy hour, very quiet the night we visited but still worth a try for the view.
Hong Kong Island
Staunton’s Wine Bar, 10-12 Staunton Street, is worth a visit for a drink and the Peak Café Bar round the corner in Shelley Street is excellent, a great spot for people watching. Down the hill in Peel Street is a bar called Joyce Is Not Here, a lovely tiny place doing live music.
Oolaa, Bridges Street is a large bar and restaurant which does great happy hour offers, some of the best offers I have seen and lovely service in a very smart surroundings.
The Beer Bay is located at Piers 3 and 4, and handy for commuters stopping for a well priced beer, from a vast selection, or a wine. These are both stalls without any real seating but definitely worth stopping by for a beer or wine.
In Shueng Wan we found a local bar called The Cottage, 87-89 Jervois Street, friendly service and reasonable prices, popular with ex-pats as they have sport on TV.
This is a city where you can drink anything, in any sort of bar you can imagine such as the highest in the world to the world of Suzy Wong type bars in Wan Chai and probably at any time of the day or night. This is also the city where drinking outside the 7 Eleven shops in Wan Chai is normal for lots of people out for the evening.
My advice would be to sample all the types available in as many different areas as possible, taking advantage of happy hour where possible. Prices vary hugely from area to area, hotels with cocktail bars and stunning views are very expensive but should be done at least once, LKF is expensive and teeming with people particularly Friday night and Wan Chai has all sorts of bars.
Kowloon has the same diverse range of bars as HKI including of course some of the best bars with views such as Felix and Acqua. Also loads around Ashley Road and Minden Avenue, you are bound to find something to suit you.
The Star Ferry is one of the best journeys in the world, always use the top deck, worth the extra cents that you have to pay.
Sheung Wan district on HKI is great to wander around, stroll along Hollywood Road and the alleys around there and visit the Mon Mo Chinese temple, there are some great eating places in this area.
Get the Bus across the Island to Stanley, the views on the journey are great and Stanley has a very good market, much less frenetic than the ones in Kowloon and loads of waterside place to eat and drink. Murray House, the lovely building at the end of the promenade also has a numbers of restaurants. It is very easy to get to, then get a bus to Aberdeen and return from there by bus.
The Peak is a must, you have to take the Peak Tram up and see the amazing views, a coffee in the Pacific Coffee Company buys you ones of the greatest views anywhere. There are loads of places to eat up at the top, see recommendation above. If like me you do not like the steep tram, especially on the way down there is a bus service No. 15.
The Edward Youde Aviary in Hong Kong Park is well worth a visit, it is just five minutes from the Peak Tram Terminus and entrance is free. You walk into the top of a jungle canopy in which dozens of exotic birds fly around, it is absolutely fabulous.
Take a ferry to one of the other islands. Lamma island is small and it is possible to get a ferry to one side and walk across in about an hour and a half, finish up at Sok Kwu Wan where there are a dozen or so seafood restaurants, they can seem a bit pushy but the set meals are incredible value, we went to the Tahi Yuen Seafood Restaurant run by a very nice lady called Karen, very good and very cheap.
The Ladies Market & Temple Street Night Market in Kowloon can be done in one evening use the MTR to go first to the Ladies Market then hop on it back along to Temple Street and eat the Chinese street food.
On Hong Kong Island get on board one of the old trams and go from one end of the North Side of the island from Kennedy Town down to Happy Valley or Causeway Bay.
Macao, is well worth a day trip, ferries go from HKI and China Ferry Terminal in Kowloon, You can book tickets in advance for the hours journey by high speen catamaran. You require your passport. There is a bus from the ferry to the heart of the old town. There is a great value lunch at the Club Militar but you ned to book and also shorts are not allowed. If you fail to get in try Boa Mesa, Travess S.Domingos for Portuguese cooking.