As a result of a work trip by the missus, I scooted over to Hong Kong for a cheap weekend getaway. Saved some money by sharing accommodation yippee!
Hard to imagine that for all the travelling I have done, this is my first trip to Hong Kong! Because of work requirements, we had to stay at Tsim Sha Tsui which turned out to be a good option even though it isn’t the cheapest area to stay at.
Due to the nature of the trip, the extremely short amount of time that I have in Hong Kong and the lack of planning I did prior to the trip, this is a really quick and basic sample of the Hong Kong life. If you only have a day or two in Hong Kong, maybe this will be helpful.
Budget flight TR2062 by Tigerair is an excellent option if you want to maximize the amount of time in Hong Kong since it landed before 10am. Strange but this is the second time my budget flight has landed ahead of schedule.
Clearing immigration and luggage collection was rather pleasant and didn’t take up much of our time. Maybe we’re lucky? Rather impressed by Hong Kong’s airport. We arrived at Tsim Sha Tsui via taxi (about HKD$280) at roughly noon time and were lucky enough to do an early check-in.
For this trip, we stayed at a no-frills hotel at Tsim Sha Tsui called Hotel Benito that is located at Cameron Road. Below is a map of the area we stayed at plus a couple of places of interest I’ve marked on the map. You can refer back to it later!
Mong Kok 旺角 / Yau Ma Tei 油麻地
From Tsim Sha Tsui, I took the train to Yau Ma Tei station (2 stops away) and then walk to Mong Kok. Not too sure if it was the best option given the crazy hot weather over the weekend in Hong Kong. Think I got myself a bit of a tan!
Alighting from Yau Ma Tei station, I popped in the building just next to it called In’s Point that is pretty popular for all things toy’s related. Lots of Lego stuff, and a must-visit if you’re a Lego fan! It was a Saturday and the place was so jam packed it was difficult to maneuver along the narrow corridors! Managed to find myself a Stormtrooper figurine while I was there before moving on to Mong Kok.
I didn’t really have a plan in mind and the whole idea was just to zip into smaller alleys and take in the atmosphere and whatever that catches my attention.
Along the way, I stumbled upon a street-side event by Hong Kong Cantopop group, Super Girls. I wasn’t interested enough to take a closer look at the starlets but still, it was a refreshing change from the scene here in Singapore.
Check out the stools and ladders these photographers brought along!
Chanced upon a couple of street artists and performers as well as I strolled along the streets which were apparently closed off to traffic.
I’m a person who isn’t exactly into too much shopping so I didn’t spend too much time lingering around these areas.
As I walked further up, the obligatory places to visit include Ladies Market (Tung Choi Street) as well as Sneakers Street (Fa Yuen Street). Both of them actually run parallel to one another, so you won’t be able to miss them. If you’re coming directly via Mong Kok MTR station, you can exit via Exit D3 for quick access.
I found Ladies Market to be too touristy, so I pretended not to understand what the stall owners were saying. Sneakers Street, on the other hand, had a mind-boggling array of what else but sneakers. Great, if you’re looking for shoes!
I actually went to Temple Street Night Market at night, which a street bazaar rather similar to Ladies Market. Closer to Jordan station compared to Yau Ma Tei, some items on sale at there are exactly the same too. Nothing that really interests me here again.
It is really close to the famous Australia Dairy Company if you’re interested! I passed by the place but was too full from my seafood dinner to stuff anything else into my stomach.
Tsim Sha Tsui 尖沙嘴
Right next to Hotel Benito is a Macdonald’s. I always make it a point to drop by Macdonald’s in different countries to check out what they sell. While the day-time menu nothing special except for a pork & egg McMuffin which I had at midnight, but the breakfast menu is localized with pork-chop macaroni!
Nevertheless, I didn’t have it for breakfast. I went over to the nearby Hau Fook Street 厚福街 which had a greater variety of food.
The first place that caught my eyes was Hung Lee Restaurant. I noticed that a long queue had formed outside the place and immediately, I decided not to eat at the place for now. Somehow, my internal decision making process determined that the queue of people is primarily tourists and I’m guessing the locals don’t have all the time in the world to queue up for breakfast.
I did return for a visit during one of the afternoons, and there was no queue! Standard fare but I didn’t have any particularly interesting experience here.
I try to eat like a local, which landed me further down Hau Fook Street at 良友快餐 Lueng Yau Fast Food (second position marker in Hau Food Street) which looks somewhat run-down with signs that have aged with time. Elderly folks were sitting around outside the eatery, and the “auntie” staff behind the counter doesn’t look young at all. I like!
Check out the coarsely amended, old-looking menu! Masking tape for-the-win huh? I didn’t take long to decide on pork-chop soup noodles with luncheon meat and a HK style instant hot coffee.
In a matter of minutes, a bowl (like those you buy at Daiso for $2 I have one at home) of steaming hot noodles is placed in front of you without a single word. Self-service for disposable chopsticks, spoons and napkins.
As I waited and ate, locals streamed in and out of the tiny eatery. Some ate inside the cafe, while others ordered for taken – all spoken in soothing Cantonese. While the food is nothing to shout about, it is 100% comfort food and definitely one of the cheapest meal I’ve had in Hong Kong.
The indisputable king of Hong Kong street food has to be curry fish balls. For the best curry fish balls we’ve had in Hong Kong, look no further than Hau Fook Street. If you walk all the way to the end of Hau Fook Street and turn left and in a few steps, you’ll find a stall in the small alley selling curry fish balls and other local street food. I’ve marked it on the map earlier (position marker near Luxury Court). You’ll see a few photos of celebrities too. Hearing orders made by the locals in Cantonese is always a good sign too.
Normal curry fish balls usually have them soaked for a long time in a boiling curry concoction and when you make an order, they skewer them or put them into bowls for you. For this particular stall 華興川佬麻辣大王 , they will douse the fish balls with scoops of heavenly I-don’t-know-what before serving them which is what makes a world of difference! So nice I couldn’t resist returning for a second visit.
As you can see, being short on time meant that I had to do many things in Tsim Sha Tsui. As luck would have it, Tsim Sha Tsui do have plenty of options which provided plenty of convenience. We had a quick dinner (after an entire day of eating) at Caterking Dim Sum before catching our flight back to Singapore (first position marker in Hau Food Street).
I’m guessing that dim sum is one of many categories of food that Hong Kongers have pride in serving. Even though Caterking Dim Sum looks like a rather modern establishment (the English menu for tourists is a dead giveaway), the food turned out to be really delicious. Nothing like freshly prepared dim sum for warm our hearts. Special mention for the Chee Cheong Fun that was heavenly despite already being stuffed with too much food for the entire day.
Tomato noodles. A dish that not many people are familiar with. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I stumbled onto the place. Star Cafe 星座冰室 indicated on Google Maps is misleading. The entrance to the building is via Kimberly Road which I have marked on the map. Entering Champagne Court, to the right is a narrow staircase that leads to the (kind of scary looking) basement.
A few more steps and you will see Star Cafe. So old school!
Stepping into the cafe, it was totally empty on a Monday morning except for both of us. Charming, retro posters decorated the walls. No idea if that was by chance or intention.
Looking through the menu, I ordered pork chop tomato noodles while my wife ordered a beef and cheese tomato noodles.
The slice of cheese was slightly .. unexpected. Despite the gooey texture, the hot bowl of noodles tasted refreshingly nice. The tomato flavour wasn’t overpowering but oddly delicate! Never had something like this in my life. Our milk tea was served in a glass tumbler that made it obviously difficult to hold the hot liquid haha.
It is because of experiences like these that makes travelling fun, and I hope that classic places like this continue to stand the test of time.
Along the way, I ended up for a couple of drinks at Club Havana which was quite different from what I was expecting. Located a short 5-minutes walk from Hotel Benito (just walk along Carnarvon Road upwards) at Knutsford Terrace, the club is located inside the building’s 3rd floor. Looking out from the terrace, you would be staring at greenery due to its close proximity to Hong Kong Observatory. Weird but true, right in Tsim Sha Tsui.
Victoria Harbour 維多利亞港
The first thing I penciled into my itinerary for the Hong Kong trip was to take the iconic Star Ferry 天星小輪. Always wondered how the locals travelled before other links between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island was established. By the ferry, of course! It seems like the ferry is not much of practical use, but a couple of Hong Kongers did take the ferry on my trip around 11am when I was there.
From Hotel Benito where I stayed at, I walked over to Tsim Sha Tsui Pier which took about 15-minutes. Star Ferry conveniently allows the use of Octopus Card. Simply tap and go and I’m into the waiting area before the ferry docks at the pier.
Wooden seats with the star shape stenciled onto them.
The trip to Wan Chai Pier was rather fast – probably 10-minutes or so?
I alighted at Wan Chai Pier to take a walk over to the Hong Kong Convention Centre that has appeared in countless movies. A local asked if I was a tourist (that obvious?) and we had a quick chat. One of the rare times I’ve encountered Hong Kong hospitality as the people generally seemed to be rather not-so-friendly.
Did the touristy thing and snapped a few photos before taking the bus (can’t remember, might be 8P) from Wan Chai Convention Centre Bus Terminus to Causeway Bay.
Causeway Bay 銅鑼灣
I walked around the Causeway Bay area (you know, just to see/look) without a goal in mind. Initially, I wanted take the tram but the idea of baking in a metal box under the hot sun drove that idea out of my mind.
Instead of the numerous “atas” buildings there, one thing about Hong Kong I liked was the mixture of the old and new, everywhere I go.
Decided to head to the official Hong Kong Line Store at Hysan Place instead. If you’re a fan of these lovable characters, you will love the place.
Times Square was a short walk away. Underwhelming to say the least. Did I mention I’m not into shopping? Got hungry after a while and went searching for food.
What did I find? 新記車仔麵 . Totally got to it by chance. This time, I simply pulled up Google Maps and it recommended this place and I thought, why not? Walked through this alley and ..
Found the place! Yet another good sign when I see locals eating here. There are only order sheets in Mandarin. You simply circle your choice of broth, ingredients, type of noodles and drink and hand it over to one of the servers. You pay after eating so don’t worry.
I thought that the spicy broth looks rather potent and I ordered it too. It was awesome and rather spicy indeed. Lovely broth and ingredients and one of the best meals I had in HK. Way better than the noodles coming up next.
Meanwhile, near to the Times Square you can also find one of the outlets belonging to the famous Mak’s Noodles 麥奀雲吞麵世家. Well, had to try it because it is famous. At the Leighton Road outlet at about 3pm, the place was really empty.
Back in Singapore, I don’t ever order wanton soup noodles but hey, eat like the locals do huh? The noodles were cooked al dente style – love it! Do note that the bowl is incredibly small so the portion of noodles is very little. It does hide quite a few wantons (think there’s four or five) that’s delicious.
Too much hype? I guess so. A bowl of expensive but definitely “oishii” noodles.
I wandered into Central on a Sunday, and you can imagine my surprise when I came out from one of the exits. And saw this.
What sorcery is this? Picnics under an overhead bridge! With music blasting away in the background, some ladies were practicing what I can loosely term a form of fan-dance in the middle of the road. You can see some of them are simply holding card-boards in place of real fans.
Seems like the crowd mainly gathers around Statue Square. Well, looks like the entire ground-floor of HSBC Headquarters Building is a giant picnic area.
And I thought we have it bad in Singapore? This is mind-boggling. The more I walked around, the more amused I got haha!
The Central–Mid-Levels Escalator and Walkway is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world! It covers over 800 metres in distance and elevates over 135 metres from bottom to top. Such systems exist because Hong Kong Island has rather steep and hilly terrain. Pretty awesome right?
Hotel Benito 華國酒店
Hotel Benito is a no-frills hotel located in Tsim Sha Tsui. If you exit via B2 from Tsim Sha Tsui MTR Station, the hotel is merely a few steps away. Hotel Benito is a simple hotel – clean and safe. Like most hotels, it offers the option to keep your luggage for you both before check-in and after check-out.
We had an personal incident during our trip to Hong Kong, and the hotel staff were really helpful and accommodating to our requests which we really appreciated.
Landing On The Tarmac In Singapore
The is first time in Singapore that we alighted on the tarmac on Singapore soil. Literally walked down the stairs and boarded buses that were waiting to bring us to the arrival halls. I thought that this only happens overseas. Weird huh?
My short trip with very little time in Hong Kong ended in a blink of an eye. The highlights of my trip would probably be useful to you if you ever have just 24 or 48 hours to spend in Hong Kong for a quick taste of what Hong Kong is like. Many things that I didn’t try, and many places that I didn’t visit. Another time, perhaps!
The position marker used in my Google Map image is by Patrick Synder via The Noun Project.