It’s a former British colony that has transformed into one of the world’s top international trade capitals, a city whose sovereignty is still in transition from one world power to another. Hong Kong, aside from its economic importance, is a cultural wonder in the region.
With a million expatriates living in the city, Hong Kong is a mixing pot of cultures. Whether in tourist spots or in its narrow pavements, one can see that Hong Kong is where Western modernization meets Eastern values and ways of life.
When I went to Hong Kong from July 16 to 19 this year, I didn’t want to do the typical things tourists would usually undertake in the city. No, I didn’t go to Disneyland and Ocean Park. Instead, I looked for stories and sights to understand Hong Kong beyond the economic modernity that serves as its facade to the world.
I got the stories I was looking for, as I shared in my first article. This one is for the 4 scenic spots I think tourists shouldn’t miss when in Hong Kong.
1) Ngong Ping Village
First on my list is the Ngong Ping Village. It’s located in one of the mountain tops of Lantau Island. It’s not actually a village but a street full of shops and restaurants. The food there is good but expensive compared to other street food found in the city.
Going up the village, however, is a different story. If you choose to ride the Ngong Ping 360, then you’re in for an awesome time. For some HKD 150, you’ll be taken across islands and mountains in an 8-seater cable car to see the natural side of Hong Kong.
From the cable car, you’ll see the Hong Kong International Airport in the reclaimed area. You’ll see natural waterfalls in the mountains and the Lantau skyline.
Up in the village, another scenic view is the pathway going to the Tian Tan Buddha, another iconic spot in Hong Kong. Wide arches welcome tourists to the pathway, which is lined up with statues of the Twelve Heavenly Generals armed with different weapons.
The Big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery are must-see areas in the plateau. They show traditional Chinese spirituality, a quality not lost in Hong Kong despite the loud bustle of the economy.
To get to Ngong Ping Village, tourists can use the MTR, go down in Tung Chung station and then walk to the cable car station.
2) Nan Lian Garden/ Chi Lin Nunnery
In a place as busy as Hong Kong, it’s amazing that there are still spaces where tourists can get a breather from the hectic city life.
One of these areas is the Nan Lian Garden. Located in Diamond Hill in Kowloon (Diamond Hill station), the garden is a meticulously landscaped public park full of hills, trees, lotus ponds, and traditional Chinese infrastructure. It’s a beautiful smoke-free area amid the high-rise apartments in the area.
Did I mention that it was free? Tourists can go here for a morning walk or an afternoon sunset stroll without paying anything. There’s also a tea shop inside the garden for those who want the full zen experience. The Pavillion of Absolute Perfection also stands in the middle of garden.
Across the street from Nan Lian is Chi Lin Nunnery, a temple complex designed after Tang Dynasty style architecture. Buddhists go here to pray to their gods while tourists can enter to get a better understanding of the religion.
Below the temple is a gift shop where tourists can buy religious Buddhist items crafted by the sisters of the temple. The souvenirs are quite expensive but just think that you’ll be helping maintain the temple from the money you give them.
3) Victoria Harbour
Now for the modern side of the city! Your Hong Kong experience won’t be complete if you don’t see Victortia Harbour from either the Kowloon or Hong Kong side. It’s from this view that you see why Hong Kong stands as a world financial capital.
The most famous view is from the Tsim Sha Tsui side, looking over the skyline of scrapers in Hong Kong island. At night, bright lights make this part of the city glisten.
Along Victoria Harbour in Tsim Sha Tsui side is Hong Kong’s Avenue of Stars. If, like me, you’re a fan of Kung Fu movies, then this place is a must-visit! This is Hong Kong’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, only it features only Chinese superstars.
Some of the stars my mom and I looked for were that of Jet Li, Jacky Chan, and Chow Yun fat! And of course, there’s the famous Bruce Lee statue.
You can also cross from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central through the Star Ferry. At night, this is another way to get a scenic view of both sides.
4) Victoria Peak
And the most important place for a scenic view of Hong Kong is, of course, the Victoria Peak, which seats on the highest mountain peak in Hong Kong Island!
To get here, you can take the bus (number 15) or take the tram all the way to the top. The former is much cheaper but the latter gives more panoramic views of the city (only HKD 80 for a return trip).
There are 2 malls on top of the peak – the Peak Tower and the Peak Galleria – and both offer breathtaking views of the city. You can shop around, and eat in various restaurants and cafes in the 2 malls. The Peak Galleria’s sky deck has no entrance fees and it gives almost the same view as the tower.
Beware of the strong winds though, my iPhone and some of our other belongings were almost blown off when we were on top. Since the area is very high, it also tends to drizzle from time to time when the weather is cloudy.
Inside the Peak Tower, there’s also a Madame Tussauds wax museum that tourists can visit for a hefty price. There’s also a cool shop in one of the stores where you can dip your hands on wax and they’ll form a sculpture out of it (for HKD 30, I think).
There are many more views in Hong Kong that I didn’t cover here. I’ve read from reviews that the beaches in some islands are nice. The shopping areas in Central, Causeway Bay and Harbour City are also must-visits for tourists and shopping enthusiasts.
Hong Kong, truly, is a city of sights and scenes.