Bustling center of Hong Kong island is a city in multiple layers – in every meaning of the word. It has streets, walkways, escalators, stairs, parks, buildings and alleys built on top of each other and going to all directions. Layers are not only physical, but the city is also historically and culturally layered. Old and new, British and Chinese as well as modern international go hand in hand happily mixed. What surprised us furthermore, is that HK is also surprisingly hilly. You can get your calves rock-hard easily just by exploring the city in all its layers walking up and down the hills!
Old Hong Kong
One of our definite favorite in Hong Kong island is the old town area in Center. This is where the city originated from and where the heart of the city really lies. It is an exciting mixture of old Chinese traditions and newer establishments next to each other. It is filled with little alleys, rstaurants, blocks of antique stores, designer boutiques, old traditional Chinese tea houses and marketbooths of old and new items. Here you can find international cuisine of all kind (especially in Soho) as well as tiny Chinese food houses with menus only in Chinese. These to our opinion were the most authentique we could find in HK. A visit to the little but intriguing Man Moo Temple is a perfect example of Chinese traditions in people’s everyday lives.
Zoological garden and Hong Kong Park
Despite the tens of sky scrapers and tall buildings, little bustling alleys ans hustling bigger avenues, Hong Kong has some neat parks within the city center too. Of course there are even larger national parks ans apparently some great beaches nearby too. Two great parks are just in the center: Zoological gardens and the Hong Kong Park. What is great about them too is that both are free of charge!
Zoological garden is a park with quite many animal species: birds, monkeys, marakeets, turtles, just to mention a few. It is like a good size zoo, but at the same time is is botanical garden offering escapes from the bustling city scene to thick rainforest hideaways. Fun for every age and a play ground, fountains, info center, trails for walking and such.
Hong Kong Park nearby is another great park area with and a large playground and trails for walking. It also has a massive walk-in aviary with tens of different bird species. This park too is built in layers and has many spots for recreations just as the Zoological garden too. Tram station to the Peak is located just next to the park.
Peak is a must
Peak is the spot from where you see all the iconic great skyline pictures of Hong Kong taken from. And it surely is breathtaking as the views are magnificent – on a clear day. If rainy or foggy, can’t see much. There is a gallery shopping center at the top from where great views are offered. The best spot is naturally on the top of this funkyshaped building, however, there are reasonable tickets to get to the roof terrace.
The Peak has been a recreational area for the HongKongers for quite a long time. For a hundred years now higher class has gone up to enjoy green thick park and views. And ever since 1920s the Peak has offered a popular residential area for the many expat families working in HK. The Old Peak Road was once the only way up – you either climbed up the steep hill, or were carried up by your servants. Today it is still a popular trail to climb up and down, but for exercise mostly and getting away from city blocks to the thickness of rainforests.
“Made in China” labels on so many tangible products ensures easy, multiple and cheap shopping. In Hong Kong too. There probably isn’t anything you can’t find and buy in HK. Even HK island and the Center offers many many little boutiques to enormous shopping malls with all the world’s luxury brands. You can walk from one mall to another thru connecting skywalks. Or take a ferry to Kowoon island – for more shopping. Or go bargain on the little alleys filled with boutiques and market booths on the streets.
Special city for many needs
Hong Kong has possessed a special and strategic position mainly because of its location and shape of surrounding land for thousands of years. Even signs ofhuman settlement in the Stone Age has been found in the area. Location at the great South China sea as well as the Pearl River delta has made it possible to grow over centuries from a fisherman village to a great salt producer and eventually to an important international trade port. Hong Kong of today was mainly formed in the Opium War in which the Chinese regime over centuries was defeated and area handed over to the British empire in 1842. As a significant international trade port and part of the British Commonwealth, Hong Kong developed into a free trade mecca to which thousands of citizens of the quite regulated Republic of China fled and settled as immigrants. With a joint agreement HK was handed over back and has been a special administrative autonomy of China since 1997. What makes this city and its islands so special is the multiple cultural layers that have been formed over centuries with the influence of pirates, salt industry, European traders, Chinese Qing dynasty and the British empire.
A visit to this special city of Hong Kong was a stop during our round-the-world journey in June 2017. Although we stayed in the city only for three days and it was extremely hot and humid, I think we covered much of the Center area of Hk island. We, however, did not even begin to explore what this city has to offer culture-wise!nor did we visit the nearby other islands of eg Lantau and its great buddha statue or Kowoon for shopping. There are beaches, resorts, theme prks and national parks with trekking trails close by too for a longer stay to explore larger Hong Kong.
If I was to go there again (which I certainly hope I will, I think this city would be an excellent stopover of few days combined with a visit to another place, perhaps more rural or beach escape), I would definitely explore nearby islands too! This city is excellent exotic but modern Asian city to visit, whether you want a shopping, culiranistic, relaxing or a city holiday with much combined.