Hong Kong is complete eye candy. Everywhere you turn there are vibrant colors, exotic smells and a hum of activity. Besides being a shopping mecca and home to the world’s most inexpensive Michelin starred restaurant (Tim Ho Wan), Hong Kong also boasts a lively night life, exceptionally efficient public transportation system, and plenty of stunning parks to keep even the greenest of thumbs well entertained.
Personally, I am a gardenoholic. In a city of 7.2 million people, nearly all of which are living vertically in high rises, the quite repose and sound of running water emanating from many of Hong Kong’s public parks offers a reticent opportunity to reflect and observe. Most often I’m reflecting on what local taste treat sensation I will dine on next, but who’s counting?…
Hands down my two favorite green spaces in Hong Kong are Kowloon Walled City Park and the Nan Lian Gardens at Chi Lin Nunnery. Both are free to enter and if you make a point to visit Kowloon Walled City Park early enough, you will catch groups of locals practicing Tai Chi by the waterfalls. Close to the Chinese New Year celebrations, flag throwing groups also use Kowloon Walled City Park as their rehearsal grounds for the festive parades in which they perform. Nan Lian Gardens houses a pagoda, waterfalls, koi pond, and more manicured trees than a Dr. Seuss book. It also pipes in soft music throughout the 3.5 hectares to optimize your relaxation and is home to a vegetarian restaurant with unique dishes focusing on local ingredients.
Visitors to Hong Kong often like to spend some time exploring at least one of the 234 outlying islands which also constitute part of special administrative region of Hong Kong. Generally, western tourists flock to Lantau Island to see the giant seated Buddha and catch the marvelous views from the cable car ride up to the top of the mountain. But if I have free time to go island hopping, my go to is Cheung Chau. Just an hour ferry ride from Hong Kong island, Cheung Chau is where the locals go for some of the best seafood around and fantastic people watching. The whole island can be explored on foot but its also fun to rent bicycles to venture out past the main drag. Hiking trails on the island also offer spectacular seaside views without having to climb too much elevation.
Looking to take some pretty spectacular photos in Hong Kong? You can’t beat the view from Victoria Peak or the colors offered at the Flower Market. The Yuen Po Street Bird Market is also pretty unique where you can see sacks of live grasshoppers on sale alongside ornate birdcages of all makes and models. The added bonus of being serenaded by hundreds of birds while floating through this market make it a place I return to on each visit to Hong Kong. Of course it also helps that the Bird Market is literally situated on top of the Flower Market so its easy to visit both on the same day.
One of my favorite past times in Hong Kong is heading to the horse track. Situated in central Hong Kong Island, the race track at Happy Valley turns into Hong Kong’s largest bar every Wednesday evening during the winter months. Overpriced beer and chain smokers aside, the races at Happy Valley are truly stunning as the Hong Kong city skyline serves as the backdrop for the race track and the convivial atmosphere of locals and expats cheering together rarely disappoints.
Those participating in our MSRE or GSBA courses in Hong Kong will be happy to know that visits to the Nan Lian Gardens and Victoria Peak are part of the city tour itinerary which is included in your program fee. Additionally, I coordinate a night at the races for each student group where dinner at the Hong Kong Jockey Club and entrance into the Happy Valley Racetrack are both part of the fun included in your program fee.
Have you been to Hong Kong? Share your tips below!
~ Allison Howitt, Academic Programs Manager