Take the tram to Victoria Peak
Labeled as one of the top ten most spectacular skylines, it’s no wonder Victoria Peak makes the "top list of things to do in Hong Kong." There’s no need to spend your entire day up at the Peak, just go for an hour or two, grab a milk tea and enjoy the view. The best time to visit (as any other travel site will reiterate) is right before the sun sets.
Hong Kong appears peaceful and serene under a clear blue sky, until the sun goes down and the scene below reveals it’s true character: vibrant and busy. Not only will you see two completely different views of the city, but watching the sun sink into the water on the opposite side of the peak is really quite breathtaking - not to mention completely romantic.
Don’t worry about eating before you go. What is best described as a mini-mall is located on top of the peak, where one can find not only clothing and souvenirs, but a wide variety of restaurants ranging in price and menu. For those more inclined to enjoy the atmosphere, there’s a supermarket where one can purchase all the necessities for a picnic. And like every other block in Hong Kong, Starbucks and 7-11 have proudly stamped their mark a top this prominent attraction.
There are several ways to get to the peak, but I highly recommend taking the tram. Only $36 Hong Kong dollars for a round-trip ticket (don’t waste your money on The Sky Terrace), a visit to the peak makes for an enjoyable and affordable experience.
Ride the ferry to Lamma Island
Cruise the coast, feel the sand under your feet and take half a day to get away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. A peaceful place (there are no cars allowed), Lamma Island is only a twenty-minute ferry ride from Hong Kong Island. Arrive at the small fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan where there are two trails one can choose to hike. Both offer spectacular views and moderate to heavy hiking, but if you're on a schedule or want to spend some time enjoying the town, take the 'Family Trail.'
Wind your way through the trees and up the mountains, enjoying the simplicity of the island and the view. For the more adventurous, stray off the beaten path and weave your way to one of the uninhabited beaches below, although there is a public beach halfway through the hike.
An hour-and-a-half later (or longer depending upon how much straying you do) you'll arrive to the other ferry terminal in Yung Shue Wan. Before leaving, browse the shops, visit the temple and enjoy some food at one of the many restaurants lining the sea, including several vegetarian and breakfast-all-day cafes. There's also plenty of fresh seafood restaurants, bars and other traditional cuisine, if that's more to your liking.
With cheap prices and lots to choose from, Hong Kong is a shopping haven. Bargaining is key and almost everywhere you go, it's easy to whittle the price down. Check out Chungking Mansions for the biggest bargains, Cat Street and Hollywood Road for traditional Chinese antiques and The Temple Street Night Market for unique gifts and a lively experience. If you have time take a day trip to Stanley Market, where after shopping, one can grab a bite to eat at one of the many cafes and restaurants overlooking the coast. While a day trip to Stanley is probably the most pleasant shopping experience, bargaining isn't as easy here as the vendors are accustomed to tourists arriving by the busload. Don't forget: The higher the price, the lower you should start your offer.
Visit Tian Tan 'Big' Buddha and walk down Wisdom Path
Standing next to an 111 foot tall statue of a Buddha. Yes, it's as cool as it sounds (although don't fool yourself into thinking it's thousands of years old, it's a bit of a letdown when you discover it was started in 1990 and completed three years later).
Located in Ngong Ping on Lantau Island, Big Buddha, the Po Lin Monastery and Wisdom Path are all free attractions definitely worth a day trip. Take the cable car from the Tung Chung metro station and glide for 25 minutes over the South China Sea and mountains to reach Ngong Ping. Make sure to arrive early as there tends to be a wait. Not only is it a fun ride which offers some of the best panoramic views of Hong Kong, but sometimes you can spot people below hiking their way to Big Buddha. Trust me, you won’t envy them.
Admire the scenery from atop the Buddha, marvel at the intricate details in the monastery and then take a break to grab a bite to eat. For the 'full experience' contribute a small donation to the Po Lin monks who will happily serve you a vegetarian lunch in their monastery cafeteria. You can also order from the adjacent to-go cafe which offers a bigger variety and slightly tastier food. Once you finish, work off your meal (not that you need to after climbing up to see Big Buddha) and go for a walk down Wisdom Path. About fifteen minutes in, the trees disappear and the scene opens up to reveal mountains, the South China Sea and a monument of 38 timber inscribed columns with the words of the 'Heart Sutra.' If Big Buddha and the Po Lin monastery didn't blow you away, the beauty and serenity of the Heart Sutra, will. Masterly woven into the surrounding mountainside, the tall timbers, high peaks, and sparkling water provide a tranquile backdrop for a lovely afternoon.
Have a picnic
Whether you prefer a view of the water or people watching in the park, Hong Kong is a haven for enjoying the outdoors. Purchase a cheap bottle of wine and snacks, then head to the IFC rooftop (located in Central), which is decorated with sofas, tables and armchairs for public use. Sit back, relax and enjoy the view of Victoria Harbor without paying the price.If you’re more of a picnic-in-the-park type of person, there are several located in the heart of the city and plenty more in outlying areas. Whether you prefer the peacefulness of Hong Kong Park, spending a few hours with the animals at Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens or exploring the maze of Kowloon Park, all three are great for an afternoon stroll. They're all well-kept and offer a variety of things to see and do. If your schedule's jam-packed, grab some street food and use the park as an excuse for outdoor dining. After marching through the lively city all day, your feet won’t mind the break.
Lauren Patricia Hogan is an avid traveler who loves to share her adventures via her blog, The Hoghie Hub. A recent graduate from the University of Central Florida, Lauren is currently teaching English in Wenzhou, China. Follow her adventures via her blog or on http://www.twitter.com/hoghie.