This last summer (in the Northern Hemisphere!) I spent 10 weeks in Hong Kong teaching at children’s sport camps. It was an awesome experience to get in to the culture of Hong Kong and experience a lot of the city. I found that living in the tourist area of Tsim Sha Tsui had it’s positives and negatives, being in the middle of everything but in the middle of shops I couldn’t afford and food places which were aimed at tourists rather than anyone wanting a reasonably priced, healthy meal. If I ever lived there in the future I would definitely choose to live on the island side rather than Kowloon side, as the food and accessibility to beaches and other islands seems a lot better.
The first thing that struck me was that Hong Kong has a lot of green space and many beaches as well as a culture which is starkly different to mainland China. That deserves a whole post to itself (which I will get to soon!). Some of the highlights for me where:
Watersports at Stanley Beach:
I was technically working while I was here. Hanging out with 8-14 yr olds isn’t really work though when I get to join them kayaking, stand up paddling and windsurfing. I wanted to try SUP and windsurfing for a while now so I was stoked to get out on the water and learn. The beach wasn’t so clean, and by that I mean it was revoltingly dirty. Apparently this is because of the cyclone we experienced earlier in the week which washed rubbish in from mainland China. I’ve seen other people saying how clean Hong Kong beaches are so maybe this was bad luck. Regardless it was a super cool experience to do water sports in what I originally thought was only a huge city.
Hiking to Man Cheung Po Infinity Pool:
While not strictly legal, hiking to Man Cheung Infinity Pool was my favorite hike in Hong Kong. The way to get there is to go after 5:30pm as guards to keep watch the rest of the time, meaning you cannot swim in it. It is a great hike up an unkept path to a gorgeous viewpoint. Swim if you like, or enjoy the view.
Running along the Victoria Harbour and seeing the amazing skyline along the way:
It is never ending. I never ran far enough for the skyline to finish. This city is huge and you’re not the only one looking for a great place to run. Luckily some great paths have been built for this purpose and they are wide enough to avoid the many walkers who also enjoy the skyline. I had to pinch myself that I was so privileged to run along this whenever I liked.
PMQ was an amazing discovery of local designers and creators. Not only this but there was plenty of street art, great food and an international crowd. My favorite salad place was here so I explored almost every weekend. There is also many great, independent stores here: a fresh change from most of Hong Kong.
Yes, it’s very touristy but some exploring uncovers crazy backstreets, alleyway food stalls, high-rises full of local products and my favorite shopping centre, K11. Not only this but with a little searching good restaurants can be found, especially indian and asian food. Some cool little bar streets exist as well, mostly with country themes. I loved to hate the area as I had no choice but to explore it to find affordable food and whatever else I needed.
My best tips:
Get an Octopus card. It can be used on Buses, the MTR (subway), mini buses and almost every food and clothing place. They act as a pre loaded debit card and are the handiest card to have in Hong Kong. The cost is 150($HKD) and includes $50HKD credit. $100HKD can be refunded when you’re leaving the country and give the card back. Each traveller must have one though, they cannot get more than one person on or off the public transport.
Wander the streets and go to the top of buildings when you’re looking for food. Most places will have an English menu or someone will speak English and many of the cheap food options aren’t in obvious places.
Go hiking. There are over 300km worth of trails and almost all of them are well marked and have well defined trails.
Get to some meetups or couchsurfing events. Locals, expats and tourists go to these and its great to find out the best parts of the city to go or find out about events happening.