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What to do in Hong Kong? A short guide from a backpacker’s perspective!

What to do in Hong Kong? A short guide from a backpacker’s perspective!

What to do in Hong Kong | A Short Guide From A Backpacker’s Perspective!

By Alan & Lourdes | A Belgian & A Filipina

Street Market Hong Kong

About Hong Kong

An exceptional city in Asia

Hong Kong is still one of the most famous cities in the world for its huge amout of shopping malls, street markets, nearby mountains, many beaches, Disneyland, once scary airport, and so much more.

We visited Hong Kong many times because one of us was working there for three years straight and we planned our holidays too see each other once again. Hong kong became our destination for three times, year after year, until the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in November 2019.

Our fourth holiday was right around the corner and planned for August 2020, but it quickly sunk to the bottom of the ocean as more positive cases arose throughout the world and sadly enough also in Belgium the numbers went up instead of down.

So, almost two years later, June 2021, we still can’t make any plan for our next unity. Vaccinations are going on all over the world since the beginning of 2021, but unfortunately not all at the same pace. We can only hope they open our closed international borders anytime soon. Oh please!

Hong Kong Skyline at Night as seen from Victoria Peak

Highlights of Hong Kong

Let’s surprise you

Shopping malls are just everywhere in Hong Kong, wherever you go you’ll find one. Further away from the city are many supermarkets to fill your needs and in every MTR station are plenty shops just in case you’re out of snacks or drinks. The tasty scent of fresh bread spoils your nose while commuting from A to B, ah how badly we miss this.

Asia in general is quite unique for its street food markets and Hong Kong isn’t any different. A must-see street market is the Manly street market in Quarry Bay! Highly recommended to get the full Hong Kong street market experience.

Mountains are also present all around the city and on the many islands around Hong Kong. It’s easy to reach them by MTR or minibus for just a couple of Hong Kong Dollars, which you will spend with the Octopus Smart Card, which we explain right here. Super easy!

Another option for the beach lovers among us is the many beaches Hong Kong counts. It’s more than you think in this not-only-skyscraper city. Also reachable by minibus and all have free entry with restrooms and showers. Every beach also has BBQ places for your beach-perfect romantic lunch or dinner.

Hong Kong even has a Disneyland Resort, which sadly enough we didn’t go to as we didn’t have the time. It must be magnificent to try with your kids! Standard park tickets are HK$ 639 or € 67,6.

Street Market Hong Kong

Tai Tong Sweet Gum Woods

We recommend to stop at Long Ping MTR station as it is much easier to get a bus to the start of the hike to the Sweet Gum Woods.

Take Bus K66 to Tai Tong, it’s a 40 minute drive.

Street Market Hong Kong

Observation Wheel

The harbourfront area is one of the best spaces near Victoria Harbour to spend your free afternoon when enjoying the calm noise of the 

Lantau Peak

Either get the Airport Express or ferry to Mui Wo and bus for a sightseeing tour of Lantau Island. We assure you this island has beautiful mountains to admire.

Take Ferry Pier No.6 from Central to Mui Wo and bus No.2 to Ngong Ping. 30 minutes by fast ferry and 1 hour by bus.

Street Market Hong Kong

Monster Building

Quarry Bay is famous for only one thing and that is it’s impressive Monster Building, located a bit hidden behind rather ugly skyscrapers and actually not really wanted to massively get too populated with tourists by local residents. They live here in peace after all…

Monster Building Hong Kong
Street Market Hong Kong

1881 Heritage

This gun might be orientated toward a fancy building near the Victoria Harbour, but this was once the Old Marine Police Headquarters. 

It’s located at TST or Tsim Sha Tsui next to The Peninsula Hotel.

Street Market Hong Kong

Macau

A former Portugese colony about 70 kilometres to the east of Hong Kong, with a gambling industry 7 times larger than that of Las Vegas.

You can get a fast ferry from Hong Kong Macau Ferry terminal near Central and it will take about an hour and 20 minutes.

Street Food Markets

Wet and dry markets in Hong Kong

Street markets in Hong Kong are simply famous for exotic smell, but also for its broad range of Asian products they have to offer and that for a very affordable price too.

Not only they sell food, but in Hong Kong they fill whole streets with clothing, souvenirs, toys, even technology like smartphones and watches can be bought here. Not sure where all that stuff comes from, but at least they try to do business.

Don’t forget to get pineapple shortcakes, mooncakes or your favourite set of chopsticks on your next holiday.

We Europeans are maybe not so fond of the outdoor, smelly stalls from Asia, but in Hong Kong they are usually very clean and strictly checked for their quality and cleaniness. Think of our temporary weekend markets, which sells not only food, but also clothes, candy, fruits, vegetables, burgers, and so much more.

It’s quite the same really, except they don’t have enough space with huge squares to spread out their stalls. So they need to occupy a whole street instead and there it does work like this. They also have their own favourite spot to place their stalls as they are used to and the locals can keep it organised too.

Street Market Hong Kong

Manly Street Food Market @ Quarry Bay

Top 5 Things to do in Hong Kong

Bying the latest and greatest new tech

Shopping

We don’t need to explain why Hong Kong is famous for it’s huge amount of tourists who just go there for shopping, do we?

Well here’s the thing with this very commercial and financial city of the east…

This city is perfectly situated for the export of goods coming from China and other nearby countries and thereby it has a strong connection with the mother of all good production on the rather cheap side as far as are aware. Although also very expensive stuff can be bought here, yeah sure.

It can be said that all the latest and gratest tech arrives at Hong Kong first and will later be delivered to the rest of the world by overseas transportation.

Shopping in Hong Kong is not on the cheap side, but it’s very extensive range of products is insane to say the least. There isn’t a place without a store wherever you point your eyes at. Unless you’re on a beach or somewhere on a mountain peak, of course.

Here’s one photo not for the vegetarians among us, as we are both not vegetarians we do respect them a lot and we agree that most animals are not treated like it should.

Below a photo of a fresh meat vendor in an indoor street market.

Street Market Hong Kong

Not only grocery shopping but technology is a key here as well, gadgets, smartphones, laptops, cameras, all the latest and greatest can be found here.

Prices aren’t cheap, but still respectable.

Hiking

One can hike practically everywhere in Hong Kong and a grand extra is that it has a lot of surrounding nature, which is easily accessible by either MTR, Green Bus or ferry. Just be sure to have enough balance on your Octopus Card!

Ngong Ping, a very small but very special village in the mountains of Lantau island where one can enjoy a relaxing day off from the busy city life. Be it a short hike to the start of the Lantau Peak or bringing a visit to the Tian Tan Buddha statue in combination with the Po Lin Monastery better known as The Grand Hall of Ten thousand Bhuddas, or even exploring the abandoned tea houses that once had a rich history slowly fading away.

Street Market Hong Kong

Culture

Local culture is everywhere, but as this city is growing day by day at a rapid pace, it’s past history is slowly making place for new history and, yes, sometimes this is good, although this is not always the case. We like to chase history, maybe not necessarily the bad sides of it, though. We do love to see past historical things left behind by our ancestors. Like local heritage, art, architecture, buildings, parks and temples.

Fortunately most of it’s heritage is kept safe within its museums and it is definitely worth it to check it out.

Below is a photo of the Man Mo Temple.

Street Market Hong Kong

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

Tucked away on a pieceful mountain slope just above the Sha Tin MTR station, the magnificant path with the golden Buddha statues lead you to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. The climb is steep and counts many steps, although it is possible for people with a baby stroller as well. There is a smooth path next to the steps, but keep in mind that it is steep., although we assure you there’s plenty people who are likely to help a hand if needed.

Tip #1

Bring enough drinking water and a snack with you as the hike can be a little challenging for some.

Tip #2

Don’t feed the monkeys, they can be rather aggressive if you’re carrying a snack in your hands.

Tip #3

Be sure to bring your camera, this place is a holy sanctuary and has many beautiful pieces to capture.

Street Market Hong Kong

Swimming

Yes, we admit, December can be on the cold side. At least for the temperature of the sea. Trust us, we tested that. Starting from March till November it is perfect to enjoy the warm temperatures of the sea.

Beaches are plenty on the 261 islands of Hong Kong, to name just a few of our top favourite beaches.

  • Clear Water Bay First Beach
  • Shek O Beach
  • Big Wave Bay
  • Repulse Bay Beach
  • Cheung Sha Beach
  • Mui Wo Beach
  • Pui O Beach
  • Golden Beach
  • Deep Water Bay Beach
Street Market Hong Kong

Chirstmas & New Year

We have met each other during Christmas of 2017 and it was luck that brought us together in Hong Kong. Alan would have never thought about finding his other half so far from his home country Belgium, but he did.

The New Year came and we celebrated together and we’re going stronger and stronger day by day.

This city is an amazing location to spend your Christmas and New Year combined, although keep in mind our European New Year isn’t on the same day, the Christmas lights will be present everywhere in the gigantic city all for you to admire and there’s even a countdown to the Gregorian New Year at the former Kowloon-Canton Clock Tower at Tsim Sha Tsui.

Street Market Hong Kong

Staying for the Night

Sleep cheap or sleep wisely

It isn’t difficult to get lost in the massive amount of sweet hotels to nap in in the beautiful city of Hong Kong. But please do beware of the Tsim Sha Tsui disctrict where amany Idian people try to convince you to book a hostel. Yes, those guesthouses are cheap, but they’re dirty and not safe areas to walk freely. It’s better to search a little further away from the Chunking Mansion at all times.

A true fact is that The Peninsula 5-star Hotel is right around that corner lurking over the Victoria Harbour. Luckily they – the Indian people – don’t go so far and you can walk around without any worries.

Probably one of the most famous hotels of Hong Kong is The Peninsula, unfortunately this is far above our budget. Are you ready to pay only HK$ 8,580 for a king-size bed for 1 night?

Silvermine Beach Resort

A true relaxing getaway near the beach of Mui Wo, Lantau island. This hotel is easily reachable by fast ferry from Central Ferry Pier No.6 and it takes only 30 minutes.

Starting from € 77, US$ 94

Book here

Pentahotel Kowloon

Just a short walk away from Diamond Hill MTR station, this sweet hotel will let you sleep quietly and it overlooks the Lion Rock and Kowloon Peak mountains.

Starting from € 71, US$ 86

Book here

Holiday Inn Kowloon East

Tseung Kwan O is simply a beatiful place to explore as it is rather a new part of the city. The rooms are extraordinary perfect for the price. Our personal favourite.

Starting from € 79, US$ 96

Book here

This beautiful dining room is the restaurant of the Holiday Inn and Crown Plaza Hotel in Tseung Kwan O and oh boy, was this great!

Public Transportation

It doesn’t have to be expensive

Getting around in Hong Kong is easy, very easy. No car rental needed, just only one pass is required for you to enjoy as many days as you plan to stay in Hong Kong.

Our short answer is getting the Octopus smart card, this card saves you a lot of hassle and worries. Don’t be, just buy an Octopus smart card as soon as you arrive at the Hong Kong International Airport at Chep Lap Kok for just HK$ 100. You’ll need to buy this in cash at the MTR machine at the arrival hall, which leads to the Airport Express Train that will bring you to Hong Kong station, located on the Hong Kong Island.

Be sure to exchange some of your home money to the local Hong Kong Dollars right at the airport, but leave the rest for when you arrive in the city as the exchange rate is much cheaper there. Just get around HK$ 500 and you’ll be fine.

Check the link for current prices and options here. There’s even an option for a cross border travel if needed.

The Octopus Smart Card, it’s a must have item in Hong kong. This contactless payment system is valid in many stores all spread over the city. From coffee shops to bakeries, convenient stores, all public transportation systems, tram, bus, MTR, taxi, you name it, it’s all possible with one single card. We love it!

Hong Kong Public Transport Map
Hong Kong Public Transport Map

MTR

Hong Kong MTR Map Plan

Bus

Hong Kong MTR Map Plan

Green Mini Bus

Hong Kong MTR Map Plan

Red Mini Bus

Hong Kong MTR Map Plan

Ferry

Hong Kong MTR Map Plan

Tram

Hong Kong MTR Map Plan

Taxi

Hong Kong MTR Map Plan

Resident’s Service

Hong Kong MTR Map Plan
MTR Hong Kong

Where the Couchsurfing community brought us and what is it?

Where the Couchsurfing community brought us and what is it?

The Couchsurfing Community

Where the Couchsurfing community brought us and what is it?

By Alan & Lourdes | Budget Travellers

The Community | Travel | Comfortzone | Unity | What is couchsurfing | what’s next

The Community

Alan was introduced to the Couchsurfing idea after simply searching about it online to find an easy way to connect with fellow travel-loving people like him. And on August 6, 2016, he started doing hangouts in his own city Antwerp together with a bunch of people from different nationalities. It was Couchsurfing Hangouts that made him open up his quite introverted self-being and it worked out quite well at the time.

He enjoyed the Couchsurfing way of thinking and invited travellers alike who were looking for a free couch to crash on and they were happy to have almost a whole house for them alone, except that they had to share it with Alan as he was still home at the time his parents and sisters went on a short trip without him.

It was during the year 2015 that he learned about the Couchsurfing website and their statement; staying at someone’s property and sleep either on their floor or couch for free. He planned a trip to Riga, Latvia, but as he was brand-new on the site he couldn’t find a place to stay for free.

Not that he didn’t want to pay for hotels or anything, in fact he had to pay for one as he couldn’t find a free couch. But for once in his travel life sleeping on a couch for free would be a very nice thing to happen, and it saves the wallet from being empty while returning back home.

The Philippines – An Exquisite Travel Guide

The Philippines – An Exquisite Travel Guide

The Philippines

The Philippines | An Exquisite Travel Guide

By Alan & Lourdes | A Belgian & A Filipina

Facts | Budget | What to bring | Food | Things to do | Staying for the night | Movies | Car Rental | Souvenirs

Quick Facts

Land Area

298.170 km²

Population

106.651.394 | Estimate 2020

Time Zone

UTC+8

Capital

Manila

# Provinces

81

# Islands

7.641 islands | 2.000 Inhabited

Main Language

Filipino, standardised Tagalog

Currency

Philippine Peso

Your Budget

Accommodation

Budget Hostels | 760 PHP
Budget Hotels | 1.500 PHP
3-star Hotels | 2.600 PHP
Luxury Hotels | 5.400 PHP

Food

Halo-halo | ≈ 80 PHP
Balut Egg | 18 PHP
Penoy | 15 PHP

Transportation

Jeepney | 15-20 PHP
Taxi | 600-700 PHP
Ferry
Bus | 15-20 PHP
Flight

Tours

Fees

Souvenirs

T-shirts | ≈ 500 PHP

Other

Smartphone or Drone Repair
(Hopefully not necessary)
Pocket Wifi Smart | 390 PHP / Day
Local Sim Card | ≈ 50-100 PHP
Globe Traveler Sim
› 4 GB Data for 7 Days | 350 PHP
Code to 8080 = TRAVELALLIN 350
› 8 GB Data for 15 Days | 700 PHP
Code to 8080 = TRAVELALLIN 700

The iconic Filipino bus on the island of Palawan | Aircon has no use, open windows instead

What to bring

The Philippines is a tropical country where the heat quickly rises till you start to sweat, although our experience was a bit differently as we went in August till beginning of September and so we catched a lot of rain during our trip.

Essentials

Passport
Print of all bookings
Phone
Camera
Water-proof bags
Sunscreen lotion
Sunglasses
Shorts or dress
Sweater
Slippers
Strong shoes

Adventure

Hiking shoes
International driver’s License
Long trousers
Raincoat
Mosquito repellent

Extras

Drone
Camera Tripod
Laptop

Filipino Food

Breakfast

Fried Rice
Fried Fish
Hot Dogs with eggs
Pancakes

Lunch

Fried Rice
Adobo
Noodles
Fish, Meat, Bulalo Soup

Diner

Fried Rice
Escabeche
Chicken, Pork Meat, but no Beef
Tilapia with Coconut Milk

Dessert

Halo-halo
Sapin-sapin
Cheese Ice Cream
Buko Pandan (Coconut Dessert)

These tricycles are a Filipino necessity as they can bring you anywhere, fast

4 Things to Do

4 Things are not that much, but there’s a lot more on other posts about The Philippines coming soon! Stay Tuned for more…

We do recommend to visit a couple of cities and from there start with doing some guided island-hopping tours. You can visit many heritage sites in different cities in The Philippines. Intramuros us a stunning colonial-era city in the northern part of Manila which is truly worth it.

If you travel to The Philippines during one of their intriguing festivals be sure not to miss any!

1. Citytripping

Manila

Manila is a very crowded and huge city where every tourist will enter The Philippines. Nickname is Pearl of the Orient, and together with Quezon City the most populated city in the country.

Puerto Princesa

Located in the middle of Palawan, one of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines where the Underground River, El Nido and Coron are located.

El Nido

Translation of El Nido is the nest, and it really feels like it too. Located in the north of Palawan, it is home to many small, inhabited islands where you can travel to with a guide.

Coron

You can get to Coron by either plane from Manila or ferry from El Nido. Coron is known for it’s shipwrecks lying on the ocean floor where you can dive to by organised tour.

Dumaguete

Located on the island of Negros, from here you can travel by either bus or rented car all around the island within a couple of days.

2. Island-Hopping Tours

Lakawon

Lakawon is a island with a beautiful 360 beach where you can even stay for the night, although very expensive and if one wants to share a room with many others, well that’s up to you. There’s also a restaurant to enjoy the local foods. Be sure to bring sunscreen protection as the sand is pure white and the sun bright.

El Nido

Probably the most famous city in The Philippines, hence the amazing name and grand collection of small islands around its bay. Truly a must visit city when travelling to The Philippines.

Coron

This city has an airport to bring you back to Manila or Puerto Princesa, so many tourists include this magical place on their lists, and we cannot disagree more.

3. Heritage

Intramuros | Manila

Created by The Spanish and considered the entire city of Manila. Everything outside its walls was called extramuros. Despite being surrounded by fortifications, Intramuros was flattend to the ground during the Battle of Manila in 1945. Only the San Augustin Church survived the heavy bombings at the time.

4. Culture

Sinulog Festival in Cebu

Done in celebration of Cebu’s patron saint, Santo Niño, in January, Sinulog Festival is a week-long celebration full of dancing, processions, and parades with colourful costumes.

Ati-Atihan Festival in Aklan

The festival starts in mid-January, in honour of Santo Niño in the form of locals dancing and chanting in the streets while dressed up as negritos.

Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo

Hosted by the city every 4th Sunday of January, Dinagyang Festival is held in celebration of the feast of Santo Niño and a pact between Datus and locals through street dancing and feasts.

Masskara Festival in Bacolod

Celebrated every October, locals put on elaborate costumes with masks as they parade through the streets.

© Guide to the Philippines – Festival Santo Niño

Staying for the night

Currently most of the accommodations in The Philippines are closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Do your research before travelling!

Grande swimming pool at Corto Del Mar Hotel Coron

Movies to watch

The Filipinos have an infinite list of TV channels with films and TV shows to fill days, weeks and much longer if needed.

Below collection are those I watched as a non-Filipino from Europe.

Age of Colonisation

1898, Our Last Men in The Philippines [2016]

Rent a car

If one wants to see the countryside, one must take a local bus or van to travel afar, although we recommend, if your budget allows, to hire a car for your ultimate drive-through experience. You can go and stop wherever you like.

Negros | Dumaguete

Rodg Rent a Car

Rice fields in Negros

Souvenirs

As a tourist we love to remember, and at the same time, support the culture and its people by shopping local souvenirs. Just like us, we bought many T-shirts from El Nido, Palawan, Coron and even one with the famous Jeepney. A must to bring home those souvenirs when visiting The Philippines.

T-shirts

The Famous Jeepney on a T-shirt.
What else is more iconic to The Philippines? Probably a lot more.

Price ≈ 520 PHP