We flew from Ishiagki in Japan with Hong Kong Express. Coming into land at the Hong Kong International airport was incredible with mile after mile of new bridges and roads being built far out into the ocean with massive oil rigs scattered around like confetti.Sunday 31°CMonday 31°CTuesday 31°CWednesday 31°C
After a short delay getting through immigration, we collected our dusty rucksacks and easily made our way through the massive airport to the Airport Express train – it runs every 10 mins, takes 24 mins to get Central, is clean, quiet and has free WIFI. You can buy tickets at the airport on the way out and announcements are made in several languages including english. It really couldn’t be any easier – it beats all the traffic jams too so is much quicker – unless you get a helicopter taxi!
After getting off at Central, we followed the easy to navigate signs to the MTR line we needed and got some pre loaded contactless cards to use – it didn’t save any money but just made it easier than having to buy single tickets all the time and we could quickly top up when needed. Our hotel, the Conrad Hong Kong, was quite literally above the interconnected MTR admiralty station. Below the hotel (and above the station) is a huge shopping centre (about 3 or 4 stories high) meaning that we had to walk a huge distance through the MTR station which I hadn’t bargained for & we were pretty hot and bothered by the time we finally got to the reception. If you don’t know the Conrad, it’s a pretty swish high end hotel so we got a few looks rocking up in dusty sweaty clothes with large rucksacks rather than arriving in a Bentley in a suit. The receptionist however didn’t bat an eye lid and quickly took our details. We had got a free stay booked (more on that later) and I had emailed the hotel to say that it was our anniversary (it really was). After a bit of silence, two phone calls in Chinese and a bit of head shaking, the receptionist explained that she was trying to upgrade us but the room wasn’t ready so would we mind leaving our bags and coming back in a few hours. We didn’t mind so dumped our bags with a bemused looking porter and hiked back through the vast MTR station and trundled across Hong Kong to Nathan Road where I really wanted to try egglets! Imagine a waffle pancake with big bubbles like big bubble wrap plastic folded in to a cone and then filled with ice cream. That’s what I wanted to try and had researched hard to determine that AM.PM was the best place to find it!
After a few wrong turns and pushing through thousands of people, we found the corner shop (decorated to look like a school mini bus) and after some language barrier confusion, ordered our egglets! They came out huge! And oh so nice! We were the only Westeners there – everyone else was a hipster local and luckily were equally fascinated and taking lots of their own photos. After giving ourselves diabetes, we decided to head back to the hotel to see if we could check in yet as the vast number of people was still a little overwhelming after our previous week on nearly deserted paradise beaches.
After retracing our steps to the hotel we found that the original lady had left for the day but had managed to upgrade us. We took our key and were ensured that the porter would follow shortly with our rucksacks. We found one of the many lifts and shot upwards to near the top of this huge tower. On entering the room, we were greeted by a massive elevated king size bed and a wall to wall ceiling to floor glass window in line with the face of the building meaning we could look literally straight down – and out across the whole harbour and city before us. The view was incredible. Genuinely the best hotel city view I’ve ever had and probably one of the best hotel views ever. Our originally free room should have cost around £500 for the night – this room should have cost around £750 for the night and it was totally free!! (Skip down to the bottom if you want to find out how – in short it’s by getting a Hilton credit card and hitting a spend target).
Our bags duly arrived, we showered, and headed back out to eat. We had booked an Uber for ease – we needed to get from the hotel to the Star ferry terminal. However despite the Uber driving being able to see the hotel, he couldn’t find it and we lost time meaning that we only saw some of the Harbour light show (where all the huge buildings light up with a lazer show to music) from the ferry rather than being on the opposite shore. The show was pretty impressive nevertheless and the Star ferry crossing is awesome on its own – old diesel run ferries that haven’t changed for decades that cost about 25p to cross!
On arriving on the other side, we slowly wound our way through the hoards of people slowly walking away from watching the light show and headed to the Intercontinental hotel which apparently had a lovely cocktail bar with decent harbour views. Luckily, having made a bit of an effort to look the part, we were politely given a table with a decent view after quietly being told that the minimum spend was the equivalent of £30! A “normal” cocktail was just over £18 each so we easily hit that! After a nothing-special-but-bloody-strong cocktail, we paid and followed a pretty confusing route to our restaurant, the Hutong. It turned out to be inside a closed shopping mall (although the lifts still worked) and, as normal in Hong Kong, the lift opened immediately into the restaurant. Having booked the night before, we weren’t expecting a great table and were gobsmacked to be given a window table looking out over the harbour back towards our hotel. It was a pretty special view and they automatically sat us both on the window facing side so we could appreciate it more. The restaurant was dimly lit with red lanterns and bird cages (for your wine) on each table. The low lightening meant that the view outside stood out even clearer.
The food was gorgeous, the waiter knowledgable and not afraid to tell us that we were ordering wrong (he was right) and the service was fantastic. It was a proper Chinese menu but a million miles away from the Chinese we eat at home in the UK. By far the best Chinese I’ve ever had and it’ll take an awful lot to be beaten.
We ate, paid and slowly walked back to the Star ferry to cross back over. This time, with some more time on our hands, we took the MTR back to our hotel and repeated the hike through the world’s largest shopping centre (it isn’t but it felt like it). Having eaten late, we didn’t get back to the room until just after mid night and in partly zombie mood, had already got into bed before we noticed the bottle of champagne on ice sitting in the room with a note wishing us happy anniversary!!! A super nice touch and not at all expected after the massive room upgrade. Well done Conrad Hong Kong – we’ll only ever stay with you in Hong Kong now and you’ll certainly be getting many recommendations from us.
Our flight the following day wasn’t until 23:55 so we quite literally had the full day to explore as much of Hong Kong as possible! After a slightly disappointing start (the pancake stall we had eyed up the day before didn’t open on Sundays!), we found some coffee and headed over to the Peak Tram – this is a funicular tram going to the top of The Peak which offers 360° views of Hong Kong. There was a massive queue but as we had time, we tried to hide in the shade as much as possible and (im)patiently waited. I had been up here twice before on previous trips but each time had timed it perfectly in the middle of a tropical storm and had absolutely no view. This time the weather gods were very much on our side and we had incredible views across the bay and the city. You can totally see & appreciate the city skyline from up here and see how massive some of the sky-scrappers really are.
After trying some other more egglets (!),we took the tram back down and walked through the back streets full of stalls selling random junk, tiny food outlets surrounded by locals sat on tiny plastic chairs and posher outlets which all had queues outside. We wound our way to the Man Mo Temple, one of Hong Kong’s oldest temples, which is famous for having massive incense hanging in huge spirals from the ceiling. They fill the temple with atmospheric smoke and enchanting smell. Worshippers spend large amounts of money on these to appease the social and academic gods.
We decided to finish the day by travelling out of the city to visit the giant buddha (otherwise known as the Tian Tan Buddha). It stands at 34 meters high (112 feet) and is one of Hong Kong’s most popular sights – it’s a fairly recent addition and has a pretty tacky tourist village built around it (but which does have some okay restaurants as well). The city cleverly thought up the idea of connecting the MTR stop with a 25 minute cable car – the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car. It takes you from sea level up over big hills to the buddha with spectacular views across the islands, the airport and out to sea. You can pay extra to sit in a cabin with a totally clear glass floor to give you that extra special experience (we didn’t). There was another massive queue before we could board but it moved fairly swiftly and allowed for some amusing people watching.
After disembarking, we wandered through to the “village” (where, I’m slightly ashamed to say, we bought some Chinese waving cats), avoided the sacred cows sitting all over the place before climbing the 268 steps to the top of the plinth that the buddha sits on. It’s an okay view from the top with the coast below in one direction and the Po Lin monastery to the other but the main attraction is a neck craning view above you.
We retraced our steps and took the cable car back just as the sun started to set finishing off a perfect stop over.
Tips and Tricks:
- Our Revolut cards worked everywhere as normal.
- The totally free offline maps.me app has been getting worse and worse with the recent updates. Sadly, as much as I love the ability to save every place we are going to visit for each trip (including walking), the guidance side just isn’t good enough anymore and I’ll be switching to another iPhone based app.
- As above, don’t bother getting a taxi or free hotel shuttle from the airport – the train may cost more than a free shuttle but it’ll save you heaps of time.
- Walking around Hong Kong is fine but there is a lot of steps, steep hills and massive covered walkways where you just can’t walk beside the road – bear that in mind when working out timings
- Interested in getting a free night in any Hilton hotel worldwide? Well unfortunately since the 1st March 2018 you can’t as Hilton pulled the card. They are currently reviewing it so keep an eye on this site – Head for Points to see what happens.
- Remember to book everything you can via TopCashBack – even when booking via Hotels.com, Expedia etc or even direct with the hotel/car hire/carrier