After our amazing Hong Kong Disneyland experience, we changed hotels to get closer to the city. Our stay here was for 5 days, as we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to apply for our Chinese Visa. I would say that 5 days would be plenty, but during our visit, majority of the museums and gardens were closed for renovation. One of the museums closed was the Hong Kong Museum of Art, which I was looking forward to greatly. But, even with what felt like the majority of the city closed, we ended up doing something every day, and made time for some relaxing too.
How We Got There & Around
Hong Kong is quite easy to get around in with the use of the Metro. We had bought the Octopus card, which allows us to add funds and use as we go. The Octopus card is also accepted as a form of payment in the majority of restaurants and cabs, and can easily be recharged at Starbucks and 7-11 too.
Where We Stayed
The Evergreen Hotel, although small, was conveniently located, clean, and pleasant enough. I say pleasant enough… well, we learned that Hong Kong hospitality is much different than in Taiwan. But, it worked for us.
Our Favorite Foods
While visiting Hong Kong, I am pretty sure we ate some form of Dim Sum every day for lunch and/or dinner. I think since this has now become a favorite food of ours, I should break it down for our readers what exactly it is:
Dim Sum – These are small bites. They come in either steam baskets or small plates. In Hong Kong, they are usually served with endless tea. There are several types of Dim Sum, but I will highlight my favorites below.
Jiaozi – These are Chinese dumplings. Usually we ate the pork stuffed ones, but found veggies ones and other meats. They can be steamed, boiled or pan fried (similar to pot stickers in the US).
Xiaolongbao – Although similar to Jiaozi in the sense they are both dumplings, this one is very different. It is steamed, and quite juicy when eaten. Someone described them to us as having little pockets of soup in them. These are Steve’s favorite.
Wontons – Another type of dumpling, although we commonly found this one served in soups. Traditionally, the noodle is much larger with a small center of filling.
Rice Noodle Roll – Not particularly our favorite, because it’s not as easy to eat as other forms of Dim Sum. Still tasty.
Cha Siu Bao – These are like bread buns stuffed with BBQ pork. They were my favorite.
Are you hungry yet… because I am! Besides the food, I drank more than my portion of Bubble Tea. We learned that Soy milk is quite popular, and sometimes the only drink on the menu.
Getting our Chinese Visa
We had decided to stay in Hong Kong for five full days in order to have enough time to get our Chinese Visa. Turns out we got it in one day, so five days was a bit much. Americans use to be able to get their Chinese Visa through the embassy there, but they no longer do that (at the time of writing this) and now require people to go through a 3rd party vendor. Steve did a bunch of research beforehand and we decided to use Forever Bright. They had received lots of positive reviews and their pricing seemed to be in line with other places. Steve had anticipated us getting Tourist Single Entry, 3 Month Visas. Being from the US, we are a “surcharged country”. This means it cost more. It would have cost us $1,650 HKD ($212 USD) each to get this Visa in 2-days or $300 HKD less ($39 USD) if we waited 4 days. We arrived at 11AM on a Monday and the line was out the door… if you call it a line. There seemed to be no formal system, so Steve and I just scooted our way to the front. After talking to the woman, she realized we were husband and wife and traveling together. She said we could do a “Group Visa” and that it would be a lot cheaper and done same day. She also said that I had to redo a passport picture since mine was bent, and we would pay $1,770 HKD ($227 USD) TOTAL later that day for our group visa. A group visa for China is basically the same as a regular visa, with the exception that Steve and I have to enter and exit China at the same time – which shouldn’t be a problem. This was a huge savings for us, and we didn’t realize we were eligible for it, so thank you random Forever Bright lady! She told us to return at 6:30PM for pickup. At 6:30, our visa still wasn’t ready, and we were shocked to see still a large amount of people there applying for visas. By 6:45PM we had our visa, and left. It was pretty simple but the total cost shocked us. China better be worth it!
What We Did
Hong Kong Museum of History – This museum is free! It covers Hong Kong’s history from prehistoric to modern times. The museum is spread over a few floors, and the exhibits were fantastic. I actually didn’t know about the Opium Wars. We spent four hours here. There are numerous video exhibits, and at times, we would have to wait or circle back for the English edition of the movie. All video exhibits were fantastic though.
Hong Kong Maritime Museum – On our travels, we have yet to visit a Maritime Museum, and since I had a coupon from the airport, we decided to visit the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. The coupon was for half off the regular admission ($36 HKD or $4.60 USD), but only for one person. The museum covers a lot of Asian sea water exploration, piracy and more. It also, like most maritime museums, cover the basics of sea travel, navigation and communication. We spent a few hours here. We also walked around the pier and checked out the sights from the waterfront. We found it quite interesting.
Peak Tram & Victoria Peak – The peak tram has been in operation since 1888! It takes passengers up the steep hill to Victoria Peak. The wait for this tram was about 30 minutes up, and 5 minutes down. Victoria Peak is a great place to check out beautiful sights of Hong Kong, but many locals go to hit up the malls and restaurants at the top. For the tram, we were able to use our travel card to pay, it cost $68 HKD ($9 USD).
Clock Tower – Opened in 1915, the clock tower is the only remaining relic from the old railway station. The railway station, although no longer there, has significant value as it was the first train to connect to mainland China in the early 1900s.
Victoria Harbour – Walking to and from the clock, we enjoyed spectacular views from Victoria Harbour. This harbor has a few museums (Art & Science) as well as plenty of boat tours departing from it – thus why it is a popular spot for tourists.
Garden of the Star (Avenue of the Stars – under renovation) – The avenue is currently closed, but from what we read, it is similar to Hollywood’s Fame Walk. We walked through the “Garden of the Stars” instead which is the temporary replacement. Steve and I are not familiar with the Asian film market, so we didn’t recognize a lot of people’s names with the exception of a few. There was also exhibits about Hong Kong’s film industry, in which we were surprised to learn how big it was. Many people compare Hong Kong to Hollywood – saying it is the Asian Hollywood.
Ladies Market – So we checked out the “ladies” market, which specialized in women’s clothing. We didn’t buy anything, but it was fun to walk through and see random lady’s underwear on display in the middle of a street.
Kowloon Park – We walked through this huge park and felt very disappointed. None of the water features were on, the birds that reside in the park were gone, and most of the landscaping hadn’t been attended to in a while. We still enjoyed a soda and people watched for a time, but decided to leave since it really didn’t hold our interest.