Hong Kong was simply “a layover stop”. It was never on the top of my destination wishlists. So why was I en route to Hong Kong? Out of all places? Well, it was cheaper than buying a straight flight to the Philippines where I would be attending a wedding. So I booked a round trip flight to Hong Kong, then a separate flight round trip to Manila from HKG (Hong Kong International Airport). I decided to take advantage of the layover and extend it to a full 48 hour adventure. Flight and room booked, I asked relatives who have been what there is to do or what I should see. All mentioned how “great” the shopping is. I’m not into shopping especially since I’m on a limited budget. It made me think, why was I going to Hong Kong again? Thanks to Next Stop Hong Kong, a blog I found through Google, I was able to plan an exciting couple days in the city! I was actually looking forward to the visit 😀 . What I couldn’t plan however was the weather – yuck. But I made the best of the rain and fell in love with the city all the same. It’s known to be an extremely safe city for solo female travelers and it lived up to that reputation. Now I can’t wait to explore the city again in the future. So you can say it’s on my destination wishlist now 🙂 .
Here are 48 things to do, personal thoughts, and travel tips of my 48 hours in Hong Kong.
1. Endured a horrible 15 hour flight with United Airlines.
They’re so great for short, domestic flights but the international flight was the worst. For one, they had no in-flight entertainment. You know, like movies you can watch when you can’t get any sleep. Am I being over dramatic here? Or maybe just spoiled. I always assumed, given my past experience that long haul flights would include the chance to have a movie marathon. Next time I’ll stick with my usual Cathay Pacific flight to Asia. On a happier note: the flight deal was too good to pass up. Even knowing I would be without any entertainment, I probably would have booked it anyway.
2. Wonderful airport.
Clean and efficient. Exchanged my money before passing through customs and getting my luggage. I took an Airport Bus to Kowloon (there’s always someone friendly to help you get to your hotel/apartment). The ride was about 45 minutes to an hour. You can also get to your hotel by taking the MTR or the much more expensive cab ride.
3. Buy an Octopus Card IMMEDIATELY.
It doesn’t matter how short your stay is. These are so useful. Not just for public transportation but there are lots of stores that accept these cards as payment. Which means not having to take out and count your cash. Because those few moments of getting your change back from the cashier and trying to stuff the money back into your wallet or purse are just about the longest most stressful minutes ever and I can do without the pressure (I might be dramatic here too but I actually feel this way okay). You can add whatever amount you would like and it’s so easy. Read more info on the Octopus Card here although I was confused by it. Simply buy one card, for any amount and add money when necessary. Side note: At the end of your trip you can return to any 7-11 to get the remaining balance out. Did not actually try this though so don’t quote me ‘cus…you know the rest. If you know anything about this leave your comment below 😉
4. Sadly I went during rainy, typhoon season.
Early summer problems. Making a mental note to avoid going in June next time. From what I’ve read, April or during the fall season is the best time to go. Read this and make your decision.
5. Stay on Kowloon side!
I found a cheap Airbnb located in TST (Tsim Sha Tsiu) close to the Jordan Station (MTR). It was a great area and I felt so safe. So if you’re looking for a cheap place to stay (it was under $100) consider this studio. It had a cute little terrace which was unusable during my rainy stay :/ . There was a boutique hotel across from it and other little bars and restaurants right next door/below the apartment. One downside however – it doesn’t have a microwave and I tend to bring leftovers whenever I eat out.
6. Woke up early for some dim sum.
Not just any dim sum but the cheapest Michelin-star restaurant, Tim Ho Wan. There are 5 locations scattered around but I went to the original since it opened up the earliest. Getting lost on my way there was so worth it! How did I get lost in the first place? My sense of what’s North/South isn’t so strong and I think the fact you drive cars on the other side of the road unlike the US threw me off. It was raining so hard too! I got off at the Mong Kok station and just started walking what I thought was North. Anyway, I found a map (yay!) and turns out I was steadily walking the opposite way. My screenshots weren’t too helpful I guess, but this was before I figured out I can use maps without cell data (duh!). The streets of Mong Kok were so quiet this early without a foreigner in sight and I loved the feeling, truly felt more local compared to when I was walking around by the harbour later in the day. Then I made it to Fuk Wing Street where the original restaurant was located and I walked right past it. The front of the restaurant is so unassuming and (to my naive westerner surprise) didn’t have a huge TIM HO WAN sign out front.
Tim Ho Wan
G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing Street
Kowloon, Sham Shui Po
7. The food was AMAZING.
Like I am craving it as we speak I type. It’s one of those popular, talked about places you see on shows (like my favorite, Anthony Bourdain) or read on blogs. And the food completely lived up to its hype. If you haven’t heard this before, I will tell you right now, get the fried pork buns! I also got my usual dim sum fav hago (shrimp dumpling) which was – in one word – OMG. It was so good even without any sauce. I was too embarrassed to ask for soy sauce and saw no one else was using it so I stayed silent. I didn’t have any problems with the service. The lady helping me was friendly and even used Google Translate to talk to me. I wasn’t prepared to be sitting at a table with random men. But I quickly learned that’s normal. I got there maybe half an hour after 8 AM due to me getting lost and there was no wait. I heard the wait for Tim Ho Wan is horrible.
8. Then walked to a Starbucks. Not just any Starbucks.
A vintage-movie themed Starbucks on the 2nd floor down Sai Yee Street. Free WiFi for only 30 minutes if you purchase a drink. It was cool to check out the decor and I desperately needed that WiFi, plus a break from the rain.
Vintage-Movie Themed Starbucks
1/F & 2/F, Wai Kee House, 91 Sai Yee Street
Kowloon, Mong Kok
Read This Review + See Pictures
9. I got back onto the MTR
and took the train to the TST station. The MTR is super easy to use. And comfortable. Just click on the map above for a bigger picture. I could’ve taken the train all the way to Central on Hong Kong Island but I wanted to experience the ferry ride. The vibe completely changes from Mong Kok to TST. I walked alone in the rain to the harbor stopping by for some pictures here and there. Also taking cover inside random malls and stores.
10. Hop on the Star Ferry to Hong Kong island.
I’ve read that it’s super cheap to get on the ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong and vice versa. I’m not sure exactly how much since I used my Octopus Card. Seriously, even for a short trip like mine, these cards are so useful and easy. The waters were being dramatic and almost splashing onto the boat. Looking down you can see there’s jellyfish in these waters! At first I thought it was garbage floating up till someone else pointed it out.
11. Walk around a mall.
There’s a covered pedestrian walkway directly to IFC mall which is filled with high end stores. It’s also conveniently located right on top of the Hong Kong MTR station. I walked all over looking for something to eat but everywhere there was a long line. Even the McDonald’s line. The WiFi connection was great here. But as I wandered around looking for somewhere to rest my feet I found nothing. There are no public seating area’s anywhere in this mall. Finally I settled for something unmemorable on the bottom level. And it didn’t even have a place to sit.
8 Finance Street
Central District, Hong Kong
12. Day trip to Macau.
Walk to the very last terminal to purchase tickets. During my planning (which didn’t account for the weather I was experiencing), I thought it would be a great idea to explore Macau for a couple of hours. It’s an hour-long ferry ride to and from. And since I was going to focus on the more cultured sites (instead of casinos), I figured it would be doable. It was already 2PM when I bought my one-way ticket via TurboJet for $177 HKD which is equivalent to about $22 USD. Super inexpensive! And then guess what – I FORGOT I WASN’T CARRYING AROUND MY PASSPORT! So stupid of me. Well when I purchased my ticket they didn’t question if I had a passport or not which the next employee I spoke to said they are supposed to. So I’m walking inside to board the ferry when I see they are checking passports. I double back to the counter and read they don’t give refunds for any reason. They felt bad and instead issued me one for tomorrow – just in case I would have enough time to go before I leave for Manila. That obviously didn’t happen but I still kept my ticket pictured below.
13. Even though I wore comfortable shoes,
the mixture of the rain and low socks caused deep bloody cuts on both heels. Not exaggerating in the slightest. So after sadly walking back from the Macau Terminal to the mall, I find a not-exactly-a-seat by a window with the sign “Don’t Sit” yet everyone is sitting there. I take a few Snapchats of my bloody foot to cry to friends back home about and FaceTime my favorites before leaving the mall and hopping back on the Star Ferry.
14. Just. So. Much. Walking.
Because I wanted to save money and couldn’t bear the thought of spending it on a taxi. So it’s all my fault I had bloody feet. But life goes on. I keep moving. I also bought water resistant band aids at the Watsons right across from the Ferry Terminal back in Kowloon.
15. I had plans you know. Great plans. The best plans.
Ha ha, joking aside I really really did have all these plans. But in the words of someone way wiser,
“You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.”André 3000, “Ms. Jackson”
Even though it was raining in a scary, last scene of “Jumanji” type way (kind of exaggerating), I still wonder if it was worth it to climb Victoria Peak? Just look at the picture below. Also on my plan was the nightly light show on the harbor. Ugh…rain.
16. Now it was time to hunt down Hello Kitty toys
to bring back to my kids. Sitting in another Starbucks which was somewhat underground hidden out of sight I search the internet for “Where to buy Hello Kitty stuff in Hong Kong”. I don’t know why it was so hard. I thought there would be plenty Hello Kitty/Sanrio stores to choose from! One result on Google maps directed me to the mall next to the port which emptied out hundreds of cruise tourists. Walked all over that damn mall and found nothing. Another result brought me back to the station close to my apartment.
17. Leisurely walked and took in the beauty of Hong Kong.
It felt a bit like Manila. But without the smell. Got to a station and took it back to Jordan.
18. Again so bad with directions.
Walked all up and down the street. Stopped inside a store and they didn’t know where it was either even though the GPS was saying it’s right there. Tip: I was misled by some websites that a lot of people speak English here. Wrong. I should have learned a few words in Cantonese to get by and I suggest you do too!
19. Still on the search for Hello Kitty
because I couldn’t come back to my kids empty handed. On the way to the airport my eldest was giving me her “Hello Kitty” list consisting of: a pen, stickers, notebook, shirt, pants, matching shoes, necklace. “Girl, bye. The notebook and stickers, sure”. I told her this so she didn’t expect the new outfit. She has way too many clothes anyway. My youngest had only one thing on her list. “I want a Hello Kitty gun”. She’s for sure her daddy’s daughter. I started laughing and she got mad. I’m sure she meant a water gun before you start questioning my parenting. She is too funny.
20. Crossed the street one more time
and astonishingly found what looked like an unmarked mall. I mean, I could just see a mall map from the outside and stairs going every which way. The relief I felt when I saw a Sanrio store on the mall directory. In usual Katrina fashion I get lost in this random mall. Not even that big but I guess I can’t read maps for the life of me. Anyway don’t know how I ended up confused but I went to the very top floor when I should have been escalating my poor injured self to the bottom floors.
21. Bought stickers, notebooks, a necklace and ring
for my babies at the Sanrio store. I curiously checked the price of the clothing which was super cute pero the price was not. Good thing I didn’t promise her a fresh new outfit. I make a point of standing by every promise, especially promises to my kids.
22. Saw food places on the floor below
and I couldn’t even stand the thought of walking any further at that point so I guess this was dinner tonight. I chose this random Ramen spot. I wish I could give you the name or location but I don’t know. It was an interesting set up with different options. It was like a ramen food court. Great deco as well. But it was so good. And it was at that peaceful moment I thought, maybe I can live in Hong Kong. In a modern high rise with a view of the city. Yeah, that would be nice. I stuffed myself to the fullest with Ramen and potstickers. Sadly couldn’t even finish everything but it would be pointless to bring leftovers with me since the Airnnb didn’t come with a microwave.
23. It was 5ish, gifts in hand, walking back in the rain.
My thoughts kept going back and forth to finding a taxi or walking it out. But I’ve never called a taxi in my life and didn’t know how it works so I kept on going. I stopped by a small grocery and bought an apple with my Octopus card just in case I got hungry in the middle of the night.
24. With jetlag being a very real thing,
I fell asleep early and woke up again at 5 AM. My Airbnb host said I could check out at a later time. I got ready for the day and packed up. Had a yummy and simple breakfast at Fine Day. Cute tiny restaurant down the street from my BnB. I felt refreshed, although my heels were still bleeding and the rain hadn’t stopped.
Shop 1, G/F, Windsor Mansions, 17 Austin Avenue
Kowloon, Tsim Sha Tsui
25. Decided to walk to The One,
a shopping mall close to the studio. The weather cleared up and I think I saw the sun. Just a tiny bit of it. And then fade back to foggy. Hong Kong was teasing me.
26. Plan on going to at least one cute little cafe to eat.
The cheap skate in me convinced myself I was still full from breakfast and that I should save money anyway. But I had planned to originally. I really wanted to try the Hello Kitty Cafe, but next time for sure!
27. Got my luggage. Double checked the room.
And made my way to the bus stop in the pouring rain. Got on the A21 to the airport. Took me about an hour but the views from the 2nd floor of the bus were wonderful. Getting out of the city and witnessing the greenery of Lantau Island gave me a second wind. I was excited again and felt a renewed sense of adventure.
28. I had 5 hours left
before I had to make my way back to the check in gate on time and decided 5 hours was enough to go explore some more. Plus the weather had cleared up yet again and almost looked sunny.
29. At Hong Kong International Airport
I was searching for the luggage lockers I read about. I asked a woman who worked at a luggage store where I could find the lockers at which they started smirking and just pointed me down the way with hardly a word. Then started laughing among themselves, which I assumed was about me, when karma struck. Or something like it. A suitcase display closest to the one I asked for help fell down interrupting their laugh attack. Such a Teenage Witch/Charmed moment. I’ve always wanted to move things with my mind. Of course that was hardly magic, but close enough and I didn’t have to do anything.
30. Found the luggage lockers at last!
Checked in my bag for 5 hours which was paid at an hourly rate for $12 HKD which is $1.55 USD. Tip: If you’re ever here on a short layover go ahead and drop the baggage off here. It was located in Terminal 2 on the way to the buses that take you Hong Kong, but make a sharp left instead of out the door.
31. Took a taxi to the outlets.
You pass it on the way to the airport. Decided to check out what kind of outlet deals they had. Crowd was wild, everyone kept pushing around. It wasn’t long before my thoughts turned to I ain’t got time for this. I ain’t even got the money for this. And I walked out of the mall to the Ngong Ping 360 attraction leading up to the Big Buddha.
20 Tat Tung Rd
Lantau Island, Hong Kong
32. The sky was clear, I thought maybe not all is lost on this trip.
I couldn’t wait to snap picture of the Big Buddha. It wasn’t raining and there was no line to purchase tickets for the tram.
33. I purchased the glass bottom cable car ride up.
One-way only. They tried getting me to purchase a round trip ticket which does cost less. But only if I was also taking the Crystal Cabin down as well. Tip: Decided it was a much better deal getting one-way Crystal Cabin and one-way Standard Cabin. I only needed to experience the glass bottom once anyway. You can purchase your ticket here in advance.
34. There was a huge line to get into the cable cars.
They ushered me down the line, checked my ticket and moved me along. Thing is, I bypassed errbody. What is this special treatment, I wondered. Anyway, with no wait at all I walked right onto the glass bottom cable car and tried avoiding the eyes of all those still waiting in line. I promise you I did not cut any lines just went where I was told. Maybe it’s because I was a single rider? I also didn’t purchase a ticket for a private car so I was surprised I was the only one in it. Even after seeing the car before and the ones after mine being filled with at least 6 people.
35. I was even more excited than I was before.
Snapchatting, videoing, taking pictures with my Canon. I had the car to myself – yay! But that feeling lasted all of the first 5 minutes. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m scared of heights. No, it wasn’t the fact it had a glass bottom that was getting to me. That was so cool. But as I climbed higher and higher I was deep inside a cloud. The wind was loudly blowing in through small windows and openings of my car. It was swinging in a scary, creaky motion. I was terrified! I started praying to God I make it through. That is how scared I was. And it was in those 25 long minutes (the tram ride up took forever) that I hated having the car all too myself. At least if there were others around me I could gauge how normal this ride was or if I should be shitting in my pants which I basically was. Eventually I couldn’t see the cable cars in front or behind me. Like, if it had snapped and my particular car fell no one would notice because the cloud was so thick. The face I make when I’m Snapchatting and the cable car makes a weird noise. Ahhh…
36. Made it to the village
which was also covered in thick fog. It was beautiful and serene. There were still lots of tourists there, but I’m assuming it would be even more crowded had the sun been out. I enjoyed the atmosphere very much. It was peaceful. The mist was refreshing. I was walking in my own cloud. A cloud with a Subway, and a Starbucks. My cloud even had good WiFi.
37. It was hard to accept the fact
I wouldn’t be able to even see the Big Buddha or get that perfect picture. As I kept walking along, the fog got thicker and thicker. There could have been zombies 10 feet from me and I wouldn’t know. I only mention zombies because it was an eerie feeling, walking in that fog. Everyone too was walking so peacefully drifting through the cloud. I stopped by a tiny souvenir shop and made a mental note to get something for my mom on my way back.
38. Reflecting on my experience on Lantau Island when I got back,
I realized how unique it was. Quite mystical even. I can recall this moment a beautiful, strange butterfly softly drifted past me in the fog. I have never seen one like it before. It was big, looked like a cartoon drawing. Was it even real? The statues and structures coming into view from the fog were surreal. There were cows nonchalantly feeding on the grass by these huge structures as tourists dared each other to get closer to the animals for a picture.
39. Then, when I thought the fog couldn’t get anymore thicker – it did.
I couldn’t see what was right in front of me (okay, exag). I even heard this one parent calling out for their child who somehow got lost in the fog. Such a terrifying thought if I was in that situation. It was just that thick. I wandered around. Thinking how cool it was to see these structures fade in and out of sight. It was pointless to look for the Big Buddha. I actually walked right past it without knowing! It costs to walk up and I decided against it. What with the fog and my bloody heels. I knew right then and there I would have to make another trip to Hong Kong one day.
40. I started making my way back down to the village.
The crowd got thinner. I stopped by that one souvenir shop and got a small Big Buddha figure in gold for my mom.
41. I was so hungry and ended up ordering dim sum from one of the restaurants.
On my food bucket list (because who doesn’t have a separate bucket list for food?) I wanted to try Portuguese Egg Tarts. Preferably from Macau but since that ferry had sailed I settled these (okay not pictured but they gave me 4 in one order). It was okay. It was good. It wasn’t anything to rave about. I’m sure the ones from Macau are amazing though. Also ordered my favorite beer in the world ever. San Miguel’s! They deprive us of San Migs in the states and I was so excited to have one for the first time in two years.
42. When I stepped out, the rain had started coming down hard.
If you’re inside a cloud and it’s raining and thundering, can you still get hit by lightning? I for sure didn’t wanna find out. The lines to get back into the cable car down were so long. This time I was in a car with 5 other women. It was okay, despite the rain and wind. Because we’re all in this together. At least. We obviously made it back safely.
43. Speaking with one of the other cable car passengers
she showed me the way to the MTR station to get back to the airport. The station doesn’t directly connect to the airport. I had to backtrack multiple stops and switch stations which got confusing with my “awesome sense of direction”. A quicker way would def. be to take the bus or a cab back.
44. Good thing I left when I did
allowing myself just the right amount of time to make it to the check in before they close. I got my luggage and after figuring out how to use the carts (look, I never had to before but my suitcase had a broken wheel). To be honest I didn’t figure out those carts till I made it close the check in. So embarrassed on the inside but I doubt more than 2 people noticed anyway.
45. Check in was smooth as butter.
I had about an hour left to spare before my flight to Manila. I’ll be back Hong Kong. Even in that awful rain I couldn’t help but fall in love with the rhythm of the city.
46. Next time
I would love to explore the Tai O Fishing Village. Or get that iconic picture of the Buddha. And of course take a tram ride up Victoria’s Peak! I want to take my kids with me and have fun at Hong Kong’s Disneyland. So many ideas! I got just a small, rainy taste of Hong Kong and I can’t wait to see the rest.
47. I actually did make it back.
On my connecting flight from the Philippines a week later. And guess what? The sun was shining bright and it looked beautiful. I dramatically pressed my hand to the window staring out wishing I was out there instead of flying back to the states. I could even see the cable cars going up to the Big Buddha.
48. Imagine what you can do in 48 (less rainy) hours!
And if you’re reading this till the end than “Hello!” considering this was very long post. Basically, as fun as solo travel is, it can get lonely. These were the thoughts going through my head. And Snapchatting myself is how I kept entertained at times since I had no one else to talk to. But solo travel also boosts up self-confidence. Although I got lost at least 4 times a day, the point is I still found my way. I hope this guide shaped your itinerary in some way for your future trip. And check out my Hong Kong travel tips scattered about!
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Have you traveled to Hong Kong before? When do you think is the best time to go? And what are your tips on dealing with unexpected rainy days on your trips? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Or simply “Like” the post .