Interesting Districts of Hong Kong
There are three main regions in Hong Kong: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, and the New Territories, including the outlying islands.
Hong Kong Island is the home and heart of the financial and business district and contains most of the city’s modern skyscrapers. The Central district on the northern shore of the island is where most of the major tourist attractions can be found. This is where you will find the Central Waterfront Promenade and the Peak Tram that goes up Victoria Peak for sweeping city views.
Just around the corner from the Central district is Lan Kwai Fong, party central and home to the city's busiest nightspots. This is where you will find lots of bars, clubs and ex-pats.
Kowloon is on the opposite side of Hong Kong Island across the Victoria Harbour on the mainland. Unlike Hong Kong Island, Kowloon has a rustic charm that retains the historic character of the old city. This is where you will find a more authentic experience with the local culture, cuisine and shopping.
Tsim Sha Tsui on the southern point along the harbor is where you will find various museums, the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island and Avenue of Stars, celebrating Hong Kong’s illustrious film industry.
Mong Kok in the heart of Kowloon is one of the most bustling districts of the city. This is the area of Hong Kong that is often depicted in movies with its signature streets filled with neon signs. It is also where you will find the traditional night markets.
THE NEW TERRITORIES
The New Territories account for most of the land area of Hong Kong. Located north of Kowloon and bordering with mainland China, it is known for its wetlands and parks, making the perfect escape from the busy city.
Did you know there are more than 200 little islands in Hong Kong? Lantau Island is the biggest and is home to Hong Kong Disneyland and Tai O, a quaint fishing village with houses built on stilts above the water. Lantau Island is also home to the Big Buddha, Po Lin Monastery and the Ngong Ping 360 gondola.
Lamma Island is popular for hikes and small shops selling Hong Kong street food and snacks. Cheung Chau is one of the busier islands with lots of food and shops; yet, it still retains the charm of a small village.
Interesting Attractions to Visit in Hong Kong
There are endless things to see and do in Hong Kong. Here are a few top picks to get you started:
The panoramic city view from Victoria Peak beautifully encapsulates the essence and hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. The fastest and easiest way to get up to the peak is via the Peak Tram, a funicular railway that is an attraction on its own. Once you get up to the top, you will be rewarded with one of the most amazing skyline views.
BIG BUDDHA, PO LIN MONASTERY AND NGONG PING 360
Located on Lantau Island are Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. The Buddha impressively sits 34 meters high, facing north toward the city. Po Lin Monastery is one of Hong Kong’s most important Buddhist sanctums, and you can also enjoy a vegetarian meal. The easiest way to get there is on the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car from the Tung Chung MTR Station. The cable car journey itself features great views of the surrounding islands and sweeping mountain and sea views. If you are brave, you can upgrade to the glass bottom car.
JUNK AND STAR FERRY
One of the most iconic symbols of Hong Kong is the red sails of junks in Victoria Harbour. You can charter one, or you can go on a tour of the harbor to see both sides of it, taking in views of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. Alternatively, a cheaper option is to take the commuter Star Ferry across the same harbor. The Star Ferry runs every few minutes and is super inexpensive. The best time to take the ferry is during the Symphony of Lights, a multimedia show that sets the harbor ablaze every night with lights and lasers.
One of the things that makes Hong Kong so unique is that it is super modern; yet, it retains most of its historical character and culture as exemplified in the markets of Kowloon. Temple Street Night Market is a great example of old Hong Kong and has often been the backdrop of films. Make sure you check out the street around the night market with rows of fortune-tellers! You can discover what your future holds or just watch the ancient practice of palm reading. The Ladies’ Market is a kilometer stretch of over 100 stands, selling everything from bargain clothing to watches and trinkets. Nearby are the flower market, goldfish market, bird garden, and jade market.
DRAGON’S BACK HIKE
The Dragon’s Back is one of the most popular hiking trails in Hong Kong. It has beautiful coastal scenery and is relatively close to the city. It is located on the eastern tip of Hong Kong Island and is easily accessible by transit. The average hike should take around 4 hours but there are shorter loop options. Along the journey, you will be rewarded with amazing views of Shek O beach, Stanley, and the South China Sea.
Although not in Hong Kong, most Hong Kong visitors take a day or even a weekend trip to visit Macau. It is another special region of China and is only a one-hour ferry ride away. Macau seamlessly blends Portuguese and Chinese culture and the historic center is an UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also well known for its luxurious hotels, shopping malls and casinos—it is often called the Vegas of the East!
Experiencing Food in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is renowned for its food scene. This foodie’s paradise includes options from street food to high-end, five-star restaurants, from Chinese to Western food, and everything in between. When you are in Hong Kong, you have to try some of the local street food, which includes items such as stinky tofu, curry fish balls, egg waffles, egg tarts, grilled squid, buns filled with meat, and sweet pastries. Also, you must check out a local Cha Chaan Teng (translates to “tea restaurant”), where you will find affordable comfort food. This is also where you will find Hong Kong-style milk tea, an integral part of Hong Kong’s tea culture. They are located throughout Hong Kong, but the best ones are on the Kowloon side of the city.
If you are looking for great seafood, check out Sao Kung, a small seaside town in the New Territories region of Hong Kong. You can pick your own freshly caught fish and one of the restaurants on the promenade will prepare it however you wish.
Tips and Safety Consideration for LGBTQ+ visitors
The best way to get into the city from the airport is on the Airport Express that directly connects to both Kowloon and Hong Kong stations. There is a complimentary shuttle bus from those stations to major hotels in the area. It is also easy to get around the city using the MTR (public transit system), which is convenient and inexpensive. Make sure you get the Octopus Card, a prepaid transit card that makes travelling on the system stress free.
Hong Kong is generally considered an LGBTQ+-tolerant destination. Travelers in Hong Kong should not expect discrimination or unsafe conditions as the city at large is generally accepting. Homosexuality is not considered a criminal act and in 2018, Hong Kong’s top court, for the first time, allowed a spousal visa for a same-sex partner. That said, Hong Kong still does not recognize same-sex marriages and has limited legal protection for sexual orientation-based discrimination. Despite being LGBTQ+ tolerant, caution is still advised. To avoid any issues, it is recommended to avoid any unnecessary public displays of affection.
LGBTQ+ Travel Tips and Events
Gay nightlife in Hong Kong is quite vibrant with most bars and clubs located in the Central District entertainment zone (SoHo) and Sheung Wan’s Jervois Street on Hong Kong Island. The bars are welcoming to all and are generally a mix of locals and foreigners. There are also a few bars in the Causeway Bay District and in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Kowloon.
Hong Kong hosts a small annual Pride parade each year in November to promote equal rights and anti-discrimination against the LGBT community. In addition to the traditional Pride parade, they hold an annual event, around October each year, called Pink Dot HK. It is the largest LGBTQ+ annual event in Hong Kong and is a free fun carnival and outdoor concert for the LGBTQ+ community and their allies, families, friends, and colleagues, in support of diversity and equality.
This article was written by Barry Joy (aka asianmapleleaf), an ambassador of all things travel. Barry was born and raised in Toronto and currently lives in New York City. Follow his adventures on asianmapleleaf.com or on Instagram @asianmapleleaf.