Hong Kong in 12 hours - What to do when your conference ends at lunch and your flight leaves at midnight
Written by Raymond Lowe, Hong Kong Fast Facts
After traveling halfway around the globe from Canada to Hong Kong, you won't want to miss the chance to get some sightseeing and cultural experiences packed into your trip before you return. But what to do if you have only a few hours before your flight leaves, and want to avoid the great-but-done-too-many-times activities like the Peak Tram?
Here is a half day plan that hits both some well-known highlights and some obscurities.
Before starting, make sure you checked out of your hotel and deposited your luggage with the Airport Express In Town Checking early in the morning, that way you'll have your whole afternoon and evening worry-free from your flight with your boarding pass already in hand!
Let's start in Wanchai which is were the Exhibition and Convention Centre is, as well as a lot of major hotels so you may well be staying in this district. As an HK regular you'll know that the sleazy "Suzie Wong" image of Wanchai is outdated but you might have missed out on some of the unusual spots in the area.
If you have kids back home then you mustn't miss this one! Even if you don't have kids there is plenty to see in this street market to keep anybody interested. It is properly called Tai Yue Street and leads south from Johnston Road just across the road from Southorn Stadium (named after Thomas Southorn, colonial secretary in 1934).
Use MTR Exit A3 of the Wanchai station to get to there if you are not walking from elsewhere in Wanchai. The street, more like an alleyway, is between the bakery and the Bonjour cosmetic store. The KFC and signs for Pizza Hut are other good landmarks to place yourself here.
Street market stalls line the road and the first few are a miscellany of plants, goldfish, electrical gadgets and more. But make your way a little more down the street and you'll find the toy shops. Overflowing with dolls, games, flashing toys that go "whirr" and nostalgic favourites you'll find plenty for the 5 to 10-year-olds here, and if an adult of your acquaintance likes plastic kits to make models of cars, jets and trains they may well enjoy this street as well! As it is coming up to Christmas there will also be plenty of tinsel and tree decorations on offer, though at other times of the year the displays are suitably seasonal.
Walk along this road all the way to the end, which will take you past a lot of street vendors selling basic ladies' and children's clothes as well as household essentials. There are plenty of cafes and hole-in-the-wall takeaways where you can grab a sandwich and some fruit or a lunch box of steaming hot rice. If you need lunch then grab something here as there is a good place to sit in a park and eat coming up soon!
The street market itself ends when you get to Cross Street but keep on going for another block to the main road which is Queen's Road East.
Looking across Queen's Road you'll see something very rare in Hong Kong, a historic building in a traditional Chinese style from more than 100 years ago. With whitewashed walls, green shutters and a tiled roof with molded gables it certainly stands out from the rest of the skyscrapers in the district. First built in 1912, this served as a post office for the district for 77 years and is now maintained as an environmental resource centre. Take a look inside to see the ranks of red painted post boxes! Don't forget to look up at the ceiling to see the wooden timbers that support the tiled roof. This was a style common at the time but is now hard to find anywhere. The Centre is open 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day except Tuesday but it is interesting to see the outside of the building even when it is closed.
After leaving walk east, that is with the post office on your right, one block along the main road to Stone Null Lane, and take this uphill until you reach the garden.
Stone Nullah Lane Garden
The garden is a great sitting out place, an oasis of trees and a quiet green space in the middle of the city. Although small the sensation of peace is probably encouraged by the Wan Chai Pak Tai Temple that is located beside the garden.
This is an old but well-maintained temple to Pak Tai, the Taoist god of the sea, who is also known as the Supreme Emperor of the Northern Heaven. It mixes the traditional with the modern in a typically pragmatic Hong Kong fashion. Ask the temple keeper to tell your fortune and he is often seen using an iPad tablet to consult the books of learning to interpret your future!
After insuring that Pak Tai is going to have your back with a few well placed Joss Sticks retrace your route down to Queen's Road and the Wanchai MTR station. It's time to cross the harbour!
On the MTR, take the Island line towards Kennedy Town but change trains after one stop at Admiralty. Take the Tsuen Wan line towards Tsuen Wan two stops to Jordan.
Alternatively, if you have plenty of time, catch a tram outside Southorn Stadium. Any tram going towards Western will do. Make sure to sit upstairs at the front for the best view! Get off outside World Wide House, go up the steps beside the Fanda Pharmacy store onto the walkway to the Central Piers. There you can catch the Star Ferry from Pier 8 across the harbour to Tsimshatsui (TST). Leave the ferry pier in TST, turn left and walk along to the bus stop. Any bus going north along Nathan road will do, try the 1A or the 271 and ride it until Jordan. It will take a lot longer but you do get to see many more sights than on the MTR!
At the junction of Nathan Road and Jordan Road turn left onto Jordan Road and walk four blocks to Temple Street. You'll see the giant red ornate Chinese style gateway on the right leading to the night market.
It should be time for dinner by now and the last of the big night markets of Hong Kong lets you combine shopping with dining and more. Walk along the road browsing all the way to the Tin Hau Temple after which the road is named. Try eating outside at one of the many restaurants along the way, the Spicy Crab is famous but there are plenty of other choices. Check out the nostalgic Mido Cafe just past the temple, make sure to sit upstairs for the full 1950's experience.
Once it is dark don't miss the chance for that iconic night shot of the market from the air. You don't need a drone, all you have to do is walk into the multi-storey public car park next to the temple and go up several floors. The view lines up so perfectly with the road that you can't help but wonder if the architect designed it just for this view!
If you'd like a second opinion on the fortune you got at the Pak Tai temple then don't miss the fortune tellers outside the car park building. And just across from them, if you are late enough, you'll find the Chinese singers in the streets doing everything from Chinese operatic standards to modern pieces. It is said that some HK singing stars started their careers right here!
When you have had your fill of shopping, crabs and singing make your way back to Nathan Road and take a taxi down to the Star Ferry Pier.
In the dark, the wide expanse of the promenade along the TST waterfront embodies everything you have seen in a picture postcard view of Hong Kong. This the view of Victoria Peak, instead of from the peak, which is the real emblem of Hong Kong. Walk along and enjoy the views.
Finally take the Star Ferry back to Hong Kong Island. From the ferry pier you are just a 5 minute walk from the Airport Express terminal that will take you back to the airport in just 24 minutes. This drops you directly into the Departures area of Chek Lap Kok airport!
Have a great time in Hong Kong!
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