do, eat, see: Hong Kong

I recently returned from a trip to Hong Kong – and what a trip it was. Hong Kong was an amazing city to spend time in, but since it was somewhere none of us had ever been before, there was a lot of guessing and researching before deciding what we wanted to do…which is where I come in for you! I wanted to make sure I remembered everything to share with you guys and hopefully help some of you out on your future travels.

We stayed in the Central district for four days, doing our fair share of exploring…and lots of dim-sum eating. The city itself reminded me a lot of Singapore – very urban and modern with lots of things to do and different cultures blended together – but had a lot of differences as well. We did and saw a lot over our four days, so I’ll break it down in our typical fashion into my favorite things to do, eat and see:

– do – 

Take the tram up to Victoria Peak

Hong Kong 1

This was the simplest thing we did but also maybe my favorite. The Peak Tram is the world’s steepest funicular railway (scary!) and takes you up to the top of Victoria Peak, where you can see arguably the best views of the Hong Kong skyline. The view is just beyond – I couldn’t have imagined that many buildings all in one place. We heard (and read) the queue for the tram could get insane (if Asia can do one thing well, it’s queuing) so we went first thing when it opened – I would HIGHLY suggest this. Get there early and you won’t have to wait. There are some food and merch shops at the top of mountain – even a Starbucks – so you can get your breakfast fix once they open.

Shop at Times Square

I thought we were used to big malls in Singapore, but whoa – Hong Kong’s very own Times Square was huge! The retail stores are spread over 9 floors and you can find everything from Zara to Louis Vuitton and even a Laduree when you’re trying to get your macaron on. It was a cool place to explore and we even found one of our favorite restaurants there (I’m getting to the food)!

Ride a speedboat to Macau

Hong Kong 2

Macau, considered “the Vegas of Asia,” is another special separate region of China that’s about an hour boat ride away from Hong Kong. The boats depart from Hong Kong harbor every 15 minutes throughout the day, so choose when you want to go and head to the Sheung Wan MTR station to get to the ferry terminal. It was super easy to get to Macau and it was honestly super bizarre to see it all – there is a Venetian that looks almost identical to the one in Vegas, along with a Wynn and even a replica Eiffel Tower! We moseyed around the Venetian for a while and even found our favorite snack, Lord Stow’s Bakery egg tarts – omg, get them – while wandering around. We just went for the night and it was a perfect amount of time to get to explore a little!

– eat –

Dim sum 

Dim sum is a popular type of Chinese-style cuisine traditionally prepared as smaller, bite-sized food served in steamer baskets or on plates. The food can range from things like steamed dumplings (my personal fave are xiao long bao), noodles, vegetables, rice dishes and more. It differs from place to place, but that’s pretty much the standard from where I’ve been. In Hong Kong, we ate at two places for dim sum: Tim Ho Wan and Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao.

Tim Ho Wan, famed as the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant, originated in Hong Kong and now has a few locations around the city. When I looked up online what to eat, the pork buns came up again and again (and again). We ordered these, a beef dish, some dumplings and vegetables. To be honest, I enjoyed the food, but it wasn’t the best I’ve had in HK/Asia – if there’s no wait, I’d definitely recommend checking it out, but I don’t think it’s worth the famed multi-hour queues. 🙂 The other restaurant we got dim sum style food at, Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao in Times Square Mall, was, in my opinion, much better. Get two orders of the xiao long bao, the homemade noodles (omg) and whatever else strikes your fancy and you’ll be good. This was my favorite meal in HK and I’d highly recommend it.

Burgers at Beef & Liberty

Okay, so when you think Hong Kong, your first thought probably isn’t about burgers. Me either – until Beef & Liberty came along. One of my mom’s friends recommended it to us and it was close to our hotel, so we decided to check it out. Upon arrival, you immediately know this is going to be a cool place. The inside has a very modern vibe and the servers were all super nice. There are tons of craft beers to try and even a skillet cookie (looking at you, sis). I’d suggest the black pepper burger – it was so different but SO good. We ate at the central location, but there’s also a pop up in the PMQ. They also have sweet potato fries, which is always my fry of choice, which were great. I’d highly recommend this place if you’re searching for a taste of home in HK.

– see –

Lantau Island

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Lantau was definitely one of my favorite things we saw while we were in Hong Kong. To get there, we took the MTR to the Tung Chung station and took the Ngong Ping 360 Cable car – an experience in itself! Pro tip: buy tickets for the “crystal” (glass bottom) cable car – it’s a little more expensive but the queue was non-existent compared to the hours-long one for the regular car. Worth the money for sure.

Once you get off the cable car (it’s about a 30 minute ride), you’ll be in Ngong Ping village, a cute-but-touristy walkway with shops and restaurants set up for visitors to the real attractions: Po Lin monastery and the Big Buddha. They’re both hidden away in lush mountains (such a contrast to central Hong Kong) and are great to see. It’s amazing to think about monks practicing in such a remote area – and the Big Buddha sure lives up to his name! Be ready to climb lots of steps to the top for a great view of the surrounding hills and the monastery.

Tai O

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Tai O was a smaller destination on our journey, a quaint fishing town on Lantau Island. After finishing up at the Big Buddha, we decided to take a local bus here to see what life would have been like before the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong arrived. They’re famous for their dried fish markets (see: the worst thing I ever smelled), but even if you aren’t planning on buying a dried pufferfish, it’s a nice place to spend an hour or so.

Take one of the small fishing boats out to try and catch a glimpse of the famed “pink dolphins” – the Chinese White Dolphin, as they’re scientifically called, are known to swim around the island and make appearances every once in a while. We didn’t have the good luck of seeing any, but if you plan your times right and do a bit of research, you should have a good shot!

Rooftop bars

Rooftop bars are popular in most big cities nowadays, but with Hong Kong’s impressive skyline, they’re a sight not to be missed. Ozone, the bar at the top of the Ritz Carlton, takes the title of the highest bar in the world. We wanted to stay more in the Central district, so we decided to try out Sevva, a restaurant and bar with a great view of the surrounding area. Their drink list was absurd – pages upon pages of every sort of cocktail you could imagine. We enjoyed taking in the sights from a great couch and had more than enough room to move around – a luxury in Asia! There was no cover, either, which is helpful to know if you’re trying to save a little $$.

Nan Lian Garden

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I couldn’t conclude my post about Hong Kong without mentioning the Nan Lian garden. One of our last stops in the city, the garden is a great place to relax, walk around and take in beautiful scenery in the middle of a hectic metropolis. Entry is free, it’s easy to get to on the MTR and you can even get a great meal at the restaurant or cafe inside = win.

While there’s countless things to do, eat and see while visiting Hong Kong, those were my favorites from this trip – I hope they serve you all well and definitely would suggest a visit if you’re in the area…or even if you’re not. What else should I add to my list for next time?

xx, H+R

do, eat, see: Bangkok

Can I get a YAAAAAAS for finally being on vacation? *raises hand emoji, confetti emoji, margarita emoji*

We’ve just returned from Thailand and what a wonderful week it was. We (we being the six of us: the fam unit including one of my cousins who has been interning in SG this summer + the beau) started out with a few days in Bangkok, exploring city life and learning more about Buddhist culture and finished our holiday in Phuket resting and enjoying the beautiful beaches. More to come on island life later!

Bangkok was totally new for me: my first time in Asia out of Singapore and my first time in a place here I couldn’t understand the language…at all. Having a working knowledge of English and French got me around most places in Europe just fine and Singapore is an English-speaking country, so seeing writing in different characters and hearing people speak in an entirely undecipherable language was something totally new. It was definitely a shock! Bangkok, however, is pretty urban – luckily for us, most people in the city center speak at least a bit of English.

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Wat Paknam Bangkok

Wat Paknam

Wat Paknam Bangkok

Wat Paknam

As we only had two days/three nights in each city, we wanted to make the most of our short time. If you’re ever planning a visit, here are my recommendations on what to do, eat and see:

– do –

Bangkok canal tours – For our first day in Bangkok, we arranged a tour of the famous canals (also know as klongs) in the city. Sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the East”, Bangkok has an extensive network of canals through more rural parts of the city to access floating markets, temples and homes. We hired a longtail boat, Thailand’s famous cruisers, to get us around. The boats are basically super-long, skinny boats powered by some type of engine that they may or may not have taken out of a truck. The boat took us to two temples, a local weekend market, a Thai orchid garden and an artist’s house for a traditional Thai puppet show. It was a super neat way to see around more of the more rural parts of the city.

Our tour guide, Nui, was absolutely fabulous and was a great guide around our sights – if you’re ever heading to Bangkok, I’d recommend checking out their company, Pandan Tours!

Longtail boat Bangkok

Longtail boat

Floating vendors Bangkok

Floating vendors

Noodle boat Bangkok

Noodle boat!

Chatuchak weekend market – The largest market in all of Thailand, Chatuchak is definitely worth a visit if you’ll be in Bangkok over a weekend. The market has over 8,000 stalls selling everything from plants and antiques to clothes and electronics. You can’t see it all, so pick and choose a few alleyways to wander down and be ready to bargain! You can bring the price down a few hundred baht or so if you a. go in with a price you want to pay (ex: don’t pay more than 200-300 baht for clothing), b. walk away (or act like you will) – there will always be another stall with the exact same item – and c. carry small bills to pay with. We picked up some cute elephant pillowcases, loose pants for plane rides, lots of soccer jerseys and a knockoff Beats pill (Dad…). There are literally thousands of stalls to see, so it’s a perfect place to get inexpensive, cool gifts for your friends and family back home.

– eat –

Everything – Is this an appropriate answer? We tried to get our hands on local cuisine while we were there, as it’s an experience in itself to try different Thai foods. We ate noodles out of a boat that passed us on the canal (cooking right on their boat!), lots of noodles at a weekend market and tried other snacks like homemade ice cream and mango sticky rice.

Pad thai – This seems like the obvious choice, but every time we got pad thai, it was amazing. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who’s looking to have great local food that isn’t tooo adventurous. Just don’t forget to add lots of spice! 🙂

An extra travel tip: since the hotel we stayed at had a stellar concierge lounge, we ate here often. Look to see if the hotel you’re staying in has one and if you can get access – for six people, it saved us a ton of money and we got some great food in the comfort of the hotel!

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Noodle boat noodles

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Pad thai

– see –

Lots of Buddhist temples – While we were there, we got to visit four temples: Wat Paknam, Wat Pa Chaeng Lane, Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho. Each was very different, with varying degrees of ornate decorations or a focus on different representations of Buddha. Wat Paknam’s green pagoda was really something – you can see in the photo above that the ceiling was covered with Swarovski crystals. Wat Pho was my other favorite – this is the temple of the leaning Buddha – it’s 46 meters long (HUGE)!

The views from a rooftop bar – Bangkok has tons of awesome rooftop bars to enjoy a few drinks and get an unmatched view of the city. Sky Bar is the most famous now, as it was featured in The Hangover 2, but we tried out one near our hotel called Above Eleven at the suggestion of one of my friends. It was awesome! The view was well worth the excursion.

Soi Cowboy – You didn’t think I was going to write a post about what to see in Bangkok without including Soi Cowboy, did you? Soi Cowboy is a little street in Bangkok that’s famous for its nightlife and bars – mostly gogos – that caters mostly to tourists. Most of the bars have patios to sit outside and take in the sights…or you can go inside and be prepared to see lots of scantily-clad girls dancing. Not the least awkward thing to do with my parents and baby sister, but it’s a popular part of Bangkok culture that you should try to check out while you’re there.

Wat Pho Bangkok

Wat Pho

Tuk Tuk rides Bangkok

Tuk Tuk rides

Wat Paknam Bangkok

Wat Paknam

Wat Paknam Bangkok

Wat Paknam

Above Eleven Bangkok

Above Eleven

Soi Cowboy Bangkok

Soi Cowboy

I would say we definitely made the most of our 2.5 days in Bangkok – lots of exploring, adventuring and trying new things. It was a big change from Singapore, but a cool place to visit nonetheless and somewhere new for me to check off the bucket list. Next post: living the island life in Phuket. There was lots to do, eat and see there too…so check back soon!