We were recently “stuck” in Hong Kong unexpectedly, waiting for the Mister’s resident visa to be processed, which we were pretty bummed about… NOT. So what started as a one night journey, turned into a four day adventure. We had never stayed on Hong Kong Island and after having found The Butterfly on Wellington, near Soho, we may never stay anywhere else. Even though the lifts moved about as fast as a sloth, the room was clean and quaint (and even equipped with a Nespresso machine) and the location was unbeatable (as was the price – roughly $100 a night, as compared to the $250-$400 pricetag of most large hotel chains in the area). From our doorstep, we could walk a block and hop on the escalators into the heart of the mid-levels or up into Soho, grab fresh fruit at the street market 30 feet away, or take a short walk to the ferry terminal to go island hopping.
And so, we did it ALL.
Below is a sample itinerary, more or less based on our experience, that I think gives a fairly well rounded Hong Kong experience and is slow enough to manage with young kids who still require a nap.
Day 1: Soho Walking Tour – Mid-levels Exploration and Shopping
You can spend HOURS walking the streets, exploring hidden alley-ways, and learning about the nuances of Central Hong Kong. On one block you’ll find Prada, on the next a wet market filled with sides of beef, freshly pickled ginger, and sidewalk eateries. Soho is absolutely full of restaurants and bars; it’d take months to experience them all. Same goes with the mid-levels, which kind of spill into Soho. As those with kids well know (and those without can attest to), fine dining with your trolls isn’t exactly a recipe for success, but there are a handful of restaurants open enough to accommodate a stroller and casual enough to accommodate screeching children. Also, be sure to go shopping here. I personally think that the shops in and around Central Hong Kong are as good as Hong Kong shopping gets. You can buy a $500 Louis Vuitton purse (not that I would condone such a thing) AND a $5 dress to go with it, all within a few blocks of eachother. But beware, this part of Hong Kong is full of hills – which both adds to its intrigue and the amount of sweating you’ll be doing. If you rely on the mid-levels escalators to get you up the hills, just remember that it’s a one way escalator and runs the direction of commuter traffic (down in the morning, up in the evening).
Day 2: Lamma Island
Oh, lovely little Lamma Island. What began as a fishing village has turned into a thriving, progressive, bohemian, self-reliant community. After a mere twenty minute journey, you are wisked away from the city and transported into an entirely new culture altogether. Complete with a recycling campaign, a fantastic natural foods store, two natural foods cafe’s, and a multitude of local design shops, Lamma Island kind of stole my heart. All that on a tropical island lined with beaches and NO cars… only 20 minutes from Central Hong Kong. What’s not to love?
Day 3: Peak Tram
Though a little birdy told me that the lines waiting to board the tram can be HORRENDOUS (especially if you’re hungover, apparently), we oh-so-cunningly chose an off time to head to Victoria Peak, so my impatient self’s experience wasn’t a wash in complaints. Waiting for the tram was actually a pleasure because there is a bit of a history museum set up along the path, so I got to learn all about the history of the tram. Built in the late 1800’s, the tram has been both a draw for tourists and a form of transportation for those who dwell on the Peak. The mall at the top is a bit obnoxious, but if you can jam your way through it, incredible views and picturesque hiking await.
Day 4: Wan Chai and Causeway Bay
Hoping to get the not-napping kids to nap, we decided to walk from Soho to Causeway Bay, which is about 4 kilometers. Not far, right? Throw in a few thousand people along your way, roads that require finding an overpass to get across, and a few wrong turns and it’ll feel like you just ran a marathon. It was actually quite a pleasant walk. Causeway Bay is home to Times Square, which could easily be skipped, as could much of the shopping there as far as I’m concerned (I mean, really, how many Coach stores does one city need?). It is, however, also home to many smaller, boutique shops and restaurants. Though it’ll require some serious walking shoes, I think getting out on foot and exploring through these areas is well worth a half day of time. And we also came across a movie theater and took the kids to see Turbo (about a snail who snuffs nitrous, heard of it?), in English, which I think I liked more than they did.
Intersperse the array of good restaurants to breakfast, lunch, and dinner at and you’ve got yourself a perfect Hong Kong visit. Restaurant recommendations aren’t my forte, but here are three I’d recommend, in and around Soho:
1) The staff at Nico’s Sputino is FANTASTIC (a good spot to grab the kids a gelato and Mom and Dad a beer).
2) Life Cafe is a great breakfast/brunch spot if you’re wanting something healthier/are a vegetarian.
3) Wagyu has great food and is good for the kiddos.
Oh, and get a foot massage.