When faced with 33 hours of flying, it’s enough to send anyone running to the wine. However, as my thirst for travel increases I now gravitate towards longer flights to take advantage of a hefty layover. Not only is this cheaper in some cases but provides a chance to stretch my legs and see another country.
This was the choice I made in July of 2013. I had spent two weeks on a private boat visiting the Italian Islands, when flying home with Cathay Pacific from Italy I made the choice to fuel my jet-lag by stopping over in Hong Kong for 12 hours. Some might say I’m a glutton for punishment, however I am always eager to make the most of my airfare. Unfortunately I failed to get much sleep during the first leg of my journey home so arrived in Hong Kong at 6am nearing exhaustion but with a full day of sight seeing ahead I was determined to push through with the help of copious amounts of caffeine. I’m thankful I did.
12 hours in Hong Kong is possible to get a taste of the city but is not enough time to appreciate everything it has to offer. Therefore, stay a night if your budget permits. By doing the latter you will get to experience the famous night market on Temple Street or shop to your hearts content at the Ladies Market in Kowloon. Perhaps you might even feel tempted catch a ferry to Macau for the day. If like me, you are pushed for time, grab a map, make a plan and put on some comfortable shoes.
Firstly you want to organise your flight so that you arrive in Hong Kong early morning. My flight arrived at 6.00am. After passing through border control I purchased a small map and studied it over a much needed coffee. I decided my first point of call would be the Big Buddha on Lantau Island or Tian Tan Buddha as it is known locally. I implore that you make this your first choice too. Not only is it close to the airport by public transport or taxi but there is a remarkable difference in crowds, lines and waiting times. When I arrived at Tung Chung station I discovered that I had to catch a cable car to Ngong Ping village where this 34 metre bronze beauty lay. Exactly twenty minutes later after sailing through the sky I found myself at my destination. On the contrary, a few hours later upon my descent, the lines were ridiculous.
The sheer size of Tian Tan Buddha is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and climbing 268 steps to her base completely worth the pain for the views of Buddha and the surrounding landscape. I spent quite a substantial amount of time here purely entranced by this magnificent creation and exploring Po Lin Monastery and Ngong Ping village. In retrospect, probably too much time for my schedule. Tian Tan Buddha is a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims alike, so be assured that Ngong Ping caters for this influx with an array of shops, food and convenience stalls and of course bathrooms.
After Tian Tan Buddha I advise catching the train into the city centre to marvel the views from Victoria Peak. This is another popular site where crowds and lines are inevitable, but naturally your waiting time will be diminished if you arrive early and on a weekday. From the MKR Central Station you will be able to walk or catch a bus to Victoria Peak tram terminus where you will be able ride to the top. The Peak Tram operates every 15 – 20 minutes and combined with the lines took quite a considerable amount of time. I firmly believe the tram ride improved the experience, but for those short on time you can catch a taxi to the top. Despite being completely exhausted with jet lag at this point… what a view! Similarly to Ngong Ping village, Victoria Peak offers a range of food options that will satisfy the most picky of taste buds.
With the two major attractions out of the way enjoy the local cuisine, stroll through the city and take in all that it has to offer as you see the fusion of British and Asian culture. After replenishing with a river cruise along Victoria Harbour head to Man Mo Temple to see a spiritual venue dedicated to the God of War and the God of Literarure. For those who are interested in astrology etc, there are many different packages on offer to have your fortune told. Usually I don’t believe in that sort of thing, but the gentleman was recommended in Lonely Planet and if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for me. I gave the fortune teller the specific question I had and after taking my birth date and asking me to think only about the subject he got to work. Let’s just say what he then told me was bang on, write down to the physical description of the subject… Needless to say I’m a believer.
The Quick 5
What can I do with my luggage whilst in transit?
The benefit of visiting Hong Kong during a layover is not having to be concerned for your luggage as your carrier will handle the transfer to your connecting flight later. However if you are changing carriers you will have to leave appropriate time to check back in. Fortunately though Hong Kong Airport is efficient and provides short term storage for luggage. The facility is located in Terminal 2 and will set you back close to $25.00 AUD for the day, which is fairly reasonable. Keep in mind this charge is per baggage item.
What visa requirements are needed for entry to Hong King whilst visiting on during layover?
Hong Kong is very welcoming to foreigners which is evident in its large expat community. Due to Hong Kong being a layover destination border control operates in an incredibly organised manner to facilitate this form of tourism. Prior to going through immigration or you will need is a complete entry card which can be found easily in the immigration hall and along with your passport you’re on you way. Visas are not a necessary requirement for selective nationalities and for those wanting to catch the ferry to Macau the same openness applies.
Does Hong Kong cater for mobility impaired tourists?
Given its prime location in Asia and it’s use as a popular stop over point for tourists, Hong Kong is one of the most visited cities in the world. Due to this status, the city caters for a range of tourists and has earned the reputation of being the most mobility impaired friendly place in East Asia. The modern city offers state of the art shopping centres and a range of attractions to choose from all of which are facilitated by a superb and mobility and mobility impairedpublic transport system. Visitors to Tian Tan Buddha are able to visit Ngong Ping village by the cable cars which are wheelchair accessible. However, during my visit there was no disabled friendly means to ascend the 268 steps to the base. Nonetheless, you will be able to get around the village and visit Po Lin Monastery and view the statue from the ground.
More specific information about accessibility can be found here
How easy is it to travel between HKIA and the city centre?
Hong Kong is very well structured and the metro system does not disappoint. The Airport Express will bring you to the city in just under 25 minutes and departs every 10 – 12 minutes. Depending on disembarkation point (Hong Kong Station or Kowloon Station) prices vary from roughly $26.00 AUD to $30.00 AUD return. This is quite pricey when compared to many European airport lines, however rail transfers to our very own international airport in Sydney is close in price comparison… It’s just one of those things you have to take into your budget planning. Keep in mind for those who purchase the adult tourist day pass for $10.00 AUD, though this provides you with unlimited travel on the metro the Airport Express is not included in this deal.
What is your biggest travel regret with Hong Kong?
Life is short, though Hong Kong is relatively close to Australia I simply assumed that one day I will be back when crossing from one hemisphere to the next. But this mind set is not something I want to get into the habit of retaining. However, as mentioned above, though Hong Kong is possible in a day it is a mere taste. I regret not electing to stay at least one night so that I could make the crossing to Macau. Selfishly it is purely to cross another place off my bucket list and unfortunately being so jet lagged did put a damper on my spirits whilst in Hong Kong. However, I have now learnt to show more kindness towards my body clock and take advantage during my travels whereby if something is close by and you really want to see it… make it happen.