I love the travel hack of getting my feet wet in a place from an extended layover (So far I have seen Oslo, Dubai, Stockholm, and Singapore this way), so when I saw a flight to Seoul with a 20-hour layover in Hong Kong, I didn’t hesitate to book.
My only issue with the flight was the time in which I landed (11pm), so a few hours of this particular layover would be pretty useless (Hong Kong is a late city, but I was a little sick and wasn’t too interested in participating in nightlife).
When I landed, I got an “octopus” card which allows you to go roundtrip to and from the airport. The counter was cash-only so I exchanged some money and realized though my time would be limited here, my wallet would still suffer. I arrived to my hostel, dropped off my bag and walked around a little. By this point, it was almost 1am, but nightlife is booming here, so I checked out some late food carts and just observed the drunken crowds (oh, yes, be prepared to see a lot of drunk people). I never felt unsafe but I chose to stay sober because, like I had mentioned, I was a little sick, and two, I wanted to wake up early to sight-see. I opted to sleep at a hostel for $19 for the night.
I woke up at 7am and had to get as much exploring in as I could. I knew in my remaining 11 hours there, I wanted to eat dim sum at least once, and I wanted to see the Vick Cheong building. The airport took about 40 minutes to get to from where I was staying, and it was an international flight, so my time felt like it was running out much quicker than I had anticipated.
The Yick Cheong building is pretty confusing to find, but you’ll know when you’re there, because everyone is taking photos. There are signs to either take no photos, or take your photos quickly as to not disturb the locals who live there. This building is truly magnificent and the visuals alone along with a meal in this city made it totally worth it to have a stopover. This is the condition these people are living in, and yet they are still paying astronomical prices for rent. Hong Kong is the most expensive city in Asia.
I was starting to get hungry and knew I wanted to try Tim Ho Wan, the world’s cheapest Michelin-star restaurant. As I expected, there was a line out the door, but it moved pretty quickly. You are sat shoulder-to-shoulder next to strangers while you enjoy your dim sum. The menu is simple and everything I ate was delicious, however, dim sum is best for sharing, so being solo trying to eat dim sum was not ideal.
From Tim Ho Wan, I walked around an area full of markets (Asia loves their markets, I tell ya), and desperately tried to find a place to get coffee to no such luck. I was in the center of the city and yet no coffee shops! Tea everywhere, but no coffee, so I settled for Starbucks.
Before I knew it, my time had already run out. I felt bummed / super rushed and was disappointed in how quickly the time had flown. But Hong Kong is HUGE and it does take a minute to get around, so twenty hours beginning at night hardly sufficed for a proper grasp on this Chinese region.
I had more time, I would’ve gone hiking. Hong Kong is known for TONS of awesome hikes but the clock was simply just ticking too quickly. I didn’t really get a feel of what life was like here. It was a melting pot, for sure. But there was so much outer influence that I feel like I never got to know Hong Kong, which I know I was there for such a short amount of time, but I was only in Stockholm for five hours and I can name several characteristics that made Stockholm a distinct unique city. Not in Hong Kong, though. I am grateful I got to see it, and maybe it was for the best because it really is expensive (I spent around $80 between transportation, food, and lodging for one day, and as you see, I hardly did anything at all). I don’t think I’d make it a point to specifically come back here, but I certainly wouldn’t hesitate on booking another flight with another long layover so I could maybe explore a little more!