Hong Kong travel tips

Fantastic frog figurine from the Hong Kong Museum of Art
Fantastic frog figurine from the Hong Kong Museum of Art | Photo by Lauren Girardin

The Ratings Explained:

  • YEH – Like a hot, fresh baked egg tart. YEHs are as good as you can get, especially for your backpacker buck, although sometimes a YEH is only relative to the other worse options in town.
  • MEH – Like lukewarm pork fat (lukewarm or not, it’s still pork). An intense level of indifference best describes a MEH experience. Got time to kill? Hong Kong dollars to burn? Checked your email? Sure, fine, do it. Whatever.
  • NAH – Like cold, leftover chicken feet. NAHs are worth avoiding at all costs. Likely to cause aggravation, frustration, or a need for Cipro.

Read on for the YEH-MEH-NAHs, our travel tips of where to (and not to) eat, drink, sleep, and visit in Hong Kong.

Where we ate and drank:

  • Tung Po Seafood Restaurant, 99 Java Road, Top Floor, North Point, Cookedfood Center – We took a tip from Anthony Bourdain and headed to this Hong Kong seafood institution. We shared a communal table with with families eating fresh seafood dishes. We felt compelled to order the Thai prawns, which were a coconutty change of pace. The fried squid balls were a bland mistake. You drink your beer from a rice bowl. Why not?: YEH
  • Cheers Restaurant, 639 Nathan Road, 3/F & 4/F., Grand Tower (between Nelson and Shantung St.), Mong Kok Neighborhood – Recommended by our hotel, this restaurant proved to have the best value for dim sum we found. Sign on the building exterior was in Chinese, smaller signs in English, so a little hard to find, bring the Chinese characters with you. We would return…oh, yeah, we did return: YEH!
  • Cheers Restaurant dim sum, Hong Kong
    Cheers Restaurant dim sum, Hong Kong | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Lok Yuen, 138-144 Sai Yeung Choi St South, Mong Kok – A casual noodle eatery with various meats in ball form. Nothing special by Hong Kong standards, but a decent meal at a fair price: MEH
  • Bowl of something from a window in the Temple Market – There are many small shops selling strange broths all around Kowloon. We tried a bowl of something that may have been brewed from mushrooms or herbs or turtles, or all of the above. It tasted earthy and I’m sure it will add years to our life: YEH?
  • Bowl of magic mystery juice, Hong Kong
    Bowl of magic mystery juice, Hong Kong | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Schnurrbart, 9-11 Prat Ave. – Hearty beers in a cozy German pub at inflated Hong Kong prices. Expats and alcoholics are big fans, we were: MEH
  • Sing Lum Khui – Rice Noodle Home, 23 Lock Road – Home for giant bowls of porky delicious Yunnan rice noodle soup. Fill out a form to customize your order: YEH
  • Macau Restaurant, 27 Lock Road – We didn’t have warm enough clothing to eat under the blasting AC vents inside the restaurant, but we did enjoy their to go Portuguese-style egg tarts on multiple occasions. Definitely he best egg tarts we had in Hong Kong: YEH
  • Maxim’s Palace, 2/F City Hall – This is the standard bearer of fancy dim sum in the capital of dim sum. It was absolutely fantastic, and we stuffed ourselves silly for $35 total, including tea (boo for charging for tea): YEH
  • The Best Shanghai Fusion, next to 3-5 Fa Yuen St. south of Soy St. – They don’t speak much English here, but you can trust their spicy wonton, their red bean pancake, and just about everything else. We would have gone back if we’d had the time: YEH
  • Lee Ken Waffle, walk up window shop, 78 Nathan Road (between Cameron Rd and Humphreys Ave), thanks to Precious Pea for providing the English name – We saw a line and got in it. Hot, fresh made waffles for sale on the street? Next best thing to Manhattan hot pretzels: YEH!
  • Lee Ken Waffle production, Hong Kong
    Lee Ken Waffle production, Hong Kong | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • London Restaurant, 3/F 614 Nathan Rd. – We decided to take a chance on a random dim sum restaurant. There were plenty of middle-aged couples sitting and reading their papers together. I think they come because they won’t be kicked out from their table, not for the greasy, substandard food: NAH
  • Imagine Bar, 2/F at about 20 Lock Rd. – A comfy bar serving giant glasses of Hoegaarden. A welcome respite in city with few quiet places to sit: YEH
  • Red Ant, 27 Ashley St. – A stylish restaurant serving imaginative nuevo Chinese fare (what, you got a better term than “nuevo Chinese”?): YEH

Where we stayed:

  • Dragon Hostel, 707, 7/F Sincere House, 83 Argyle, enter on Fa Yuen St. – A tiny and clean hostel with some of the least over-priced closet-sized rooms in town – we paid about $35 US a night which seemed like a fortune after Southeast Asia. The real reason we loved this place is Stanley, who arranged for a room in another hostel for us and gave us great restaurant and transport tips. Stanley also booked our China visas faster and cheaper than any “official” agency could. Free Wi-Fi and computers in the teeny tiny lobby. We stayed in several of Dragon Hostel’s rooms, and as you’d expect, the rooms without windows were sad. Book ahead, it’s very popular with Westerners and Chinese alike: YEH
  • Fire trap of a building of hostels and apartments, Hong Kong
    Fire trap of a building of hostels and apartments, Hong Kong | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Win Phon GH, 1315, 13/F Sincere House, 83 Argyle, enter on Fa Yuen St. – The Dragon Hostel was full for one night, so Stanley translated for us and got us a room a few floors up. Wasn’t bad, but no Wi-Fi and well, no Stanley: MEH

What we saw:

They say that the highlight of Hong Kong site-seeing is looking at and climbing up Victoria Peak, but we wouldn’t know as the clouds never lifted high enough for us to see the thing. This is what we did instead, keep in mind most outdoor things were gloomy so we probably didn’t enjoy them as much as we should have.

  • Temple Market – You can find better tourist junk and ambiance in the Chinatown at home. The permanent stores hidden behind the market’s stalls were much more interesting: NAH
  • Hong Kong Museum of Art – Even with half the rooms closed, we saw some solid art here. A wonderful distraction on a drizzly day: YEH
  • A Symphony of Lights: Hong Kong Skyline Light Show – You’d think something this big and expensive would give us a case of the “Wowzers,” but they couldn’t even get the lights and the soundtrack synced. This was crappier than we expected (though some of our friends who love it, so what do we know?): NAH
  • Hong Kong skyline light show
    Hong Kong skyline | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Avenue of Stars Promenade – There’s a few statues honoring Hong Kong’s film industry, but even the biggest Kung Fu dorks wouldn’t care (and Lauren has two brothers, so she’d know). The Jackie Chan gift shop was bare of the tacky kitch that would have entertained us. There’s also a view of the Hong Kong skyscrapers where one can review the tackiness of corporate hubris, if you’re into that sort of thing. The people watching along the Promenade was entertaining and the views during sunset were nice, despite the low fog. Good for a stroll: MEH
  • Subway, Buses, Airport Transportation: It was crazy easy and crazy cheap to take the bus into Hong Kong from the airport, but significantly more expensive (about $12 US each) to take the high speed train (which wasn’t that much faster). Who’s to complain? Not us: YEH
  • Infatuation on the Hong Kong subway
    Infatuation on the Hong Kong subway | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Star Ferry – It gets you across harbor with a view, not that we could see anything when we were there through the clouds: YEH
  • Victoria Park – We went in search of live music and picnic, which we found. Then it started drizzling so we left. Did we mention we had crappy, pissy weather the whole time we were in Hong Kong?: MEH