Hong Kong Background Information

The Hong Kong skyline from the Kowloon ferry
The Hong Kong skyline from the Kowloon ferry

Consisting of a few islands and a chunk of mainland connected to China, Hong Kong is really a large and spread out city that also doubles as its own country: much like Singapore.

Ferries are the most popular way to get around the islands, offer amazing views of the skyline and were my personal favorite transportation mode. However, for actually getting somewhere quickly and efficiently, the subway is top notch and connects all of Hong Kong’s islands as well as every place a tourist like me needs to go.

Hong Kong Island itself is one of the most amazing architectural things I have ever seen. More than 7,500 skyscrapers stretch across a riverfront for miles to the east and west. However, less than a mile behind the water Victoria Peak cuts off development and rises above the tops of the buildings. Visually, this massive mountain range provides a stark contrast to the city and helps to put the size into perspective.

Skylines, Views and Skyscrapers in Hong Kong

A view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak
A view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

Once a spot only for the city’s elite, Victoria Peak is now a popular tourist destination reachable either by climbing hundreds of stairs or via a 100-year old cable car. The view from atop is spectacular with the Hong Kong skyline in the foreground and Kowloon and the other islands in the distance. On a clear day (not the day we went up) you can even see China.

The Hong Kong skyline at night from Kowloon during the Symphony of Lights
The Hong Kong skyline at night from Kowloon during the Symphony of Lights

Another amazing viewpoint is the Victoria Harbor Waterfront promenade on Kowloon. Located directly across the river from downtown Hong Kong Island, the entire skyline seems to be a wall of skyscrapers facing directly at you. Many buildings are topped off with a large neon sign featuring the name of a big global company (ie. IBM, Sony, MGM) though not necessarily the company who occupies that building.

These signs all face out to Kowloon, furthering the feeling that the skyline was meant to be viewed from that spot. Best of all, every night the city puts on A Symphony of Lights where the buildings all flash different neon colors while strobe lights fill the sky to the sound of music. I hate to say it as a New Yorker, but it might just be a little cooler than our skyline. If only we had nightly neon shows…

Hong Kong skyline at night

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Kowloon

The Golden Mile in Kowloon is filled with shops, signs and people
The Golden Mile in Kowloon is filled with shops, signs and people

While Hong Kong Island is where all big business takes place and many of the city’s richer folks stay, those on more of a budget opt for living in Kowloon. Skyscrapers still fill the sky, though they are not as densely packed and tend to be more residential. While the area is filled with tourists, it also seems to house most the country’s international residents. We met countless African, Indian and Middle Easterners, many of whom came to Hong Kong to try to eek out a meager living while sending home whatever money they can.

Many of these international residents run or work at the thousands of shops, markets and restaurants that fill up Kowloon. The most famous stretch is the Golden Mile, which is longer than a mile and is literally wall to wall shopping, neon and crowded streets. The indoor markets are the craziest of all, like the Mongkok Computer Center that has four floors of shops no bigger than a closet all sandwiched in and selling the same exact thing. There were similar markets around Kowloon for pretty much every genre of purchasable item.

Hong Kong traffic at night
Hong Kong traffic at night

Sadly, as much as I wanted to purchase everything in sight, we had to save our money just to pay for living because man is Hong Kong expensive. Well, expensive by Southeast Asia/two backpackers at the end of a long trip standards. In reality, things were just city prices. I had heard that laptops were dirt cheap (hence the trip to the computer center)…it wound up being cheaper to buy it at home. Even the smallest dirty closet-sized hotel room was at least $20…versus paying $2 in India.

Food in Hong Kong was no bargain either…even street food. But regardless, the city was awesome and a great way to finish off the trip.

A Symphony in Lights as seen from the Victoria Harbor Waterfront promenade on Kowloon

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