As much as I LOVE living in Japan, the tolls to use the immaculate highways are brutal. Our original Thanksgiving plan was to head south to Kyoto, the previous capital of Japan before it was moved to Tokyo, bbbuuuutttt when you find a RIDICULOUS airfare and it becomes cheaper to take that crazy international trip you and your spouse have been talking about for almost a decade well, YOU TAKE THAT TRIP (Don’t worry we did make it to Kyoto eventually. See our “Japan” destinations for info on that adventure). So yeah, here’s Hong Kong! We moved reallllyyy fast during this trip (nothing new there I suppose), but if I was going to do it all over again I would have added one more day to the itinerary below. Just more reason to go back for round 2!
[ D A Y • 1 ] Tokyo → Hong Kong: Kowloon Park, Star Ferry, Victoria Peak, Temple Street Night Market
When you find a direct international flight with ONE DOLLAR departure tickets you abandon your previous Thanksgiving plans and go for it! And as unexpected of a travel deal as it was, we were also surprised that upon arriving at the airport our flight was leaving *earlier* than the scheduled time. Not sure I have ever heard of that happening, but then I’ve never found ridiculous airfare like this either.
Thankfully, we made the flight (although we cut it a bit closer than I would have liked) and we arrived in beautiful Hong Kong late that morning!! After getting settled at our hotel, Best Western Grand, in Tsim Sha Tsui, we meandered through Kowloon Park before taking the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour over to Hong Kong Island to enjoy the city views atop Victoria Peak. Ended the long day (that started @0200) by kicking back @Temple Street Night Market (HK’s biggest night market and a place that will give you that “old Hong Kong” feel) with a local cold brew and a feast of sea creatures that I had never eaten or heard of. This Thanksgiving I continue to be so incredibly thankful for this adventurous, up-for-anything family of mine!
Bus Tip: If you plan on staying in Tsim Sha Tsui (aka TST) which we feel will put you smack dab in the middle of it all take bus A21 from the airport. Fare is HKD $33/adult; HKD $16.50/child. Get off @ the “Prudential Centre, Nathan Road” bus stop if you’re headed to the Best Western Grand!
- Hours: Outdoor facilities: 0500 – 2400, Discovery Playground: 0630 – 2100, Bird Lake: March – October 0630 – 1845; November – February 0630 – 1745.
- Admission: Free
- Hours: Starts running at 1155 and runs until 1755 (there are some later night options as well). See timetable Here.
- Admission: HKD $105 round trip/Adult, HKD $95 round trip/Children 3 – 12 years old.
- Hours: Lower Tram Terminus: open 0700 – 2400 Monday – Sunday & Public Holidays. Peak Tower: open 1000 – 2300 Monday – Friday, 0800 – 2300 Saturday and Sunday & Public Holidays)
- Admission: HKD $99 round trip/Adult, HKD $47round trip/Children
- Hours: 1700 – 2400, Monday – Sunday
- Admission: Free
[ D A Y • 2 ] Hong Kong Island/Kowloon: Dragon’s Back Hike, Shek O Beach, Ozone Lounge
Futuristic skyscrapers backing up against a gorgeous backdrop of mountainside. Although densely populated, Hong Kong is surprisingly also made up of ~40% country park land. Thus, we figured we needed to do some hiking. “Dragon’s Back” was named by TIME Magazine as “The Best Urban Hike in Asia” (2004), so where to start was kind of a no brainer. A couple hours (and dozens a breathtaking views) later, we ended the hike oceanside @Shek O Beach (after some eats @Huang Kee Noodle). Wrapped up the day back in Kowloon on the 118th floor of the ICC Tower @Ozone Lounge (ie. The highest bar in the world). After such a busy day we didn’t even mind that kids were only allowed until 2100…we were all ready to head in and get some rest.
- Hours: Sunset to Sunrise
- Admission: Free
Directions for Dragon’s Back Hike: Hop aboard the MTR bound for Chai Wan Station (the trail will begin near this stop). Chai Wan will be the last stop on the Island Line (see the Island Line is in dark blue on the map below). Depending on where you get on the line, you may also pass the station, Wan Chai. When shuffling around an unfamiliar city with kids we could see this being an easy mistake to make and we can promise you that Wan Chai will not get you started on this ah-maz-ing hike with those killer ocean views. So, make sure to keep them straight and stay on the line until the last stop! You want Chai Wan!
Once you arrive at Chai Wan Station find Exit A. This exit will pop you right into a mall. As soon as you pass through the mall, you’ll see an elevated pedestrian passage to your right. Cross the intersection using this passage and then head back down the stairs at Wan Tsui Road. Follow Wan Tsui Road in the direction of the glass “Youth Square” building. Once you see Lin Shing Road take a left. Keep walking straight until the road ends at a crossroad (you should see the Cape Collinson Cemetery now). Pass through the entrance gate and you’ll see a set of stairs to your left. Aiight, go get ’em! This will be the first of many stairs, but the views from “Dragon’s Back” are so worth the effort!
Once you reach the top of the first set of stairs, stop for a second and take a breather (you deserve it). There should be a road here. Follow the road which continues up the hill until you see the second set of stairs on the right.
When you reach the top there will be a parking lot. Turn right towards the lot and follow the paved road. Soon you’ll see the first trail sign pointing you in the direction of “Tai Tam Gap.” Walk in this direction for ~10 minutes (~1 km) until you reach the trail sign for the beginning of “Dragon’s Back” Hike (it will be on your left). Follow the signs directing you to “Shek O Peak” and “Dragon’s Back.” When the paved road ends you’ll transfer to a shaded path through the woods. The trail will eventually lead you left where you’ll be able to fully understand why people rave about this particular hike. Above the tree line you’ll be able to take in those spectacular views for a couple kilometers (those stairs in the beginning were worth it, right?). Happy hiking!!
When you finish the hike, you’ll have some options: head back to HK city or go to the beach (even if it isn’t super warm we think the beach is very much worth a visit). If that’s what you’re thinking too, then take bus 9 towards Shek O and head to Shek O Beach! You’re kids will love you for it!
A couple of thoughts regarding Dragon’s Back:
- Expect to spend ~2hr 15min on the trail one-way (if you have young kids and start your watch at the bottom of cemetery)
- The peak elevation for this hike is ~275m, however, the hike is fairly flat after initial stairs (so be intimidated and feel like it its going to be anything too crazy! It’s not. Running (athletic) shoes are just fine.)
- No water fountains or restrooms are available, so make sure your littles use the restroom before taking off. Since the hike is fairly popular there aren’t too many private spots if “the call of nature” arises.
- Make sure to pack snacks for the kids. Hangry kids = poor travel companions.
- Dragon’s Back Trail makes up Section 8 of the Hong Kong Trail (a 50km trail that takes one through Hong Kong Island and five country parks). I’d grade it as a pretty easy hike and an active child 4+ years old should be able to handle it fairly easily.
- This is probably Hong Kong’s most popular hiking trail. Like most all-known trails the earlier you can start the better. But in the event that you can’t get started early there is plenty of epic views for everyone! Also, if you can schedule it during the week it is *probably* better than setting out on a weekend day (we completed the hike on a Monday).
- Hours: Sunrise to sunset
- Admission: Free
- Hours: Mon – Thurs 1700 – 0100, Friday 1700 – 0200, Saturday 1500 – 0200, Sunday 1200 – 2400. Kids welcome until ~2100.
- Admission: Free
Ozone Lounge Tip: Tailored shorts allowed, but no open toe shoes/flip flops.
[ D A Y • 3 ] Sha Tin: Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, Kowloon: Jade Market, Stanley Island, Aberdeen Coastline: Jumbo Kingdom
I never thought I would be able to see 10,000 Buddhas and a handful of playful macaque monkeys all in one (very steep) walk, but that is exactly how we started our day @The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. We spent the afternoon browsing Jade Market (be prepared to be a bit hounded here by #allthevendors trying to sell #allthegoods), eating dim sum, and then enjoying Stanley Bay – one of the oldest villages in Hong Kong, dating back to the Ming Dynasty and heavily influenced by the British (heavily populated ex-pat community here). Although exhausted by evening, we all managed to rally for dinner @Jumbo Kingdom, the very brash and garish self-proclaimed “largest floating restaurant in the world.” We spent the money and Uber-ed home (something we try hard to avoid) after and it was very much worth the extra cash. Long day for the whole family.
Directions to the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery: Take the MTR to the Sha Tin Station on the East Rail Line (it’s the light blue line on the MTR map above on “day 2”). Exit Sha Tin Station and then follow the signs directing you to the Sha Tin Government Offices. Once at Sheung Wo Che Road turn right. Continue walking to the end of Sheung Wo Che Road and then look left. Just behind the Government Offices is a path flanked by fences. This path is the path that will lead you to the stairs that will then lead you up a steeeeeppp hill to the Monastery.
- Hours: Daily, 0900 – 1700
- Admission: Free
Things to be aware of at 10,00 Buddhas Monastery:
- Although we personally didn’t experience it, we have heard that sometimes around the entrance to the path “monks” may be present. They may try to give you a blessing and perhaps tie something around your wrist to encourage you to give them money. This is a scam and the people are not authentic monks. There are signs in the area warning you about this as well.
- Also make sure to watch your belongings as the monkeys can be quick to snatch things up!
- Hours: Monday – Saturday, 1100 – 1745
- Admission: Free
- Info: http://www.hk-stanley-market.com
- Hours: 1000 – 1900 (Stanley Market)
- Admission: Free
- Info: https://www.jumbokingdom.com/en/main.html
- Hours: Monday – Saturday, 1100 – 2300; Sunday 0900 – 2300
- Admission: Free ferry from dock. See menu prices here.
Jumbo Kingdom Tip: I wouldn’t grade Jumbo Kingdom “A+” in the foodie department (and it’s a tad pricey by our standards), but I still think it’s a very worthwhile experience!
[ D A Y • 4 ] Lantau Island: Hong Kong Disneyland
We continued our quest to visit #allthedisneyparks this trip. Miles proclaimed this day “THE BEST Day Ever!” Watching his reaction as “High McQueen” (what Miles calls Lightening McQueen) drove by in the “Disney Paint the Night Parade” was magical. Also, I feel like this was the PERFECT Disney Park for little ones. Not too big for them not to be able to navigate the whole park. Minimal lines (the longest we waited was 5 minutes! That’s unheard of in Tokyo.) and if your diligent with your time you can cover the park in one full day. Let’s put it this way, we hopped off “It’s a Small World,” ~3min after the “Disney Paint the Night Parade” had started. Although we beelined it, we were able to make our way to the front of the parade so we didn’t miss any of the characters or floats go by AND we had a front seat! As far as “Disneylands” go – this was our favorite (to-date we have been to every Disney Park, with the exception of Shanghai Disney and Disneyland Paris).
- Hours: Monday – Friday 1030 – 2000, Saturday and Sunday 1130 – 2015
- Admission: Standard Tickets starting at $619HKD
Disneyland Hong Kong Tip: We are always looking for that balance of efficient + unique + delicious when it comes to dining with our kids. If you’re like us and trying not to break-the-bank when it comes to travel, I would suggest hitting up the Explorer’s Club Restaurant for a meal @Disneyland HK. This restaurant is counter service but, it’s uniquely decorated, and the food was really good, with choices from all around the world. No reservation required, just pop on in for lunch in between rides and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you find!
[ D A Y • 5 ] Lantau Island: Ngong Ping Cable Car, Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong → Tokyo
Checked out of our hotel @0930 and dropped our luggage off at the airport (you’ll take bus A22 to do this). We then hopped in a Lantau Taxi (blue) and zipped off to Ngong Ping Cable Car @Tung Chung. If I could do this day over I would have: 1.) Booked our tickets ahead of time through Klook.com and 2.) Opted for the glass bottom cable car (we would have saved both $$ and time waiting in line). Anyway, regardless, the views we took in were pretty epic as we rode over Lantau Country Park to visit Tian Tan the Big Buddha (34m high) @Ngong Ping Village. Since we spent an exorbitant amount of time in line for this experience (keeping the kids occupied was quite the job in itself) that we were running low on time when we arrived in Ngong Ping Village. This made for a very quick stop at Tian Tan Big Buddha before hoping into a taxi to head back to the airport to catch the red-eye back to Japan (still feels incredibly strange to say, “Back to Japan”). Until next time Hong Kong!
Airport Baggage Storage: If you’re trying to squeeze out some adventuring before taking off like we did, there is a short-term baggage storage facility on Level 3 of Terminal 2 in the Hong Kong Airport.
- Hours: The facility is open 7days/week 0530 – 0130
- Rate: Hourly $12HKD ($1.55usd), Daily $140HKD ($18usd) (**Storage fee is totaled based on storage duration, baggage dimension and weight).
- Payment: Only cash, Visa, MasterCard are accepted. Payment is made upon baggage collection.
- Hours: Monday – Friday 1000 – 1800, Saturday and Sunday 0900 – 1830
- Admission: Adult $86HKD one way, $188HKD round trip. Children 3011 $44HKD one way, $1225HKD round trip.
- Hours: Monday – Sunday, 1000 – 1730
- Admission: Free