Hong Kong International Airport is one of the major Air Transit hubs in Asia. In 2015 alone over 60 million passengers arrived and departed. If you have traveled a long distance throughout Asia there is a good chance you are familiar with the airport and in most cases a lengthy layover.
Having arrived from Auckland, New Zealand at 6AM with a connecting flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka at 8PM. The options were, sit inside the airport looking at duty free shops and trying to sneak an uncomfortable snooze on the floor or go see what Hong Kong had to offer. The choice was an easy one.
Upon Arrival in Hong Kong
Getting through customs was extremely efficient. Following the signs which were visually identifiable from the gate where we arrived, right through to customs itself. The standard process of supplying the border officer with your passport and supporting documents is followed and to my surprise a free 90 day visa was issued and I was on my way.
Time: Allow 1 Hour
There are trains running practically from the Airport terminal itself. For directions we simply followed the train signs, yet again easy to locate. Tickets can be bought at an automated machines around the area. The trains depart every 5 minutes or so. Waiting times were not an issue. Connecting every major hub in Hong Kong it won’t take long to reach your designated location, ours was Kowloon. The train itself is immaculately clean and modern. An illuminated sign lets you know which stop is next. Best public transport system I have used to date.
Time- 30 minutes (Airport to Kowloon)
Our first stop, Kowloon. It is a shopping, arts and entertainment district. When we rose out of the escalator from the train station we, being from little ol New Zealand, were immediately engulfed and overwhelmed. Massive architectural apartments, office buildings and shopping complexes surrounded us on all sides.
The International Commerce Center standing at 484m was the biggest eye catcher. Hong Kong’s tallest building, where you can take an elevator to one of the top floors. Here you get a 360 degree view of the entire city. Towering over the rest of the City you can see the fringes backed onto jungle like terrain. A concrete jungle surrounded by a natural one, it was an amazing sight. With beautiful gardens to wonder through, quirky cafés and amazing architecture the whole area gave off a good vibe.
Time- 2 Hours
Ferry crossing to Hong Kong City
From Kowloon we walked towards the harbour area where you can catch ferries across the channel to the ‘City’ itself. The area of direction to walk can be visualized from Kowloon. The whole walk took about 20 minutes. Once there, tickets can be brought from an automated ticketing machine with ease. After a quick bite to eat from a local bakery we headed to the boarding area. The ferry itself is a large vessel making the journey comfortable, taking about 5 minutes. They seemed to be running constantly so waiting shouldn’t be an issue.
Time- 1 Hour
Hong Kong City
From the harbour you are essentially in the middle of the city. Feeling like an ant with sky scrapers towering over us. We walked around and to our surprise find clusters of high end label stores. Indicating that there must be a lot of money in Hong Kong to justify the amount we saw, it was mind blowing.
We decided to wonder into the back streets where we got immersed for a couple of hours. Finding high end brand stores merging into local restaurants and market alley ways. We indulged in some local cuisine at a small family restaurant down one of the narrow alleys. Construction sites using bamboo as scaffold was interesting to witness in such a modern city. Once we felt it was time, we walked back to the train station and proceeded onto the next destination.
Time- 3 Hours
From Hong Kong ‘City’ to Ngong Ping is a 15 minute train ride. Here you can ride cable cars to a mountain top where a gigantic Buddha statue has been erected along with a make shift village. The line was unbearably long. At around 2pm waiting time was about 2 hours. With an optimistic outlook we waited the full 2 hours only to discover that the line at the top was just as long. Not willing to run the risk of missing our flight we pulled pin.
If thinking of doing this I would highly recommend purchasing tickets beforehand online or elsewhere. That way you can use the express lane saving you valuable time. Another alternative would be to get there earlier in the day to beat the crowds. Only a few hundred meters away we found a tiny bar and had a few Asahi’s from the tap, reflected on the day and the journey ahead.
Get you tickets here : http://www.np360.com.hk/en/
Time- 2 Hours (waiting) + 1.30 hours. The cable car ride takes approximately 30 mins up and the same down. Note that’s not including waiting time or actual sightseeing.
Back to the Airport
From there we caught a taxi which only took a few minutes back to the Airport.
We managed to check out a lot of Hong Kong with ease and not so much stress. I think this was due to the efficient and reliable transport system. We knew that we could always make it back to the airport quickly if we really needed too. The day was thoroughly enjoyable with new experiences and sights which traveling is all about. We done this without any previous research and our only regret would be not managing to do the cable car ride. I hope this helps fellow travelers to plan their transit more economically.