Tourist attractions Hongkongers never go to
Victoria Peak is perhaps Hong Kong’s most famous attraction and many an itinerary starts with a ride on the Peak Tram. The giddy excitement is abruptly curtailed as you turn up at 5pm on a Saturday, just in time for sunset, to find yourself at the back of a mile-long queue. Locals know better. The tram is unique, sure, but the novelty soon wears off after you’ve been queuing in the sun for two hours. Much better to catch the number 15 bus from Central and enjoy the winding road up, with spectacular views all the way, as you ascend above the Hong Kong’s skyscrapers.
A night out in Honkers is nothing unless it ends up in LKF, right? Hmmmm… Although locals have great affection for the party zone, the high prices, rowdy behaviour and tendency for revellers to not remember how they got home, make it a place of last resort. There are plenty of better areas in the city for drinking that won’t leave you with an empty wallet and a sense of overwhelming despondency.
The location of the handover ceremony and home of the Forever Blooming Bauhinia Sculpture – or the Golden Pak Choi as it’s termed by cheeky locals. The whole spot is rather controversial because of the history and since it’s a favourite location of protesters too. It’s safe to say you won’t find hordes of regular Hongkongers crowding around every morning to watch the flag raising ceremony.
Tim Ho Wan is one of cheapest Michelin starred restaurants in the world and undoubtedly serves some fine dim sum at decent prices. However, Hong Kong isn’t exactly short of good dim sum spots. They’re in every neighbourhood, serving delicious dumplings – probably with more character than this chain. Few Hongkongers are willing to travel across the city to one of its branches when their local yum cha spot knows their order when they walk in.
The what, you say? The Noon Day Gun is a cannon in Causeway Bay, fired once a day at noon by employees of the Jardine company. The tradition arose out of the company’s tendency to fire the cannon every time their boss reached Hong Kong’s shores. This is an honour normally reserved for military bigwigs and so it left one particular Royal Naval Officer pretty unhappy. He declared that they must henceforth fire it off every single day, forever, as a punishment, and it has stuck to this day. Whether it’s just a marketing ploy or a genuine historical tale, the site is pretty isolated, unattractive and not on any resident’s bucket list.
While on the subject of how not to do The Peak – Madame Tussauds. Hongkongers know that the shopping mall and viewing platform thing is not the best way to see the Island skyline in the first place, and you certainly don’t need to stop off to look at some lumps of wax while you’re at it. To its credit, it was Asia’s first Madame Tussauds and features some of our favourite local heroes like Andy Lau and Jackie Chan. But really, why go to Victoria Peak just for that?
In the eternal battle of the Hong Kong theme parks, Ocean Park is the originator and (arguably) the favourite among Hongkongers. Some take it as a matter of personal pride to shun the bright lights of Disneyland, giving Mickey and co the proverbial finger by boycotting the park altogether.
While Hongkongers are rightly proud of the city’s rich movie-making history, which includes screen legends like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, the Shaw Brothers, John Woo and Wong Kar-wai, the Avenue of Stars is definitely not top of our list of priorities when we have a spare couple of hours. It’s another good one for tourists with its excellent view of the harbour and selfie opportunities with the lifesize statues, but it’s no favourite of locals. Regardless, it’s closed for renovation until the end of the year.
As fun and quirky as it is, the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery with its life-sized golden Buddha statues in all sorts of crazy poses, is probably not something you need to see more than once. Whether your favourite is the one with the really long arm or the dude surfing on a tortoise, there are only so many times you’re going to chuckle at how silly they are or appreciate their religious meaning. The monastery is a peaceful place to visit – there’s a good vegetarian restaurant and some cracking views over Sha Tin – but even so, this is one for the tourists, and they’re welcome to it.
A somewhat dated institution, and frankly a waste of prime TST real estate, the distinctive dome has never quite won the hearts of locals. There are improvements on the way, but excitement levels for this museum certainly aren’t sky rocketing.
We’re as proud as punch of our city’s unrivalled natural beauty but when it comes to finding the best spot to appreciate it, the Hong Kong Observation Wheel ain’t it. The wheel cuts a forlorn figure on Central Harbourfront and is dwarfed by the towering skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island. With so many other places to enjoy better views – the Star Ferry, Lantau Peak, pretty much any skyscraper – there’s not much incentive to cough up for a ride on the wheel.
Though if you’ve got friends and family visiting...
Follow our ultimate guide to the top attractions to visit and tick them off one by one.