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Hong Kong 101

Our guide to five of Hong Kong’s essential districts, and how to get around them

Photograph: Supplied

You could spend a week, a year or a decade in Hong Kong and never be bored once. Pulsing with energy and always evolving, it’s the perfect place to explore if you’re into people-watching, eating, shopping, hiking, partying, relaxing, art, history… or perhaps all of the above.

Thanks to its compact size and zippy public transport system, Hong Kong is also remarkably easy to navigate, meaning you can cram a lot of action into a fairly short trip. The most unexpected part? A multitude of beaches and green hillsides are within easy reach of the city, providing the perfect respite when you seek it. Here are the must-see districts to explore in the days you have free either side of the Sevens.

Central and Mid-Levels

Central and Mid-Levels

Glossy, glam and totally unabashed, Central is the financial and high-end retail hub of Hong Kong. Take in the harbourfront views and gaze up at skyscrapers near the Central piers before following the series of overhead pedestrian walkways that lead to the Mid-Levels escalator, the world’s longest covered outdoor escalator system. Ride it up into Soho to check out some of the city's best bars and restaurants, as well as clusters of art galleries and quirky stores. Continue with a walk along Hollywood Road to see antique shops and traditional Chinese tea stores that sit alongside indie cafes, temples and centuries-old banyan trees. After a day at the Sevens, most fans head for a drink or three at Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s undisputed nightlife centre. The area does get very busy during evenings while the tournament is on (and every other weekend), but barriers are erected to maintain crowd flow. Or, for a more relaxed affair, treat yourself to a cocktail on Sevva’s stunning terrace.

Wan Chai

Wan Chai

Only one MTR stop along from Hong Kong Stadium, Wan Chai has garnered a somewhat sordid reputation for some travellers, thanks to its portrayal in the 1960 romantic drama The World of Suzie Wong, and the neon-lit Lockhart Road, which is regarded as the place to head for a seedier sort of night out. But in truth, Wan Chai is simply archetypal Hong Kong: gritty and upmarket in equal measure, with a diverse crowd of tourists and locals of all nationalities rubbing shoulders. If you’ve a day to spare, be sure to take in the views with a walk along the Bowen Road Fitness Trail, (or if you’re feeling lazy, opt for a ride in the observation lift inside the Hopewell Centre). If you’re a tech aficionado, take a wander through the labyrinthine Wan Chai Computer Centre, which is packed with the latest gadgets at competitive prices. The Pak Tai Temple, built in 1863, is still widely used as a place of Taoist worship, and it’s a beautiful place to take a rest and contemplate. Head round the corner afterwards to enjoy a cocktail at cosy 60s-themed bar Tai Lung Fung. The Wanch, on Jaffe Road, is a local institution, for free live music most nights, and it makes a good alternative to post-Sevens shenanigans in Lan Kwai Fong.  

Sai Ying Pun

Sai Ying Pun

On the western end of Hong Kong Island, sits one of Hong Kong’s oldest districts, Sai Ying Pun. Originally a British military camp, it became home to a stream of Chinese immigrants at the end of the 19th century. When the MTR opened a stop here in 2015, the area’s sleepy, laid back vibe underwent a rapid wake-up. Its narrow, hilly streets are now a favourite destination for trendy types to enjoy craft ale, organic salads and single origin coffee, in between perusing design stores and contemporary art galleries. Rather than ruining the unique Hong Kong vibe, this new energy has so far served to enhance the area, with decades-old family-run stores and eateries flourishing alongside the new businesses. Pay a visit to the CACHe heritage centre on Western Street to learn more about the area’s history. It’s a straightforward 15 minute MTR ride from Causeway Bay near the stadium, but we reckon it’s the perfect journey to make on HK’s iconic tram. The tram journey is around half an hour and will take you right past many of Hong Kong Island’s main sights. Get off at Des Voeux Road West and walk up Centre Street.

Mong Kok

Mong Kok

Mong Kok claims to be one of the most densely populated places on the planet, and it’s got the picture-postcard neon lights to prove it. This lively district, quite rightly, is an essential destination for any visitor to Hong Kong. It’s worth coming before dusk and shopping until dark to watch those Blade Runner lights turn on along the main thoroughfares. This is a shopper’s paradise, too -- there are entire streets dedicated to selling sneakers, flowers, goldfish and even birds. (Fa Yuen Street, Flower Market Road, Tung Choi Street North and Yuen Po Street, respectively.) The Ladies’ Market is a great place to pick up HK-themed trinkets and souvenirs, just be prepared to get your haggle on. Mong Kok is in Kowloon, on the opposite side of Victoria Harbour to the stadium. Simply hop onto the MTR and make a change from the blue Island Line onto the red Tsuen Wan Line at Admiralty to continue your journey. It should take around 25 minutes.

Southside

Southside

You might not expect to find beaches and shorefront promenades lined with al fresco eateries so close to Hong Kong’s CBD. Break that expectation with a trip to the Southside, which makes up much of Hong Kong Island’s southern reaches and is only a short bus ride from the stadium at Causeway Bay, or alternatively from Central. Repulse Bay has great dining options and a well-maintained beach, with lots of family-friendly facilities. The relaxed seaside town of Stanley is another great place to chill out, with its pedestrianised shorefront giving it a near-Mediterranean vibe. For something a little grittier, pay a visit to Wong Chuk Hang, an industrial area lined with car workshops that is interspersed with art galleries, design studios and progressive restaurants, all making the most of venues that are much larger than one could find on the north side of the Island. 

Hong Kong Stadium

Hong Kong Stadium

The home of the Sevens and the city’s main sporting venue, the 40,000-capacity HK stadium lies in leafy So Kon Po, close to Causeway Bay. On match days it’s best to avoid taking taxis due to the possibility of congestion. The easiest and most reliable way to arrive is to take the MTR. From Causeway Bay MTR station, turn right out of exit F, take a left at the big Apple store and follow the clear signs (and stream of fans). It’s an easy 10-15 minute walk. You can also take the tram to the stop on Leighton Road. From there it’s only a five-minute stroll along Caroline Hill Road to the stadium’s sweeping entrance.

Get around in Hong Kong

Octopus Card

You won’t meet a Hongkonger without an Octopus card. Used as electronic payment on all forms of public transport (aside from red minibuses and taxis), this handy card is also widely accepted for payment in convenience stores, supermarkets and vending machines and will save you much fumbling for change. It’s worth picking one up from an MTR station service desk as soon as you arrive, and you can even loan one, ensuring you’ll get back any leftover value by returning it before you leave. Top up your card with cash at MTR stations or at any 7-Eleven or Circle K store.

Airport Express Link

The Airport Express Link is, by far, the best way to get to and from Hong Kong International Airport. It’s clean and comfy, runs regularly and connects the airport directly to Hong Kong MTR station in only 27 minutes, with a handful of stops on the way. Get tickets at the desk in the station, or buy them in advance online. Airport Express link ticket holders can even check-in their bags at either Hong Kong or Kowloon Stations up to 24hrs before their return flight, and just keep exploring without the weight of their luggage. 

MTR

The MTR is the lifeblood of Hong Kong, smoothly carrying 5.5 million passengers each day across the whole territory with barely any delays. Plan your MTR journey to the minute using the online planner. All station stops are clearly marked with maps and signs in English, and there are plenty of helpful staff to offer assistance. Most MTR lines stop running at about 12.45am and start up again at around 5.50am.

Buses

The main bus network, predominantly useful to get to places that are off the MTR, is far reaching. Unlike the MTR, it’s franchised rather than state-owned, so check out your route ahead of time at the appropriate bus-stop. The two main providers are Citybus and KMB. The CityBus route 5B from Kennedy Town and KMB route 78 from Sheung Shui both terminate in Causeway Bay, close to Hong Kong Stadium.

Minibuses

Hong Kong’s minibuses are an adventure worth embarking upon: the green minibuses are run by the government and have fixed routes and schedules, whereas the red-topped ones are privately operated, meaning that, while you’ll end up at the stated destination, you may go on an unexpected route, often haring down roads with gusto as the driver’s choice of Cantopop blares away up front. These renegades also don’t take Octopus cards so be prepared with change: HK$20 is generally more than enough for a trip.

Taxis

Taxis are cheap and plentiful in Hong Kong, with fares for red taxis starting at HK$22 and most sub-20 minute trips costing under HK$100. Do note that red taxis can travel anywhere, whereas the cheaper green taxis remain in the New Territories only, and blue taxis are only allowed to drive on Lantau Island. Tipping the drivers is welcome but not expected, and the majority of drivers speak English, although bring along a map if you have one as contingency. Download the app HKTaxi to make hailing one even easier, particularly around the stadium during the tournament and in nightlife areas post-match, when there’ll be voracious competition for a cab.

Tram

The tram is the ultimate way to take in the city sights, provided you’re not in a big hurry. Ambling up and down the north side of Hong Kong Island, and costing only HK$2.30 (about AU$0.40) per trip, a ride on the iconic, historic ‘ding-ding’ is a must: Hong Kong has the only full fleet of double-decker trams in the world. The tram stop at Leighton Road in Causeway Bay is just five minutes away from Hong Kong Stadium.

Getting there...

Events Worldwide Travel are an Official Travel Agent for the Hong Kong Sevens 2017.  Join us in Hong Kong for the world's most popular Rugby Sevens Tournament - Hong Kong Sevens 2017. Travel in style with these essential Sevens packages including flights, 4 nights’ accommodation, 3-day match tickets and official souvenirs.

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