12 May Hong Kong with Kids
If your family has never traveled in Asia, Hong Kong is a great place for a crash course. Whether you come for a week or just a few days, you’ll find a lot of brightness and bustle in one safe, fun package. My advice: Forget the theme parks (even though they’re first rate), and focus on the experiences you can’t have anywhere else in the world.
Take a tram ride
If the weather is clear – or even clear-ish – the best views of downtown Hong Kong are from Victoria Peak, the highest mountain on the island. Fans of funicular railways (and anybody else who doesn’t fancy a really, really steep hike up and down) will love the Peak Tram. On the ride from Central District to the top, the skyscrapers you pass will look like they’re sprouting out of the ground at impossible angles. It’s an effect kids will love. There is shopping and dining in the Peak Galleria at the top, but if your kids have the energy, the 3.5-kilometer Peak Circle Walk is a more impressive experience.
Ride the world’s longest escalators
© Holger Mette
Another way to get from sea level up into the hills of Hong Kong is the Central-Mid-levels escalators system, which is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. Originally built for workers commuting down from the steep, hilly terrain to their jobs below, the escalators run in a downhill direction from 6am to 10am and reverse course from 10am to midnight. As you ride up, you can peer over fences and into apartments, gardens, bars, shops, and restaurants. Indulge your inner voyeur and rest your feet!
Visit the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
© Jamie Pearson
If you go to just one temple on your trip to Hong Kong, make it the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery a short train ride away from downtown in nearby Sha Tin. The long, winding hike to the top is made bearable by all the golden buddhas lining the path. Believe it or not, no two are alike. Once you’ve conquered the hill and restored your strength with a cold drink in the cafe, explore the many temples, pavilions, a veranda, and a pagoda. Keep an eye open for macaque monkeys looking to fish a free lunch out of your backpack.
Take in a light show
© Jamie Pearson
If a harbor-view hotel room isn’t in the budget, make a point of seeing the Symphony of Lights over Victoria Harbor. Every night at 8pm, weather permitting, the city puts on 14-minute sound and light show from 45 buildings on both sides of the harbor. One of the best vantage points is from the pedestrianized Avenue of the Stars on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront where you can buy an after-dinner ice cream, admire the light show, and mingle with happy tourists getting their pictures taken with a life-sized statue of Bruce Lee.
Go chop shopping
© Jamie Pearson
When I was 10 years old, my father’s work took us to Taiwan for six months. One of my favorite mementos from our time there is a name stamp called a chop – I still have it in the attic somewhere. A chop is a tiny stone figure (mine is an eagle), with the owner’s name carved on the bottom in Mandarin. It comes with an ink pad and makes a great, inexpensive souvenir.
In Hong Kong, in a neighborhood called Sheung Wan, there is an alley called Man Wa Lane, but English speakers just call it “Chop Alley”. Finding it is half the fun. Once you’ve chosen your chop from the dozens of stalls clustered here, the proprietor will carve your phonetic Chinese name on the bottom. Softer stones can be custom carved while you grab lunch, while harder stones require 24-hour turnaround.