1. The Star Ferry crossing Victoria Harbor between Hong Kong island and Kowloon offers views of one of the world’s most dramatic cityscapes, not to mention terrific people-watching—and it only costs 83 cents. Take it at night to be knocked out by the city’s lights or time your crossing with the nightly laser light show, the largest permanent light show in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records.
2. Even better is a 45-minute, free tour of Victoria Bay, the world’s third-largest harbor, on a beautifully-restored junk. Sign up for this great freebie at the Hong Kong Airport main terminal. Keep your eyes open for a booth advertising the cruise. If you don’t spot it, ask at Information.
3. Off the water, short of spending a small fortune for a higher-floor room, the best view of Victoria Harbor is in the Intercontinental Hotel lobby lounge, 18 Salisbury Road. Stop in for tea or cocktails in the evening for a spectacular view of the Hong Kong Island skyline.
4. For ancient and modern Chinese art, the Hong Kong Museum of Art is centrally-located at 10 Salisbury Road, Kowloon, and worth at least a few hours. Its gift shop is one of the best and most reasonably-priced I’ve visited anywhere. Great place to buy souvenirs and art postcards.
5. For a distinctively Chinese experience, visit the “Bird Park”—the Yuen Pu Street Bird Garden near the Flower Market. Chinese men of all ages gather to show off their beloved song birds and buy and sell everything from birds to cages to feed.
6. For an authentic Chinese shopping experience, go to the Herbal Medicine Street—Ko Shing Street—to see shop after shop selling herbal medicines, dried amphibians, lizards, etc. Serious-looking men weigh herbs with hand-held scales. A wonderful photography opportunity and it’s great fun to watch the shoppers and wonder what their malady might be.
7. For an answer to virtually any question imaginable, ask the concierge at The Peninsula Hotel, 19-21 Salisbury Road. An American woman who worked in Hong Kong for several years told me she never stumped him, even with mundane questions such as where to buy American-sized pantyhose. If you feel guilty about using the service without being a guest, have tea and, say, a lemon tart in the Peninsula’s beautiful lobby.
Editor’s note: Whether you want to live in Hong Kong, Mexico, or anywhere in between, you’ll enjoy the “why move overseas” episode of the IL Radio show. If you missed it the first time ’round, you can now listen in whenever you want thanks to this podcast archive.