Cheap Thrills in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Star FerryFrom the elegant afternoon tea service at the Peninsula Hotel, to designer shopping in Central, to family dim sum at Maxim’s; Hong Kong has a deserved reputation of being high class and expensive. However, it isn’t necessary to have Jackie Chan’s budget to enjoy Hong Kong, especially if you’re traveling with kids who would rather be on the move than sitting through a multi-course meal. In fact, many of my family’s favorite moments involve flinging ourselves on something that moves, which in Hong Kong, is usually free or cheap.

Get the wind blowing through your hair and ride the upper deck of Hong Kong’s historical trolleys. For only 25 cents you can experience the thrill of a high level ride through the Admiralty and Central districts. Riding in the top of a double decker bus, (especially at night) is a perfect way to get an overview of the streets and be dazzled by the lights. Buses going up Nathan Road from Tsim Sha Tsui have an especially scenic route.

Night time is also the time to catch the free light show, where businesses light up their buildings in Central, synchronized with some fairly corny music. Kind of like Disney’s Fantasia show without the steep admission. Free 8 pm. Good seats may be found along the Avenue of Stars or at the Hong Kong Cultural Center at Tsim Sha Tsui.

Riding back and forth across Victoria Harbor on the Star Ferry can’t be avoided if you want to see more than one neighborhood in Hong Kong. It’s a quick ten-minute ride and there are great views of the city on both sides of the Harbor. It’s a deal at 30 cents per trip.

Hong Kong is home to the world’s longest escalator, which runs different directions depending on the time of day and when there are more commuters. It climbs from the harbor side high into the hills. Your uphill trip starts when the escalators start running upward after 10 am. Then stroll downhill enjoying the variety of neighborhoods you pass through.

If you have to get in a bit of culture, the Man Mo Temple (124-126 Hollywood Rd, west of Central) built in 1847, features Chinese deities, and coiled rings of incense. A wood-fired oven outside provided a place where worshippers could burn fake money to send to their dead in the afterlife. Free, donation appreciated.

A morning stroll at the Yuen Po Street Bird Market, not only features an array of singing birds, being carried by their owners, but a fragrant walk along Flower Market Road, where thousands of flowers are sold every day. Small birdcage can be had for $7.

Whether it’s walking through tiny alleys or catching views from the top of the Peak, Hong Kong is filled with enough nooks and crannies to explore, leaving enough money left over for a mid-afternoon snack.

By guest columnist Loey Werking Wells

Loey Werking Wells is a freelance writer based in Portland Oregon. In
2005-2006 she traveled around the world with her husband and then
eight-year-old daughter. They visited 28 countries, slept in 101 different
beds, and ate Mexican food in Cork and Korean food in Prague. She is
currently working on a book about their adventures as well as writing for
various web sites. Her travel blog is