As I’m sure my fellow Australians (and any Europeans/North Americans who have had the will to take the long-haul flights to Australia…) will agree, flying to the other side of the world without a stopover of at least 24 hours is absolute lunacy. Having endured 16-24 hour flights previously on one too many occasions, when I discovered the option to add in a 2-day stopover in Hong Kong for only $50 extra on both my flight to London and my flight home from Vancouver, it was a no-brainer. Including a stopover in Hong Kong not only allowed me the chance to meet a new city and its colorful culture, but it also meant that by the time I reached my final destination I was refreshed and ready to hit the ground running.
Having just two days in the city, I decided to intermingle my city explorations with a luxury-filled stay at the Four Seasons Hong Kong Hotel, because in the word’s of Donna Noble and Tom Haverford, sometimes you’ve just got to #treatyoself. If you find yourself with the option to break up a long haul flight with a stopover in Hong Kong, I thoroughly encourage you to take it and follow this guide on how to spend a luxury-filled 2-day stopover in Hong Kong. I can promise you that the thought of taking long-haul flights will no longer make you grimace in dread.
Day 1: Hong Kong Island + Victoria Harbour
Wake up and pinch yourself as the incredible view outside your window at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong makes you believe that you are still dreaming. When you finally come to terms with the realisation that this is indeed real life, it’s time to climb out of bed and step outside for your date with Hong Kong. First stop, the local Central district.
Although often written off as Hong Kong’s business district, the Central district is, in my opinion, the perfect starting point for a tour of the city. I can only compare it to the experience of hunting delicious Easter eggs on Easter – but imagine that the Easter eggs are instead temples with rich histories and restaurants with delicious local cuisines. A particular gem is the Man Mo Temple which pays tribute to both the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo). As you enter the temple, the air is heavy with the scent of sandalwood and the dozens of incense spirals that hang from the ceiling. These spirals, also known as ‘food for the Gods’ have been traditionally used by the Chinese for thousands of years to attract the attention of the Gods and can burn for several weeks, and even months!
For breakfast, I recommend visiting a local cha chaan ten (literally, tea house) such as Tsui Wah Restaurant. In contrast to Western restaurants, these tea houses provide tea to customers as soon as they are seated instead of water. Alongside the fanciest/tastiest 2-minute noodles you’ll ever try, be sure to order the yuanyang tea – a local popular hot drink which is a blend of tea AND coffee (because two rights can’t make a wrong).
With your stomach full and caffeine levels peaking, take the 20-minute stroll through the busy streets to the Victoria Peak Lower Terminus tram station. The station is easily reached by foot from the Central MTR. Although the line may be intimidating at first for those, such as myself, who did not have the foresight to pre-purchase tickets to the popular attraction, trust me it’s an experience you won’t forget. As you take the historic tram up 550 meters in elevation on an angle that seems to defy physics, watch as the vertical skyscrapers transform into leaning towers. For $88HKD you can purchase the Peak Tram Sky Pass, which entitles you to a return trip on the famous Peak Tram as well as access to the popular Sky Terrace 428 (the highest 360-degree viewing platform in all of Hong Kong).
As you come back down to sea level and the hunger-inducing smells of local restaurants, chances are your stomach is convincing you to try more local cuisine. Head back towards the Four Seasons Hotel and continue to Yum Cha Central (located at the Nan Fung Tower) for a treat for both the taste buds and the corneas. Think delicious filled, steamed buns shaped like assorted creatures and every kind of dim sum imaginable.
Finish off the day with a sunset cruise on a traditional-style junk boat on Victoria Harbour. For 45 tranquil minutes sit on the deck under the glowing red sails of the junk boat, snuggled up in a fluffy fleece blanket with your drink of choice in hand and take in the ambience and glowing lights of the city of Hong Kong. The Aqua Luna cruise has two pick-up spots: the Central Ferry Pier 9 or the Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier 2 in Kowloon.
Day 2: Kowloon + Lantau Island
Before you dive back into Hong Kong culture, take a sunrise dive into the infinity pool at the Four Seasons Hotel. Layback and relax as the underwater sound system plays beautifully soft and blissful music and the clouds put on a pastel light show for you as the dawn breaks.
Next hop on the ferry over to Kowloon for the most adorable breakfast of your life at Allegretto Viva Espresso Hong Kong. Here, coffee is more than jut a morning pick me up, it is a work of art where the local creative spirit runs free. Once a separate city, the district of Kowloon now serves as the shopping, arts and entertainment hub of Hong Kong. So with curiosity, as your compass hit the streets of Kowloon.
As your onwards flight nears, take advantage of the in-town check-in service offered at Hong Kong station (just a 2-minute stroll through the shopping mall connected to the Four Seasons Hotel) to not only check in but to also drop off your checked baggage up to a whole full day before your flight. Then it is time to go island hopping from Hong Kong island to Lantau Island. As well as the Hong Kong International Airport, Lantau Island serves as the home to the Nyong Ping 360 attraction. Here you can hop on board the 5.7-kilometer long bi-cable cable car which connects the Tung Chung MTR (the stop before the International Airport on the Airport Express line) to popular tourist attractions / pilgrimage sites the Tian Tan Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery. The one-way trip lasts approximately 25 minutes and features cabins with not only clear walls but clear floors! It is one sure way to overcome your fear of heights. When it is time for your flight home / to whatever fabulous destination you are off to next, hop back on board the Airport Express train from the Tung Chung MTR to the next station which will let you off directly inside the International Airport.
I stayed as a guest at the Four Seasons Hong Kong, but as always all opinions are my own.
Watch: our ‘Hong Kong for first-timers’ video
Elle is a world-wanderer, star-gazer, dog-lover and meteorologist in the making. When she’s not busy studying the Earth’s climate, she’s off experiencing it first hand all around the world. Over the past 3 years, Elle has traveled to 31 countries across Europe, Asia, Oceania and the United States and has no plans of stopping anytime soon. You can follow her colorful adventures on her Instagram, Facebook and blog.