As part of the Life Well Travelled campaign with Cathay Pacific, I chose Hong Kong and Macau as my first choice of destinations. Why Hong Kong and Macau? First of all, I love Hong Kong even though I’ve been back so many times it feels like home, it’s a city rich with history, culture, traditions, and food, and I haven’t been to Macau before.
I arrived safely in Hong Kong after a 10 hour flight from London, an hour early than scheduled. Not knowingly, the day I landed was the hottest day of November at 31’C, I was wearing multiple layers plus a thick and warm leather jacket, what a wardrobe disaster, I was sweating like buckets and I literally hung my head in shame. I could not wait to return home to the rural village of Tai Po in North Territories, and turn on the air-con on full blast, eat fried noodles and drink Hong Kong style tea at my locals, ride the famous ‘ding ding’ tram, explore the unexplored, visit my favourite places, and catch up with friends and family. This is what Life Well Travelled is all about, having fun and enjoy the moments of being in the city.
And without further ado, I’m sharing my patchwork of images and experiences along the way, and I’ve compiled a list of recommendations of things to see and do in Hong Kong and Macau. I hope my Life Well Travelled moments inspire your next holiday destination!
Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden – both places are one of the most beautiful and pleasant places to visit in Hong Kong. Chi Lin Nunnery is a large Buddhist complex made of elegant wooden timber, built in the style of Tang Dynasty, treasured Buddhist relics, lotus pounds, temples, and small garden. Nan Lian Garden is a small walking distance from Chi Lin Nunnery, a winding path leading through a magnificent well kept garden and tranquil setting landscape. Both places are located in Diamond Hill, and it’s 5 minutes walk from the MTR station. Free entry.
Chi Lin Nunnery – 5 Chi Lin Drive, Diamond Hill, Kowloon.
Nan Lian Garden – 60 Fung Tak Drive, Diamond Hill, Kowloon.
A spot of afternoon lunch at Tosca, a Michelin-starred Italian restaurant located on the 109th floor of The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong. High ceilings, majestic chandeliers, water fountain feature, an open kitchen to enjoy the hustle and bustle of your food being cooked fresh, offers a exquisite array fine dining experience a memorable one. I mean, check out that view of Tsim Sha Tsui and Victoria Harbour!
Tosca, 109th floor, The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre (ICC), 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon.
What can I say about Sham Shui Po. This was my first time visiting the old market district in Kowloon, the place has filled me with excitement and expectation just like Portobello Road Market in London. Sham Shui Po has several markets stretched out up one long strip of road and in all side streets. Apliu Street is a popular marketplace offering second-hand clothing, electronics, new and second hand computers, gadgets like drones, selfie sticks, dash cams, remote controls, fishing gear, and bric-a-brac. Cheung Sha Wan Road, Ki Lung Street is a fabric and trimming paradise for fashion designers, interior designers and DIY enthusiasts. Head to Sham Shui Po Wet Market for fresh-produce from fruit and vegetables, fish and poultry, spices, dry and cooked food, and experience the real life shopping with locals.
Sham Shui Po Street Markets – MTR Sham Shui Po Station, Exit C2.
Wong Tai Sin Temple is one of the busiest and most popular temples dedicated to three religions – Buddhism, Taoism and Confuciusm, and it’s the busiest place of worship in Hong Kong. Built in the style of Tang Dynasty, the temple is decorated with colourful ceilings, opulent lattice work, abundance of Chinese lanterns, Chinese garden, burning joss sticks and incense fill the air, queues for palm, facial and fortune telling booths, and worshippers pray good fortune through offerings, happiness and prosperity. The temple gets really packed with locals and tourists on Lunar New Year holidays and other special festivals, my advice is to arrive early and enjoy the atmosphere.
Sik Yuen Wong Tai Temple – 2 Chuk Yuen Village, Wong Tai Sin, Kowloon. Nearest MRT station is Wong Tai Sin, Exit B2.
Cycling in the North Territories is my ultimate favourite thing to do, I do spend a lot of time cycling more than shopping, it’s an ideal sport to escape the hustle and bustle from everyday life in the city. A leisure cycle along the coastal cycling tracks from rural village in Tai Po, fishing and floating village in Sam Mun Tsai, to the picturesque idyllic spots in Plover Cove Reservoir (Tai Mei Tuk), it’s the world’s largest and first man-made dam in the sea at the time of its construction. On the dam overlooking the mountain range Pat Sin Leng, the world’s tallest Goddess of Mercy statue at the newly opened Tsz Shan Monastery, tiny islets, one of them is shaped like a turtle with 2 birds sitting on top of the shell, Plover Cove Country Park, and Ma On Shan. Visitors also come here for barbecue, kite-flying, fishing, jogging, walk their dogs, hiking and boating. You can cycle from Tai Wai, or Sha Tin, Tai Po to Plover Cove Reservoir – there are bike rental kiosks, you can rent for half a day or the whole day from $50 per person.
Plover Cove Reservoir (Tai Mei Tuk) – MTR Tai Po Market Station, take the 20C mini bus or 75K bus directly to Tai Mei Tuk bus terminus.
I’m a huge fan of seafood, particularly fish pie, lobster with cheese and noodles, mussels and frites, fish chowder, my old time favourites fish fingers sandwich and fish ‘n’ chips. Sai Kung is known for its beautiful hiking trails and beaches, but it’s famous for its traditional floating fish market and seafood restaurants on the seafront, commonly featured in Hong Kong Tourist Board tv advertising campaigns. It’s a very unique and interesting to see local customers negotiate/haggle prices with fishermen from the pier, the noise from descaling and fillet the fish on boats, the fragrant smell from the nearby restaurants, salivating like it’s time to have dinner. There are wide variety of exotic fish and shell fish available on the boats and – starfish, octopus, squid, mantis shrimps, king prawns, horseshoe crabs, clams, scallops and so on, and restaurants have tanks full of other extensive variety.
Sai Kung seafront – MTR Choi Hung Station, Exit C2, catch a mini bus 92 or 96R at bus stop, the journey takes you directly to the final destination in Sai Kung seafront.
| Kit’s Top 5 Things To See And Do In Hong Kong |
- Climb aboard one of HK’s iconic ‘ding ding’ trams, it is run in 2 directions, east to west, ideally start from Kennedy Town on the western end of the line to Shau Kei Wan on the eastern end.
- Riding Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. It’s one of the best ways to see Victoria Harbour and HK’s iconic skyline.
- Treat yourself to Hong Kong’s luxurious manicure or pedicure at my favourite’s nail spa, The Nail Library. I can vouch for their tremendous customer service and friendly atmosphere. The Nail Library is located at 6 Po Hing Fong, Tai Ping Shan, Hong Kong.
- HK has about 40 public beaches, yes you heard it, beaches near the city! Best beaches to visit are Repulse Bay, Shek O, Big Wave Bay, Lo So Shing on Lamma Island, Tai Long Wan, and Cheung Sha on Lantau Island.
- You can’t leave HK without gazing over HK skyline and across the city from The Peak! There are ways to get to The Peak, a tram ride up on the steep slope from Central, taxi, bus number 15 from Central bus terminus, or hiking!
| Kit’s Top 5 Places To Eat In Hong Kong |
- URA Delicacy in Sheung Wan – I’m pretty biased because I know the owner of the co-founder of the restaurant. One of the best Japanese cuisine at a private kitchen I have ever eaten. URA Delicacy focuses fresh seafood and produce imported daily from Osaka.
- Tsui Wah in Central – best cheap eats in HK and the branches are everywhere, with choices of won ton noodles, HK style tea, HK style breakfast et al. 15 Wellington Street, Central, HK.
- Mana Cafe in Sheung Wan – a vegetarian cafe offering healthy alternatives – vegan, organic, locally sourced ingredients, and they encourage you to think about food waste and recycling. 8 Tai On Terrace, Pound Lane, Sheung Wan, HK.
- U-Hang in Sai Ying Pun – a hipster cafe and restaurant offering Korean food with a twist. 58 High Street, Sai Ying Pun, HK.
- Elephant Grounds Coffee + Kitchen in Causeway Bay – one of my go-to places for great cakes and coffees in Causeway Bay.
Complete your visit to Hong Kong with a day trip to Macau by Cotai Ferry (1 hour from Sheung Wan Terminal), I decided to stay there for 2 days as it was my time visiting the city and see what the city has to offer during my trip. Macau is famously known as ‘Macau the Las Vegas of Asia’, most-renowned hotel brands and casinos are located on Cotai Strip in Taipa, it’s very themed – Las Vegas, Venice and soon to be a Paris version too.
Here are some interesting facts about Macau; Macau is a former Portuguese colony, the Portuguese settlers arrived in the early 16th Century, and it was the first and last European colony in China, it was handed back to China in 1999. Official languages are Portuguese and Cantonese, Mandarin and English are widely spoken in the tourism industry. Unlike Hong Kong and China, Macau is the only place in China where gambling is legal. 50% of Macau’s revenue comes from gambling and 20% of its Macanese residents are employed by the casinos.
I decided to not use a map and go wander the city myself, avoid visiting tourist attractions like the Cotai Strip, Senado Square, Ruins of St Paul’s and Macau Tower. I was staying at Galaxy Macau’s JW Marriott, they have a complimentary hotel shuttle bus service connected everywhere.
Away from the glitz and glamour of Cotai Strip, a casual stroll through a shady tree-lined lanes and old cobblestoned streets until you reach one of the best preserved architecture and village town in the back alleys of old Macau. Old Taipa Village is a beautiful and quaint village with stretch of traditional shops, shutter doors with personalised perforated patterns, nostalgic restaurants and cafes, local Buddhist temples, and old colonial houses painted in signature hues of yellow, blue and green. It’s a surreal feeling to be here and see the beautiful Portuguese and Chinese architecture in one spot!
The Taipa Houses-Museum is a must-visit place and it’s one of best highlights of the trip to Macau. Built in 1921, the pastel-hue coloured villa-style houses with Macanese architectural characteristics of Portuguese element, were former summer residences of wealthy Macanese and superior civil servants.
The Taipa Houses-Museum – Avenida da Praia, Carmo Zone, Taipa, Macau.
Strolling up and down the narrow hilly street along Rua do Padre Antonio and Rua da Barre, a street signage point a direction at, what appears to be the Mandarin House. Built in the late 19th Century, the Mandarin House is traditional Chinese-style residential compound with a few European and Asian architectural influences – including details like Chinese latticed windows, Indian Mother-of-Pearl appliques, large French windows and Portuguese cobblestones, representing Macau’s multicultural diversities. It is a former residence of thinker and businessman Zheng Guanying, his family and servants.
Traditional Chinese stone mill grinders as garden objects found in the back garden of the Mandarin House. My paternal grand-parents and the elders in Hong Kong, have used one of those to grind soybeans to produce tofu, bean curd and soybean milk back in the old days.
Mandarin House – 10 Tv. Antonio da Silva, Rua da Barre, St. Lawrence Parish, Macau.
It’s fairly common to see apartments and old houses with laundry hanging outside windows and balconies in Macau, some call it an eyesore and some, like photographers and Instagrammers like myself love photographing them. I love spotting something unusual until I stumbled upon a small alleyway in the back street of Rua de Cunha in Old Taipa Village, there you see some marinated pork meat tied up in a clothing hanger hanging outside shop premise or home. I walked towards it to have a quite sniff of the meat, my word it smelled aromatic, my mouth was salivating. I bet they taste delicious with a bowl of rice.
A very quirky Macanese corner cake shop with typical 1960s and 1970s interior, features tiles on the wall, floor and stairs, and traditional folded metal shutter doors with perforated pattern and laser Chinese lettering, add characteristic to the retro Macanese interior.
You can’t leave Macau without trying the famous Portuguese tart! It’s one of the famous local specialty snacks in Macau and you can find them at the bakeries pretty much everywhere. Best to have them piping hot, its buttery flaky pastry shell and custard filling tasted like sugar heaven, after finishing the first one, I bought some more to eat walking back to town centre.
As I was walking along Rua do Padre Antonio with a bag of piping hot Portuguese tarts, a dog peeking out of a balcony staring right at me, sniffing heavily, frowning and whining, like he want to those curious-looking enticing tarts too. Sorry dog, they’re too good to give you some, the tarts mine.
After a long day of exploring the Old Taipa Village and other districts of Macau, I ended my trip with a spa treatment at the award winning Banyan Tree Spa Macau. The spa was spacious, peaceful and holistic atmosphere, providing a ‘Sanctuary for the Senses’, they deliver world class relaxation and calmness before and during treatment, it was just what I needed! Banyan Tree spa offers wide variety of spa, facial, beauty and massage treatments, there are so many it was hard to pick. I decided to book for their signature treatment, the Royal Banyan Herbal Pouch Massage. Here’s a short summary about the treatment:
“This signature therapy features the Royal Banyan Herbal Pouch Massage where a herbal pouch dipped in warm Sesame Oil, compliments the East-West massage techniques to improve blood circulation and muscular tension. The Chinese Foot Massage works on acupressure points to release energy blocks, inducing a deep sense of relaxation.”
I have to say, it was the best massage treatment I ever had, the best part was the herbal pouch dipped in warm Sesame Oil massaging all over my body, the heat sensation from the pouch soothed my tired and achy muscles, and the Thai style massage which iron out knots and muscle. I felt incredible afterwards, the treatment lasted 2.5 hours and wish it had lasted the whole day, I was on cloud nine!
Banyan Tree Macau – Galaxy Macau, Avenida Marginal Flor de Lotus, Cotai, Macau.
| Kit’s Top 5 things To See, Do And Eat In Macau |
- Dinner at Lai Heen (Chinese cuisine) on the 51st floor of The Ritz-Carlton Macau.
- Best places for Portuguese tarts are Lord Stow’s Bakery & Cafe (1 Rua do Tassara, Coloane Village, Macau), and Margaret’s Cafe e Nata, it’s surprisingly founded by Lord Stow’s ex-wife (Edif. Kam Loi, Nam Van Area, Macau).
- Visit the Ruins of St Paul. The place gets really hectic and crowded on Sundays, it’s very pretty and historic and plenty of opportunities for photos.
- Grand Prix Museum for all F1 lovers.
- Like Taipa, stroll around the Coloane town in southern part of Macau peninsula, you’ll find the old historic city and more beautiful Portuguese-Macanese buildings.
As part of the Life Well Travelled campaign with Cathay Pacific, Kit Lee flew on Business Class, return flights from London to Hong Kong, courtesy of Cathay Pacific. Head over to my Instagram account @styleslicker for more pictures of Hong Kong and Macau on #LifeWellTravelled moments, and with this hashtag #kitleexcathaypacific.
Complimentary notes – a special thanks to Tosca at The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, and Lai Heen at The Ritz-Carlton Macau for hosting my lunch and dinner, and Galaxy Macau for hosting my stay at JW Mariott Hotel Macau and complimentary spa treatment at Banyan Tree Macau.