Everything about travelling has changed in the last decade, and as a travel writer, I should know. The Internet has completely changed how we plan and book our journeys; it is now the traveller that has the ultimate control over where they go and how they experience their travels.
The flip side of all that control is that if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can get into quite a mess. As a journalist and part time travel writer I need to set an itinerary that covers everything from flights to accommodation, car hire and special events all in advance. The destinations I cover can include anything from snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef to uncovering hidden treasures in Asia.
For instance, I recently travelled to Hong Kong, a city I love and is appreciated by many as the New York of Asia. My editor wanted a detailed outline of my activities that I planned to cover in that city. What could have been a nightmare to research, plan and book years ago was an easy streamlined task, thanks to helloworld.com.au.
With no booking fees, I had a choice of who to fly with, and a huge range of accommodation to choose from — and by booking it all on the one site, I got some fantastic deals. In fact, HelloWorld guaranteed I got the best deals. So what did this travel story convey? My editor and I agreed on the eight (lucky in Chinese) best things to do in Hong Kong, most of them free and available through Discover Hong Kong. With my flights and accommodation securely booked, I had sign off to go.
We all know that Hong Kong is the serious shopper’s Mecca and increasingly home to some of the best restaurants in the world. But Hong Kong is also a sophisticated metropolis of great cultural diversity. In this unique city of civilizing fusion, the new and the old meet, and the east and the west merge to make it one of the most exciting places in the world. By no means is this a comprehensive list of Hong Kong experiences, but it will definitely give you a feel for the city and its people.
1: Practice Tai chi
The best way to start the day is the same way many of the locals do — with a little Tai Chi. This particular tourist option is spectacularly located on the Avenue of Stars, Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, Kowloon (next to the Hong Kong Museum of Art), on the water’s edge of Hong Kong harbour.
2: Attend a Feng Shui Class
This informative class was a lot more fun and practical than what I thought it would be. Literally meaning “wind and water”, feng shui is the ancient Chinese practice of positioning objects (including buildings) in harmony with nature to ensure the best possible fortune. Often referred to as geomancy, its origins lay in an ancient Chinese respect for the environment, as well as the belief that cosmological influences strongly affect our lives.
3: Indulge at the Intercontinental Hotel’s I-Spa
Still on the theme of Feng Shui, you can indulge your senses at Hong Kong’s only “Feng Shui Friendly” I-Spa at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kowloon. Balance your yin and yang with a rejuvenating and pampering treatment in luxuriously spacious spa suites, each with its own sauna, steam shower, hot tub and massage facilities.
4: Immerse Yourself in the Hong Kong Story Tour
From the earliest life millions of years ago in China to Hong Kong’s return from the British to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, “The Hong Kong Story” exhibition showcases the events that have led to modern day Hong Kong life we witness now. Occupying a huge space of over 7,000 square metres, the multimedia extravaganza at the Hong Kong Museum of History comprises of eight galleries located over two floors.
5: Take High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel
Each afternoon the classical grandeur of The Peninsula Hotel is on show as the world-renowned daily afternoon high tea is served. Surrounded by modernity and tall skyscrapers, Hong Kong’s Peninsula Hotel is a rare survivor of colonial Asia. “The Pen” as it is affectionately known, is the oldest, the most expensive, and the last of the great colonial hotels to survive in Hong Kong.
6: Venture on a Chinese Junk Boat Ride
Set sail on Hong Kong’s harbour for the most dramatic view of the city’s impressive skyline aboard an authentic Chinese junk. Originally owned by Chinese fishermen, the “Duk Ling” is the only remaining Chinese junk sailing the harbour, typical of those that once used to traverse Hong Kong’s waterways more than a hundred years ago.
7: Attend a Chinese Tea Appreciation Class
There is a lot more than mere tea and water to the delicate ritual of taking tea in Hong Kong. As you listen up and learn at this pleasant class you will learn not only about tea, but also the intricate behaviour and manners involved in drinking tea — with style and authenticity.
8: Visit a Fortune-Teller
Fortune telling is a huge part of Hong Kong’s culture and it can seem that almost everything here is about luck. The Chinese people are traditionally one of the most superstitious in the world and numbers in particular play a big part in their daily lives. Hong Kong residents even pay more for an address with the lucky number eight attached to it. A visit to the fortune-teller is a regular part of life for many in Hong Kong, with more than a hundred fortune tellers working in Wong Tai Sin, a popular Hong Kong temple whose deity is famous for curing illnesses.