Look, I hear you; it’s insane to fly across the world for a quick trip. When my family found out I was heading from New York to Hong Kong for only four and a half days (including travel time), I got an earful. “You’re going for how long?” “Are you crazy?” “Why are you wasting your money like that?” I was about to wrap another fashion month with extremely long days and would be in dire need of a vacation. So I did a quick, impulsive search for flights, and to my surprise, a last-minute, nonstop flight to Hong Kong cost less than it did to fly just about anywhere in Europe. Why in the world would I pay more to go to, say, Paris or Barcelona when I could fly to Asia for less (cost per mile, people). That was my justification. Plus, I’d been dreaming of going back to HK for quite some time—I’d been once before, but I was really young and didn’t remember much of it. It was decided.
With the click of a mouse and a very expedited vacation request (“Sorry, but thank you, boss”), I booked everything six days before I was to leave and began kind of, sort of, planning while still in the throes of Paris Fashion Week. Beyond a few recommendations from my family and a handful of places I had researched myself, I knew this would be the most unprepared I had ever been for a trip. A colleague told me that it’d all be okay and to figure it out when I got there—something she does frequently. So I threw caution to the wind and decided to wing it.
The flight was about 15 hours and I thankfully slept through the majority of it courtesy of fashion month exhaustion. This is key number one to a short trip like this—avoid jet lag at all costs. From the East Coast, this means to always book a red-eye flight that departs around midnight. I landed in Hong Kong at 5:00 a.m. and was ready to hit the ground running. Carrying my duffel bag like a backpack (pack light!), I immediately set out to explore the streets even before checking into my hotel. It was foggy, something that I had expected, but to my delight, the air was cool and crisp, lacking the hot mugginess that I had always heard about from others.
I’ll admit, I had a moment of worry—there’s just so much to see. Would I be able to do this city justice in just three days? My anxiety was quickly put at ease. Hong Kong is fairly small and many of the main attractions are clustered near one another so that you can easily jump from one place to the next. Plus, if you read and speak English, you’re in luck, as a majority of the locals do as well, and street and subway signs are written in both Chinese and English, making it incredibly easy to navigate. By the end of day one and after miles of walking—my preferred mode of transportation when I’m traveling on my own—I had already hit up all of the spots that I wanted to in Kowloon. It was a packed day: running around Kowloon Park to see the comic figurines; going to Lau Sum Kee for delicious wonton soup accompanied by shrimp egg noodles; strolling through Fa Yuen Street Market ogling the abundance of fresh dragon fruit and mangosteen; and capping off the night at Temple Street Night Market, grabbing a quick dinner at a dai pai dong.
By the afternoon of the second day, I had already explored everything I had wanted to see on Hong Kong Island—like shopping the streetwear boutiques in Causeway Bay, viewing the stair art project at PMQ, and quenching my thirst with expertly crafted cocktails at Quinary—which left me a day and a half to leisurely stroll around. Key number two to a trip like this? Be flexible. Wander. Be willing to make decisions on the fly. Not having a rigid agenda also yielded other surprise benefits like stumbling upon gardens and waterfalls hidden in glorious parks woven between massive skyscrapers, and exploring random streets with walls of artfully masterminded graffiti. What also facilitated my ability to be able to cover so much ground in such a short amount of time was my choice of accommodation. I stayed at Island Shangri-La, where I had near-direct access to Admiralty, one of the main metro hubs, which allowed for quick and easy trips to Kowloon and was also in the middle between Central and Causeway Bay, two of the main districts on Hong Kong Island. Location is everything when you’re in a time crunch.
Another trick? I rarely sat down for a “proper,” long meal. But trust me, I ate really well. Thanks to the small snacklike portions that seem to be available everywhere in HK, I was able to eat multiple times a day and try a little bit of everything without spending a lot of money. I sampled all of the egg custard tarts I could get my hands on, spent no more than $2 for snacks from street stalls that were out of this world, and indulged in the best noodles from restaurants so tiny I was bumping chopsticks with the stranger sitting next to me. At the end of it all, it was the best solo trip I had ever taken, leaving me wondering when I’d return to the city. I immediately set up a fare alert. If the price is right, I just might make it my new weekend spot.