Hong Kong weekend getaway – Megalopolis of China

Hong Kong weekend getaway ā€“ Megalopolis of China

Table of Contents

Hong Kong weekend getaway

Planning a Hong Kong weekend gateway is not as easy as it may seem. The city is quite wide and you definitely want to add a visit to one of the local islands, not far away from the centre, but miles away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong.

As soon as you step out from the plane you will realize how surprising is actually the city. Hong Kong is based on a set of islands connected with a small mainland territory where rising concrete towers compete for space with the luxuriant nature.

Try to book a seat close to the window on your flight. It will be the best place to admire this chaotic large-scale world city. You will spend a few minutes trying to understand where is the beginning and the end of Hong Kong without an answer at the end.

Hong Kong weekend getaway – Start in Kowloon

The heart of Hong Kong is the Kowloon district, an ultra-dynamic area that concentrates hotels, shops, restaurants and bars by the hundreds, either dedicated to the backpackers or to the luxury side of the tourism market. Start your first morning here

What is the most eye-catching thing of Kowloon?

It is most definitely the population density.  The Hong Kong territory has 7 million inhabitants however the Kowloon district has a density of over 6000 people per square km, a real anthill. Like it or not, this is pretty unique in the world. Something to experience. If you look for a hostel in this area, you will be amazed at how the slightest square meter has been used, with no space to spare here.


View from the Avenue of Stars
View from the Avenue of Stars

Keep going with a walk on the Avenue of Stars, the pedestrian area situated along the sea at Victoria Harbour. Make sure to come back here in the night to admire the magical atmosphere of the illuminated buildings, with some of them changing colour every few minutes

Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997. Since it moved back, it has benefited from a unique economic and political freedom, compared to mainland China. Film production has been one of the biggest industries, grown to a major level, just behind Hollywood and Bollywood.

Hong Kong movies have a very strong identity. Many new Chinese actors were born from this industry to become famous even in the United States. The Stars Avenue took the cue from the Hollywood Walk of Fame concept, honouring the celebrities of the HK cinematographic industry, of which the most iconic is probably the very famous Bruce Lee.

The Stars Avenue
The Stars Avenue

The city can be quite intimidating, especially for first-timers. Before booking any accommodation I suggest checking our guide on where to stay in Hong Kong

Guide to which area to stay in Hong Kong

This is another source on where to stay in Hong Kong, however, we did not write it.

Victoria Peak

What is the best point of view in Hong Kong?

In your Hong Kong weekend gateway, you definitely have to include a visit to the Victoria Peak, at a height of 552 meters. You can either walk up to the summit, where there is an observatory centre or go for the easy way, by funicular.

The funicular is called Peak Tram and it was inaugurated in 1888 for the exclusive use of the British governor and the rich residents of the Peak. Today it is open to the general public and everybody can enjoy a ride on the steepest funicular in the world, or should I call it elevator LOL

The funicular is called Peak Tram
The funicular is called Peak Tram

The ascent, which lasts only seven minutes, is a real visual experience, we see scrolling under our eyes the skyscrapers which seem to rise towards the sky.

Once arrived on the top, we venture through the many trails around the Victoria Peak and we discover several viewpoints from where I cannot stop myself from taking a few landscape shots of the city.

From here we can see the city side of Honk Kong as well as the archipelago. It’s a great point where we can have a real understanding of the area, made not just of buildings but also of beautiful islands.

What is the best time of the day to visit the Peak?

Have a check to the Photography tips below šŸ˜‰

View from the Peak
View from the Peak
Walking down from the peak
Walking down from the peak

Lamma Island

We have spent our first day in the Kowloon area. We took the funicular to the Victoria Peak for an amazing view of the city and the archipelago. We went back in the night to The Stars Avenue for a walk and a lovely view of the skyscrapers, illuminated in a multitude of colours.

What to do the next day?

We decided to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and explore an almost inhabited island (by HK standards) in the archipelago. Yes, as surprising as it can be, we were able to find a hidden and peaceful corner far away from the urban and economic frenzy of the city.

We woke up in the morning with the plan to take a ferry (many available at the pier) to Lamma Island, situated in the southwest part of the Hong-Kong archipelago.

What is the beauty of this island?

Lamma is a peaceful and quiet place, formally a Chinese fisherman village and today a multicultural community. East and west live here in a haven of peace and harmony. It is an ideal place to come for one day to take advantage of the beaches and to rest from the urban excitement.

View from Lamma Island
View from Lamma Island
Lamma Island little bay
Lamma Island little bay
Walking in Lamma Island is a real experience
Walking in Lamma Island is a real experience

Here there are no roads and no cars; you can easily wander around the island. Walk up to the panoramic house for the sunset and enjoy the 360Ā° view. Before leaving, come down the village and enjoy your meal at one of the local restaurant, where the fish of the day is an absolute must have

Finally, the night ferry return trip will finish off your beautiful day by the amazing city’s lights.

It has been a lovely weekend, made of urbanization and landscape, buildings and nature, beaches and mountains. A weekend that I will remember for a long long while

Where did I stay

When I travel it’s always hard to take a decision on the accommodation. Location is important to me, mostly for my photography.

I must be honest. With Honk Kong I spent quite a bit of time deciding where should I stay. I wanted to have a great location with a nice hostel at a good price. I know I am asking a lot here.

I decided to book at Pandora After 80’s. There are two kinds of rooms. The ones as in the photo and the really tiny ones, if you are on a budget. This hostel is just perfect for the location, so close to the transportation system and next to an unlimited option of restaurants

Pandora Room with view
Pandora Room with view

Travel & Photography Tips

  • Go for a walk in Kowloon area to experience the frenzy streets (plenty of street photography opportunity here)
  • Take the funicular to Victoria Peak for the view of the city and the archipelago around you. The sunset and sunrise directions vary from season to season. It can either be on your back, facing the city or right at your front. Have a look at Suncalc, add the dates you are there and you will have all the info
  • Visit some islands in the archipelago (departure from pier nĀ°4 in Hong Kong island); Lamma island is definitely suggested however many others around. Enjoy nature and the quiet places
  • Hong Kong food specialties are renown in the whole world, I could not stop myself from thinking to the next meal šŸ˜€

How to photograph moving water – silky effect

How to photograph running water with a DSLR

Water is a hugely versatile photographic subject. From tiny droplets to vast oceans, it offers unlimited creative potential and plays its part in virtually all natural world images in some way, shape or form. It’s also the perfect subject on which to experiment with longer exposures – anything slower than l/30sec – and manipulate how … Read more

Tiger Leaping Gorge – A travel itinerary to Yunnan

Tiger Leaping Gorge - A travel itinerary to Yunnan

What is the deepest river canyon in the world? Everybody would probably mention the Grand Canyon in US but only few would think about a place in Yunnan, China, called Tiger Leaping Gorge which has indeed this record, with a canyon as deep as 2000 metres and even more in few points.

Is there anything more astonishing than the sight of two long mountain chains, the Jade Dragon Snow Mountains and the Haba Mountains, separated by the 16km long Tiger Leaping Gorge? Well, nature is able to organise some real amazing spectacles and the Tiger Leaping Gorge is for sure one you should put into your personal list of top sites to visit before you retire from travelling (will it ever happen?).

How to reach the Tiger Leaping Gorge ?

It is an easy 80km trip north of Lijiang. You can either come for a long day trip or take your time, enjoy the gorge and stay 3-4 days.

Will you encounter tigers along the trail? Probably not. The name comes from a legend that says that a tiger pursued by a hunter jumped from one bank to another to escape.

We have been travelling in Yunnan for quite few weeks (or maybe months LOL) and we love how there is always a story behind a name of a mountain, a gorge, a canyon, a road. Everything has a legend, or a true story, behind the name. Nothing is there without a good reason.


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We met the original inhabitants of this area, the Naxi people, already in Lijiang. That was however in the city, where the modern life has met the local traditions. Here the people live in few small hamlets along the grooves. Their main livelihood is the production of cereals and tourism is starting to be seen as an alternative source of income. Do not expect mass tourism in this area, in fact only few people and that is the beauty of it.

The Tiger Leaping Gorge on a (sketch) map

Start your hiking in the village of Qiaotou. You will here realize how remote is the area. The information center, a grand name for the ticket booth, will provide beside the gorge pass also an old hipster style map, hand drawn! The full hike will take two days with an half way stop over in one of the few hostels along the mountain trail located on the higher side of the gorge where you will experience a magnificent view for literally 48 hours. Hard to get used to it.

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Contemplate your life at the Tiger Leaping Gorge

You will be stunned by the sunset and sunrise over the Jade Dragon Snow Mountains, a long chain with peaks over 5000 metres covered by snow even in the summer season. Below you the Tiger Leaping Gorge and on the other side the Haba Mountains. A real spectacle not to be missed. Wake up early in the morning to enjoy the sun moving slowly over the mountain, take a pot of tea and relax

The road built in the valley along the river is frequently blocked by landslides.

Do you want to touch the freezing water?

At the point where the trail joins the road, it is possible to go down to the water’s edge, near the Rock Tiger Leaping to contemplate the power of the stream.

It’s really a ride for those who love nature and the simple life of the Naxi’s mountain people.

I really enjoyed the two days hiking and I came to realize and appreciate the weight of my DSLR camera! Should I buy a mirror less camera for my next hiking?

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Travel & Photograph Tips

  • Ask for a map when paying the entrance fee: 65 RMB
  • It is strongly advised to do this walk outside the rainy season to avoid possible landslide and frequent storms.
  • Do not forget to take winter clothing with you, even in the hot/dry season. You will need them as you will climb on high altitudes
  • For your night in the mountain, opt for a guest house with a balcony to watch the sky in this amazing landscape.
  • There is another entrance ticket to walk down  to the river; yeah! another one again!! (get used to it because the viewpoints are never for free in China LOL)
  • If you do not feel like walking or cycling, you can join a tour group or drive yourself on the road at the bottom of the valley. There are few guest houses along the road where you can spend the night, they are however touristy
  • Take some landscaping photos including the terraced farms, typical of this mountains
  • Flags can be the main subjects of your images, together with the local Naxi houses ad buildings
  • Do remember to include the local Naxi in your photos, they will give an incontrovertible evidence of the place you are visiting


From Kunming to the Tiger Leaping Gorge, it has been a long trip in Yunnan

It has been a long trip in Yunnan, a trip that took us to so many interesting places!

Would I suggest to visit the Yunnan region?

Most definitely, and guess what? The sooner the better. Tourism has already changed the local life however walk away from the designated path and you will find some real gems.

Places we have visited in this Yunnan travel itinerary:

Lijiang Old Town and Baisha – A travel itinerary to Yunnan

Old town of Lijiang and Baisha - A travel itinerary to the Yunnan

I think you all agree with me that we love travelling because we enjoy discovering the local history and architecture of a place, Do we have this in the old town of Lijiang?

We travel to Rome and we love wondering in the small lane. We visit Paris and we enjoy getting lost in the narrow streets. We fly to Buenos Aires and we marvel at the historical neighbourhoods. Walking and be fascinated by the local history. It does not cost anything but it open everyone eyes to a new world

It is true. Many cities in China have been totally rebuilt, demolishing in most cases the old architecture, buildings that were there for hundreds of years. Somebody call it economical progress.

However look deeper in any region and you will be rewarded with authentic gems, beautiful towns that still keep the formal old Chinese character.

Do not stop in the Old Town of Lijiang! There is another secret small town to visit

And in Today’s post we visit one of the most beautiful and preserved town of the Yunnan Region: the Old Town of Lijiang. We don’t stop just here, we move forward to unveil a little secret, the town of Baisha, so close to Lijiang however so far away from the tourism trail, a town where the Chinese life goes by as it used to be hundreds of years ago.

Lijiang is situated 150km north of Dali and it is the former capital of the Naxi kingdom, one of the China’s minority ethnic groups. The history goes back to the Warring State Period, over 2000 years ago. The geographical position of Lijiang played an important role in the own development. It was right in the middle of the Ancient Tea-Horse Road, the most important trading route from Tibet to Yunnan and the Eastern China.

Following a devastating earthquake in 1996, the old town has been officially added to the  UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list. This took new funds to Lijiang that helped to rebuild the old town maintaining the former character typical of the Naxi region, a character made of canals, cobble stone, walkways and bridges that took Lijiang to be know as the little “Venice of Yunnan”.

Similarly to many European cities, the Old Town of Lijiang is still the epicentre of the local life, with the new modern part of the city built around the old town. A remarkable example of how old and new can live together.


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Why is Lijiang called the little Venice of Yunnan?

Lijiang is situated at the foot of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, also know as Mount Yulong, with peaks as high as 5,500m. The water of the Jade Dragon River flows from north to south of the city, entering the old town in a multitude of little channels. This has created a real maze where you can wonder and walk through the 354 bridges that will remind you, without any doubt, the city of Venice.

The multitude of red fish living in the channels are a clear symbol of good luck in China. The fear of a new earthquake is still alive between the locals, and any symbol absolutely helps, in line with the typical Chinese superstition.

What we do like from Lijiang is exactly the wondering in the maze of cobble stones and bridges, clear inspiration for some amazing photos. We are maybe not enthusiastic with the election of the old town to main tourist center which has transformed the maze in a ……well….a very busy maze during the day, with the typical tourist shops in any corner.

How many times you read “visit XXX before it will be discovered”. Most probably Lijiang has been already discovered šŸ™‚ . Are you more after a preserved authenticity? Have a look at Shaxi.

Old town of Lijiang and Baisha ā€“ A travel itinerary to the Yunnan

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The secret village to visit: Baisha

Here is the secret tip you were waiting for:

Take a short bus trip of just 8km and go to Baisha, the first capital of the former Naxi Kingdom.

What you will find?

An authentic village!

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Old town of Lijiang and Baisha ā€“ A travel itinerary to the Yunnan

Wander in the small lanes, drink tea and eat the specialties of the Naxi cuisine in a traditional atmosphere; this is the perfect place to relax before trekking in the Yulong Snow Mountain or continuing your journey to the next destination

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Old town of Lijiang and Baisha ā€“ A travel itinerary to the Yunnan

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Travel & Photography tips

  • living costs in the old city : 80RMB (AUD17 or Euro12). This will cover you sleep and eating, but not your shopping for typical local products (be selective)
  • wonder in the old town very early in the morning before the massive tourist invasion arrives. This will help you to enjoy your walk and take some stunning photos of the real local life
  • on sunrise, walk on top of one of the many hills around the old town to take a fantastic shot of the local skyline made of the low profile red roofs
  • remember to include one or more of the 354 bridges in your photos! Wait untill the day-tourist will leave, late in the day, to have more space around you
  • there are many minority festivals in this area. Check with your host on what is happening around. This is the best way to experience a culture. But beware, the Chinese use the lunar calendar!
  • go to Baisha for an authentic and relaxed experience
  • enter in the characteristic Baisha shops for some photos of the local life
  • plan some portraits of the Naxi minority