4 June 2018 by Kiera Greenwood
Although they lie just 40 miles apart, these two Special Administrative Regions of China are vastly different. Hong Kong’s urban jungle has been a popular stopover destination for travellers en route to Australia and New Zealand for years; a combination of high-end shopping malls, an incredible gastronomic scene, authentic markets and a glamorous harbour mean it’s never lost its appeal. And, too often overlooked is the fact that Hong Kong isn’t all city-slick and skyscrapers, you can indulge in your fair share of lazy island life here too. Sandy beaches and pretty bays prove that this destination has something for everyone. Just an hour’s ferry ride away, across the Pearl River Estuary, is Macao – another vibrant and exciting destination. Here, there’s a distinctly southern European feel – a melting pot of cultures, languages and flavours –a result of its unique Chinese-Portuguese heritage. What’s more, this year Macao is putting even more focus on its food heritage, having been designated a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy last November. So, whether you’re extending your Far East holiday, making a cultural stop on your way Down Under, or combining both regions with our new Hong Kong and Macao Explorer itinerary, here are the best ways to spend 48 hours in both of these exciting destinations.
Often thought of as a city, Hong Kong is in fact an archipelago of 260 islands with Hong Kong Island being the central, and most popular, tourist hub. From its crowning jewel, the glittering Victoria Harbour, to the tranquillity of its natural world, this ex-British colony drifts seamlessly from high-rise hotspots to oasis-like bubbles of ever-green spaces. Just as seamless, is its ability to move from old to new – an established modern metropolis set amid the ancient mountains and sprawling country parks that make up over 70% of its landscapes. That said, there’s more than just rolling hills and shiny buildings here, with plenty of Chinese traditions and an intriguing British colonial history to sate the appetite of even the most ardent culture vulture.
Begin your time here by taking the funicular Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak – the highest point on Hong Kong Island – to soak up sweeping views of the delicious skyline below. From here you’ll be able to see the city’s sprawl of urban clusters, from lively Wan Chai across to Kowloon with its temples, markets and multi-coloured neon glow, and pretty golden bays, all framed by limestone peaks dressed in dense rainforest verdure – it really is the most spectacular way to witness Hong Kong’s varied allures. Whilst you’re up there, make the leisurely amble along the two mile Peak Circle Walk for panoramas that just continue to unfold.
Peak Tram, Hong Kong
Back down at ground level, browse any one of the city’s world-class malls – serious shoppers flock to Hong Kong for its incredible array of luxury and designer boutiques so they’re worth the wander even if just to window shop. But, for a real cultural insight, wait for the sun to go down and head out for the evening to experience the buzz of one of the many outdoor markets – get haggling and you will most definitely bag yourself a bargain.
On day two of your whistle-stop tour, head to the fishing village of Aberdeen. This floating community of markets, temples and eateries offers a wonderful mix of tradition and modernity, and brings an essence of tranquillity, especially when compared with the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Be sure to take a sampan ride to the village’s typhoon shelter – a truly impressive sight. Then, head a little further along the coast to the golden sands of Repulse Bay. It’s the perfect place to top up your tan, or to simply wander along the bay’s pretty promenade.
Repulse Bay, Hong Kong
For your last night, indulge in the bright-light attractions of Hong Kong’s skyscraping centre. Watch the renowned Symphony of Lights from the cultural centre in Tsim Sha Tsui, and revel in the gastronomic offerings of one of the world’s top culinary capitals; think wonton noodles and freshly steamed dim sum served in everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to all-night street stalls.
Nights in Hong Kong
A Special Administrative Region of China since 1999, this former enclave is still heavily influenced by the Portuguese who settled here almost 500 years ago. There aren’t many places in the world where you will find such a dizzying concoction of cultures. With only 48 hours here, drop your bags at your hotel – the Mandarin Oriental, Macau is our favourite – and make your first port of call the UNESCO World Heritage-listed “The Historic Centre of Macao”. Here, within the maze of streets and picturesque piazzas you’ll find Taoist temples and baroque churches all within walking distance of each other. And, make sure you have your camera at the ready because you won’t be short on sites to photograph. Start with the iconic Ruins of St. Paul’s, an imposing façade that is highly symbolic of Macau’s unique roots. Much like its surrounds, the church itself is a stunning example of East meets West. Then, spend the rest of the day wandering pretty pastel coloured streets as you tick off other top sights such as the elegant Senado Square, the Baroque-style St. Lawrence’s Church, Dom Pedro V Theatre, and the ancient A-Ma Temple.
Ruins of St. Paul's, Macao
This evening, swap old-world culture for the glamour of Macao’s nightlife. Dinner will be a gastronomic delight whether you choose to get stuck into local Macanese food, which combines influences from both China and Portugal as well as South America, Africa, Malaysia and India, or opt for Chinese, Portuguese or one of Macao’s eighteen Michelin-starred restaurants. And, if your night doesn’t stop at dinner, few Asian destinations can beat Macao for sheer entertainment value, with rooftop bars and glitzy casinos as well as shows including the spectacular House of Dancing Water at the City of Dreams resort, a 90-minute water-based spectacular of high dive acrobatics, stunts and incredible effects.
With 24 hours gone, head out early to discover the new-world attractions of Macau’s cityscape. At 338-metres high, the Macau Tower offers tremendous views across the Pearl River Delta – those with the nerve can take a Skywalk around the outside of the tower, do a mast climb or bungy jump – it’s the world’s tallest commercial jump! Or, for picturesque hills and rural villages, valleys and beaches, head to Coloane in Macao’s southern countryside to enjoy a slower pace of life. Stop off at Lord Stow’s Bakery for the best pastéis de nata around before visiting Kai Kai and Xin Xin, the two loveable residents of the Macao Giant Panda Pavilion and their twin cubs born in June 2016. Explore the bustling alleyways of traditional shops in Taipa Village and, back in the city itself, there’s still time to ‘shop ‘til you drop’ at any one of Macao’s bustling markets, or glitzy malls packed with designer brands.
Giant Panda Pavilion, Macao