It's hard to believe, but this week we're celebrating three years of living in Hong Kong! On October 28, 2017, we boarded a Cathay Pacific flight bound for Hong Kong to begin our expat adventure. Needless to say, it's been an eventful three years and time has flown by. To mark this three-year expat anniversary, I'm sharing a few fun reasons why I love living in Hong Kong.
Why I Love Living in Hong Kong
Although I could probably go on for quite a while about why I love living in Hong Kong, this list hits the highlights. Even if it doesn't make you want to move to Hong Kong, perhaps it'll convince you to come visit!
1) Fascinating Juxtaposition of Old and New
When you think of Hong Kong, you probably think of those iconic skyline views with towering modern skyscrapers and glittering lights. This modernity is definitely one side of Hong Kong. But as you wind your way through neighborhood alleys and narrow streets, you'll catch glimpses of old Hong Kong as well.
It's a shame that many historic buildings and shops in Hong Kong were torn down to make way for new construction over the years. However, if you know where to look, you can still find beautiful historic buildings mixed in with the new skyscrapers.
Pro Tip: To help you find historical buildings in Hong Kong, the Antiquities and Monuments Office has a list of declared monuments posted and you can even search for them on this Hong Kong Heritage map.
Other glimpses of old Hong Kong that I appreciate include the small, family-run shops. Whether it's a small market, a locksmith, or a metal worker - these cluttered shops remind me of an older era where shops like this would have been more common. Sometimes, I even catch glimpses of people playing Mahjong in the back of a shop.
2) Public Transportation Makes Life Convenient
After living in Washington, DC for over a decade and constantly being frustrated by its unreliable public transportation system, it was a refreshing change to move to Hong Kong.
Not only is public transportation in Hong Kong reliable, it's also relatively cheap. Plus, with an extensive network of buses, rail lines, minibuses, trams, and ferries, you can reach almost anywhere in Hong Kong - even some of the more remote country parks!
And if you don't want to wait for public transportation to get to the more remote areas, it's easy to find taxis to get there instead. Although during summer weekends and holidays, sometimes the taxi and public transportation queues to get to hiking areas can be a bit overwhelming.
Want to learn more? Check out this Guide to Public Transportation in Hong Kong.
3) Island Escapes are Plentiful
Since Hong Kong is made up of over 250 islands, many uninhabited, escaping the hustle and bustle of the city to an outlying island is an easy proposition.
One of our favorite day trips is heading to Lamma Island - only a ~30-minute ferry ride from Central. With plenty of hiking trails, beaches, seafood restaurants, and even a craft brewery on the island, it's a perfect getaway.
Although Hong Kong has a few ferry piers scattered around the city, most ferries to the outlying islands leave from the Central Ferry Piers. You can check ferry schedules and fares on the Hong Kong Transport Department website.
4) Beautiful Urban Art Scene
If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably noticed I'm a big fan of murals and street art. Because I love being outdoors, finding random art pieces as I wander through the city always makes me happy.
Hong Kong has a great street art scene. From murals to sculptures to brightly colored buildings, I love exploring new neighborhoods to find this hidden beauty. Most times, you'll find the best murals down the narrow alleyways and stumble on them with you least expect it.
5) Diverse Culinary Experiences
One of the dangerous things about living in Hong Kong is that you could spend your entire day eating - there's just so much delicious food in the city!
But what I especially love is the range of culinary options and experiences. This city has local eateries that have been serving up noodles, dim sum, and other Cantonese delicacies for years. But it also has glitzy, highly-rated Michelin star restaurants that you have to book weeks in advance.
In addition, you can find a wide variety of cuisines in Hong Kong. The local Cantonese dim sum tradition is a favorite, but I can't eat it every day. So I love that I can get sushi one day, tacos and margaritas the next day, then maybe a Lebanese mezze platter another day.
With this wide selection of restaurants and cuisines, it's much harder to choose a place to eat than it is to get bored of the options!
Check out some of my favorite Hong Kong restaurants in this article!
6) Country Parks and Hiking Galore
Like many, before I moved to Hong Kong, I thought it was just a big, crowded, dense city. And I worried that I would feel claustrophobic in the urban jungle.
However, nothing could be further from my experience living in Hong Kong! In fact, ~70% of Hong Kong's landmass is green countryside! While this does mean that the urban areas are rather dense, it also means that the country parks and green spaces are super accessible.
The green country parks that cover Hong Kong are full of hiking trails which are great escapes from the city and often offer spectacular views of the city and the sea.
It's been such a pleasure getting to explore different trails and show everyone a different side of Hong Kong through my hiking guides.
Looking to explore the trails? Try these 10 Gorgeous Hong Kong Hikes!
7) Unexpected Wildlife Encounters
Along with being surprised by the amount of greenery in Hong Kong, I've also been surprised by all the wildlife I've encountered. I've had some interesting, and sometimes heart-stopping encounters, on my hikes.
So what wildlife encounters have I had? Here are a few more memorable ones.
Wild Pigs / Wild Boars
I think these terms are used interchangeably in Hong Kong, but they look more like wild boars. I've seen several in the three years I've lived here. Most that I've seen have been on the trails around Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island.
The first time I encountered them, I heard rustling along the trail. I looked over expecting to see a squirrel or a bird and it was a giant pig! As I rounded the corner of the trail, I looked back and a large mom and her babies were crossing the trail. They were adorable.
Since I had no idea Hong Kong had such wildlife, I wasn't sure what they were until I returned home and Googled "Hong Kong pig". Apparently they're quite common here - thank you, Google!
Cows and Water Buffalo
Herds of wild cows and water buffalo roam freely in certain parts of Hong Kong, especially on Lantau Island. So anytime you're hiking or walking around the towns on Lantau, watch where you step!
One night, we were eating al fresco at a restaurant in Mui Wo and a wild cow decided to help herself to another diner's food. He pushed her away but it took a couple restaurant staff to chase her off completely. It was much more amusing to watch from afar, I'm sure.
Golden Orb Weaver Spider
These giant spiders are EVERYWHERE on the trails, especially during the summer. Luckily, their webs are usually above the trails so you see them as you look up.
It took almost three years for me to spot a monkey in Hong Kong, but I recently saw a couple on a visit to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin. They're wild monkeys, but have been known to harass hikers and steal food and other items. Best to stay clear of them if you see one!
8) Beautiful Cultural Sights
From historic temples right in the heart of the city to quiet hillside monasteries, these Hong Kong's cultural sights provide a nice contrast to the modernity. Living in Hong Kong has given me the chance to explore more of these sights than I'd be able to with just a short visit.
Here are a few of my favorite sights so far:
Man Mo Temple
Located in the heart of Central's Soho district, Man Mo Temple is one of the oldest temples in Hong Kong. I enjoy the juxtaposition of this historic temple surrounded by the large modern skyscrapers all around it. Although the incense is a bit overpowering for me once you get inside.
Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha
Nestled up in the mountains of Lantau Island, visiting the impressive Tian Tan Buddha and the lovely Po Lin Monastery is a great day trip. I enjoy taking the Ngong Ping Cable Car from Tung Chung because the views are incredible. It's also possible to hike up to Ngong Ping, but I haven't done that yet!
Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden
The Chi Lin Nunnery is one of my favorite spots in Kowloon to visit because the Nan Lian Garden attached to the nunnery offers a peaceful retreat from the city. As I walk around the garden, I'm always struck by the contrast between the tranquil garden and the towering skyscrapers around it.
Pro Tip: There's also a tasty vegetarian restaurant located behind the waterfall in the Nan Lian Garden.
Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
Although I've lived in Hong Kong for three years, I only recently discovered the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery up in Sha Tin. It's a bit off the beaten path in a suburban neighborhood, but this hillside temple with it's 10,000+ golden Buddha statues is a gem!
9) Lower Tax Rates
When you think of Hong Kong, you probably don't think "cheaper". Well, for the most part, it's not cheaper to live in Hong Kong. Rent is pretty outrageous when you look at cost per square foot. Food and drinks can be expensive - although it doesn't have to be. And forget owning a car (not that we need one here).
However, one reason that Hong Kong is so popular among expats is its favorable tax system. And living in Hong Kong, we end up paying less in taxes each year than what we would pay if we lived in the U.S.
It may not be the sexiest reason to love living in Hong Kong, but it's certainly a practical one that saves us money each year. And most years we can put those savings towards travel!
Check out these other practical tips to help you save money for travel!
10) Major International Airport Hub
Speaking of travel... that's another reason to love living in Hong Kong - at least for the first 2.5 years I lived here.
Hong Kong International Airport is a major international hub and a gateway into Asia with flights to hundreds of cities. And the airport is only a ~1-hour airport bus ride away from my apartment. I'm getting nostalgic just talking about it!
With so many flights in and out of Hong Kong each day, I always felt like I could travel on a moment's notice. Again, not the case in 2020, but I'm hoping at least a glimmer of those travel prospects will return soon!
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to love living in Hong Kong. I continue to discover new joys of living here daily and have no plans to leave anytime soon!
Do you have any questions about what it's like to live in Hong Kong? Let me know in the comments below!