You may or may not like to eat octopus but we did enjoy using Hong Kong’s octopus metro transport card when we visited this thriving metropolis. The card makes it so easy to move around the city and using the underground in one of the world’s most densely populated places.
To get started using your Octopus card you need to purchase one at bthe customer service counters at any MTR metro station or at the Hong Kong airport on arrival. We suggest you start by putting 100 HK dollars on the card to get you on your way for a day or so. Where can you go in Hong Kong using Octopus? Well just about everywhere. The MTR underground in Hong Kong is highly efficient with trains arriving and departing every few minutes. This efficiency is of course due to several million people using the MTR system daily. Statistics show an average of 5 million trips are made on this rail network every day.
When you arrive at an underground gate, you simply swipe your card and you are on your way. Taxis can be expensive and time wasting in this huge megalopolis. You can avoid the drain on your wallet and the traffic jams by choosing the Octopus option. Here are just some of the places we visited with our Octopus.
Kowloon, Tsim Sha Tsui station is in the heart of Hong Hong and a major tourist area where you will find some of the best designer clothes and jewellery stores in the city. During the day you can easily stroll to some of the important historical buildings, including the famous Peninsular Hotel where many line up to have the hotel’s renowned high tea. Also about a 15 minute walk away from the station is the Hong Kong Museum of History and right next door, the Science Museum, both well worth a visit. In the evening this is the area of Hong Kong that flashes and sparkles at its best, with millions of neon lights enticing the tourists to buy or eat in nearby restaurants. Lock Road is well known for some of the best displays of lights in the city. Tsim Sha Tsui is also the best choice of station for walking to see the world famous Hong Kong waterfront.
The next station along is Jordan and this is the place to get out to experience the Temple Street night markets where there are hundreds of hawker stalls and a vast array of eating places. We tried the BBQ duck at one of the local restaurants but our ordering went awfully wrong. They brought us a whole duck instead of half, accompanied by several other dishes. It was a feast we really enjoyed but far too much food for two.
Central is one of the busiest of the MTR stations, especially at peak hour around 6pm. It is in the heart of the financial centre and it gives you good access to the Star Ferry where you can catch the 30 minute boat ride to Lantau Island for the day to see the big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery. This station also gives you easy access to the Airport Express line. From the D2 exit at Central you will find the famous Lan Kwai Fong area. Here there is a huge concentration of restaurants and cool bars, including a few gay bars with Club 97 being the most popular. There are several other smaller gay bars in the back streets. From 8pm the bars are filled will expats, tourists, and the well off. Drinking in Hong Kong can be an expensive pastime.
Lan Kwai Fong has an outstanding shopping area. In these narrow, crowded streets we found the Abercrombie and Fitch flagship store. This place would have to be one of the most beautiful men’s stores in the world with subdued mood lighting, stunning clothes presentations and the waft of their latest signature aftershave. With a rent of 1 million HK dollars a month it needs to be something special. Every night this area is throbbing with people and for shopping, eating and drinking it is the place to be entertained in Hong Kong. Central is also a convenient station to use to walk to the famous Peak Tram where you can catch the cable trolley car to Victoria Peak for amazing views of the city and harbour.
Causeway Bay station is very convenient for getting to Times Square. This major upmarket shopping area is uber busy even by Hong Kong standards, luring hunters and gatherers to luxury labels and wonderful dining options. Our special purchase here was a few pairs of undies at the slick Calvin Klein store. Rents in this shopping area ranked as the most expensive in the world and many shops are open until well after midnight.
Our hotel, the Metropark Hotel, was very close to Victoria Park (we used Tin Hau station) and during our March visit we were lucky enough to see the Hong Kong flower show packed with thousands of people and amazing flower displays (especially the stunning orchids of every colour and variety). We used our Octopus card to pay the entrance fee. At the edge of the park you will find the Victoria Sports complex where there are swimming pools which can be used by the general public. In the back streets of this area you will find some quaint local Asian and western style restaurants charging very reasonable prices.
Diamond Hill station is located under Hollywood Plaza shopping centre which has an enormous range of mid level shops. But more importantly it is easy to exit from this station to find the Chi Lin Nunnery and the Nan Lian Gardens. From our point of view these two tourist attractions were the most interesting in Hong Kong. The gardens are peaceful and a striking juxtaposition to the soaring urban backdrop of the Hong Kong CBD and its endless residential high-rise buildings. The Nunnery and the gardens are still in use and are a tranquil escape from the capitalist, consumption frenzy which is happening beyond its protective barrier.
You can also use the Octopus card at convenience stores like 7/11 and on all the buses and ferries in and around Hong Kong. Enjoying the city is easy, convenient and cheap using the card and will save you the hassle of lining up each time to purchase tickets. With your Octopus card in hand, everything in this bustling, brassy consumer capital is within easy reach.
TIPS & TALES
Find out more about the Octopus here: