But with its unique heritage, cheap and efficient public transport and varied culinary scene, the former British colony turned out to be the perfect destination for a family break.
We flew to Hong Kong from Heathrow with Cathay Pacific and the airline’s lounge gave us a relaxing start to the trip, away from the chaos of the busy terminal, a real luxury with two cranky children.
Where to stay and what to do
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After an 11-hour flight, and with a mixture of jet-lag and excitement, we arrived at our first hotel, The Kerry. Part of the Shangri-La chain, we had sea view rooms, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering us the most incredible, sweeping view of the city – the perfect introduction. The room had all the comfort and amenities you would expect from a high-end hotel.
Away from the main touristy areas of Kowloon and Central, The Kerry feels almost like a resort. We particularly enjoyed our relaxing breakfast in the hotel’s club lounge, and watching the nightly light show, cast across the skylines, during an evening dip in the infinity pool.
I travelled with two young children and my parents, and we were all first-timers to Hong Kong, so decided to throw ourselves right in the thick of it on our first day and brave the hustle-bustle of Kowloon – one of the city’s busiest districts.
Kowloon is a real assault on the senses, where traditional tea houses, towering bamboo scaffolding and historic temples are squashed together with soaring skyscrapers and multi-national coffee chains. We accidentally stumbled upon Tsuta – the world’s first Michelin-starred ramen cafe. I savoured a bowl of shio ramen, one of the cafe’s specialities, tofu with a light broth, made from a mix of Japanese soba noodles and Mongolian rock salt.
Our second hotel, Holiday Inn Golden Mile, offered us the perfect central location, smack bang in the heart of Kowloon. The hotel, which has recently been renovated, had surprisingly spacious rooms and I can highly recommend the hotel’s Cantonese restaurant Loong Yuen, where we enjoyed dim sum from the extensive menu.
The hotel staff were friendly and helpful, and I was particularly impressed when they stepped in after my daughter developed an ear infection, helping us get a doctor’s appointment and checking in on her the next day.
We took a break from bustling Kowloon, catching a ferry from Central Station to the peaceful Cheung Chau, an island famous for its annual five-day bun festival, where we explored incense-filled Buddhist temples and savoured fresh seafood by the fishing harbour.
Back to the high rises and packed streets, my childrens’ eyes widened as we put our bartering skills to the test at the lively Ladies Market on Tung Choi Street, with endless rows of fashion knock-offs, watches, handbags and toys, so many toys.
No visit to Hong Kong with young children is complete without a trip to Disneyland. Smaller and far less busy than its American and Paris counterparts, 24 hours was enough to delight the oldest and youngest members of the group. We stayed at the Disney Explorers hotel, which had a huge outdoor pool, a big hit with my children. They also delighted in the Mickey Mouse train complete with mouse-ear shaped windows.
Another favourite trip was to Lantau island. We took a cable car to Po Lin Monastery, hidden by mountains, and ate delicious noodles at the relaxed Zen Noodle Cafe before hiking 268 steps to see the giant bronze Tian Tan Buddha.
We spent our last two nights at the uber-luxurious New World Millennium Hotel, where we were lucky enough to enjoy a family suite, with incredible views over the Victoria Harbour. Lunch in the hotel’s Tao Li Cantonise restaurant was a real highlight, with comforting bean curd soup and chilled fresh mango pudding.
We had access to the residence club room, where we drank wine, looking out over the harbour. The family suite included a jacuzzi and complimentary mini-bar, and the spacious room also gave us the chance for some downtime.
On our last day, we took a stroll in the blazing heat to visit the Avenue of the Stars, which despite being as tacky as its Hollywood equivalent, offered us one of the best views of the city skyline we had all trip – a fitting end to our adventure.
How much does it cost to get there?
- Cathay Pacific fly from Heathrow to Hong Kong from Â£659 return
- Kerry Hotel room rates start from HK$2,200 for Delux Sea View King Room
- Holiday Inn Golden Mile Rooms start at HK$1,100
- New World Millenium Hotel room rates start from HK$2,300
Room rates at the Disney Explorer lodge start at HK$4,300.