Hong Kong on a budget: affordable luxuries and joys

Hong Kong is exciting, luxurious and awesome. And expensive. Or lets put it this way, it can be very expensive. I put together my tips for affordable to-do’s in Hong Kong. Don’t get me wrong, I am more than willing to invest a lot in my travels, but I find it only sensible to balance the bit more costly pleasures (such as the super delicious fine dining Beijing duck dinner) with joys that are a bit more lenient to one’s wallet and travel budget. And as I am constantly planning my next trip being budget-aware pays off and in its part makes the future travels possible.

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As a general tip, plan your day. At least roughly. Plan the course of your day trip and the route and when and where you can stop for a lunch break. If you’ll be gone for several hours for example when hiking on a mountain, take some high energy snacks with you. This way you’ll be the same joyful travel companion as in the beginning of the day and you won’t have to pay an overtly steep price in the possible only kiosk of the area.

And then to Hong Kong experiences. My favorite boat trip is the ride on the Star Ferry. It is unquestionably the cruise with the best quality-price ratio: the cost is 2.50 HKD for an adult and you get to see the skyscrapers, mountains and the city’s coastline and in the late afternoon the view that turns slightly hazy, soft and all so captivating. The boat ride from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central takes less than fifteen minutes. Highly recommendable.


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My favorite hike is the climb to the peak, the Victoria Peak, the highest point on the Hong Kong Island. The views that open from the top are dazzling; one answer to the question why I love to travel. There is a Peak Tram that can take you all the way up, but I prefer to hike my way to the top. When we passed the start point, the queues to the tram were really long and not tempting at all. The walk from the ground level to the summit takes approximately an hour and fifteen minutes and along one of the routes you can marvel at the old tram stops on the hillside. We went in to the anvil shaped Peak Tower for the best views: the admission to the sky terrace for two people is 96 HK$.

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If hiking is your thing you might also enjoy the climb to the Tian Tan Buddha on the Lantau Island. There is a cable car going to the Buddha but you might already have guessed correctly, we chose to go by foot. Around three hours later we arrived to the 23 metre high bronze Buddha, after passing by a few monks and heavy weight buffalos (yes). It was a bit funny: the other hikers we saw along the way had proper outdoor gear and wandering sticks. And then there was me, equipped with a leather jacket and some sweet mango juice.

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Tempels: there are several ambient temples in Hong Kong that are worth the visit. The air is often heavy and sweet of incense coming from the incense coils hanging in the ceiling and there can be fortune tellers offering to tell your fortune and future. Tempels worth visiting are for example the Taoist Man Mo Temple (124-126 Hollywood Road) and the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple (at the Metro stop Wong Tai Sin). What slightly surprised me was how popular and bustling the temples were. The latter temple is also a venue for Taoist weddings but this time we didn’t manage to see a wedding ceremony.

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One place nearby that definitely deserves a mentioning is the Chi Lin Nunnery and the Nan Lian Garden (at Metro stop Diamond Hill). This place is beautiful with shimmer of gold, skilled wooden architecure, ponds with lotus flowers and carps and a peaceful, carefully planned and well-kept garden. It is a tranquil oasis in the middle of the tall apartment buildings. The entrance to the temples is free of charge but one can support them with a donation to the metal boxes next to the altars.

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Are you getting hungry? Lets head toward the Temple Street Night Market (the Metro stop is Yau Ma Tei): from the countless stands you can find electronics, decorated chopsticks, waving gilded cat statues, bauble jewellery, anything and everything really. The followers of the Kondo cleaning philosophy might just faint. There is also an abundant selection of street food from noodle soups to delicious dumplings and dim sum. So, shopping and supper in one, if you like.

What else? About accomodation, I would recommend staying on the Kowloon side: it is bustling and vibrant especially at night. Enjoy and take the city!

Nauvo Magic

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I was thinking about what the magic of Nauvo is made of.

Of goosebumps and the feeling of pure wild joy after a  slightly defiant morning swim in the refreshing sea in late September. The bright yellow ferry that takes us from Parainen to Nauvo, reliably, in less than fifteen minutes and so that you have plenty of time to climb to the upper deck to smile big and wave to the approaching ferry.

A home (or cottage) made rich yummy Finnish/French bouillabaise enjoyed around midnight in candlelight. Around midnight despite of how we tried to start the preparations a bit earlier than last year. By the way, a gastronomic tip, crème fraîche with garlic works really well as the aioli.

The sea. The most powerful and charismatic magic factor. Someone wise and poetic wrote that the sea teaches us. It also tranquilizes. The fire inside which brings a sparkle to my eyes and pushes me forward in life is more lenient in Nauvo. By the sea the slight restlessness folds into calmness.

The sea, again: not watching the tv but spotting the different sea birds and everything that goes on at the sea for breakfast fun.

Biking to the village along a gravel road past fields of hay and patches of sun flowers. Sharing a piece of apple cinnamon cheese cake at Köpmans during the afternoon tea.  This cafe-restaurant is a happy yellow wooden house with a bright blue door. They also have oven baked fish pancakes with granma’s cucumbers. A proper archipelago lunch treat.

The dock of the Nauvo yacht club in the harbour with only  a few sailboats in late September. And the beach boulevard with its small stands of brand labels (a good chance to find pieces from By Marlene Birger like -40 percent off).

True archipelago romance: pitch dark, the starry sky and the steaming breathing of another person.

Butterflies with translucent wings that look exactly like autumn foliage leaves.

The crackle of the fireplace. Pure mindfulness right there.

And the taste of crisp archipelago autumn apples.

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So yeah, an autumnal archipelago visit highly recommended. And to my dear readers from overseas, Nauvo’s (Nagu’s) archipelago refers to two main islands and about 3000 smaller islands and skerries.

Nauvo, a big heart.