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Hong Kong 12 hours for culture--suggestions?

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I'm doing an 18 hour transit in HK very soon, which means I have 12 hours to spare exploring the city. I love culture and architecture--it would be my first time in East Asia! A) Any suggestions as to must-go places that's easily reached via public transport?

A quick Google on the internet brought me this list of temples--Chi Lin Nunnery, 10 000 Buddha Monastery, Wong Tai Sin Temple, Po Lin Monastery (because it's close to the airport) and Che Kung Temple. However, I'm not sure if it would be possible to do all these sites as well as spend some time on the waterfront to see the famous skyline--if someone can suggest an itinerary covering the best of these sites with a compulsory stop in Central Station at noon/afternoon (restaurant I have to go), I would really appreciate it!

I like free, but don't mind spending a bit e.g. museum ticket price for some cultural immersion!

B) transport: if I get the tourist day-pass, does that cover transportation from the airport as well, or do I have to buy the Airport Express tickets into the city before I can use the day-pass?

C) how long would it take for me to reach the airport from the waterfront? I'd really like to catch the view at dusk/slightly after dark and, of course, have enough time to catch my connecting flight, which would be around midnight.

D) Is HK pedestrian friendly if I need to cover short distances, e.g. 15 mins?

Appreciate any tips!! :)

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    I found the Hong Kong History Museum to be very interesting when I was there this summer. It was not an expensive ticket, if I recall correctly, maybe a few dollars at the most.

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    I've never used the one-day tourist pass, but I'll bet the answer is online at the subway systems's website.

    Virtually everything in Hong Kong is easily accessible via public transport.

    It will take under 30 minutes to reach the airport from the waterfront.

    HK's sidewalks are crowded, but it is otherwise easy to walk places.

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    A) With an 18-hour layover, you have time to do lots. And I assume you arrive around 6am and departs around midnight. You can do something like this:

    1. Go straight from airport to Po Lin Monastery to see the Big Buddha. Since the cable car doesn't start until 10am on weekdays and 9am on the weekend, you should take the bus to get there from airport. From airport terminal, take bus S1 to Tung Chung Bus Terminal, then switch to bus #23 for Ngong Ping. First #23 bus departs 7:15a Mon-Sat and 8:10 on Sunday and Public Holiday.

    2. Take the cable car back down from Ngong Ping to Tung Chung after it opens.

    3. Right outside the cable car terminus, there is a bus stop (not the bus terminus) for buses E22 (every 15 minutes) and E22A (every 30 minutes). Either bus will take you directly to Wong Tai Sin Temple. Much more comfortable than taking the MTR which requires 2 transfers and standing for the at least half way.

    4. Visit Wong Tai Sin Temple, and then take MTR one-stop for Diamond Hill to visit Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden.

    5. Head to the HK Museum of History in Tsim Sha Tsui East. Take MTR from Diamond Hill to Hung Hom (with one transfer at Kowloon Tong). Use Exit D1 and follow signs for Tsim Sha Tsui East and then to the museum.

    6. Walk out to the harbour front and along the promenade to the Star Ferry.

    7. Cross the harbor by Star Ferry, and walk around Central. If you still have time, you can take the Peak Tram to the Peak (walk or take Bus #15C to the lower Peak Tram terminal). Or take the HK Tramway east through the city to Causeway Bay - take tram on the opposite direction to get back, or jump on the MTR.

    8. Take the Airport Express train back to airport from the Hong Kong station.

    [This itinerary omits the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery and Che Kung Temple. If you really want to visit those, you may have to cut out other parts of the itinerary. And you can visit the Heritage Museum (in the same area) instead of the Museum of History. Both cover the same thing about Chinese culture and live in HK before colonial times. But the Museum History has good stuff about HK during WWII that's not in the Heritage Museum. No need to do both. Admissions to either extremely cheap at HK$10 each.]

    To answer your other questions:

    B) No tourist pass is worth your itinerary. The only passes are for MTR, and don't cover the buses or ferries or trams. And if you decide to not go to Po Lin/Big Buddha, and to take the Airport Express train to/from the city, you can buy a same-day return ticket for the same price as an one-way. Don't get their tourist pass.

    However, you SHOULD get an Octopus regardless. $150 to start card with $100 of spendable money and $41 of refundable deposit. You spend $9 and avoid having to look for change for everything. Good for basically all transportation in HK (except most taxis), and you can use it at vending machines and convenient stores. Top up at any train station or convenient store (7-11, Circle K, VANGO), which are all over HK. It is NOT a pass, but an electronic wallet.

    If you do my itinerary and decide to take the Airport Express back from the city, you should turn in the Octopus when you buy your Airport Express ticket and use the deposit (and whatever value remains on the card) towards the train ticket. Don't wait until you get to the airport.

    You can get the card at the airport at the circular counter right across from the customs exit in the main arrival hall. You need to go to a nearby ATM to get cash first, as you need to use $150 (minimum) cash to get an Octopus.

    C) The Airport Express train runs every 10 minutes and takes 24 minutes from HK to airport. If your flight departs at midnight, you don't need to leave the city until 10p if you already have your boarding pass.

    D) Not sure what you mean by covering distance of 15 minutes. Walking through the city is slow, as Kathie says, sidewalks are very crowded.

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    Take it easy, man/lady. If you are in transit, maybe you will be 'jet lagged' and might appreciate some relaxing down time, eg. sleep. Running about in HK for 18 hrs, looking for culture, is a fool's errand. There ain't none of that here. And to be truthful, the gov is intent on knocking down all remnants of the Old British Colony, this is China now, so historical buildings related to that era are rare. The Big Buddha is a tourist joke, but enjoy if you like that sort of thing. You will also find Disneyland and a theme park with adolescent games and rides in HK. Dim sum in the morning is nice, but bring your hearing mufflers as the diners are LOUD beyond belief. The itinerary listed above would exhaust me and i know my way around town. Newcomers get lost for half and hour in any, every, MTR station. And fresh air, if you really need it, bring it along in a bottle as most days you will not find it in HK. Could be worse here but it's not heaven.

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    Come now, jobin, "There ain't none of that here." ?

    and "Newcomers get lost for half and hour in any, every, MTR station." ?

    I'm not sure what experiences account for your attitude, but I doubt that many here would agree with you.

    I do agree that the itinerary outlined by Ray, above, is ambitious, and probably too much for anyone fighting jetlag, but Ray did manage yo cover most of the places the OP said s/he wanted to visit.

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    @rkkwan--Thank you!! Your post is super-helpful!! Appreciate all the details about how to use the OPUS card and everything and when to take the MTR :) I do note that others say it might be rushing it a bit, but it's good to have an idea of a route at least :) Thanks again!!

    @jobin--Haha at "man/lady" :) I'm not worried about jetlag, as I always try to time my flights to minimise this. From your description itself it sounds like HK would be a novel enough cultural experience to me, so I'm looking forward to it :)

    Given everyone's conflicting input on which temples/monasteries to go to, is there a few in particular (does not have to be in the list) that I must/can go see? I like architecture, if that's any help.

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    There are no "must see" in terms of architecture in HK's temples and monasteries. You need to know there were just some fishing and non-fishing villages in the area before the British arrived in mid-1860s. Most of what you see today are built, many just during the past few decades.

    In particular, Che Kung Temple is a brand new monstrosity to hold the tens of thousands going there just after Chinese New Year - it's basically empty for about 360 days.

    Po Lin Monastery just recently tore down their original main hall for you guess it - another montrosity. The reason to visit Po Lin is mainly for the Big Buddha - it's also new (under 30 years old) but very impressive and with very nice face and proportion. And to ride to NP360 cable car.

    Chi Lin Nunnery is also new. But the main hall is built in wood, following the style and building method of the Tang Dynasty. [Po Lin, Che Kung and most other new monasteries and buildings are concrete.] This architecture style is popular in China during the past thousand years, but is extremely rare even in China. And Chi Lin is a very nice quiet place, an oasis in the city.

    Wong Tai Sin Temple is probably the most popular and temple in Hong Kong. The main hall isn't a 100 years old, but is in the traditional Chinese style. And other buildings newer and tacky. But it's worth to go for a look, for people watching if nothing else.

    There are other large temples, Buddhist and Toaist monasteries in Hong Kong, but many are scattered in New Territories. Takes time to visit and not really worth it, in my opinion. One particular is the Miu Fat Buddhist Monastery in Tuen Mun. Their new main hall is a "replica" of the UC San Diego Library.

    Two other points about architecture. If you want to see really old stuff, there are plenty in Hong Kong. Dotted through the cities are small temples. Some are very easy to get to, like Tin Hau Temple on HK Island (Tin Hau MTR, what a surprise! ). There's another Lotus Shrine that's within 5 minutes walk from it, also interesting. Since Tin Hau is the goddess that protects the fishermen, there are dozens of Tin Hau Temple in HK.

    For old buddhist monasteries, there's one on the slope of Castle Peak in Tuen Mun in the N.T. Hard to get to without a car.

    Second point is that the most impressive architecture in Hong Kong is actually the new residential blocks, in my opinion. The ones in West Kowloon doesn't impress me, but there are some with style at Repulse Bay (Bus 6, 6X, 260) from Central. Also, the couple of very tall ones on Stubbs Road (on the route of the 6, but you can't really see them from the bus - best seen from the Happy Valley Racecourse). In contrast, the tall commercial skyscrappers are less inspiring - there are more interesting ones in Shanghai, Dubai, Tokyo, etc.

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    Just want to add that there are still some walled villages, and the village ancestor halls in the New Territories that are hundreds of years old, and precede the British arrival. They can be quite interesting. I personally live very close to some of the best preserved ones in Hong Kong. If you're interested, you can let me know and I can give you more info.

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