“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving “– Lao Tzu
Tina and I did a lot of things different this trip. Being a very good researcher and travel planner, we always have an itinerary. We usually know what we are going to do per day and we stick to a schedule. On this trip however, a lot of adjustments had to be made due to very rainy weather. We threw our plans out the window, and just discussed our next destination before sleeping or upon waking up the next morning. The only thing definite were our accommodations for the next 8 days. Even with that, I did not plan for where I would stay after Tina’s departure.
Traveling without plans, since we had time to spare in Hong Kong, gave me a different sense of freedom. For once, when asked “What will you be doing tomorrow?”, it was nice to answer “I don’t know, it depends on my mood in the morning.”
Tina and I were on a tight budget, having just gone to Cebu for a week, and now staying in Hong Kong for 2 weeks. We couldn’t be irresponsible and lavishly spend, but despite our budget constraints, everything worked out well.
We agreed on HKD200 as a daily allowance which includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, transportation and sightseeing. We had to be creative. We walked when we could instead of taking the train; we looked for inexpensive restaurants, or if we wanted to try an expensive one, we would share. All these helped us to stay within our budget over the next few days.
It was a pleasant surprise to discover that in Hongkong, there are things one can do that are cheap or free.
10 Free Things in Hong Kong that you can do when you are on a budget.
Kowloon Park (TST Nathan Road)
The park is open every day from 6:30am until late in the evening.
How to Get there: TST train station
Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden
Out of the many temples and parks I went to in Hong Kong, this is my favorite. It’s literally just a few minutes walk out of Diamond Hill MTR station, in the middle of high-rise apartments. This complex feels like we were transported to Japan. In the middle is a large wooden temple surrounded by lotus ponds. Both Nan Lian and Chi Lin Nunnery are free of charge, so why not drop by? It’s a perfect place to take a walk or to just sit down and reflect.
Open from 7am to 9pm.
How to Get There: Take the MTR to Diamond Hill, then follow the signs.
Located at Sha Tin area, 10,000 Buddhas is tucked away on a hill near IKEA. This was our “replacement” for the Big Buddha at Lantau, Island, since we have been there before. To visit 10,000 Buddhas, you must be prepared to climb an uphill staircase of over 400 steps. The pathway is filled with golden Buddhas showing the direction of where you are to go. Midway, there is a rest stop with a refrigerator filled with drinks which has a sign “Pay what you think its worth”. We were shocked by this, but we liked that system too. It gives people the chance to be honest.
It took a certain amount of dedication to make it up there. At a certain point, we started to count all the buddhas in the stair case. The heat didn’t help. We finally reached the top; the pagoda and the monastery were both very nice. There is a canteen at the top where you can eat after the long walk.
Again, entrance was free. We spent some time up there, cherishing the view of the city and the buddhas guarding it, before we made our way down.
How to Get There: Take the MTR to Sha Tin, walk towards IKEA; it will be around 10 minutes from the station. It is near the Sha Tin Government office.
Beware: There might be people pretending to be Monks who will ask for donations; they are fake monks.
4.Walk Avenue of the stars and the Promenade
5. Botanical and Zoological Garden
Address: Tung Tsing Road, Kowloon City
How to Get There: Bus 1 from the Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier Terminus. Get off at Tung Tau Tsuen Road (opposite to the park).
Walled City used to be Hong Kong’s most densely populated place, if not the world’s. Now, it has been turned into a park with several galleries inside that speak of its history.
Upon entering, Walled city seemed like any other park. Initially, my Hungarian friend Nikki and I had said that we preferred Nan Lian in Diamond Hill. Shortly after, some volunteer approached us and enlightened us on the history of the place. The park itself is designed to resemble 4 seasons—one hill with a pond but not much water for fall, one pavilion with water and banana trees for summer, one with pine trees and two hills for winter, and another hill with lushes of green for spring.
What we enjoyed most about Walled City apart from it being a tranquil garden where we could relax, is that we learned about its history in the most interactive manner. There were several galleries with stories and pictures of the living conditions back when they crammed 33,000 people in an area of 2.6 hectares. They put up an electronic book where you wave your hand in order to flip the pages. They showed 3D models of how it used to look like. In one of the rooms, the play room, you can actually “erase” the wall by waving your hands for the screen to play.
You actually feel transported back through time. Most were translated in English except for those segments where they were telling stories with sound effects, which were in Chinese. I wish we could have understood all; however the pictures and writings on the wall were also sufficient to give you an idea. I loved how they had converted this into a park and a history museum.
That day, Nikki and I left the park with a bit more knowledge. It’s well worth the visit. More so, as it is free.
There is nothing else much around the park, so we went back to Tsim Sha Tsui ferry terminal by bus, and had coffee.
It was an afternoon well spent.
7. Lights and Sound Show
Every day at 8pm, by Victoria Harbour, watch the buildings of Central light up with laser beams played together with music. A 10-15 minutes performance that shows energy, rhythm and gusto.
8.Visit the Temples
A few of which are Man Mo Temple in Sheung Wan, Tin Hau temple in Nathan Road and Wong Tin Sai Temple.
9. Go Museum Hopping on Wednesday. Its Free
The following Museums are free every Wednesday:
Address: 100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon
B. Museum of Art
Address: 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Man Lam Road, Sha Tin, New Territories
Address: Salisbury Road
Address: 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
F.Museum of Coastal Defense
175 Tung Hei Road, Shau Kei Wan, Hong Kong Island
G.Dr Yat Sen Museum
Address: 7 Castle Road, Central, Hong Kong Island
10. Go walk around and discover the winding alleyways and sky scrapers of Hong Kong
and there are those attractions that are ALMOST FREE
1.Watch horse racing on a Wednesday for only HKD 10 if you have an octopus card.
It could be pretty exciting too. Check if the race is in Sha Tin or in Causeway Bay. Either way, my friend Kay and I decided to give it a peek. Although we didn’t know much of what was going on with the horses, we enjoyed watching the race, and watching people “decide” what to bet on. In between races, there were dances and other performances to watch. When we were there, it was Bollywood.
Give it a try. Perhaps next time, I will pay more attention to understanding those numbers and see if we can place a small bet. For now, we enjoyed just watching the show and the race.
2. Go Hiking
Hong Kong has a lot of hiking spots and most of these are for free. Your only expenses will be your transportation and your food.