Hong Kong Fooey
August 7, 2005 9:01 AM   Subscribe

HongKongFilter: I'm thinking of taking a trip to HK next month, so if anyone who's been has advice to offer...?

I've never been to Asia, and whilst I'd love to go to Tokyo, the thought of not being able to speak or read the language kinda freaks me out, so HK sounds a better bet. I have a friend who's just moved there who I can meet up with, can get a flight for $777 direct, and a hotel for $75/ night.

So: would 9 days in HK be fun (I'm open to anything), and is it as expensive as people say? $75 for a 3* hotel in Kowloon (on Expedia) doesn't seem bad at all.
posted by forallmankind to Travel & Transportation around Victoria, Hong Kong (21 answers total)
I was there a couple of weeks ago and didn't think it was expensive at all but that being said Ireland is a pretty expensive country so what I was comparing against it wasn't fair.

I stayed in a 3* hotel in Kowloon myself and had no problems, Kowloon seems to be full of hotels and tourists which also means there are loads of electronics stores designed to rip people off by overcharging or what not.

The public transport network was excellent I thought, the only thing is there seemed to be about 5 ways to get out of every Metro station and it was very hard to figure out which one you wanted but my Lonely Planet book often labelled which exit to take.

To get to Hong Kong proper from Kowloon you can either take the Metro or alternatively take the Star Ferry, the Star Ferry is only HKD$2.20 so is excellent value especially as the views (particularly at night) are amazing.

My favourite touristy thing was the Peak Tram, it takes you right up into the Hills above Hong Kong where you can see great views and more importantly (if you're there in July) it's cooler!

Language is no issue whatsoever as every sign is in both English and Cantonese, some restaurants don't have signs in English but generally have pictures so you can just point to what you'd like.

That's all I can offer in the way of advice at the moment, I'll try to offer more later if I can remember more!
posted by daveirl at 9:33 AM on August 7, 2005

daveirl covered a lot of what I would have said too. I thought it was a tad expensive when I spent some time there a few years ago, but hotels were definitely reasonable, and so was everything else if you took the time to look around for stuff off the beaten path.

If you have never been to Asia before, just walking around and looking in stores, checking out the traditional markets, riding the train, etc. will be an experience. Nine days is a good timeframe, I think. Given the jetlag, you will want to take a day or two when you get there to get settled, so don't plan too much for the first two or three days. You will enjoy the rest of your time much more that way.

I would also recommend the Star Ferry and the tram up to Victoria's Peak. I spent a full day climbing around above the city, and there are all kinds of fun things to see there. The view from the very top is absolutely spectacular, and if you go off from the main tram station you can see the other side of the island too.

Nathan's Road in Kowloon is the tourist hell of HK, which can be fun for a bit but very overwhelming. It is the most international place I have ever seen, but the hawkers and the press of people can get very tiring. That said, if you are at all in the market for a good suit, HK is the place to get one tailored for you at a very fair price.

There are lots of different things to do in HK, but what you will want to do depends on your personal interests. I would also recommend the Lonely Planet guide to HK, they have a ton of good advice on places to go and things to see.

Just be adventurous and try to get off the beaten path a bit, you never know what you will find. Go to the markets, spend some time exploring the city by taking a bus and seeing where it goes (bus roulette can provide a fun day's worth of sightseeing, most of the time anyway), take a boat tour of the harbor, or just find a tea shop serving Hong Kong-style Milk Tea and sip tea for a few hours while peoplewatching.

Also, I would recommend the Luk Yu Teahouse in Central, on Stanley Road, for dim sum/yum cha. Don't go for breakfast and dinner, as it tends to be really crowded, but it's a perfect place to get a feel for "old" HK. I have spent several lazy afternoons there, just chatting, drinking tea, and eating.

If the hustle and bustle starts to be too overwhelming, take some time off from the city by strolling through Hong Kong Park and checking out the aviary. There is a good museum about tea culture there, too.

Good luck, and have fun!!
posted by gemmy at 11:47 AM on August 7, 2005

Nine days is a long time for HK. There are some spectacular less-visited islands in the area, easily reachable by ferry, that offer an escape from the city and walks or short treks through the hills.

Get an Octopus card. It's a prepaid smart-card that lets you use all the transportation services in HK, including the ferries. On the way home, don't forget to redeem it for any left-over value at the airport, BEFORE you go through immigration control.

The food in HK is heavenly, but if it's your first time in Asia you might be a bit intimated by the variety. I recommend buying a guidebook before you go specifically about eating in Hong Kong so you can figure it all out.
posted by soiled cowboy at 12:20 PM on August 7, 2005

Airport advice: follow the signs to the train. I've seen a lot of people miss it and walk the entire distance from the piers down to the central terminal.

On your way off Lantau, have your camera out --- if the day is clear (not a given in Hong Kong), you'll have some fantastic views of Victoria Harbor.

Don't miss the Mid-Levels Escalator. It's kinda a touristy neighborhood, but it's a cool area nonetheless.
posted by nathan_teske at 12:21 PM on August 7, 2005

Get all your shots before you go, and wash your hands a lot when you're there. Be careful when buying food from roadside vendors - especially if you haven't been previously exposed to a lof of the local 'bugs.'

The weather shouldn't be *too* bad in September, it might be a bit dry. Keep yourself hydrated (so your mucous membranes are moist and working optimally to keep bacteria and viruses out of your system).

If you're interested in tech toys, you can find some fantastic stuff.

It might be interesting to take a daytrip over to Macau. There's mountain climbing in HK. If you like to swim, it should still be warm enough to swim at the ocean-side beaches (white sand <droool>). A short cruise out to the many small outlying islands can be cool, too.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 12:41 PM on August 7, 2005

Hong Kong is expensive, but it does not have to be. For products such as electronics, cosmetics, discount book shops and sporting goods try Mong Kok on the Kowloon side, you can get the MTR there.

The Peak Tram is well worth doing to see the view of Hong Kong and the Harbour. I didn't visit Lantau Island to see the big buddha but I also heard that it was well worth it.

Considering you are staying for nine days, Macau could be included in your trip or a short visit to Shenzhen (China) its about 2 hours away by train you will need your passport.

Taxi fares are inexpensive.
posted by Chimp at 1:34 PM on August 7, 2005

I spent a week in Hong Kong last summer and really enjoyed it. People have already mentioned a lot of the stuff I would recommend, but I would also add the Hong Kong Museum of Art, which is right by the waterfront in Kownloon. Aside from the more traditional-type stuff (paintings, photography, etc) they have some exhibitions of more modern art as well. When I was there, they had a giant room full of digital installation art which I really liked.

Since you have a lot of time, I also recommend you go to Macau. It's very different from Hong Kong and will give you a break from the huge masses of people and constant noise and energy of HK.

Lantau is also nice, the giant Buddha is quite impressive. From there you can take a ferry to a small island called Cheung Chau, which is a different experience entirely. That is perhaps my favourite thing that I did while in HK. There are tons of seafood restaurants right on the harbour, and we got an amazing meal for two for about $150 HK (less than $30 US). There is also a nice beach, and Cheung Chau is really tiny so it's perfect for just strolling around.
posted by number9dream at 2:16 PM on August 7, 2005

Chimp --- I don't think US citizens can get into China without a visa. At least you couldn't about a year-and-a-half ago. Besides, getting across the frontier is probably an ask-me post unto itself.
posted by nathan_teske at 2:19 PM on August 7, 2005

Make sure that you try Hot Pot. It's like fondue that knows somebody.
posted by qwip at 2:20 PM on August 7, 2005

That $777 fare sounds like a Cathay Pacific fare. If that's the case, Cathay has DC power sockets in all their seats, not just in business class like cheap-ass American carriers.
posted by nathan_teske at 2:27 PM on August 7, 2005

nathan_teske...I don't think US citizens can get into China without a visa. Actually I'm from Oz, I needed a visa 5 years ago....apologies should have mentioned it.
posted by Chimp at 3:22 PM on August 7, 2005

nathan, you're right, US citizens (or UK, Canadian, probably most others) need a visa to get into China. Even though HK is technically part of China now, they have their own customs and immigration officers and policies. Same with Macau.

That said, if you do have a Chinese visa, customs is pretty efficient, or at least it was when I went last summer. The visa is kind of expensive though, I paid about $90 CDN for a 60-day single-entry visa.

When I went to HK, I came through the mainland, so I took the train from Shenzhen. I didn't stay in Shenzhen at all, but from what I saw, it's probably not worth paying for the Chinese visa if you're just visiting Shenzhen. It's basically an industrial city, seemed pretty dirty as I recall.
posted by number9dream at 3:39 PM on August 7, 2005

A note on nathan_teske's warning: I flew to Shanghai last night and my American Airlines 777 had 12v plugs at nearly every other seat in economy. There's a few rows without, but SeatGuru.com has maps of all the major American carriers with indicators for power sockets, so you can strategize before choosing your seat.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:42 PM on August 7, 2005

I spent a semester in hong kong in 2001 and spent 8 days in Japan while I was over there. Go to Japan. It will quite literally blow you away. Not to knock it too hard because I loved my time there but it's loud, dirty, and people are not that friendly. Japan is clean, beautiful, and if you ask someone which direction a subway stop is they will walk you there. Every time. Even if it's 20 minutes out of there way. And it is not super expensive, maybe 20% more than Hong Kong, but it's worht it. (especially if you like beer vending machines on every corner)

as for things to check out in Hong Kong:
Go get yourself a tailored suit and (if you're not over 6 foot, 200 pounds) they have great, cheap clothes there

Lan Kwai Fong (horribly misspelled but whatever) is a nice night spot for expats and tourists

There's a big Buddha right off the main island (more info will be in any travel book) which is, as they say, big. Also, as a side note, they have smaller buddhas holding lotus flowers surrounding the large buddha and if you get a coin in it's supposed to bring you good luck.

They have great Dolphin Tours leaving from downtown where you see tons of pink dolphins

go down to the harbour and go to a restaurant full of fish tanks and pick out your meal right there. Fresh = delicious.

and if you have any questions feel free to email me. My name's in my profile and my email is simply first initial last name at gmail
posted by slapshot57 at 4:59 PM on August 7, 2005

(Mainland) China Visa: Supposedly it's possible to get a Chinese entrance visa in the reception hall at Hong Kong Intl. with a 6-hour turnaround on the paperwork. I've never tried it, but I think the staff at the bus counter (very very left in the arrivals hall, by the passageway to the airport hotel, near the elevator to departures) can set you up *or* tell you who to talk to.

Going into mainland China is an adventure unto itself. I'd really recommend going; even though there's not a lot to do or see in Guangdong province, it's an experience that not many American travellers have. Since you've got friends in HK and you're going to be there for quite awhile, I'd definitely take the opportunity.
posted by nathan_teske at 7:26 PM on August 7, 2005

As other people have said, nine days is probably a bit much for HK itself. Catching the view from Victoria Peak on a clear day is absolutely essential. Other things I like: walking around the tacky Times Square-esque Tsim Sha Tsui, getting some Indian food at the Chungking Mansions (watch Wong Kar-Wai's "Chungking Express" before you do this,) walking around the Mongkok markets on a weekend, buying some antique junk on Hollywood Rd. All of that will take four days top.

I'd definitely recommend a side trip to Macau. Macau's biggest draw supposedly are the casinos but I was seriously underwhelmed. They wouldn't pass muster in Atlantic City. But Macau has got a really nice European/Asian fusion vibe going on.

If you're going to pop up into mainland China, I'd say skip Shenzhen and head for Guangzhou. Guangzhou is a sprawling, polluted city but it has the best food that I've eaten in all of greater China bar none. You can take a bus from HK directly there. You can also pick up ridiculously cheap pirated DVDs and software in the mainland.
posted by alidarbac at 8:25 PM on August 7, 2005

If you like to shop.Schenzen's awesome but can be overwhelming.Get the book
posted by johnny7 at 3:56 AM on August 8, 2005

Go to Bob's Tailor in Kowloon. He has done suits for a lot of celebrities and does a great job. You can get three suits done in less that 24 hours.

I will second the Peak Tram, Lan Kwai Fong, and The Mid-Levels Escalator. If you want a really interesting experience hit Wan Chai.

I would go back to Hong Kong in a heartbeat just to people watch.
posted by jasondigitized at 6:09 AM on August 8, 2005

Take the subway and then the bus up to the Tan Tian Buddha (world's largest sitting buddha) on Lantau, then spend 4 hours walking through the hills back into town. A fantastic way to spend the day, see citrus trees and bamboo groves, butterflies and lots of buddhist hermits.
posted by furtive at 8:45 PM on August 21, 2005

According to this you don't need a visa if you are a US citizen and you are staying less than 90 days.
posted by stevil at 6:05 PM on November 23, 2005

stevil, that's to enter HK, not plain-ol' China or the SEZ.
posted by rxrfrx at 7:51 AM on March 1, 2006

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