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HONG KONG:

 

  

 

Hong Kong was a British colony for over 150 years.  It was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and became the first Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. 

 

This long-thriving metropolis’ unchallenged reign as Asia’s premiere shopper’s paradise, world-class lodging, and gourmet Mecca is currently under siege with serious challenges being mounted by rapidly developing modernization and sophistication of Singapore, Shanghai, and Beijing.  One marvels of Hong Kong’s ability to reinvent itself.  It’s constantly changing skyline is seemingly a challenge of who can build the biggest and the tallest.  Space is precious and indeed at a minimum.  The result?  An endless concrete wall of breathtaking structures and 7 million residents literally crammed onto a mere 426-square miles of land.  Hong Kong is literally an urban concrete canyon of wall-to-wall skyscrapers and dense population base - one of the densest concentrations of skyscrapers in the world. 

 

Predictably, Hong Kong is being combined with extended visits to mainland China.  Beijing/Hong Kong is becoming an increasingly popular combo itinerary, as is Bangkok, Thailand/Hong Kong.  The city is the number one destination for mainland Chinese tourists.  Be forewarned that visiting Hong Kong is not inexpensive. 

 

Hong Kong’s success has been duly noted by Dubai, who has prepared its own gauntlet for a chunk of world tourism and convention trade.  These new developments should prove to be tremendous news to potential visitors, as highly attractive packaged promotions are bound to aggressively flow amongst the competing tourist destinations.  Stay tuned.

 

Interestingly, Hong Kong in recent years has turned to themed amusement parks, Disneyworld-Hong Kong and Noah’s Ark, to add new lures to entice tourists and even families, heretofore, miniscule in numbers.  

 

LANGUAGE: English, Chinese (Cantonese)  Be forewarned that few native Hong Kongers speak English.  Instead, they are encouraged to speak Mandarin (as is spoken in Beijing) as a second language.  Thankfully, most public signage is in both Chinese and English. 

 

CURRENCY: Dollars HK$

 

PINCHING PENNIES: TO TIP OR NOT TO TIP:

Taxis: Not expected, but will not decline a tip.

 

  

 

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN HONG KONG:  

The best time to visit Hong Kong is during November and December when the weather can be cool and pleasant compared to the normal steam-bath heat and humidity.

 

The second choice for visiting is September and October, as these months have lower humidity.

 

The third choice for visiting is during January, the driest month, and February, when it is cooler and windy.  These are the coolest months of the year.  It is always the busiest in number of visitors.  Frost is not uncommon in February.

 

The fourth choice for visiting is March, April, and May, as there is fog, high humidity, and drizzling rain.  Heat intensifies in March and April and begins to boil in May.  The weather can be misty, damp, and foggy.  Easter usually has nice weather.  When it rains, it pours!  80% of Hong Kong’s rains occur between Hong Kong’s typhoon seasons of May to September, with August the wettest, raining an average of 4 out of every 7 days!!  Be prepared with proper rain gear - you’ll need it.

 

AVOID: Summer months are filled with oppressive heat and humidity.  In June, the temperature averages 90 degrees F. with humidity to match.  Also check convention schedules to avoid crowds.  July can be uncomfortably hot.  August is the warmest month - hot!  Hong Kong is a strong contender for the warmest, highest humidity, steam-bath city that you will ever visit.

 

 

 

MAJOR HOLIDAYS IN HONG KONG:

Every Sunday

January 1: New Years Day

February 7: Lunar New Years Day

February 8: The Second Day of the Lunar New Year

February 9: The Third Day of the Lunar New Year

March 21: Good Friday

March 22: The Day following Good Friday

April 4: Ching Ming Festival

May 1: Labour Day

May 12: The Buddha’s Birthday

June 9: The Day following Tuen Ng Festival (observed on the 9th, since the Festival is on a Sunday in 2008)

July 1: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day

September 15: The Day following Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

October 1: National Day

October 7: Chung Yeung Festival

December 25: Christmas Day

December 26: The first weekday after Christmas Day

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN HONG KONG:

 

  

 

MAJOR EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN HONG KONG:

February 7: LUNAR CHINESE NEW YEAR: many shops and restaurants are closed.  There are lower lodging rates.  The new year brings in fragrant flower markets, fabulous parades, and sporting events - altogether, one of Hong Kong’s biggest celebrations.

First week in January: New World Telephone

First week in February: Chinese New Year Fiesta

February 7: Birth of Che Kung 

February 14 - 16: Hong Kong Art Festival

February 21: Spring Lantern Festival

April 4: Ching Ming Festival

Early – mid-April: Hong Kong International Film Festival

April 28: Birthday of Tin Hau

May 12: Cheung Chau Bun Festival - an elaborate and unusual festival, large parade, costumed children, enormous bamboo towers covered with sweet buns.  The buns atop the towers are said to be lucky.

May 12: Birthday of Lord Budda

May 12: Birthday of Tam Kung

June 8 or over July 4th weekend: Dragon Boat Festival

Mid-June - first week of July: Hong Kong Opera Festival

Late June through late August: Hong Kong Summer Festival - Shopping Festival

July 26: Birthday of Kwan Tai

August 7: Seven Sisters Festival

August 14: Yue Lean (Hungry Ghost) Festival

September 14: Mid-Autumn Festival

September 15: Monkey god festival

September 26: Birthday of Confucius

October 7: Chung Yeung Festival

Entire month of November: Wine and Dine Month

December 21: Dong Zhi (Winter Solstice) Festival

 

MAJOR CONVENTIONS IN HONG KONG:

 

  

 

Asia World Expo, near the airport, is now Asia’s largest, with over one million square feet.  A major second space is Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center.  Hong Kong hosted 1,300 conventions with 1.7 million attendees in 2008.

 

TIME ON YOUR HANDS IN HONG KONG:

Hong Kong loves you to visit, but when you depart, the airport wallops you with a $16.00 Departure Tax!  It is the world’s fourth busiest airport for international passengers. 

 

Hong Kong International Airport is a 24-minute Airport Express ride to Hong Kong’s city center. 

 

The new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, site of the former airport, is capable of handling the newer mega cruise ships.  Increased cruise ship visits are anticipated. 

 

It joins existing Ocean terminal and merchant Docking Area. 

 

Navigating Hong Kong:

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: Taxi service is plentiful but a little tricky navigating.  Taxis operate on a color-coded system.  For instance, if you wish to go from the airport to either Hong Long Island or Kowloon, take a red taxi.  

 

Red taxis operate in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. 

 

Green taxis travel to the New Territories. 

 

Blue taxis go to Lantau Island. 

 

Taxis are usually readily available and inexpensive.  Always have your hotel concierge write down your destination in Chinese, as not all drivers are fluent in English.

 

The metro system is convenient and user friendly with English signage everywhere. 

 

The public transportation system is excellent including buses, trams, and subways. 

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: Purchase an Octopus Card (HK$150 per person including a HK$50 deposit) which enables you to use public transportation as well as at some participating merchants (Circle K and 7-11).  The Octopus Card can be used on Hong Kong buses, trams, peak trams, Star Ferry, and subways by merely scanning it - the exact fare is deducted from the HK$100 stored balance.  Any unused balance is refundable.  The card is good for three years from the date of issue. 

 

You can purchase the Octopus Cards at public transportation customer service center.  Airport Express Tourist Ocupus is a similar plan. 

 

Be forewarned that the subways, while fast and efficient, tend to be crowded with lots of pushing and shoving.  People with mobility problems should reconsider using the subway as stations are long and entail considerable walking and navigating 30 - 50 steps to access escalators.  The subways are not handicapped friendly. 

 

Most visitors plan on spending 4 - 5 nights in Hong Kong if it represents their sole destination.  Combo vacations with Beijing included, typically are 3 nights Hong Kong/3 nights Beijing.

 

  

To begin your Hong Kong visit, take the Peak Tram, a funicular railway from the Central Business District, across from the zoo, up 1,200 feet to Victoria Peak.  The 120-passenger Trams climb Victoria, at times at a 27-degree angle!  Not only will you enjoy a nail-biting 25-minute ride, but the views of the city from the Peak’s open-air Sky Terrace atop Peak Tower are absolutely spellbinding.  Several nice shops and restaurants ranging from Burger King to fine dining are located within the modernistic Peak Tower.  The Peak Tram and Victoria Peak Tower are Hong Kong’s top attractions.  Peak Tram tickets can be purchased at the Garden Road Lower Terminal Ticket Office.

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: Opt for the roundtrip Peak Tram Sky Pass rather than just the Peak Tram ticket.  The Sky Pass includes the roundtrip Tram ride PLUS entry to the Sky Terrace, which, otherwise would be more-expensive if purchased separately.  The Sky Pass cost for adults is HK$48, seniors (65+) and children (3 - 11): HK$23.  Tram trains depart every 15 minutes from 7:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. (midnight).

 

  

 

The Peak Sky Terrace Overview at 428 meters above sea level provides one of the best observation decks in Hong Kong for panoramic viewing.  Don’t pay to dine here: a rule of thumb - dining rooms in high places have high prices and mediocre food - ever heard of airline cuisine?  Expect to pay $HK150 - $HK200 per person for lunch and $HK200 - $HK400 per person for dinner.  The Peak is located at Victoria Gap and is connected by the spectacular Peak Tram at the Peak terminus on Garden Road. 

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: Have lunch at stylish Café Deco - gourmet cuisine with unforgettable floor-to-ceiling window views.

 

An alternative for lofty panoramic viewing is Sky100 - the 100th floor of the International Commerce Center (ICC) financial building in Kowloon, Hong Kong’s tallest.  You can even sip a cocktail on the 118th floor Ozone lounge as you gawk.  A 312-room Ritz Carlton hotel occupies the top 19 floors.  You shouldn’t be bothered by street noise! 

 

The Maritime Museum, near the harbor (Pier 8) in Kowloon is worthy of a visit.  Fifteen galleries display over 5,000 artifacts of the history of Hong Kong’s harbor and shipping. 

 

The Museum of Coastal Defense, converted from the Lei Yue Mun Fort, chronicle the 600-year history of Hong Kong’s coastal defense from the Ming period in the 1300’s to present day.  It is closed Thursdays and the first two days of the Lunar Year.  Open hours are 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.  

 

Sai Kung and its harbor are home to fishermen who sell their catches to the public from boats in the water.  The public standing at street level lower their baskets to the fishermen who fill the baskets and collect from the customers.

 

Sai Kung, devoid of skyscrapers and resembling a U.S. Midwestern village, is favored by westerners who reside in Hong Kong.

 

Sai Kung is also home to the large Tin Hau Temple, open to the public.

 

Pak Tai Temple in Wan Chai is also interesting to visit.  

 

Most tourists have never considered the arts to be one of Hong Kong’s strong suits.  This is about to change in 2017 with the new M+ (“Museum Plus”) - a global museum with an Asian perspective, which is designed with lofty ambitions to challenge New York City’s Museum of Art and London’s Tate Gallery.  The government owned M+, located in the emerging West Kowloon Cultural District at the edge of Victoria Harbor, will feature contemporary art and visual culture. 

 

Hong Kong’s narrow streets were once ablaze with colorful neon signs.  Most have been replaced with LED signage.  Preservationists have rescued some of the most iconic neon signs and they will be displayed at the M+ in a “Las Vegas-style neon graveyard.” 

 

The new Cultural District will include a new opera house, several performing arts theaters, and outdoor stages. 

 

Art is blossoming all over Hong Kong.  There are over 245 galleries - Hong Kong is now the world’s third largest art auction, trailing only New York and London. 

 

The Hong Kong Museum of Art in Kowloon contains one of the world’s largest collections of Chinese art of both Imperial art as well as Modern Contemporary.  The museum is located at 10 Salisbury Road. 

 

While one doesn’t normally think of Hong Kong in terms of being a major museum destination, the distinctive, but small, Hong Kong Space Museum deserves a rainy day look-see.  It tends to disappoint when compared with similar more up-to-date worldwide counterparts, and while interactive displays are present, the thrill factor is minimal.  It is good for a brief 1 – 2-hour visit. 

 

While visiting Hong Kong, take a break from shopping one day and try to absorb a little of the local culture.  Take a specialized culture tour:

  • For something totally different, visit a Chinese apothecary and learn of traditional Chinese medicine and Chinese health practices. 
  • Attend a Chinese cooking school session.
  • Enjoy a traditional Chinese tea ceremony instead of a coffee break. 

 

For a slower change of pace: 

An hour’s drive outside Hong Kong is Lantau Island, with major attractions: Ngong Ping 360 and the Tian Tan Buddha Statue.  Both are worth seeing.  Lantau is also home to Hong Kong International Airport, Asia-World Expo (convention center), and Hong Kong Disneyland. 

 

The island is accessible by a 45-minute inter-island ferry.  You can also take the Ngong Ping Cable Car, a 3.5-mile cable car, 25-minute ride from Tung Chung to North Lantau.  The vistas of Lantau, the Hong Kong International Airport, and the North China Sea, are spectacular. 

 

If you are the daring type, request a Crystal Cabin - your cable car will have a glass bottom!  Hopefully soldered by an expert welder!!  The themed Ngong Ping Village is adjacent to the Cable Terminal and offers street entertainers including kung fu demonstrations, acrobatics, and jugglers.  Attractions include Walking with Buddha (a 20-minute multimedia presentation), Monkey Tale’s Theatre Youth drama school and performances, and the Ngong Ping Tea House. 

 

Return to the city by surface transportation or taxi. 

 

Ngong Ping 360 involves a 3.5 mile, 25 minute, gondola ride through the Lantau Islands hills, (excellent views of Hong Kong International Airport and the South China Sea) to Ngong Ping Village, a three-acre area with a Buddhist tea house, shops, eateries and attractions-all in traditional Chinese architecture.

 

  

 

Nearby, (a half-mile away) is Po Lin Monastery and the 85-foot-tall bronze Tian Tan Buddha statue, said to be the largest outdoor sitting Buddha in the world: (The Big Buddha) perched atop the hill.  Be prepared to climb 268 steps!  Vegetarian meals are served at the Monastery.

 

On your walk back to the gondola, stop at Wisdom Path, a Stonehenge-like attraction consisting of a set of 38 rectangular obelisk, each around 50 feet tall, etched with the inscriptions of the Heart Sutra, a popular Buddhist prayer.

 

Time allowing while at Lantu, visit the Tai O fishing village, Hong Kong’s oldest and most authentic. 

 

The fishermen that live in stilt homes make their own nets and fish for shrimp. 

 

Sail on a Chinese sampan through Aberdeen Bay (south tip of Hong Kong Island), the center of Hong Kong’s thriving fishing industry.  Aberdeen Harbor is home to several large floating seafood restaurants.

 

An evening Symphony of Lights Cruise (1.5 hours) of Hong Kong’s harbor is always a good choice.  Experience the incredible Hong Kong skyline ablaze in color.  Forty-four participating buildings erupt in a blaze of color at 8:00 p.m. for 15 minutes synchronized to music and commentary.  It includes unlimited drinks on board.

 

Offered by Water tours of Hong Kong Ltd. the tour departs 7:30 p.m. at Central Ferry Pier 9 and 8:00 p.m. at Kowloon Public Pier 3 in Tsim Sha Tsui.  For more information, please call 852-2926-3868. 

 

Last, but certainly least, is the popular Bounty tall ship that entertains up to 60 passengers on bay cruises.  Ditto the popular Aqualuna Chinese junk cruises. 

 

Traveling on the cheap?  Cruise on the green and yellow Star Ferry.  Star Ferry represents one of Hong Kong’s oldest and most popular attractions.  Its double-decker Shining Star offers a similar cruise (1 hour).  Departures are at 7:55 p.m. from Star Ferry Pier at Tsim Sha Tsui.  For more information, please call 852-2118-6201.  The tour log is also recorded in Mandarin and Japanese. 

 

Back on the main island:

Most theme park fans prefer Hong Kong’s Ocean Park, which opened in 1977, a marine/zoo/thrill park over Disneyland Hong Kong.  Not only does it offer the expected dolphin, seal, and sea lion shows at Ocean Theatre, but it also has the beloved Chinese Giant Pandas at the Great Panda Adventure, over 70 Rockhopper and Gentoo penguins (Dine at Tuxedo’s and view the penguins!).  Hong Kong’s Ocean Park has 70 varieties of exotic birds, red pandas, giant salamanders, and a host of thrill rides as super bonuses.  Tiny tikes under age five best opt for Disneyworld.  It is Asia’s largest theme park with over 80 rides and attractions. 

 

New in 2012 is a recreation of Old Hong Kong with rickshaws, Hong Kong tram and tenement buildings, shops, and food stalls.  

 

You must reserve ahead for one of the fascinating Behind the Scenes adventures: the Penguin Polar Adventures is limited to a very small group and thus is expensive. 

 

Thrill rides include Raging River, Space Wheel, and Mine Train in Adventureland.  The Cable Car, the Dragon Rider rollercoaster, Hair Raider, and the Flash, are others.  Adventureland is accessed by the world’s longest escalator - and we mean long!  If escalators tend to freak you out, be forewarned and avoid.  It has an extremely steep gradient.  The escalator’s summit provides outstanding views of Repulse Bay.

 

Be forewarned that visiting Ocean World involves lots of walking.  You should allow a full day to see.

 

The park is built on a mountain top.  Buses take visitors to the mountain’s base, where you continue via cable car to the top.

 

 

There’s excellent bus service (any 629 city bus) to the park from Lippo Centre in Admiralty or from Central Pier 7.

 

Ocean Park, Wong Chuk Hang, Aberdeen, Hong Kong, can be reached by calling 852-3923-2323. 

 

Almost forgot!  Did we mention Mickey and Goofy and Disneyland Hong Kong? If you must, before you leave Lantau Island, check out the local version - it’s much different than what you have experienced in the states.  First off, it’s the smallest of the Disneyland parks.  Unique to Hong Kong’s version is Toy Story Land with RC Racer, a U-shaped rollercoaster, Toy Soldier Parachute jump, and Slinky Dog Spin.  The customary Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Adventureland, and Tomorrowland are present along with Main Street Parades.  Like home, it’s not inexpensive: One Day Pass: Adults: HK$350, seniors (65+): HK$170 and children ages 3 - 11: HK$250.  Add HK$100 to make it a two-day pass.  Star Passes (skip lines, priority seating for shows) is good only for the July 1 through August 31 period.  Cost is an additional HK$198 for the family.  Yankee credit cards accepted.  The Hong Kong dollar is the official currency of the park.  The crowds are horrendous, especially during summer months.  Average is 35,000 admissions daily.  Open 10:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m. with extended holiday and summer hours.  You can purchase tickets online and avoid park admission ticket purchase lines.  Disneyland Hong Kong closes often May through September during typhoon rains.  Pay heed to typhoon and rain warnings issued by park authorities.  The FASTPASS (avoid the lines-timed ride) program is available at an added cost.

 

This is the smallest of the Disney worlds.  Disneyland Hong Kong closes often May to September during typhoon rains.  Pay heed to typhoon and rain warnings issued by park authorities.  There are two Disney-operated hotels. To reach Hong Kong Disneyland, Lanlau Island, please call 852-1 83 0830. 

 

Noah’s Ark Hong Kong is a relatively new attraction on the waterfront overlooking Rambler Channel and the Tsing Ma Bridge.  Yep, there’s a full-size replica of Noah’s Ark - while there are a few other arks worldwide, this is definitely the world’s largest.  If you have seen the stage production of “Noah - The Musical” with live and animatronics animals, you probably will be disappointed in the Hong Kong rendition.  The Ark’s fiberglass animals, 67 pairs of two of each animal, are hand-crafted, but inanimate.

 

Don’t expect a festive themed park atmosphere.  Visitor reaction to the Ark is a mixed bag: children seem to enjoy visiting far more than their parents, who may become easily bored. 

 

The Ark’s four-story interior explains environment and change with high-tech interactive exhibits.  A wide screen theater shows religious themed movies.  Antique Bibles, religious artifacts, and cultural photographs are on display in the ark’s special gallery.  The top floor of the Ark is a hotel and youth hostel. 

 

Why the choice of Hong Kong is perplexing, considering Christianity is not prominent in China?  Hong Kong has typhoons, but not floods. 

 

The answer is that three Hong Kong billionaires and several Christian organizations desired to “promote education in nature and art as well as love and harmony.” 

 

The Ark is in fact an Evangelical Creation museum, part of a much larger Man Wa Park and the Tsing Ma Bridge (suspension bridge). 

 

Noah’s Adventureland is a complex of twenty obstacle rope courses and climbing.  

 

Treasureland is a participatory science center with exhibits on the body, robots, and nature. 

 

Admission to Noah’s Ark is expensive.

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: Try to avoid visiting Noah’s Ark on weekends when maximum crowds visit. 

 

Noah’s Ark Hong Kong is located on an island, at 32 Pak Yan Road, and can be contacted by calling 852-3411-8888.  It can be reached by ferry (25-minute ride) from Central Ferry Pier 2 - departures are every half-hour from 6:30 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.  

 

The island is small with limited vehicular access.  It is best to arrive via taxi or the ferry. 

 

The Mid-Level Escalators:

If you have a fear of heights and escalators in particular, avoid the 2,600-foot-long covered escalator in the Central District - the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world.  Hong Kong Island’s landscape consists of steep, hilly terrain.  To cope with the terrain, an extensive escalator system was built and began functioning in 1993.  It enables residents to navigate the Western District linking Queens Road central in the Central District with Conduit Road in the Mid-Levels, passing through many narrow streets.  The escalator system is connected through Central Market to the Central Elevated walkway, an extensive footbridge network.  Altogether, the escalator system of 20 escalators and three inclined moving walkways is 2,600 feet (800 meters) long with a vertical climb of 443 feet (135 meters).  Total travel time is 20 minutes. 

 

The escalators run DOWNHILL from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and UPHILL from 10:30 a.m. to midnight.  Restaurants, bars, and shops line the route.  There is an entrance and exit on each road that it passes, often on both sides of the road. 

 

It might surprise you to learn that with unprecedented urban crowding of wall-to-wall skyscrapers crammed onto 25 square-miles, that only 30 percent of Hong Kong’s land mass is actually developed, leaving 300 square miles of unspoiled Mother Nature to explore.  The Coastal wetlands and the islands around Plover Cove are the perfect escape - you’ll encounter beautiful trees and abandoned villages.  One can hike and/or climb, preferably during the cooler temperatures of October through March.  Try to avoid the heat and humidity of the summer months.  Hansen Hikes is a popular hiking guide service. 

 

To escape the heat and humidity, beach enthusiasts can retreat to the hot sands of Shek-O-Beach on the eastern edge of Hong Kong - it is frequented by surfers. 

 

IN SEARCH OF A GOOD NIGHT’S REST IN HONG KONG:

 

  

 

The problem in seeking nice lodging in Hong Kong is not scarcity or quantity, but rather the vast number of excellent choices, each with their individual merits.  With so much from which to choose, it’s all a matter of your choice of desired lodging/dining amenities and affordability based on your budget.  All price ranges are available, so you needn’t spend a fortune. 

 

The Mandarin Oriental has few peers worldwide.  It excels in all aspects of luxury lodging.  Difficult to fathom, but when built in 1963, the 27-story Mandarin Oriental was Hong Kong’s tallest building!  Sooner rather than later, everyone, including locals, seem to enter the Mandarin Oriental either to drink, dine, or shop.  It epitomizes the classic Hong Kong. 

 

The Peninsula (since 1928) is also top notch in the luxury category.  There is a fleet of 14 Rolls Royces for guests and pill-box-attired pages.  High-end merchants surround the hotel.  Ditto the Four Seasons Hotel. 

 

The new 118-story, 312-room Ritz Carlton Hotel opened in 2011 and easily holds its own against the Peninsula, the Mandarin Oriental, and the Four Seasons. 

 

The Four Seasons is also well represented with their customary dependable high standards of luxury. 

 

The 700-room Shangri-La holds its own against strong competition. 

 

The W Hong Kong garners stellar reviews for its luxury accommodations. 

 

Upper House, atop the J.W. Marriott, is another luxury winner.  It is a quiet sanctuary away from the bustle. 

 

The Kowloon Inter-Continental offers superb views of Victoria Harbor. 

 

Forget your preconceived ideas of limited service lodging.  The Courtyard by Marriott sets the bar for the chain with an exceptional Hong Kong operation.  This one rivals many more expensive choices in amenities.  It is an excellent choice in the Western District and convenient to transportation.  Best Western and Holiday Inn also offer lodging choices. 

 

TASTY DINING IN HONG KONG:

There’s no question that Hong Kong is a major culinary destination. 

 

Hong Kong is known for its Cantonese stir fry, dim sum, congee, hot pots, “pantyhose” tea, and other local specialties.  Hong Kong is the epicenter for dim sum - tiny steamed and deep-fried snacks served in bamboo containers that are delivered to your table on a hand-pushed trolley.  Dim sum is typically served from early morning until 5:00 p.m.  The Shangri La’s Summer Palace offers perhaps the city’s most elaborate dim sum. 

 

You can spend a small fortune in world-class French dining rooms and celebrity-owned restaurants in posh hotels, or dine inexpensively at Hong Kong’s food carts.

 

Inexpensive local chain restaurants include: Fairwood, Hung Fung, and Tong, which serve soup, dumplings, and more. 

 

Open-air-food-carts (dai pai dongs) spring to life come evening.  They are beneficial for bargain prices for fresh seafood and local delicacies.

 

This might be the only place you will ever consume black fungus and/or boiled mushroom-bamboo soup.  When in doubt, there’s always rice. 

 

Hong Kong’s Top Dining Choices:  

Hong Kong is home to 16 of Asia’s top 100 restaurants.  Felix is one of the top five restaurants in Asia.  

 

Felix Restaurant is on the 28th floor atop the Peninsula hotel.  The Felix offers a beautiful dining room with lofty views and prices.  It serves modern European cuisine.  Felix was rated #1 in Hong Kong and the #5 restaurant in all of Asia by The Daily Meal in 2014.  It is open for dinner only: 6:00 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.  The restaurant is located at Salisbury Road, Kowloon, and can be reached by calling 852-2696-6778. 

 

  • Fatty Crab is a strange name for an award-winning restaurant, ranked #8 in Asia by The Daily Meal in 2014.  Expect a blend of southeast Asian flavors to the tune of rock ‘n’ roll.  The restaurant houses a Ghetto sterile cool décor.  It is closed Mondays.  Fatty Crab is located at 11-13 Old Bailey Street, Central Hong Kong, and can be reached by calling 852-2521-2033. 
  • Pierre
  • Tin Heung Lau: popular with locals and very expensive.  Address: 18C Austin Street; telephone: 852-2366-2414. 
  • Caprice
  • Indonesian Restaurant. 
  • 22 Ships
  • Tosca
  • Man Wah
  • Nicholini’s
  • 8-1/2 Otto@MezzoBombana
  • Lupa Osteria Romana
  • Lei Garden, CNT Tower
  • Restaurant Petrus
  • Amber
  • Bo Innovation is a modern fusion of French/Chinese cuisine, very popular.  Contemporary décor abounds.  The restaurant is located at 60 Johnson Road, and can be reached by calling 852-2850-8371.
  • Sergeet le Phogue
  • One Harbor Road offers an extensive menu of gourmet Cantonese cuisine along with spectacular harbor views.  It is located at 1 Harbor Road. 

 

Buffet dining is quite popular in Hong Kong.  One of the best is the Café Kool at the Shangri-La Hotel in the Kawloon District.  Expect a wide variety of Chinese and Asian fare along with sushi, Indian, fresh seafood - AND even Yankee items such as fried chicken and prime rib, salads, vegetables, and desserts.  All this is available for $32.00 per person.  The restaurant is located at 64 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East. 

 

Dining at Jumbo Kingdom, the world’s largest floating restaurant, lands on most Hong Kong visitors’ obligatory must-do visits.  Popular since 1976, this iconic restaurant in Aberdeen Harbor is superb in its preparation of seafood.  It offers a vast menu of over 100 entrees.  Jumbo is aptly named - it can accommodate seating 2,300 at one sitting.  Both lunch and dinner are served.  Don’t expect peace and tranquility - it is very noisy.  Jumbo Kingdom is located in Aberdeen, on the opposite side of the harbor from Central’s concrete canyon of skyscrapers.  You can reach it by a free ferry boat ride.

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: Keep your taxi receipts to Jumbo’s and show to your waiter before paying your food bill - they have been known to give credits up to HK$80 on your restaurant bill. 

 

Tim Who Wan restaurant in Kowloon attracts flocks of diners in search of dim sum.  The prawn dumplings and pork ceung fan rolls are favorites.  

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: Arrive early by 8:00 a.m. to avoid long lines. 

 

Other dim sum favorites: 

  • Tien Yi: dim sum with a view and nice décor.  Barbecued pork buns, shrimp dumplings.
  • LinHeung: Address: 164 Wellington Street, telephone: 00 852 2544 4556. 
  • Lung King Heen (Four Seasons Hotel): Michelin 3 star recipient.  Address: 8 Finance Street, telephone: 00 852 3196 8888. 

 

Duddell’s is an old time favorite.

 

Cheers (no relation to the famous Boston bar): Exceptional Chinese cuisine served in a low rent district, but patronized by well-dressed locals.  It is very popular and provides excellent service.  It is located at 639 Nathan Road, and can be reached by calling 8 52-2308-1668. 

 

Kau Kee: beef brisket on flat noodles served in clear broth is a favorite Cantonese comfort food - it’s at its best here.  The restaurant is located at 21 Gough Street, Central Hong Kong, and can be reached by calling 852-2850-5967. 

 

The Mandarin Grill and Bar is in the iconic hotel. 

 

Visit Po’s Atelier & Café Deaden. 

 

Ammo, located in the new Asia Society Center, is special both for its décor and cuisine.  It has deco details, soaring ceilings, and huge windows overlooking a forest. 

 

Visit Yardbird, located at 33-35 Bridges Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, which can be reached by calling +852 2547 9273. 

 

You may wish to join a Hong Kong Foodie Tour, a 3.5-hour tour through central and Sheung Wan.  Sample won-ton noodles, barbecued pork rice, fresh juice, Chinese tea, dim sum, and local dean tat tarts.  English speaking guides.  The tour is offered Mondays through Saturdays at 2:15 p.m.  Pick ups are in the Central District and Hong Kong Island.  Call 852-2850-5006 to reserve.  

 

If you are adventuresome in your dining and don’t necessarily care what you are eating, the lowest priced Hong Kong restaurants may fill the bill.  Be forewarned, however, that the Chinese diet varies from westerners.  All parts of chickens, cows, and pigs are often eaten as are strange sea creatures that would make most westerners cringe. 

 

Yung Kee has served roast goose since 1942, as well as dim sum.  The restaurant is located at 32-40 Wellington Street, and can be reached by calling 00-852-2522-1624. 

 

The former Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters is now a center of dining and culture. 

 

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN IN HONG KONG:

 

  

 

Lan Kwai Fong, a several-block area near Central, is crammed with popular restaurants and nightclubs.  Night lifers fill the streets. The light dawned on celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey that he did not have a Hong Kong outpost, so he has opened a branch of his Bread Street Kitchen in the nightlife section of Lan Kwai Fong - the city’s most civilized bar scene.  The bars attract a well-dressed clientele. 

 

The West Kowloon Cultural District, under development, will eventually incorporate over a dozen performing arts venues and seven areas of open piassas - openness unheard of in Hong Kong. 

 

Symphony of Lights (dancing lasers) takes place nightly at 8:00 p.m.  The synchronized light and sound show involves 45 buildings with laser beams, spotlights, and special lighting.  Action takes place on both sides of the harbor. 

 

Fireworks are added on special occasions. 

 

English narration is on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Sundays.  Mandarin is on Tuesdays, Thursday, and Saturdays.  Cantonese is on Sundays.

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: The 10 – 14-minute show can be viewed from several vantage points. 

 

Avenue of the Stars is on the Tsim Sha waterfront. 

 

Visit the promenade outside the Golden Bauhinia square in Wan Chai. 

 

WINDOW SHOPPING IN HONG KONG:

Shop till you drop!  Hong Kong is a panacea to serious shop alcoholics - it’s the city’s main attraction.  Clothing, cosmetics, and electronics seem to be the preferred choice of savvy shoppers.  You shouldn’t experience any difficulty finding what you seek nor shopkeepers eagerly awaiting your brimming purse.  Cameras and photography equipment, inexplicably, are NOT a bargain compared to prices back home. 

 

Shopping venues are generally of two types: glitzy malls (many malls are inside skyscrapers) with expensive designer merchandise versus street stalls selling a variety of souvenirs, fresh produce, inexpensive designer knock-off clothing, and items destined for your future garage sale.  Most shops remain open until 10:00 p.m. 

 

The Central District is where the designer brand stores are clustered-the world’s “hotsy totsy” merchandise.  Offsetting the sticker shock are the low tax rates.  There are also five billion jewelry stores in the Central District, many selling only watches. 

 

Causeway Bay is the place for department stores, boutiques, youthful fashion, and shoes. 

 

Shopping tends to be at its peak during the winter and spring months, when new fashions are introduced (December to February, especially during Christmas and up until the Chinese New Year). 

 

Centers of ostentatious consumption include the Landmark, 15 Queens Road Central, and Central Hong Kong Island.  

 

Don’t overlook the stylish shops of Tsim Sha Tsui.  The harbor views are an add-on bonus.

 

The Chinese on the mainland appear to have an insatiable appetite for fine wine.  Hong Kong has become the wine auction capitol of the world.  It is not uncommon for Chinese to bid $71,000.00 U.S. for a case of 1982 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild - over $6,000.00 per bottle over normal prices!  Three bottles of 1869 Chateau Lafite Rothchilds recently sold for $232,692.00 EACH!  The Chinese prefer red wine over whites.  Wine shortages rather than oil may be the world’s impending future concern. 

 

Wine flows like water around Chinese New Year’s time.  Take that, U.S. middle class!  Get used to your wine racks being bare!   

 

The Jade Market in Yau Ma Tei (Kansu and Battery Streets) as per its name, is the place to shop for jade.  It helps if you know jade, as its qualities vary.  Prices are clearly displayed.  Always attempt to negotiate price when shopping for jade.  If the clerks are carrying calculators, chances are, prices are flexible.  Open hours are 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. 

 

Ladies' Clothing?  Check out the Ladies Market in Mong Kok (Tung Choi Street).  Expect inexpensive garb, shoes, jackets, underwear, and inexpensive suitcases.  

 

When purchasing clothing, beware that sizing tends to be much smaller than Europe and the U.S.  Most places will not allow you to try on clothing.  Disregard labels, as more likely than not, the item is a knock-off copy.  Never ever pay the listed price - you are expected to haggle and more often than not will end up paying 30% - 40% of the listed price.  It is open daily noon to midnight.  There are over 100 stalls on Tung Choi Street (Kowloon). 

 

Custom tailored men’s suits and shirts have long been a Hong Kong mainstay - a definite step above the so-called Hong Kong Tailors you may have encountered stateside.  Only 40-some custom tailors are accredited by the Hong Kong Tourism Bureau’s Quality Tourism Services Scheme.  Sam’s Tailor is the tailor of royalty and celebrities - Sam will accept common folks’ dollars, too.  Tailors can be found at Burlington Arcade, 90-94 Nathan Road, Kowloon, and can be reached by calling 852-2367-9423. 

 

Beware of knockoff merchandise being peddled along Nathan Road (the Golden Mile) in Kowloon, and is packed with shops.  The Rolex’s may in fact be “Rolax’s,” and the electronics not what you bargained for.  This should not be your first choice for shopping! 

 

The Bay views are incredible at night.  The area has a number of worthwhile museums. 

It sure smells nice: the Flower Market on Flower Market Road in Kowloon is ablaze in color from its endless array of flowers and plants. 

 

  

 

The upscale art galleries and antique stores are clustered along Hollywood Road.  Search for antiques, Chinese wood-carved furniture, painted screens, jade, carpets, silk products, and Tibetan mandalas.  Always request a certificate of authenticity and walk away if the seller refuses to furnish.  Compare prices before purchasing. 

 

The Cat Street Market, a few steps downhill off Hollywood Road, is NOT the place to purchase jade or antiques.  The market sells Maoist souvenirs, knickknack junk, jade knock-offs, and faux antiques.  It may look authentic or old, but buyer beware.  

 

The Temple Street Night Market in Yau Ma Tei-Kowloon (Temple Street and Jordan Road) offers a wide variety of shopping: Music CD’s, inexpensive clothing, designer knockoffs, watches, pens, and food stalls.  There is a lively atmosphere with fortune tellers and herbalists, as well as Cantonese opera singers.  The market has sizzling food stalls.  Open hours are 4:00 p.m. - midnight.  Most sellers do not arrive until 6:00 p.m.  It is good for a two-hour visit.  If you enjoy haggling on prices, this is the place. 

 

Ko Shing Street (Herbal Medicine Street) is all things to do with traditional Chinese healing. 

 

 

 

Stanley Market, a former fishing village, is popular with souvenir hunters.  Prices tend to be higher than other locales, but Stanley offers a considerable array of goods: Chinese embroidery, silk clothing, linens, notebooks, handbags, collectibles, Chinese printed bags and wallets, paintings, Chinese calligraphy, and curios.  Beware of antique replicas.  

 

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: Visit Stanley Market in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the mid-day crowds.  Open hours are 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. 

 

Your feet will thank you after walking the concrete jungles of Hong Kong all day.  Foot massages are a big deal here.  Two of the best are Happy Feet and Ten Feet (centipede feet?).  Figure spending $26 - $30 for a soothing one-hour foot massage.  Ah, does that feel better or what?