Handed back to the government of China by the British in 1997, Hong Kong's thriving capitalist market has in no way been slowed down by the influence of Communist rule. Skyscrapers are packed into a relatively small skyline on Hong Kong Island, as the fast-paced lives of business people tick away at ground level. Hong Kong retains its culture in rather remarkable fashion, with traditional street vendors occupying alleyways between said skyscrapers, floating restaurants operating in the harbor, or fishing families recalling Hong Kong's origins as a fishing village. These emblems of Chinese culture are all but invisible from the heights of Victoria Peak; but the breathtaking spectacle of Hong Kong's skyline, harbour and outer islands leaves no room for disappointment.
Human settlement in the area now known as Hong Kong dates back to the late Paleolithic and early Neolithic era. The area's earliest recorded Euro visitor was Jorge álvares, a Portuguese explorer who arrived in 1513.
In 1839 the refusal by Qing Dynasty authorities to import opium resulted in the First Opium War between China and Great Britain. Hong Kong Island became occupied by British forces in 1841, and was formally ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Nanking at the end of the war. The British established a crown colony with the founding of Victoria City the following year. In 1860, after China's defeat in the Second Opium War, the Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutter's Island were ceded to Britain under the Convention of Peking. In 1898, under the terms of the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory, Britain obtained a 99-year lease of Lantau Island and the adjacent northern lands, which became known as the New Territories. Hong Kong's territory has remained unchanged to the present. During the first half of the 20th century, Hong Kong was a free port of the British Empire.
Japan invaded Hong Kong on 8 December 1941 in the Second World War. The Battle of Hong Kong ended with British and Canadian defenders surrendering to Japan on 25 December. During the occupation, civilians suffered starvation, rationing, and hyper-inflation Hong Kong lost more than half of its population in the war. In 1945 Great Britain regained control of the colony. Hong Kong's population recovered quickly as a wave of migrants from China arrived for refuge from the ongoing Chinese Civil War. When the People's Republic of China was proclaimed in 1949, more migrants fled to Hong Kong in fear of persecution by the Communist Party. Besides the influx of immigrants there was also a flow of businesses mainly from ShangHai and GuangZhou that moved to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong rapidly industrialised, with its economy becoming driven by exports, and living standards rising steadily. The construction of Shek Kip Mei Estate in 1953 marked the beginning of the public housing estate programme, designed to cope with the huge influx of immigrants. Trade in Hong Kong accelerated even further when ShenZhen, immediately north of Hong Kong, became a special economic zone of China, and established Hong Kong as the main source of foreign investment to China. During the 1980’s China took over the role of Hong Kong as a heaven for lowcost labour, and Hong Kong’s economy became based on services.
In 1983, Hong Kong was reclassified from a British crown colony to a dependent territory. However with the lease of the New Territories due to expire within two decades, the governments of Britain and China were already discussing the issue of Hong Kong's sovereignty. In 1984 the two countries signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration, agreeing to transfer sovereignty to the People's Republic of China in 1997, and stipulating that Hong Kong would be governed as a special administrative region, retaining its laws and a high degree of autonomy for at least fifty years after the transfer. The Hong Kong Basic Law, which would serve as the constitutional document after the transfer, was ratified in 1990, and the transfer of sovereignty occurred at midnight on 1 July 1997.
Hong Kong Tourism Board offers many walking tours. Starting from 1 October 2010, the following participation fees have been implemented:
- Duk Ling Ride $100 per person
- Architecture Walk $200 per person
- Chinese Cake-Making Class $30 per person.
Get a stunning view of Hong Kong Island on Victoria Peak atop the giant, wok-shaped Peak Tower! Ever since the dawn of British colonisation, the Peak hosted the most exclusive neighbourhood for the territory's richest residents, where local Chinese weren't permitted to live until after World War II.
At the Peak, the Peak Tower serves not only as an observation platform, it also doubles as a shopping mall offering shops, fine dining and museums. The Peak Tram runs from Central to the bottom of the Peak Tower. Although views of Kowloon and Victoria Harbour can be stunning, be prepared for the view to be spoilt by air pollution. There is no point in spending extra money to visit the observation deck of the Peak Tower. There are a number of nice walks around the Peak Tower that offers similar, if not nicer, views of all sides of the island. One of it is the Lion Pavilion Lookout on Findley Road, about one minute walk from The Peak Tower. You will be able to catch a laser show at 8PM every night. On sunny days, you can find an old man outside the pavilion, offering rickshaw ride along Findley Road. A 10 minutes ride costs HK$100.
Although the Peak Tram offers a direct route to The Peak, a more picturesque and cheaper (though slower) way of reaching it is by taking bus 15 (not 15C) from the Star Ferry pier in Central. Not only is it cheaper but, as the bus snakes up the mountain, you can enjoy beautiful views of both sides of Hong Kong island and passing the territory's priciest neighbourhoods.
The racing season runs from September to June, during which time racings take place twice weekly, with the location alternating between Shatin in the New Territories and Happy Valley near Causeway Bay MTR station. Both racing locations are easily accessible by MTR but Happy Valley is the more convenient, historic and impressive location (although live races only take place here on Wednesday nights). For only a $10 entrance fee, a night in Happy Valley can be filled with rowdy entertainment. Get a local Chinese gambler to explain the betting system to you and then drink the cheap draft beer. Be sure to pick up the Racing Post section in the South China Morning Post on Wednesday to guide you. A beer garden with racing commentary in English is available at Happy Valley near the finishing line where many expatriates congregate during the races. One good tip: bring your passport and get in at the tourist rate of just $1.
Betting can also be placed at any of 100+ branches of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Expect long lines and big crowds. The Hong Kong Jockey Club is a nonprofit charitable organization and the only institution permitted to conduct legal horse-racing in the territory.
Be aware that horse racing is a religion in Hong Kong with live broadcasts over the radio. Large segments of the adult population will place bets and there will be no shortage of racing tips from punters. Just remember that when people are listening to the races, whether in a taxi or restaurant or on the streets, expect no conversation or business to transpire for the 1-2 minute duration of the race.
The most effective way to know how Hong Kong people live is to observe the local life of an ordinary Hong Kong resident. Just wander and observe - and don't worry - all areas are safe.
There are a variety of museums in Hong Kong with different themes, arguably the best museum is the Hong Kong Museum of History in Kowloon, which gives an excellent overview of Hong Kong's fascinating past. Not the typical pots-behind-glass format of museums you find elsewhere in China. Innovative galleries such as a mock-up of a colonial era street make history come to life. Allow about two hours to view everything in detail.
Kowloon also includes a number of other interesting museums including Dialogue in the Dark, which is an exhibition in complete darkness where you should use your non-visual senses with the help of a visually impaired guide, the International Hobby and Toy Museum, which exhibits models, toys, science fiction collectibles, movie memorabilia and pop-culture artifacts from around the world, Hong Kong Museum of Art, which is a fascinating, strange and elusive place exhibiting Chinese ceramics, terracotta, rhinoceros horn and Chinese paintings as well as contemporary art produced by Hong Kong artists, Hong Kong Science Museum, primarily aimed at children, and Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre.
Central also has its share of museums including Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum, Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, which shows how the healthcare system evolved from traditional Chinese medicine to modern Western medicine, and Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre.
New Territories has the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, which will appeal to those who have a serious interest in Chinese culture, and the Hong Kong Railway Museum.
Avenue of Stars and A Symphony of Lights
Hong Kong's version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Avenue of Stars celebrates icons of Hong Kong cinema from the past century. The seaside promenade offers fantastic views, day and night, of Victoria Harbour and its iconic skyline. This is the place to have your picture taken by a professional photographer who is experienced in night photography. The Avenue can be reached from the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station or the Star Ferry.
The Avenue of the Stars is also a great place to see A Symphony of Lights , a spectacular light and laser show synchronised to music and staged every night at 8:00PM. This is the world's "Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show" as recognised by the Guinness World Records. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the light show is in English. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday it is in Mandarin. On Sunday it is in Cantonese. While at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, spectators can tune their radios to FM103.4 MHz for English narration, FM106.8 MHz for Cantonese or FM107.9 for Mandarin. The same soundtrack can be accessed via mobile phones at 35665665 for the English version where normal telephone rates apply. However, whilst the show is not such a big deal, during festival times the light show is supplemented by fireworks that are worth seeing.
Public Transport Travel
Travelling on a bus or a tram is ideal for looking at different sides of Hong Kong. Not only it is cheap to ride on a bus or a tram, it also allows you to see completely different lifestyles in different districts in a short time. Below are some recommended routes.
- KMB Route 270A.starts from the downtown in Jordan, Kowloon. It goes along Peninsular Kowloon and heads through the New Territories. Then it goes into Sha Tin. Afterwards it goes through Tai Po Road, where you can see many traditional Chinese villages and the scenic Chinese University of Hong Kong. The bus further goes to Tai Po and you can see the traditional Market. After Tai Po, the bus again passes through the countryside and eventually reaches its terminus at Sheung Shui (below Landmark North), which is near the Hong Kong - Shenzhen boundary. The journey takes 80 minutes and costs $13 for the whole journey with a air-conditioned bus. The Hung Hom bound train back to the city can be taken from Sheung Shui.
- NWFB Route 15 starts from Central (Exchange Square) to The Peak. It is an alternative way for getting to The Peak by bus rather than by Peak Tram. Your journey to Hong Kong will not be complete unless you have visited Victoria Peak. You can see the beautiful view of Hong Kong Island, Victoria Harbour and Kowloon Peninsula along the Stubbs Road during the journey. When you arrive, there are two shopping malls: The Peak Tower and The Peak Galleria, which provide restaurants, a supermarket, and souvenir shops for your convenience. In addition, you can visit Madame Tussauds Hong Kong and see if the mannequins look to be the real deal. Direction: you can take MTR and get off at Hong Kong station. You can approach Hong Kong station by the underpass from Central station. After that, follow the exit B1 to Exchange Square and you will see the bus terminus. You can also get off at Admiralty station. Then, follow the C1 exit towards Queensway Plaza. Make a right after you exit the station, and you will see the bus stop. After you get on the bus, just stay on until it arrives to The Peak bus terminus. The bus fare is $9.8 and it takes about 30 minutes for the journey.
- Citybus Route 973 Route 973 starts from the Tsim Sha Tsui East Bus Terminus which is located at the Concordia Plaza, which is directly opposite the Science Museum at Science Museum Road. It goes along Salisbury Road, where the Avenue of Stars, The Space Museum and the Art Museum are located. Later it goes to University of Hong Kong, which is the most prominent and the oldest university in Hong Kong after crossing the Western Harbour Crossing. It later passes through the countryside of the southern part of Hong Kong . It will reach the Hong Kong southern side, where the Jumbo/Tai Pak Floating Restaurant is located at Aberdeen. Not long after, the bus passes by a football field, from which it is a 5-10 minutes walk to Ocean Park. Finally, the bus passes by the beautiful sandy beach of Repulse Bay, before it finally arrives at its terminus station at Stanley Village, where the famous Murray House and the Stanley Village Market are located. The fare is $13.6 and it takes about 95 minutes for the journey.
These two are rickshaw-themed double deckers going to main heritage spots on Hong Kong Island, such as the Court of Final Appeal (previously LegCo) in Central and the University of Hong Kong. A day pass costs $50, and you can hop on and hop off at any stop
Take a tram journey on Hong Kong Island.
The tram system refers to is Hong Kong Tramways , a slow yet special form of transport running on Hong Kong Island. It has been operating since 1904 and is an obvious relic of the British administration. A trip on a tram is a perfect way to have a leisurely tour around Hong Kong Island's major streets and to have a glimpse of the local life. Fares are relatively cheap, just $2.3 per trip for an adult and one dollar for Senior citizens (aged 65 or older) and children pay $1.2.
It is recommended to ride from as far as Kennedy Town in the west, to as far as Shau Kei Wan in the east, in order to get a strong contrast of "East meets West" and "Old meets New".
A new, modern, tram system operates in the north west New Territories and serves New Towns between Yuen Long and Tuen Mun. Few tourists will be inspired by these trams but they may appeal to trainspotters.
The Octopus card (八達通, Bat Dat Toong in Cantonese,) provides instant electronic access to Hong Kong's public transport system. As the world's first contactless smart debit card, it can be tapped onto a reader to transfer fare from the passenger to the carrier. Those who are familiar with Singapore's eZ-Link card, London Underground's Oyster card, Washington DC's SmarTrip card, Melbourne's myki card or Japan Railway's IC cards will quickly understand how to use the Octopus card. In addition to being used for all forms of public transport (except most of the red-top minibuses and taxis), Octopus is also accepted for payment in almost all convenience stores, restaurant chains like McDonald's and Cafe de Coral, many vending machines, all roadside parking and some car parks. Some housing estates and schools use the card for identification at entry. The Octopus card functionality can also come in the form of personalised cards, ornaments, keychains and watches which you can pre-order at octopuscards.com if you're interested.
When travelling by MTR and some bus routes, payment by Octopus card can sometimes be cheaper than cash because carriers frequently offer discounts to Octopus users (such as the route between the airport and the city). There's no reason to get one if you are in Hong Kong for a short time and don't go there frequently, however, if your itinerary includes daily use of ferries, buses, minibuses and the MTR then you will wish you had one.
Basic Octopus cards cost $150, with $100 face value plus $50 refundable deposit. A $9 service charge applies if the card is returned in less than three months for the refundable deposit. The maximum value an Octopus card can carry is $1,000. The Octopus card also allows its remaining value to go negative once before topping up. For example, you may pay for a ride of $5 with a remaining value of $2 on the card (bringing the stored value to -$3) but you cannot use the card again until the value is topped up. The negative value of an Octopus card can go as far as $35. Note that isn't really "negative", meaning you don't have to pay MTR back, since your $50 deposit secures it.
The Central to Mid-Levels escalator, at 800 metres long, this is the longest outdoor, covered, escalator system in the world. When travelling downhill on the escalator, there is a machine, where you can touch your Octopus card, and your next MTR journey will have a $2 discount (if it starts at Central/Hong Kong or Sheung Wan station and if you don't take any other transport before then). The escalator runs downhill from 6AM to 10AM and uphill from 10:30AM to midnight every day.
Your Octopus cards' balance is displayed on the reader after each use. The balance can also be checked, along with the last 9 transactions, using a small machine near regular ticket machines at MTR stations.
For travellers, there are three convenient ways to top-up a card in $50 increments (but in each case only for cash, not by credit card):
- Add Value machines, usually located next to regular ticket machines in MTR stations.
- Customer service at any MTR station.
- Merchants that accept Octopus (e.g. 7-Eleven, McDonald's, etc.).
By Mass Transit Railway
Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) network of underground and suburban rail is the fastest way to get around the territory, but what you gain in speed you lose in views and (at least for short distances) price. There are five underground lines (Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan, Island, Tung Chung and Tseung Kwan O lines), three suburban rail lines (West, East and Ma On Shan lines), and the Airport Express, plus a network of modern tram lines operated by the MTR in the North West New Territories.
The most important lines for many visitors are the busy Tsuen Wan Line (red), which tunnels from Central to Kowloon and down Nathan Road towards Tsuen Wan in the New Territories and the Island Line (blue) which runs along the north coast of the Island. The Tung Chung Line (orange) is the fastest route to Lantau and one of the cheapest ways to the airport when coupled with the S1 shuttle bus stationed at Tung Chung MTR station. The line also provides a link to Hong Kong Disneyland via a change at Sunny Bay station. All signs are bilingual in Chinese and English and all announcements are made in Cantonese, Mandarin and English so tourists should not have a problem using the rail system. Should you get lost, staff in the station control room usually speak enough English to be able to help you out.
One thing that's absolutely unique to Hong Kong's suburban rail system is that it's linked to two international borders with mainland China: Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau, both on the East Rail Line. You pass through a short corridor before a large border gate appears (have your visa ready by now) through which you pass and enter a long one-way corridor before emerging on the mainland, with the Shenzhen Metro right next to you.
The East Rail Line offers a first class car where the seats are wider and more comfortable. The fare is twice that of the regular cars on the same route, and you need to buy a separate ticket for this at a station's ticketing office or tap your octopus card at the designated reader before entering.
Most underground MTR stations have one Hang Seng Bank branch (except for the massive Hong Kong/Central station, which has two). Since they're a common feature, unambiguous and easy to find, they're a good place to tell people to meet you.
Note that in Hong Kong (and all other English rather than American speaking places), a subway is an underground walkway, not an underground railway, and signs for "subway" will just lead you to the other side of the street. Look for the MTR logo instead.
Fares depend on distance. Credit cards are not accepted to pay for tickets or passes except for rides on the Airport Express Line.
In addition to the Airport Express Octopus (see above), you can also (as a short-term tourist) buy a 24-hour pass for $55 at any MTR station; however, this pass is not valid on the Airport Express line, East Rail Line's first class car or available to residents
Operated by Hong Kong Tramways, the narrow double-decker city trams (sometimes known in Cantonese as "ding ding") trundling along the northern coast of Hong Kong Island are a Hong Kong icon and have provided cheap transport for over a century. Trams are slower and bumpier than other modes of transport, and they are not air conditioned. But the route along the length of Hong Kong Island's centre covers many places tourists would want to see. With a flat fare of only $2.3, it's the cheapest sightseeing tour around. A suggested sightseeing option lasting over an hour is to board at the Kennedy Town Terminus where you can be sure to get a good seat on the upper deck. As the tram traverse eastward, you will have an elevated view of the island and see its different flavours, from bustling Hong Kong street life to its glitzy financial and shopping districts and, finally, a taste of suburban tranquility. Passengers board at the rear and the fare is paid upon alighting at the front of the tram. Exact change and Octopus cards are accepted. Trams run 6:00AM to midnight.
In a league of its own is the Peak Tram , Hong Kong's first mechanised mode of transport, opened back in 1888. The remarkably steep 1.7 km track up from Central to Victoria Peak is worth at least one trip despite the comparatively steep price ($28 one-way, $40 return; return tickets must be purchased in advance). The tram turnstyles do take Octopus cards, which will allow you to avoid a stop at the ticketing line at the station. During public holidays and other similar occasions the Peak Tram is likely to have very long queues of people waiting to board. Note that the tram is not the only way to get to the Peak, and there are cheaper (but slower and less scenic) alternatives such as the number 1 (green minibus) & number 15 (double-deck bus) that cost $8.4 and $9.8, respectively, from Exchange Square Bus Terminus
Fierce competition, no sales tax and some wealthy consumers all add up to make Hong Kong an excellent destination for shopping. Choices are plentiful at competitive price. Lookout for watches, camping equipment, digital items and special cosmetics.
Popular shopping items include consumer electronics, custom clothing, shoes, camping equipment, jewellery, expensive brand name goods, Chinese antiques, toys and Chinese herbs/medicine. There's also a wide choice of Japanese, Korean, American and European clothing and cosmetics but price are generally higher than in their respective home countries.
Most shops in Hong Kong's urban areas open at about 10AM until 10PM to midnight every day. High rental costs in Hong Kong, ranked second worldwide according to Forbes, makes it no surprise that the best bargain shops could be located anywhere except the ground floor. Shops recommended by local people may even be up on the 20th floor in a building that won't give you a hint that it's a place for shopping.
Many shops will accept credit cards. In accepting credit cards, the merchant will look carefully at the signature rather than looking at picture ID. In addition, merchants will not accept credit cards with a different name that the person presenting it. All shops that accept credit cards and many that don't, will also accept debit cards and ATM cards as payment. The term used for debit card payment is EPS.
In the old days, Hong Kong was a good place to buy cheap knockoff, fake products, and pirated videos and software. Today, Hong Kong residents often buy these items in Shenzhen just across the border in mainland China.
Be careful when shopping at stores that have neon-lighted signs of famous brands. Some have complained about the products they purchased from there.
Antiques and Arts- Head for Hollywood Road and Loscar Road in Central. Here you will find a long street of shops with a wide selection of products that look like antiques. Some items are very good fakes, so make sure you know what you are buying. Try Star House near the Star Ferry pier in Tsim Sha Tsui for more expensive items.
Books- Hong Kong houses a fair choice of English books, Japanese, French titles, and huge range of uncensored Chinese titles. Prices are usually higher than where they import but it is your last hope to look for your books before heading to China. Try Swindon Books on Lock Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and Page One in Times Square (Causeway Bay) and Festival Walk (Kowloon Tong). Dymocks, an Australian bookshops, has eleven stores, including in IFC and the Princes Building. For French books, visit Librairie Parentheses on Wellington Street in Central and Japanese books are sold in Sogo Shopping Mall in Causeway bay. The biggest local bookshop chain is the Commercial Press and usually have a cheaper but limited English titles. For looking for Chinese books, local people's beloved bookshops are all along Sai Yeung Choi Street. Called Yee Lau Sue Den (Bookshop on second floor), they hided themselves in the upper floor of old buildings and offered an unbeatable discount on all books.
Cameras- Reputable camera stores are located mainly in Central, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok but tourist traps do exist, especially in Tsim Sha Tsui. The basic rule is to avoid all the shops with flashing neon signs along Nathan Road and look for a shop with plenty of local, non-tourist, customers. Only use recommended shops, as shops such as those on Nathan Road are likely to disappear on your next visit to Hong Kong. For easy shopping, get an underground train to Mongkok and head to Sai Yeung Choi Street, where you might find some of the best deals. The Mong Kok Computer Centre and Galaxy Mall (Sing Jai) are always packed with local people. Several camera shops like Man-Sing and Yau-Sing are known for their impolite staff but have a reputation for selling at fair prices. In the 1990s and early 2000s, most shops didn't allow much bargaining, but this has changed since 2003 with the influx of tourists from mainland China. While it is hard to tell how much discount you should ask for, if a shop can give you more than 25-30% discount, local people tend to believe that it's too good to be true, unless it's a listed seasonal sale.
Computers- The base price of computer equipment in Hong Kong is similar to those in other parts of the world, but there are substantial savings to be hand from the lack of sales tax or VAT.
The Wanchai Computer Centre, Mongkok Computer Centre and Golden Computer Arcade on Sham Shui Po are all a few steps away from their corresponding MTR stations. Also electronic equipment is available at the large chain stores such as Broadway and Fortress which are located in the large malls. The major chain stores will accept credit cards, while smaller shops will often insist on cash or payment by ATM card.
Computer Games and Gaming Hardware- If you are interested in buying a new Playstation, Nindendo DS and the like, the Oriental Shopping Centre, 188 Wan Chai Road, is the place to go. Here you will definitely find a real bargain. Prices can be up to 50% cheaper than in your home country. Be careful to compare prices first. There are also a few game shops in the Wanchai Computer Centre. The back corners in the upper levels usually offer the best prices. You might even be lucky and find English speaking staff here. However, be careful to make sure that the region code of the hardware is compatible with your home country's region code (Hong Kong's region code is NTSC-J, different from mainland China) or buy region code free hardware (like the Nintendo DS lite).
Music and Film- HMV is a tourist-friendly store that sells a wide range of more expensive products. For real bargains you should find your way into the smaller shopping centres where you will find small independent retailers selling CDs and DVDs at very good prices. Some shops sell good quality second hand products. Try the Oriental Shopping Centre on Wanchai Road for a range of shops and a taste of shopping in a more down-market shopping centre. Alternatively, brave the warren of CD and DVD shops inside the Sino Centre on Nathan Road between Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei MTR stations. Hong Kong has two independent music stores. White Noise Records in Causeway Bay and Harbour Records in TST. Hong Kong's leading department store Lane Crawford has CD Bars in its IFC and Pacific Place stores and there's a good CD bar at Saffron Cafe on the Peak.
Camping and sports- A good place to buy sportswear is close to Mong Kok MTR station. Try Fa Yuen Street with a lot of shops selling sports shoes. There are also many shops hidden anywhere except the ground floor for selling camping equipment. Prices are usually highly competitive.
Fashion - Tsim Sha Tsui on Kowloon and Causeway Bay on the island are the most popular shopping destinations, though you can find malls all over the territory. In addition to all the major international brands, there are also several local Hong Kong brands such as Giordano, Bossini, G2000, Joyce and Shanghai Tang. The International Finance Centre in Central has a good selection of haute coutre labels for the filthy rich, while for cheap knock-offs, Temple Street in Mong Kok is the obvious destination, though prices are not as cheap as they used to be and these days, most locals head across the border to Shenzhen for cheaper bargains. There is also Citygate Outlets, an extremely large factory outlet mall containing most of the major foreign and local brands located near Tung Chung MTR station on Lantau Island. Tourist going to Ladies Market or any markets nearby please be aware that there is basically no price tag on the items shown in the market. Most of the time, the price the merchant will quote you is double the price. Haggle with them and ask to reduce the price at least by 50%. In fact similar clothing items (lower price but fixed) can be found in brick and mortar shops nearby too(e.g Sai Yeung Choi street)
Tea- Buying good chinese tea is like choosing a fine wine and there are many tea retailers that cater for the connoisseur who is prepared to pay high prices for some of China's best brews. To sample and learn about Chinese tea you might like to find the Tea Museum which is in Hong Kong Park in Central. Marks & Spencer caters for homesick Brits by supplying traditional strong English tea bags at a reasonable price.
Watches and jewellery- Hong Kong people are avid watch buyers - how else can you show your wealth if you can't own a car and your home is hidden at the top of a tower-block? You will find a wide range of jewellery and watches for sale in all major shopping areas. If you are targeting elegant looking jewellery or watches try Chow Tai Fook, which can be expensive. Prices vary and you should always shop around and try and bargain on prices. When you are in Tsim Sha Tsui you will probably be offered a "copy watch" for sale. The major luxury brands have their own shops that will insure you are purchasing genuine items.
- Shopping Malls are everywhere in Hong Kong. Locally renowned ones are
- IFC Mall - Located near the Star Ferry and Outlying Islands Ferry Piers in Central. Has many luxury brand shops, an expensive cinema and superb views across the harbour from the rooftop. Can be reached directly from the Airport via the Airport Express and the Tung Chung line.
- Pacific Place - Also a big shopping centre with mainly high-end brands, and has a wonderful cinema. Take the MTR to Admiralty.
- Festival Walk - A big shopping centre with a mix of expensive brands and smaller chains. There is also an ice skating rink there. Take the MTR East Rail to Kowloon Tong.
- Cityplaza - A similarly large shopping centre, also with an ice-skating rink. To get there, take the MTR to Taikoo on the Island Line.
- Landmark- Many the luxury brands have shops here Gucci, Dior, Fendi, Vuitton, etc. located at Central, Pedder Street. It used to be a magnet for the well-heeled but has since fallen behind in its management.
- APM - All new 24hr Shopping centre in Kwun Tong. Take the MTR to the Kwun Tong station.
- Harbour City [Huge Shopping centre in Tsim Sha Tsui on Canton Road, to get there take the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui, or take the Star Ferry.
- Langham Place - A huge 12 storey shopping mall adjacent to the the Langham Place Hotel in Mong Kok. Mainly contains trendy shops for youngsters. Take the MTR to the Mong Kong station and follow the appropriate exit directions.
- Elements - Located next to Kowloon Station. Just like the IFC Mall, there are many luxury brand shops, a cinema and an ice rink. The International Commerce Centre, the highest commercial building in Hong Kong starting from 2009, is right on top of this shopping mall.
- Times Square - A trendy multi storey Shopping Mall with some luxury brands, with food courts at the lower levels, and Gourmet Dining at the upper stories. Take MTR to Causeway Bay, and exit at "Times Square". Crowded on weekends. A popular meeting point for teenagers.
- Citygate Outlet - Located right next to Tung Chung MTR Station, the Citygate is a rare outlet mall with tonnes of mid-priced brands, some of them being Adidas, Esprit, Giordano, Levi's, Nike, Quiksilver and Timberland.
- Laforet, Island Beverly and Causeway Place. Best places to find cheap stylish clothes, Asian style. Mostly girls clothes, but also bags, shoes and accessories, highly recommended if you are looking for something different. Immensely popular with teenagers. These three shopping malls are all located near exit E, Causeway Bay MTR station.
- New Town Plaza, a 9 storey shopping mall covering 1,300,000 m² retail area in Shatin, New Territories. Diverse variety of shops, consisting of sports brands, luxury brand shops, cuisines from countries in different continents, sports, etc. can be found in the mall, which is estimated to be one of the malls with highest footfall. The mall is linked with a number of shopping centres nearby, including Phase 3 of New Town Plaza with a Japanese style Department store, YATA. 30 bus lanes are available for accessing the shopping mall. Taking the MTR East Rail to Shatin is another possible way.
Street markets are a phenomenon in Hong Kong, usually selling regular groceries, clothes, bags or some cheap electronic knockoffs.
- Ladies Market- don't be fooled by the name. It is for both sexes for finding cheap clothes, toys, knockoff and fake labels. Located in Mong Kok and accessible by MTR or bus.
- Temple Street - Sold items are the same as in the Ladies Market, but there are more street food vendors, a handful of fortune tellers and a few Chinese opera singers. Illustrated in hundreds of cantonese films, this street is seen as a must by most tourists.
- Flower Market - Prince Edward. Follow your nose to the sweet scents of a hundred different varieties of flowers.
- Goldfish Market- A whole street full of shops selling small fish in plastic bags and accessories Tung Choi Street, Mong Kok.
- Bird Market- MTR Station Prince Edward, exit "Mong Kok Police Station". Walk down Prince Edward Road West until you reach Yuen Po Street "Bird Garden".
- Apliu Street- MTR Station Shum Shui Po, this is the place where you can find cheap computer goods, peripherals and accessories. However, this is the worst place to buy a mobile phone, as they tend to be even more dodgy than small stores in Mongkok.
- Stanley Market- A place for tourists rather than locals, shops sell everything from luxury luggage items to cheap brand name clothes. Accessible with the number 40 minibus from Causeway Bay. Also, no.6 and 6A bus from Central, and no. 973 bus from Tsim Sha Tsui.
- Textiles - Sham Shui Po MTR exit. Several square blocks around Nam Cheong St. (between Cheung Sha Wan Rd. and Lai Chi Kok Rd.) hold dozens and dozens of wholesalers to the textile trade. Although they are looking for big factory contracts, most shops are friendly and will sell you "sample-size" quantities of cloth, leather, haberdashery, tools, machinery and anything else you can think of to feed your creative impulses. Ki Lung Street has an outdoor street market selling smaller quantities of factory surplus cloth and supplies at astoundingly low prices. Haggling is not necessary.
Discounts and haggling
Some stores in Hong Kong (even some chain stores) are willing to negotiate on price, particularly for goods such as consumer electronics, and in many small shops, they will give you a small discount or additional merchandise if you just ask. For internationally branded items whose prices can be easily found (i.e. consumer electronics), discounts of 50% are extremely unlikely. However, deep discounts are often possible on merchandise such as clothes. However, if there is a shop that is selling goods with a 50% discount, most local people will likely avoid buying there because it's too good to be true.
Electronics stores are often packed together in the same place, so it is often easy to spend a few minutes comparing prices, and to know the prevailing international prices. Start by asking for a 10 to 20% discount and see how they respond to you. Sometimes it maybe appropriate to ask "is there any discount?" or "do I get any free gift?". It is sometimes possible to get an additional discount if you pay cash because credit card companies charge 3% on your bill.
The reputation for being a shopping paradise is well deserved in Hong Kong and, added to which, it is also a safe place to shop. Overcharging is seen as an immoral business practice by most local people, and is unlikely to spoil your holiday. Plenty of hotlines are available for complaints.
In areas crowded with tourists, traps do exist. They are often nameless consumer electronics stores with attention grabbing neon signs advertising reputable brand names. Many traps can be spotted if they have numerous employees in a very small store space. Often, several of these stores can be found in a row, especially along Nathan Road, in Kowloon and in parts of Causeway Bay.
One trick is to offer you a low price on an item, take your money only to 'discover' that it is out of stock, and then offer you an inferior item instead. Another trick is to give you a great price on a camera, take your credit card, and before handing over the camera convince you to buy another "better one" at an inflated cost. They may also try to mislead you into buying an inferior product, by claiming that it is a quality product.
Watch out for persons (usually of Indian subcontinental descent) who approach tourists in the busier areas of Kowloon. They do spot Westerners from a great distance and will make a direct line toward you to sell you usually either a suit or watch ("Genuine Copy" is the a phrase often used). Learn to spot them from a distance (since they are already looking for you), make eye-contact, put up your hand and definitively shake your head. Good, strong body language in this regard will help you be approached far less.
Although the law is strictly enforced, tourists traps are usually designed by villains who are experts at exploiting gray areas in the law. Remember, no one can help you if unscrupulous shop owners haven't actually broken the law.
The official Hong Kong Tourism Board has also introduced the Quality Tourism Services (QTS) Scheme that keeps a list of reputable shops, restaurants and hotels. The shops registered usually cater only to tourists, while shops that offer you the best deals usually don't bother to join the programme.
Watch out for people (mostly all of Indian descent) around Nathan road asking you where you're going. Don't tell them which hostel or hotel you're searching for, otherwise they will offer to "take you there".
Many shops are reluctant to refund if you just don't like what you bought. They are more willing to exchange products that haven't been tampered with or replace defective goods. Going against the trend, Marks & Spencer and Giordano both offer refunds without too much fuss.
Supermarkets and Convenience Stores
Like many crowded urban areas where most people rely on public transport, many Hongkongers shop little and often, so therefore there is an abundance of convenience stores which can be found on almost every street corner and in most train stations. These include 7-Eleven, Circle K (known as 'OK' by the locals) and Vanguard. Convenience stores are more expensive but are normally open 24-7 and sell magazines, soft drinks, beer, instant noodles, packaged sandwiches, microwavable ready-meals, snacks, contraceptives and cigarettes. Many stores have an in-store microwave for preparing ready-meals as well as hot water for preparing instant noodles and instant tea/coffee, and also provide chopsticks for eating food on the go.
Park 'n' Shop and Wellcome are the two main supermarket chains in Hong Kong and they have branches in almost every neighbourhood, some of which open 24-7. In urban areas, some stores are located underground and tend to be very small and cramped, although they have a much wider product choice and are somewhat cheaper than the above convenience stores. City'super, Great and Taste are expensive upmarket supermarkets that focus on high-quality products that are aimed towards a more affluent market. Apita and JUSCO are large Japanese-style supermarkets with a wide product selection and food courts. The YATA department store in Shatin, also offers a Japanese-sytle supermarket experience.
Cuisine plays an important part in many peoples' lives in Hong Kong. Not only is it a showcase of Chinese cuisines with huge regional varieties, but there are also excellent Asian and Western choices. Although Western food is often adapted to local tastes, it is a good place for homesick travellers who have had enough of Chinese food. If you can afford it, you can also find some Western restaurants that are featured in the Michelin guide to Hong Kong.
Magazines for local gourmets are published every week and the Michelin Guide for Hong Kong has been published since 2008. According to Restaurant magazine in 2010, four of the best 100 restaurants in the world are in Hong Kong.
A long queue can be a local sport outside many good restaurants during peak hours. Normally, you need to register first, get a ticket and wait for empty seats. Reservations are usually only an option in upmarket restaurants.
Compare HK with SZ
While dining out, you may meet some local people who haven't cooked at home for a decade, eating in restaurants is not cheap by Asian standards, although it is still cheaper than Europe and North America.
To stuff your stomach in a grassroots Chaa Chan Teng (茶餐廳) (local tea restaurant), expect to pay $10-20 for milk, tea or coffee, $8-10 for a toast and $25-50 for a dish of rice with meats. Wonton noodles generally cost $20-30. You could find it even cheaper in many street stalls (although decreasing in numbers) but most of the people working there do not speak English (and also no English on the menu). However if you could manage to communicate with them, these street-style eating is an excellent way to experience local food.
There is always a McDonald's, of course, which sells a Happy Meal set for around $20-25. Most other major fast food eateries can also be found in Hong Kong with reasonable prices.
In midrange and upmarket restaurants, prices are hard to generalise. In a hotpot restaurant (Korean), $100-150 per head is common, and $200-400 per person is also expected for better choices of food. Sushi is popular with many locals and prices usually start at $100-200 in a self-service bar to several hundred dollars for a tiny portion of high quality food. You can usually tell how cheap (or expensive) it is from the decor of the restaurant (menus are not always displayed outside restaurants).
Western restaurants, especially in Soho in Central, where rental payments are skyrocketing, tend to be particularly expensive, and $300-$500 per head is common. Fine dining restaurants, usually located at five-star hotels, can cost $500-$1500 per person, more if you are a wine enthusiast. Wine choices in these places are on par with any 5-star hotel.
Chinese food is generally eaten with chopsticks, but don't expect restaurants serving western food to supply chopsticks; dinners will routinely use a knife fork and spoon. Do not stick your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice, as this is reminiscent of incense sticks burning at the temple and has connotations of wishing death on those around you. In addition, chopsticks should not be used to move bowls and plates or make any noise. Dishes in smaller eateries might not come with a serving spoon, although staff will usually provide one if you request.
A few Hong Kong customs to be aware of:
- To thank the person who pours your tea Cantonese style, tap two or three fingers on the table. The legend suggests a story involving a Chinese emperor travelling incognito and his loyal subjects wanting to kowtow (bow) to him without blowing their cover — hence the "finger kowtow".
- If you want more tea in the pot, leave the lid open, and it will be refilled.
- It is not unusual for customers to rinse their plates and utensils with hot tea before starting their meal, and a bowl is often provided for this very purpose.
- Except for very expensive places, there is no real dresscode in Hong Kong. You will often see people in suits and others in t-shirts in the same restaurant.
See also Chinese table manners for more details. While certain etiquette is different, Chinese manners for using chopsticks apply to Hong Kong too.
What to eat
Dim sum 點心
Dim sum (點心), literally means 'to touch (your) heart', is possibly the best known Cantonese dish. Served at breakfast and supper, these delicately prepared morsels of Cantonese cuisine are often served with Chinese tea.
Dim Sum comes in countless variations with a huge price range from $8 to more than $100 per order. Common items include steamed shrimp dumplings (蝦餃 har gau), pork dumplings (燒賣 siu mai), barbecued pork buns (叉燒包 char siu bau), and Hong Kong egg tarts (蛋撻 dan tat). Expect more choice in upmarket restaurants. One pot of tea with two dishes, called yak chung liang gin is a typical serving for breakfast.
Siu Mei 燒味
Siu mei is pork roasted over an open fire or a huge wood burning rotisserie oven. With the addition of a slightly crispy honey sauce layer, the final taste is of a unique, deep barbecue flavour. Rice with roasted pork (叉燒 char siu), roasted duck, pork with a crisp crackling, or Fragrant Queen's chicken (香妃雞), are common dishes that are enduring favourites for many, including local superstars.It is recommended to taste the roasted pork with rice in 'Sun-Can' of PolyU.
Cantonese congee (juk) is a thin porridge made with rice boiled in water. Served at breakfast, lunch or supper, the best version is as soft as 'floss', it takes up to 10 hours to cook the porridge to reach this quality. Congee is usually eaten with savoury Chinese doughnuts (油炸鬼 yau char kway) and steamed rice pastry (腸粉 cheong fun) which often has a meat or vegetable filling.
Hong Kong has several restaurant chains that specialise in congee, but none of them have earned the word-of-mouth respect from local gourmets. The best congee places are usually in older districts, often owned by elderly people who are patient enough to spend hours making the best floss congee.
When asked what food makes Hong Kong people feel home, wonton noodles (雲吞麵) is one of the favourite answers. Wonton are dumplings usually made from minced prawn but may contain small amounts of pork.
Rice pastry is also a popular dish from southern China. Found particularly in Teochew and Hokkien areas in China, its popularity is widespread throughout east Asia. In Hong Kong, it is usually served in soup with beef and fish balls and sometimes with deep-fried crispy fish skins.
Tong Sui 糖水
A popular Cantonese dessert is a sweet soup called tong sui (糖水, literal: sugar water). Popular versions are usually made with black sesame paste(芝麻糊), walnuts (核桃糊) or sago (西米露) which are usually sticky in texture. Other traditional ones include red bean paste(紅豆沙), green bean paste(綠豆沙) and tofu pudding(豆腐花). Lo ye (撈野) is a similar dish. Juice is put into a ultra-cold pan to make an ice paste, it is usually served with fresh fruit and sago.
Tea time 下午茶
Showing signs of British colonial influence, tea time (Ha ng cha) plays an important role in Hong Kong's stressful office life. Usually starting at 2pm to 3pm, a typical tea set goes with a cup of 'silk-stocking' tea, egg tarts and sandwiches with either minced beef, egg or ham, but without vegetables and cheese.
Similar to Malaysian 'teh tarik', Hong Kong's variation shares a similar taste. The key difference is that a sackcloth bag is used to filter the tea leaves and the tea-dyed sackcloth resembles silk stockings, giving the name 'silk-stocking milk tea'. Milk tea, to some Hong Kong people, is an important indicator on the quality of a restaurant. If a restaurant fails to serve reasonably good milk tea, locals might be very harsh with their criticism. Mandarin duck (Yuanyang) is also a popular drink mixed with milk tea and coffee.
A signal to tell you teatime has come is a small queue lining up in bakery to buy egg tarts (a teatime snack with outer pastry crust and filled with egg custard). Don't attempt to make a fool of yourself by telling people that the egg tart was brought to Hong Kong by the British - many locals are assertive in claiming sovereignty over their egg tarts. When a long-established egg tart shop in Central was closed due to skyrocketing rental payments, it became the SAR's main news and many people came to help the owners look for a new place.
Street food is thriving in this territory. Local specialities include curry fish meat balls (咖喱魚蛋), fake shark fin soup (碗仔翅) made with beans and vermicelli noodles, egg waffle (雞蛋仔) and fried three filled treasures (煎釀三寶, vegetable filled with fish meat).
Seafood is very popular and is widely available. The best places to eat seafood include Sai Kung, Sam Shing, Po Doi O and Lau Fau Shan in the New Territories and Hong Kong's islands, particularly Lamma and Cheung Chau, are abound with seafood restaurants. Seafood is not cheap. Prices range from $200 per head for a very basic dinner, to $300-500 for better choices and much more for the best on offer.
Expect to find a mismatch between the high prices for the food and the quality of the restaurant. Sometimes the best food is served in the most basic eateries where tables maybe covered in cheap plastic covers rather than a more formal tablecloth. Often, Cantonese people value the food more than the decor. If one of your travelling companions does not like seafood, don't panic, many seafood restaurants have extensive menus that cater for all tastes. A number of seafood restaurants specialise in high quality roast chicken that is especially flavoursome. Many exotic delicacies like abalone, conch and bamboo clam can be found for sale in many seafood restaurants but you might want to avoid endangered species such as shark and juvenile fish.
While Hong Kong has long banned dog and cat meat and has strict rules on importing many meats of wild life animals, snake meat is commonly seen in winter in different restaurants that bear the name "Snake King". Served in a sticky soup, it is believed to warm your body.
There's an ongoing debate over the consumption of shark fin in Hong Kong, which is the biggest importer of this exotic cuisine. Commonly served at wedding parties and other important dining events, shark fin is served in a carefully prepared stew usually at $80 per bowl to $1000. The consumption of shark fin is a controversial topic and the Hong Kong WWF is campaigning against consumption of this endangered species.
Besides exotic meats, you will also see chicken feet, pig's noses and ears, lungs, stomachs, duck's heads, various types of intestines, livers, kidneys, black pudding (blood jelly) and duck's tongues on the Chinese dinning tables.
Where to eat
While dining out, it is easy to find places selling mains for well under $80, offering both local and international food. Local fast food chains such as Café de Coral and Maxim's MX offer meals in the vicinity of $30, with standardised English menus for easy ordering. Mid-range restaurants generally charge in excess of $100 for mains. Whilst at the top end, restaurants, such as Felix or Aqua, can easily see you leave with a bill in excess of $1500 (including entrées (appetizers), mains, desserts and drinks).
A uniquely Hong Kong-style eatery starting to make waves elsewhere in Asia is the cha chaan teng (茶餐廳), literally "tea cafe", but offering fusion fast food that happily mixes Western and Eastern fare: innovations include noodles with Spam, stir-fried spaghetti and baked rice with cheese. Usually a wide selection of drinks is also available, almost always including the popular tea-and-coffee mix yuenyeung (鴛鴦), and perhaps more oddities (to the Western palate) like boiled Coke with ginger or iced coffee with lemon. Orders are usually recorded on a chit at your table and you pay at the cashier as you leave.
Hong Kong also has a staggering range of international restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world. These can often be found in, though not restricted to, entertainment districts such as Lan Kwai Fong, Soho or Knutsford Terrace. Of these, Soho is probably the best for eating as Lan Kwai Fong is primarily concerned with bars and clubs and on Friday and Saturday nights especially can become crowded with revellers. Top chefs are often invited or try to make their way to work in Hong Kong.
Barbecue (BBQ) meals are a popular local pastime. Many areas feature free public barbecue pits where everybody roasts their own food, usually with long barbeque forks. It's not just sausages and burgers - the locals enjoy cooking a variety of things at BBQ parties, such as fish, beef meatballs, pork meatballs, chicken wings, and so on. A good spot is the Southern Hong Kong Island, where almost every beach is equipped with many free BBQ spots. Just stop by a supermarket and buy food, drinks and BBQ equipment. The best spots are Shek O (under the trees at the left hand side of the beach) and Big Wave Bay.
Wet markets are still prevalent. Freshness is a key ingredient to all Chinese food, so frozen meat and vegetables are frowned upon, and most markets display freshly butchered beef and pork (with entrails), live fish in markets, and more exotic shellfish, frogs, turtles and snails. Local people often go to the market everyday to buy fresh ingredients, just like the restaurants.
Cooked food centres are often found in the same building as some of the indoor wet markets. Tables that were once located on the street have been swept into sterile concrete buildings. Inside, the atmosphere is like a food court without the frills. Cooked food centres provide economic solutions to diners, but you might need to take along a Cantonese speaker, or be brave.
Supermarkets include Wellcome, Park N Shop, and CRC Shop. Speciality supermarkets catering to Western and Japanese tastes include City Super and Great. 24 hour convenience stores 7-Eleven and Circle K can be found almost anywhere in urban areas
Rents in Hong Kong are very high due to the restricted living space. Therefore, rooms are either very expensive or just expensive but very small.
There are a lot of hostels in Hong Kong. Most of them are no more than some joining appartments, each divided in several rooms. So if you are on a low budget, prepare yourself to spend most of your time outside of your hostel.
|Pandora after 80s
||9A,No.275 Gloucester Rd(actually on Cannon Str. next to Royal's Pub), Hoi To Bld., Causeway Bay
|New Peking Guest House
||A1 12/F Block A Chung King Mansion Yau Tsim Mong District (Tsim Sha Tsui)
|Kyoto Guest House
||Block A, 15th Floor, A3 & A8, Chung King Mansion 36 - 44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
|Golden Maple Leaf Hostel
||E Block 12/FLOOR E1 Flat Chung King Mansion 36-44 Nathan Road. TsimShaTsui
|Check Inn HK
||3/F, Kwong Wah Mansion 269-273 Hennessy Road,Wan Chai
|Guangdong Guest House
||B2, 5/F Block B, Chungking Mansion, 36-44 Nathan R
|Park Guest House
||A1 15/Floor A Block Chung King Mansion 36-44 NATHAN Road
|Lee Garden Guest House
||Block A, 8/F, 34-36 Cameron Road, Tsimshatsui, Kowloon
|Maple Leaf Guesthouse
||E4, Block E, 12nd Floor, Chung King Mansions
|Harbour Guest House
||B8, 4/F, Block B, Chung King Mansion, 36-44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Shui
||Room 809 & 1304 , 8/F, Sincere House 83 Argyle St. Mong Kok
|Ah Shan Hostel Hong Kong
||Room 1406, 14th floor, Sincere house, 83 Argyle St Hong Kong
|Dragon Hostel Hong Kong
||Rm 707, Sincere House. 83 Argyle Street. Mong Kok
||3 Tsuen Wah Street Tsuen Wan, Kowloon
||Flat B, 5/F, Front Block, 294 King's Road Fortress Hill
|Canadian Hostel Hong Kong
||Block E, Flat E/6, 7th Floor, Chung King Mansions, Tsim Tsa Tsui, Hong Kong
||A Blk. Flr. 13, A4 Chung King Mansion 36 - 44 Nat,Tsimshatsui
|Comfort Hostel HK
||A1, 9/F, 47 Paterson Street Causeway Bay
|Geo-Home Holiday Hostel
||Flat C& D, 9/F., Kingland Apartment 737 Nathan Road, Kowloon
|Las Vegas Guesthouse
||Flat C4, Floor 15,Block C, Chung King Mansion, 36- Tsim Sha Tsum
||Youth Square 238 Chai Wan Road, Chai Wan
||4/F, Yesinn House, 10 Anchor Street TaiKokTsui, Kowloon
||Block D, Flat D1, 8th Floor, Chung King Mansion 40 Nathan Road. Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
||B3, 10/fl., Block B, Chungking Mansions Tsim Sha Tsui, 36-44 Nathan Road, Kowloon
|Cosmic Guest House
||12/F Block A1, A2, F1,F4 Mirador Mansion 54-64 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
As with the rest of China, tea is a popular beverage in Hong Kong, and is served at practically every eatery. Chinese teas are the most commonly served, though many places also serve Western-style milk tea.
Some Chinese people do drink a lot but don't expect the binge-drinking culture found in some western countries. There are many neighbourhoods in Hong Kong without much in the way of a bar or pub. Drinking alcohol with food is acceptable, but there is no expectation to order alcohol with your meal in any restaurant. A number of popular eateries do not sell alcohol because of a license restriction.
Lan Kwai Fong (Central), Wanchai and Knutsford Terrace (Kowloon) are the three main drinking areas where locals, expats and tourists mingle together. Here you will certainly find a party atmosphere, but don't expect the drunken brawls and rowdiness that you might be used to back home. If you come to Hong Kong, and get drunk, you will certainly risk drawing considerable attention to yourself if you cannot hold your drink.
The minimum age for drinking in a bar is 18 years. There is usually a requirement for young adults to prove their age, especially when going to a nightclub. The accepted ID in clubs is either your passport or a Hong Kong ID card. Photocopies are rarely accepted due to minors using fake documents.
Some clubs in Lan Kwai Fong has imposed a dress code on customers and tourists are of no exception. As a general rule, shorts or pants that are above knee length should be avoided.
Drinking out in Hong Kong can be expensive. Beer usually starts from HK$50 for a pint and more in a bar popular among expats. However, away from the tourist trail, some Chinese restaurants may have a beer promotion aimed at meeting the needs of groups of diners. In cooked food centres, usually found at the wet markets, young women are often employed to promote a particular brand of beer. Convenience stores such as Circle-K, and supermarkets all sell a reasonable range of drinks. In Lan Kwai Fong, the 7-Eleven there is a very popular 'bar' for party-animals on a budget.
During Wednesdays and Thursdays Ladies night applies in some bars in Wan Chai and Lan Kwai Fong, which in most cases means that women can enter bars and clubs for free, and in some rare cases also get their drinks paid for the night. At weekends, several bars and clubs in these areas also have an 'open bar' for some of the night, which means you can drink as much as you like.
San Miguel (Cantonese name: Seng Lik), Tsing Tao (Ching Dou), Carlsberg (Ga Si Bak), Blue Girl(Lam Mui), Heineken(Hei Lik) and Sol are popular in the town. There is no longer any tax on wine or beer in Hong Kong.
Check the district pages of this travel guide for recommended bars
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Hong Kong. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Hong Kong) where that disease is widely prevalent.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Hong Kong. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Only in rare cases is vaccination against Japanese Encephalitis recommended. Malaria does not occurs in Hong Kong, but dengue sometimes does. Just use mosquito repellant and wear long sleeves if you can when it is dark.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
Tip for free internet access: coffee shops. Most coffee shops have free internet access, wireless or on the present machines.
Internet cafes used to charge from $20-30 per hour but most of those Internet cafes have been terminated since and when almost everyone started to connect to internet at home, work and on their mobile phones as the Internet has become widely available.
3G-enabled phone users can also go for a temporary 3G plan from the different operators. Some of the operators, such as One2Free, usually offer an unlimited 3G access for week for $78. Getting a sim card is straightforward and hassle free and everything you need to do is go to a mobile phone shop, pay your money and get a card. As a result, no registration is needed.
To get access to commercial WIFI hotspots, mainly provided by PCCW' and Y5ZONE, for $70 you will get one week of unlimited usage (Nov 2011). Those companies also have daily, weekly and monthly plan ($158 and $98 per month for PCCW and Y5ZONE, respectively). In some restaurants such as McDonald's, you also usually have 20 minutes of free WIFI access provided by Y5ZONE.
Most of the hotels, even down market ones, provide Wi-Fi access to their guests.
Free internet terminals are usually widely available in some Starbucks, Pacific Coffee Company and some of the shopping malls, but also the airport or the MTR (for example Wan Chai station, Central Station, Tsim Sha Shui Station). Furthermore, the government offers a big network of free WIFI hot spots in most government premises and also in the public libraries
Hong Kong is relatively safe compared to many other cities in the world.
With an effective police and legal system, Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world. However, pickpockets are not uncommon in Hong Kong, especially in crowded areas. Needless to say, common sense should be used as you do in other parts of the world. Although local people feel safe to carry a knapsack with a wallet inside, one should be wary in crowded areas where pickpockets are likely to strike, particularly at the main tourist attractions. Do not wave your wallet in public, show the cash inside, or letting people know where you keep your wallet.
Although Hong Kong Island, parts of the New Territories and the Outlying Islands, including Lantau Island, are the more relatively safer parts of Hong Kong, exercise caution when travelling to Kowloon. Even tourist attractions, such as Sham Shui Po and Mong Kok have had bad reputation for crime by Hong Kong standards. As they are relatively poorer areas, alike other parts of Kowloon, there is a higher crime rate, involving pickpockets, and infamously acid spills in Mong Kok. When travelling away from Hong Kong Island, avoid revealing items that would identify you as a tourist frequently, such as cameras, backpacks, electronics, flashy clothing, and avoid carrying large amounts of money.
Hong Kong films have often portrayed triads (三合會) as gun wielding gangsters who fear nobody, but that only happens in the movies. Even in their heyday, triads tended to engage only in prostitution (which is legal itself, but organised prostitution, i.e. pimping or brothels, are not), counterfeiting or loan-sharking and lived underground lives, and rarely targeted the average person on the street. Just stay away from the triads by avoiding loan sharks and illegal betting.
Call 999 when you urgently need help from the Police, Fire and Ambulance services. Hong Kong has a strict service control system, so once you call 999, the police should show up within 10 minutes in most cases, usually less. For non-emergency police assistance, call 2527-7177.
These have become increasing common, that some random strangers or shop keepers offer "discounts" on their products. The key to avoid tourist traps is "if it sounds too good to be true, it is".
Most travellers who have got into trouble with the law are involved with illicit drugs. Drugs such as ecstasy (MDMA) and marijuana are subject to tight control and tourists risk immediate arrest if they are found in possession of even small amounts of banned substances. Most Hongkongers tend to have strong negative views against narcotics, including 'soft' drugs such as marijuana.
Under Hong Kong law, local residents are required to carry Identity Cards with them at all times, and the police frequently carry out spot checks when they have "reasonable grounds for suspicion". Tourists are advised by the government to carry their passports but unless you think you are highly likely to be stopped by the police there is no great need; most visitors choose to keep their passport in a safe place. People will not target you because you are dressed well. People in Hong Kong often dress up. Caucasians are rarely targeted by policemen for ID checks. South Asians, especially Pakistanis and Nepalis often get targeted by policemen. As long as you dress well (this does not mean formally), you are unlikely to be targeted
You are expected to cooperate with the police during their investigations, and understand that they may search your pockets and bags. By the law, you can reject a request to search your bags and body in public. You also have the right to refuse to answer any questions, to contact your embassy and to apply for legal assistance. The police are obligated to comply with your request but they may detain you for up to 48 hours.
Discrimination is known to happen. People with a good educational background and reputable jobs are usually better treated by the police, while young people, those from developing countries and western countries with loose regulations on drugs may experience more frequent checks. The police and the government are exempt from the Race Discrimination Ordinance. However, there is a law to ban any form of police brutality, including verbal attacks and any use of foul language. Call 2866-7700 for the official Independent Police Complaints Council and report the officer's badge number displayed on his/her shoulder. The complaint will be taken seriously.
Traffic rules are seriously enforced in Hong Kong where penalties can be stringent, and road conditions are excellent, although road courtesy remains to have a room to improve. However, the driving speed can be so fast to claim more death toll when accidents happen.
Signage on the roads in Hong Kong is similar to British usage. Zebra lines (zebra crossings) indicate crossing areas for pedestrians and traffic comes from the right. To stay safe, visit the Transport Department's website for complete details.
Crossing the road by foot should also be exercised with great care. Traffic in Hong Kong generally moves fast once the signal turns green. To help both the visually impaired and even people who are not, an audible aid is played at every intersection. Rapid bells indicate "Walk"; intermittent bells (10 sets of 3 bells) indicate "Do Not Start to Cross"; and slow bells indicate "Do Not Walk".
Jay-walking' is an offence and police officers may be out patrolling accident black-spots. It's is not uncommon to see local people waiting to cross an empty road - when this happens, you should also wait because it maybe that they have noticed that the police are patrolling the crossing.
Hong Kong is ranked as the world's 13th "cleanest" region in the Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International which aims to put an end to corruption, outpacing the U.S and most European countries such as Germany and France.
In Hong Kong, corruption is a serious offence. Unlike mainland China, money given for unfair competition is regarded as corruption, regardless of who the recipients are. Trying to offer a bribe to civil servants will almost certainly result in arrest and a prison sentence.
The territory has a powerful anti-corruption police force: the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), which has been taken as a role model by Interpol and the United Nations. A number of countries, such as Australia have adopted the Hong Kong system to combat corruption.
Although Hong Kong usually at least one protest per year, particularly in late June/July in urban parts of Hong Kong Island, namely Central, Wan Chai or Causeway Bay, they usually do not have impact on the average traveller to Hong Kong. By using common sense, stay away from large crowds of protesters and policemen, as the demonstrations may have tendency to turn violent.
Several hikers have lost their lives in the wilderness in the past decade. Hikers should equip themselves with detailed hiking maps, compass, mobile phones, snacks and adequate amounts of drinking water. Most areas of the countryside are covered by a mobile phone network but in some places you will only be able to pickup a mobile phone signal from mainland China. In this case, it is not possible to dial 999 for emergency assistance. A number of emergency telephones have been placed in Country Parks, their locations are clearly marked on all hiking maps.
Heat stroke is a major problem for hikers who lack experience of walking in a warm climate. If you plan to walk a dog during the hot summer months, remember that dogs are more vulnerable to heat stroke than humans and owners should ensure their pets get adequate rest and water.
The cooler hiking and camping season in October to February is also the time of the year when hill fires likely strike. At the entrances to country parks you will likely observe signs warning you of the current fire risk. With an average of 365 hill fires a year, you should take the risk of fire seriously and dispose of cigarettes and matches appropriately. According to some hikers' accounts, in places where fires and camping is not allowed, the Staff of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) will most likely fine an offender.
While it's generally very safe to hike, the countryside can provide shelter to illegal immigrants and a few cases of robbery have been known. However, the police do patrol hiking routes and most major paths do offer the security of fellow hikers.
Natural disasters are not usually a major issue in Hong Kong. There are no nearby fault lines, so earthquakes are rare and relatively mild when they do happen. The main hazards that Hong Kong faces are typhoons and floods.
Typhoons normally occur during the months of May to November, and are particularly prevalent during September. Whenever a typhoon approaches within 800km of Hong Kong, typhoon warning signal 1 is issued. Signal 3 is issued as the storm approaches. When winds reach speeds of 63-117 km/hour, signal 8 is issued. At this point, most nonessential activities shut down, including shops, restaurants and the transport system, offices and schools. Ferry services will be suspended, so visitors should return to their accommodation as soon as possible if they are dependent on these boat services to reach a place of safety. Signal 9 and 10 will be issued depending on the proximity and intensity of the storm. Winds may gust at speeds exceeding 220 km/hour causing masonry and other heavy objects to fall to the ground. During a typhoon, visitors should heed all warnings very seriously and stay indoors until the storm has passed. Remember that if the eye of the storm passes directly over there will be a temporary period of calm followed by a sudden resumption of strong winds from a different direction.
Some taxis are available during signal 8 or above, but they are under no obligation to serve passengers as their insurance is no longer effective under such circumstances. Taxi passengers are expected to pay up to 100% more when a typhoon strikes.
Rainstorms also have their own warning system. In increasing order of severity, the levels are amber, red and black. A red or black rainstorm is a serious event and visitors should take refuge inside buildings. A heavy rainstorm can turn a street into a river and cause serious landslides.
The Hong Kong Observatory is the best place to get detailed weather information when in Hong Kong. In summer a convectional rainstorm may affect only a small area and give you the false impression that all areas are wet.
Hong Kong has significant cultural differences from mainland China due to its evasion of communist ideologies during the colonial age. After it was handed back to China in 1997, the city has kept their independent and reputable legal system, effective anti-corruption measures, free press that cover a sensitive topic such as Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. They speak a different language (Cantonese vs. Mandarin), write with different Chinese characters (traditional vs. simplified), read significantly different newspapers, and even have their own border and currency.
You will quickly annoy locals if you suggest that Hong Kongers are subjected to propaganda in the same way as people who live in Mainland China. A question such as "Can you use Facebook in Hong Kong?" will also make you sound ignorant and silly.
In general, during a conversation, it is best to avoid subjects of politics. If you are asked your opinion, best to be neutral about it.
The Sino-Hong Kong relationship, as always, is a contentious topic. Hong Kong people seldom deny their Chinese roots and they do share pride in being Chinese; any racist remarks against Chinese people will certainly offend Hong Kong people. Meanwhile, you will hear the phrase "Mainland China" (Daai luk) or "Interior Land" (Noi dei) a lot from Hong Kong people, who seek to distinguish themselves, both culturally and politically, from other Chinese.
In Hong Kong, freedom of speech and the press are protected in law. Hong Kong people are free to criticize their government. Websites are not blocked. Hong Kong bookshops house vividly colorful collection of books about the communist regime and many sensitive political issues. Media, despite the growing concern about self-censorship, are diversified to deliver different voices.
Although freedom is secured, Hong Kong people are particularly sensitive about any changes that may affect the freedom they have enjoyed. Once regarded as apolitical and pragmatic, Hong Kong people are also more active in discussing politics, especially the introduction of universal suffrage for electing the Chief Executive.
Major political rallies take place every year on 4th June commemorating the bloodshed at Tiananmen Square in 1989. The 1st July commemorates the SAR's reunification with China, but after more than 500,000 people took to the streets demanding universal suffrage in 2003, this public holiday has become a symbolic day of protest every year.
Politics is split between pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps. While many desire universal suffrage, a right that Beijing has thus far refused to grant, many also try not to offend the mainland as Hong Kong's prosperity is thought to depend on further economic integration with China. The shape differences can also be observed on many topics such as the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, independence of Tibet and Taiwan, democracy in China. In Hong Kong where information is freely circulated and people are well read, political opinions are extremely diversified. After all, the city has been served as an information hub for China (and Taiwan before the 1990s) to competitively circulate both propaganda and "dissident views". In Hong Kong, discussing politics may lead you into a debate, but not any trouble.
Unlike Taiwan, the independence movement has never been widely discussed before and after 1997 and it has hardly gained any public support. Hong Kong people, despite apparently sounding "dissident" and "unchinese" on many topics, hardly deny that they are ethnically Chinese who share the same affections and sentiments with other Chinese people.
Manners and Etiquette
Hong Kong is a fast-paced society where the phrase "m goi" (唔該, "m" sounds like "hmm"), which literally means "I should not (bother you)", is used pervasively in a situation that you would say "Excuse me" or "Thank you".
The "M goi" (I should not) mentality extends to a way that they don't want to bother anyone as long as possible. When you get a cough, always cover your mouth with the inner side of your elbow, as that area of your arm does not frequently come in contact with other people, thus avoiding the spread of pathogens. When having a fever, wear a mask. Spitting and littering, an offence subject to a penalty of $1,500, is considered rude because it disturbs others. Hong Kong is noisy due to their huge population density but adding more noises, which will certainly disturb others too, are not welcome. Speaking vociferously over the phone on the bus, for example, will be viewed as egocentric and boorish.
Queue jumping is a taboo and you may be denied service if you do so, because everyone wants to go orderly and speedily on their way with the least disturbances. When smoking in front of a non-smoker, always ask for a permission because they may think you are trying to seriously disturb their health. Many smokers will just walk away to smoke, even in a place where smoking is legally allowed.
While Hong Kong has a generally good reputation when it comes to customer service, it is considered strange to strike up pleasantries with a stranger unless they are pregnant, disabled or senior citizens who are obviously in need. Saying "good morning" to a person you don't know at a bus stop will probably be viewed with suspicion. It is unusual for people to hold doors for strangers and supermarket staff or bank cashier seldom ask about your day. Staff in shops and restaurants might not even say "thank you" when you pay.
Superstition is the Hong Kong psyche and it can be observed everywhere. Many buildings are influenced by the Fengshui principles which refer to a decoration style that blend the Five Elements (Gold, Lumber, Water, Fire, Earth) together, which will turn out to bring you luck, fortune, better health, good examination results, good relationships, and even a baby boy, according to their believers.
Many buildings come without 14th and 24th floors, which phonetically means "you must die" and "you die easily". They love the number 18 (you will get rich), 369 (liveliness, longevity, lasting), 28 (easy to get rich), 168 (get rich forever).
Hong Kong people love to tease at their superstition thoughts but they don't mean to ignore it. When visiting your friend in Hong Kong, never give them a clock as a gift because "giving a clock" phonetically means "attending one's funeral". No pears will be served in a wedding party because "sharing a pear" sounds like "separation". Some people refuse to open an umbrella indoor because a ghost spirit, who is thought to fear sunshine, will hide themselves into it. Breaking a mirror will bring you 7 unlucky years.
When you give or receive a business card, always do it with both hands and with a slight dip of your head or you will be seen either disrespectful and ignorant, even if you are a foreigner. Welcoming someone should also be done with a slight dip of the head and with a customary firm handshake, but there is no need to bow.
You will find that the cashier may hand receipts or change with both hands too. This is considered a gesture of respect. Because you're the patron, it is up to you to do the same or not when handing cash to the cashier.
When the thermometer hits 30 degrees, expect to see many local people wearing warm clothing - this is to protect against the harsh air-conditioning often found on public transport and in places likes cinemas.
Hong Kong women are known for their fairly conservative dress code, although wearing halter-necks and sleeveless tops are not uncommon and acceptable. Public nudity is prohibited. Being completely naked on the beach is also prohibited.
The dress code for men, especially tourists, is less conservative than it might have been. Even in 5-star hotels, smart casual is usually acceptable; although you might want to make your own enquiries in advance before dining in those places. Tourists from colder climates sometimes assume that wearing shorts in the tropics is a sensible idea, but hairy knees can look out of place in urban Hong Kong.
Gay and Lesbian Hong Kong
Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1991. The age of consent between two males is 16 according to the ruling by the Hong Kong Court of Appeal in 2006, while there is no law concerning that between two females. Same sex marriages are not recognised and there is no anti-discrimination legislation on the grounds of sexuality. The display of public affection, while not common, is generally tolerated, but it will almost certainly attract curious stares. Gay bashing is unheard of, although an effeminate boy could be a target for school bullying.
Hong Kong people generally respect personal freedom on sexuality. The prominent celebrity film star, Leslie Cheung, openly admitted that he was bisexual but his work and his personality has still been widely respected. His suicide in 2003 shocked many, and his fans, mainly female, showed considerable support for his partner.
However, while gay pride parades have recently been held in Hong Kong, there is no obvious gay community in daily life, and same-sex marriages are not legally recognised. Coming out to strangers or in the office is still regarded as peculiar and most tend to remain silent on this topic.
Gay bars and clubs are concentrated in Central, Sheung Wan, Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui (TST). The quality of these venues varies considerably and will perhaps disappoint those expecting something similar to London, Paris or New York. Dim Sum magazinehttp://www.dimsum-hk.com, available for free in most cafes, eateries, bars and clubs, is Hong Kong's bilingual GLBT magazine which gives a pretty good idea about gay and lesbian parties and events happening in Hong Kong. There's also a gay and lesbian section in HK Magazine http://hk-magazine.com/(free, only in English) and TimeOut Hong Kong. http://www.timeout.com.hk
The Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival http://www.hklgff.hk is one of the longest running GLBT events in Hong Kong, and indeed in Asia. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2009, it brings to Hong Kong various international and regional GLBT films. The festival is usually held in November. Hong Kong also held its second Gay Pride http://www.hkpride.net ever on 1 Nov 2009, attracting over 1,800 people, gay and straight, to the even