Hong Kong - A LL Guide
For this posting, I really hope others chime in as I've seen a few questions here and there.
Hong Kong is one of the most accessible and English speaking of the cities in Asia. It's incredibly modern and for the most part clean. Here are a few personal observations for those considering travel:
1. Do I need to speak Chinese?
The simple answer is no. The official language is now Mandarin, however, the main language in Hong Kong is Cantonese. That said, when it was a British colony few of the ex-pats actually took the time to learn how to speak either. However, some cab drivers will pretend not to speak English. See getting around for more detail on that one.
2. Getting Around
The subway could not be easier. The bullet train from the airport is definitely the best way to go, unless you absolutely prefer having a car pick you up from the airport. The bullet train can get you to Kowloon in about 1/2 hour and Central a few moments there after. That is where most people will stay. There are buses to pick you up and take you to most of the major hotels. Otherwise, cabs are available to take you where you need to go once off the airport train. Taxis are fairly cheap, but try to avoid taking them during rush hour. For those that do not speak a dialect of Chinese, it is highly recommended to have someone write the address in Chinese for you to give to the Cab driver. All of them actually speak multiple dialects of Chinese and English. However, whether they choose to acknowledge this is another story. The number 1 reason they would not acknowledge is if you are going somewhere highly inconvenient. For example, if you need them to take you from Hong Kong Island side to Kowloon side. That will usually do it for a lot of them. The vans are bit less straight forward, but will take you up to midlevels. They are very fast and a little scary for people not accostum to non-seat belt vehicles traveling at bullet speed up steep inclines. The Star Fairy is an Incredibly convenient way to get from Central to Kowloon quickly. It's quite a beautiful at night as well.
3. Where to Stay
Highly biased by my youthful memories, I am a huge fan of the Island Shangri-la Hotel (Hong Kong Island Side) because if size of rooms, decor and service. It's in Admiralty attached to the Pacific Place Mall. This is highly convenient as you can find convenience stores and ATMs downstairs. You also are attached to the indoor walkways and can easily access the subway by walking through the mall. The hotel is gorgeous with a very large painting by I M Pei which goes from the top floor down to the bottom floor of rooms. You can take one of the glass elevators all the way down to view the entire painting. Otherwise, people like the newly renovated Mandarin Oriental, which has an adorable cigar bar downstairs, that has all the major fine cigar brands you'd want. From there, there are too many fine hotels to name. I've stayed at the Conrad which is in the same mall in Admiralty and can say that the staff really went out of their way to be helpful. If you must stay on the Kowloon side, I suggest the Pennisula.
HK is full of great places to eat in a variety of price ranges. I will only really suggest a couple. Aqua in TsimShaSui has THE best view of the harbor. You should call in advance and make a reservation for that view though. Food is pretty great as well. Also try China Club in Central in the old bank of China Building. Afternoon tea at the Pennisula is a wonderful tradition for most people. They have done a lovely job there for decades. HK is known for taking food from all other China and making it "Hong Kong-nese".
I'm more than sure you can go to any guide book and get the tips on the major tourist sites. However, no one really goes to HK for any other reason than to shop. It is the local past time of the region. And everything is available if you ask, so it's hard to keep it to a few highlights. This article does a decent job:
For local designers I would go to the Island Beverley (tel: 2890-6823) Causeway Bay near Sogo. It is a 4 floor mall with hundreds of small booths. Make sure to bring Cash.
I would also recommend for costume jewelry going to Sheung Wan (1st stop on red line). You may need to ask for specific street addresses from your concierge. This is where all silver and costume jewelry is centralized for mass purchase. You can get some pretty crazy intricate pieces at below wholesale.
6. Macau - Yes you should go. It is a day trip and you can be there in an hour by taking the catamaran. Make sure to have Macanese food. It is my favorite food and nearly impossible to find outside of Macau.
7. Wong Dai Sin Temple Is actually a pretty amazing temple. Be careful of pick pocketers there, particularly if you are going during the holidays. You can get your fortune read at the temple.
Message Edited by maylinglai1 on 10-31-2007 03:54 PM