Hong Kong was just a “barren rock” housing, a collection of fishing villages when claimed by Britain in 1842 following the 1st Opium War with China.
It returned to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997, and is now a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China operating under the “one country, two systems” principle.
It is divided into four main areas – Kowloon, the Hong Kong Island, the New Territories and the Outlying Islands.
By Air: Via Cebu Pacific (visit http://www.cebupacificair.com), Philippine Air Lines, Cathay Pacific, etc. Air travelers will be treated to Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong’s giant greenhouse of an airport; it’s one of the world’s ritziest.
By land, the only way into Hong Kong is from mainland China: you can choose between bus and train.
Water is perhaps the most picturesque way to arrive in Hong Kong; there are boats that take you between Hong Kong and destinations in Guangdong Province and Macau.
Where to Stay:
The possibilities are endless from the 5 star hotels to hostels. I can only vouch for the following hotels where I have stayed:
1. Omni The Hong Kong Hotel
It is located at Tsim Sha Tsui. It is an ideal place for designer Hong Kong shopping. It is near the Star Ferry.
2. “The Salisbury” YMCA of Hong Kong
It is situated at the tip of Kowloon Peninsula with magnificent views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island. The Hotel is located in the centre of business, shopping and entertainment district of Tsim Sha Tsui, and is adjacent to Cultural Centre, Space Museum, Museum of Art, Historic Clock Tower, Waterfront Promenade and Avenue of Star.
3. Grand Palace Hotel
It is situated in Yaumatei, which is one of the most colorful and vibrant areas in Kowloon side of Hong Kong. Yaumatei is a famous shopping and entertainment district, where many famous cultural scenic spots nearby such as Temple Street and Jade Market, etc.
The Hotel is easily access the Hong Kong International Airport, Macau or Mainland. Also the Hotel just takes few minutes walk to the MTR subway system as well as KCR which connects to China.
Places to Visit:
Disneyland – celebrate the spirit of fantasy as you immerse yourself in classic Disney attractions and the magic of 4 themed lands.
Ocean Park (Aberdeen) – the park features thrill rides as well as amazing aquarium exhibits and performances by various sea creatures.
Mong kok – opens form noon to 11:30pm. Place for bags, accessories and inexpensive clothing.
Temple Street Night Market – opens at 4pm. It offers an amazing range of inexpensive items especially for men.
Museum of the Art – features Chinese antiquities, fine art and calligraphy
The Peak – best views of the city’s skyline and harbor
Golden Bauhinia Square (Wan Chai) – outside the HK Convention & Exhibition Center
Jumbo Kingdom (Aberdeen) – famous giant floating Chinese Restaurants complex
Avenue of the Stars – pays tribute to the stars of the silver screen and the people who make the magic happen. There are plaques and handprints of stars
Repulse Bay – crescent-shaped strand of sand which is adjacent to an ornate Chinese pavilion with two 10-meter-tall statues of Kwun Yum and Tin Hau.
HK Wetland Park – 60+ hectare integrated, themed education and recreation venue.
Great Buddha, Po Lin Monastery & Nyong Ping Village – world’s tallest outdoor seated bronze Buddha
Fendi, Chanel, Vivienne Westwood, Dior, Harry Winston, Longchamp, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Lacoste, Elle, etc. – shop , shop, shop
Places to eat:
Every regional cuisine in Asia is represented abundantly in HK. A lot could be said when it comes to Hong Kong Cuisine, it is a feast to the palate. While there are expensive restaurants and cafes around the metropolis, it is also worthwhile to try and taste the authentic Hong Kong cuisine offered by sidewalk eateries. Let me warn you that it is not for the picky tummy. For the non-chopstick eater, it is wise to inspect the cutleries given to you. Clean it well before using it.
My Typical 4-day HK Itinerary:
Day 1 – Arrival at 11:30am. Hotel Check-In. Lunch at a nearby restaurant from hotel. Walk along Nathan Road to shop. Visit the Avenue of the Stars at around 5pm. Dinner at the restaurants along the Hong Kong Harbour while waiting for the Symphony of Lights at 8pm. Mong kok shopping from 9pm till midnight.
Day 2 – Breakfast. Half Day City Tour. JC Jewelry Store. Jumbo Restaurant in Aberdeen. Golden Bauhinia Square Victoria Peak. Choice between Shenzhen Tour or Ocean Park. Shopping and dinner at the Temple Street.
Day 3 – Breakfast. Enroute to Disneyland at 9:30am. Park opens at 10:00am. Whole day Disneyland Tour. Stay until the fireworks display. Best month to go there is December.
Day 4 – Breakfast. Last minute shopping along Nathan Road. Departure.
• In the airport, get a Hong Kong Visitors Kit – free of charge.
• Bring very comfy shoes. Walking is a good way to see Hong Kong’s goods.
• Don’t spend too much time in your hotel. See and explore the wonders of what it could bring.
• If you are on a budget, eat in side street restaurants. Great noodles and delish dim sum.
• December can be cold, bring a jacket and mittens.
• Be careful with drinking water.
• Allot a day for Ocean Park and Disneyland.
• Banks generally offer the best exchange rates : HSBC, Standard Chartered and Hang Seng Bank.
• When signing credit card receipts, make sure you always write “HK” in front of the dollar sign if there isn’t one printed there.
• It is almost mandatory to tip hotel staff at least HK$ 10.00 and if you make use of the porters at the airport, about HK$ 2.00 per suitcase is expected.
• When shopping, always check for stains or tears as most of the sold items are not exchangeable.
• Most outlets do not offer fitting rooms or refunds, so make sure you know your size and measurements in American and European specifications.
• Normal shop opening hours are 10am – 7pm, but most shops in Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui stay open much later.
• When shopping for jewelry buy only from reputable shops and get proper receipt stating purchase details.
• When buying computers and audio-visual and telecom products, check voltage, plug capability, compatibility of operating systems, legality of software and make sure it is in English language.
• Always compare prices before you buy something.
• Beware of parallel imports.
• Beware of bait-and-switch tactics where unscrupulous retailers showcase a product at an ambiguous price, but after getting a deposit, they claim the item is out of stock then will try to sell an inferior item at an inflated price.
• Be cautious if approached by sales staff on the street.
• Must Try: Peak Tram- it takes people up an incline so steep that the buildings look like they are leaning at a 45-degree angle.
• Language: Chinese and English
• Currency: The HK dollar is pegged at about US$1 = HK$7.80
• Climate: subtropical climate has distinct seasons. Range: 25-32 degrees Celsius in summer and 14-19 degrees Celsius in winter
• Security: it is a safe city during day and night.
• Cleanliness: Fixed penalty fines of HK$1500 for littering or spitting.
• Average Room Prices – Low: HK$ 200-850 High: HK$1600+
• Average Meal Prices – Low: HK$ 10-50 High HK$250+
Hong Kong Experience is always a pleasure no matter how many times you have been there especially when shared with a loved one. Hong Kong … has enough soaring sophistication, neon-colored electric streetscapes, unfathomable temples, commercial zeal and cultural peculiarity to utterly engulf the senses of a visitor, and enough unstructured, unforeseen potentials to make a complete ridicule of any attempt at a strictly organized itinerary. It should be free flowing but time should be managed well.
It is a unique combination of more than 150 years of colonial influence and 5000 years of Chinese tradition. Hong Kong is a fantastic holiday experience that you will treasure forever.
Other Sources: Lonely Planet & HK Tourism Board
Written: February 2008