|Government||Special Administrative Region of the Peoples Republic of China|
|Currency||Hong Kong dollar (HKD)|
|Area||total: 1,092 sq km |
water: 50 sq km
land: 1,042 sq km
|Population||7,303,334 (July 2002 est.)|
|Language||Chinese (Cantonese), English; both are official|
|Religion||eclectic mixture of local religions 90%, Christian 10%|
Hong Kong (?? Heu-ngg�ng in Cantonese, Xia-ngga(ng in Mandarin) is a place with multiple personalities, as a result of being Cantonese with a long-time British influence and increasingly more China connections. Perhaps the hallmark of this city is the frenzied vibrancy and the world class cuisine.
On the surface, it's an urban landscape without the charm of what one would consider "China." It offers the same upscale shopping malls and boutiques found in other world cities. But the small curious nooks, as well as the beautiful greenery and hiking trails, make it unique. The city is also known for its incredible efficiency as a result of its convenient transport, quick customer service and fast pace.
In January 1841, as a result of Ching Dynasty of China defeated in the First Opium War, Hong Kong became a British colony, under the Convention of Chuen Pi. On January 26, 1841, British flag was raised at Possession Point on Hong Kong Island, marking British occupation began. Subsequent to defeat of China in the Second Opium War, the Kowloon Penisular was ceded to Britain in 1860. Later in 1898, British took possession of New Territories - a rural area north of Boundary Street in Kowloon district - under a leasing term of 99 years. On 19 December 1984, the Chinese and British Governments signed the Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong, affirming that the Government of the People's Republic of China will resume the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong with effect from 1 July 1997. Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the PRC. According to the declaration, Basic Law was enacted to ensure the implementation of the basic policies of the PRC regarding Hong Kong. Under the "One Country, Two Systems" concept, HKSAR maintains its capitalism principles and enjoys "high degree of autonomy" in most matters except foreign and defense affairs.
With an over 95% share of the population, Hong Kong is solidly Chinese. The next largest minorities are Filipinos and Indonesians (largely work as maids employed by the local families), many of Chinese descent, and only fourth on the island are Europeans and their descendants.
Hong Kong is a little chilly in the Winter and hot and humid in the Summer. The best times of year to visit are thus Spring (March-April), when the average temperature is around 25°C and the climate is not too humid, and Fall between September and November. Typhoons usually occur between June and September and sometimes can bring a halt to local business activities for a day or less.The weather in winter is unstable. It can range from 12-22C.
- Chinese (Lunar) New Year (http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/heritage/festivals/he_fest_new.jhtml)
Although this may seem like an ideal time to go to Hong Kong, many shops and restaurants close down during the Chinese New Year. However, unlike Christmas in Europe wheen you can hardly find shops open on this big day, you can still get food and daily products easily during during Lunar New Year.
- Spring Lantern Festival (http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/heritage/festivals/he_fest_spri.jhtml)
If you go to Victoria Park of Hong Kong Island, you will have a great excursion of this tradition Chinese festival. A great deal of beautiful lanterns can be found.
- Ching Ming Festival (http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/heritage/festivals/he_fest_chin.jhtml)
This festival in Spring is also known as grave sweeping day. As a tradition, members of the Chinese family go to the grave of their ancestors, sweep away the leaves and remove weeds around the grave area, with a view to showing repsect to the deceased. Paper offerings are also burned including fake money.
- Cheung Chau Bun Festival (http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/heritage/festivals/he_fest_cheu.jhtml)
This is centered on the tiny island of Cheung Chau. In the past the festival has involved competitions with people climbing Bun Towers to snatch buns. After the accidental collapse of a bun tower in 1978 due to overload of people, the competition was abandoned. It was resumed in 2005 with new safety measures.
- Tuen Ng Festival (http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/heritage/festivals/he_fest_drag.jhtml)
This is a festival in memory of a national hero.
- Mid Autumn Festival (http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/heritage/festivals/he_fest_mida.jhtml)
This festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of August (Lunar calendar). Moon cakes are eaten, these contain a duck egg yolk.
- Chung Yeung Festival (http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/heritage/festivals/he_fest_chun.jhtml)
- Winter Festival (http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/heritage/festivals/he_fest_wint.jhtml)
- Go HK (http://www.gohk.gov.hk/): Tourist attractions in Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Tourism Board (http://www.hktourismboard.com/)
When to visit
The climate is ideal in October and November. The humidity is usually high in the Spring while some extreme temperatures are recorded in the Summer and Winter. Rugby fans, and those wishing to party, should come during the weekend of the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens (http://www.hksevens.com/). During the Chinese New Year, whilst there are some extra celebrating events such as a fireworks display and parade, many shops and restaurants are closed.However, it will be a good time for family reunion,paying a visit to relatives.
Hong Kong is divided into a number of distinctly different districts.
- Hong Kong Island used to be the site of the initial British settlement with the Northern part of the Island densely populated. Because of the scarcity of land supply, you'll find most of Hong Kong's skyscrapers and the famous skyline along the northern coastline. The main business and nightlife districts, in addition to the government offices, can be found here. The southern part of the Island has more leisure facilities, with beautiful beaches and luxury residential complexes.
- Kowloon is the peninsula jutting down towards Hong Kong Island. It is the most populous area in Hong Kong, and also once upon a time be the most densely populated place in the world.
- The New Territories, named by the British officials when leased from the Chinese government in 1898, are Hong Kong's residential hinterland.
- The Outlying Islands are the 234 other islands in the territory ranging from Lantau (twice the size of Hong Kong Island) to rocks poking out of the sea.
Hong Kong retains control of its own immigration. The good side of this is that, unlike mainland China, most Western visitors do not need to obtain visas in advance, but the bad side is that a separate visa is required to enter mainland China or Macau from Hong Kong. Detailed visa requirements (http://www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/hkvisas_4.htm) are available from the Immigration Department.
Internationally, there is a major way to get into Hong Kong — through the modern Hong Kong International Airport (http://www.hongkongairport.com/) (HKIA) which is also called Chek Lap Kok, the name of the small island it was built over. Despite initial teething troubles when opened in July 1998, the airport is modern and efficient, and it has been named the Best Airport worldwide by Skytrax for the 5th consecutive year.
There are many direct flights to Hong Kong from every continent in the world except South America. Services to major neighboring Asian cities are extremely frequent: Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, Shanghai, Manila, Seoul, Bangkok and Beijing, etc. are all served with more than 10 and up to 40 flights a day. Major cities in Oceania, Europe and North America are all served with at least a daily flight, with Sydney having 5 daily flights, London 10, Frankfurt 2, Paris 2, Amsterdam 2, Los Angeles 3, San Francisco 3, Vancouver 3, New York 3, Chicago 2 and Toronto 2.
Hong Kong International Airport is the third busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic in Asia and the second busiest airport in terms of cargo traffic in the world.
A complete transportation guide (http://www.td.gov.hk/transport_in_hong_kong/access_to_hong_kong_international_airport/index.htm) to Hong Kong International Airport is provided by the Transport Department.
The fastest local passenger transport to the airport is the Airport Express train that zips you in and out from the Kowloon and the Central district. The journey takes only 23 minutes, and there are plenty of baggage handling officers to help you get heavy bags on and off of the train. There is no need to tip them. Each way costs $60-$100, or a round trip for $110-$180, depending on the distance travelled. After arrival, free shuttle buses connecting to major hotels in Kowloon and Central are provided, or you can continue onward by MTR.
- The Airport Express Tourist Octopus 3-Day Hong Kong Transport Pass gives you an Octopus card (see Get Around) with $20 in value usable anywhere, 3 days of unlimited MTR travel, plus one ride on the Airport Express (for $220) or two (for $300). In effect, you're paying HK$70 for 3 days on the MTR, which is a fair bit of travel but might be worth it if you're planning to visit the Lantau Island or the New Territories. You can return the card after use to get back $50 deposit, or keep it for your next trip — any leftover value will remain valid for 3 years.
The various Airbuses are cheaper but slower bus services to the city. Lines A11 and A12 go to the Island ($40 and $45 respectively), while A21 goes to Kowloon ($33). Alternatively, take bus S1 to Tung Chung ($3.5) and connect to the ordinary MTR for a cheap and zippy ride to the city (Kowloon $17, Hong Kong $23); and if you're feeling lucky, you can even try to hop on to the free Airport Express shuttle buses!
For a full listing of busses available at HKIA refer to the airport website (http://www.hongkongairport.com/eng/aguide/bus.html).
Note that although the "E" route buses are cheaper than the "A" routes buses, the former take about 20 minutes longer. These 'External' buses are aimed more at airport workers, so make several detours around Tung Chung.
A taxi from the airport to the city will cost you around $300 depending on your exact destination. If you have 3 or more people travelling together, it is generally cheaper to travel on a taxi than the Airport Express. Use the taxi with red body for destinations to Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, Green taxi is restricted to New Territories and Blue Taxi for Lantau Island
There is a large chart at the exit to the taxi stand, also available Macau, and there is good connectivity to mainland China as well. The main terminals are:
- Macau Ferry Terminal, 202 Connaught Road (Sheung Wan MTR exit D), Central
- Guangdong and Guangzhou
- Shenzhen, a well-developed boomtown. (Note that there are special visa regulations if you plan to visit Shenzhen.)
There are 4 checkpoints on the Hong Kong - Shenzhen boundary, namely Lo Wu, Lok Ma Chau, Man Kam To and Sha Tau Kok.
Lo Wu control point can only be accessed directly by KCR East Rail trains and is hence the most accessible. However, it is often congested with travellers during weekends and holidays. So if you want to avoid for the long queues, please use the other control points on holidays. Visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side.
Lok Ma Chau control point can be accessed from Kowloon by taking the KCR West Rail. Leave at Long Ping Station and take the bus route 277 at the bus interchange. At Lok Ma Chau, you must switch to a yellow shuttle bus (http://www.huangbus.com) which takes you across the boundary. A faster approach is to alight at Kam Sheung Road Station and interchange with a cross boundary coach which takes you to the Chinese side of checkpoint without interchanging with the shuttle bus.
Alternatively, there are also some Cross Boundary coaches (http://www.info.gov.hk/td/eng/transport/bus_non_menu_index.html) operating from the business districts in Kowloon or Hong Kong Island to the Chinese side of the checkpoint. If you take these coaches, there is no need to change for the yellow shuttle bus and hence it is a good choice for boundary crossing to avoid the queues.
Lok Ma Chau is a around-the-clock border crossing ; visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side (subject to nationality, at current applications from USA and UK passport holders are not accepted).
Man Kam To control point can be accessed by taking the cross-boundary coach on the bus interchange at Landmark North, which is just adjacent to Sheung Shui KCR Station. The 15-minute journey costs HK$22. It is seldom crowded with travellers even during holiday periods. You can also enjoy the free shuttle service outside the Chinese checkpoint, which takes you to the central area of Shenzhen. However, no Visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side, which means you need to arrange for your visa in advanced before arrival.
It is the best route to go to the downtown in Shenzhen especially during holidays.
Sha Tau Kok control point can be accessed by taking the cross-boundary coach on the bus interchange at Luen Wo Hui in Fanling. It connects the eastern boundary of Hong Kong and Shenzhen and it is a bit remote from the central part on Shenzhen. As a consequence, only very few passengers choose to cross the boundary using this checkpoint. No Visa-on-arrival can be obtained on the Chinese side.
Guangzhou (East), Dongguan, Foshan and Zhaoqing in Guangdong Province, as well as Beijing and Shanghai.
The online directory of Intercity Service (http://www.kcrc.com.hk/eng/services/services/itts_intro.asp) of Kowloon Canton Railway provides information on the timetable and fare information of the Intercity Passenger Service.
Hong Kong's public transport system is highly developed, to the point where often the hardest part is choosing your means of transport.
The Octopus payment card (http://www.octopuscards.com/consumer/en/index.jsp) (???, Bat Dat Toong in Cantonese) is the heart of the public transport system. The Octopus is a contactless smart card. Even inside the wallet or bag, you can tap on card readers and the right amount will be deducted from money stored. In addition to using for all forms of public transport (except taxi), it can also be used in some places convenience stores, restaurant chains, vending machines and car parks.
When travelling by MTR, KCR, and some bus routes, payment by Octopus card always enjoys discount or rebate. It will always cost less to use Octopus card. As it has a fully refundable deposit on the card and on unused credit, it is highly advisable to get an Octopus card when in Hong Kong.
Basic adult Octopus card costs HK$150, HK$100 face value plus HK$50 deposit, but a HK$7 service charge now applies if beinig refunded in less than 3 months.
In addition to the Airport Express Octopus (see above), you can also buy a 24-hour pass for HK$50 at any MTR station; however, this is valid only on MTR lines.
You can add value to the card in MTR stations, and also at stores which accept Octopus card payment.
Hong Kong's Kowloon and down Nathan Rd towards Tsuen Wan in the New Territories and the Island Line (blue) which runs along the north coast of the Island. The new 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. The line also provides a link to Hong Kong Disney Land via a change at Sunny Bay station.
Every MTR station has one Hang Seng Bank branch (except for the massive Hong Kong/Central station, which has two). Because 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, a subway is an underground walkway, not an underground railway, as in most English speaking countries outside of North America.
The Peak Tram (http://www.thepeak.com.hk/tram/location.html), 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 ($20 one-way, $30 return; return tickets must be purchased in advance).
There are three flavours of bus available in Hong Kong, operated by a multitude of companies. While generally easy to use (especially with Octopus), signage in English can be sparse and finding your bus stop can get difficult. Buses are pretty much your only option for traveling around the south side of the island and Lantau.
The large double-decker buses cover practically all of the territory, stop frequently and charge varying fares depending on the distance. The first seats of the upper deck offer great views. The franchised bus operators in Hong Kong include Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) (http://www.kmb.hk), Citybus (http://www.citybus.com.hk), New World First Bus (http://www.nwfb.com.hk) and New Lantao Bus (http://www.newlantaobus.com/). Route and fare information can be found on the companies web sites.
Van-sized public light buses carry a maximum of 16 passengers (seats only) and come in two varieties, namely red minibuses and green minibuses (also called maxicabs); the color refers to a wide stripe painted on top of the vehicle. Red minibuses can pick up and drop off passengers anywhere the law allows, while green minibuses follow a fixed route from point to point as fast the traffic will allow (and then some). The Hong Kong Island green minibus #1 down from the Peak to Central is particularly exhilarating. The Transport Department provides a route list (http://www.info.gov.hk/td/eng/transport/minibus_g_table_index.html) of green minibuses.
Kowloon Canton Railway also maintains its fleet of Discovery Bay Transport Ltd (http://www.hkri.com/cms1/DBTPL/DBTPL54.html) a convenient alternative to the star ferry, which is a long walk away. Ferry terminates in Central, besides the Star Ferry pier.
Ferries to Lamma, Lantau and other islands depart from a variety of ports, but the largest and most important terminal is at Central adjacent to the Star Ferry. Ferries are usually divided into fast ferries and slow ferries, with fast ferries charging around twice to price for half the journey time, although not all destinations offer both kinds of service. Example fares for trips from Central to Yung Shue Wan (Lamma) are $10/15 slow/fast, and to Mui Wo (Lantau) $10.50/$21. Note that all fares increase around 50% on Sundays and public holidays.
Taxicabs are plentiful, clean and efficient. They were just recently (2003) rated as the cheapest of all big cities in the world. Not good news for the drivers, but good for the tourist. Fares (http://www.info.gov.hk/td/eng/transport/taxis_table.html) start at HK $15, and you can ride for 2 kilometres before additional $1.40 per 200m increments start ticking. A ride all the way across the island will cost no more than $80. No tipping is expected, but the fare may be rounded up to the nearest dollar.
Drivers are required to provide change for HK $100 notes, but not for higher denominations. If you only have a $500 or $1000 note and are going through a tunnel, let the driver know beforehand and he will change it when paying at the toll booth.
Life is made slightly more difficult by the fact that there are three different flavors of taxi. These can be distinguished by colour: red taxis typically serve the Island and Kowloon, and some parts of the New Territories (for example Shatin), but they are permitted to travel all over Hong Kong except to Lantau Island; green taxis serve the New Territories (only), but with a slightly cheaper fare than red taxis; blue taxis serve Lantau (only). (You are unlikely to ever encounter a blue Taxi, as there are only about 50 of them in existence.) All three types of taxis can take you to the airport. When in doubt, just take a red taxi.
In addition, red taxis are based in either the Island or Kowloon, if they do take you, they will charge you twice the bridge/tunnel toll so they can get back! But you can use this to your advantage by picking a homebound taxi from a cross-harbour taxi rank in places like the Star Ferry pier or Hung Hom station. In these cross-harbour taxi stands only single toll charge will be applied to the taxi fare.
There are no extra late-night charges. Baggage will cost you $5 a pop (but in practice almost never charged) and all tolls are payable. The wearing of seat belts is required by law.
All taxi's are radio equipped and can be reserved and requested via an operator for a token fee, payable to the driver. You are unlikely to need to call a taxi though as they are plentiful.
It is good practice to get a local person to write the name or address of your destination in Chinese for you to hand to the taxi driver, as most drivers do not speak sufficient English.
Renting a car is almost unheard of in Hong Kong, with the reasons being heavy traffic, extremely complex road network and parking well nigh impossible. However, if you must, even for a small car expect to pay over $600/day.
Cantonese is the language spoken by 90% of the people in Hong Kong. Though Hong Kong is a former British colony, the degree of English proficiency is limited among non-professionals such as restaurant workers. However, most taxi drivers, street vendors, etc. are fluent enough for sufficient communication. English is fluently spoken among the business community and at tourist destinations such as hotels and certain restaurants.
Most Hong Kongers are not fluent in Mandarin, but can comprehend it to a certain degree. Mandarin proficiency is increasing, especially after the reunification with the mainland.
All official signs contain English, some of them containing English only. Most shops and restaurants also have English signage, though don't expect this from the more local or obscure establishments.
The Hong Kong dollar (http://www.info.gov.hk/hkma/new_hk_banknotes/eng/index.htm) is the common currency. The official exchange rate is fixed at 7.80 HKD to 1 USD, although bank rates may fluctuate slightly. Issued by several different banks, these multicoloured, and increasing in size, banknotes come in denominations of:
- $10, green or purple
- $20, grey or blue
- $50, purple or green
- $100, red
- $500, brown
- $1000, gold
Some shops do not accept the $1000 note since there was a counterfeiting case several years ago. The notoriously heavy coins come in units of $10, $5, $2, $1, 50 cents, 20 cents and 10 cents.
The use of the small coins and change has been reduced due to the innovation of the Octopus card. Originally used just for transit payments for subways and buses, it now is used all over the city, for purchases in any amount at 7-11, McDonald's, fast food, pharmacies, copying machines, vending machines, etc. It has changed the speed and ease of small transactions in Hong Kong, and does away with many of the small coin transactions.
Hong Kong is still known as an excellent destination for shopping. The prices are comparably cheaper than the US, Europe or Japan, especially with no sales tax on anything. The variety is a lot better than in most Asian countries. Popular shopping items include consumer electronics, custom clothings, shoes, jewelleries, expensive brand names goods, Chinese antiques, toys and Chinese herbs/medicine.
As a generalisation, the Island has the fancy name-brand air-con shopping malls (particularly near Causeway Bay), while Kowloon is the place to go for cheap open markets and the rip-off artists of Nathan Road. It's best not to buy goods from these shops selling electronics, cameras and gadgets as they are overpriced and deceptively sold (mostly to tourists). Compare prices before you buy. It would be safer to buy from large chain stores like Shenzhen just over the border into China.
- Shopping Center
Hong Kong is full of shopping centers. Here are some of them
- Harbour City - Huge Shopping Center in Tsim Sha Tsui on Canton Road, to get there take the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui, or take the Star Ferry  (http://www.harbourcity.com.hk/hc/en/frontpage.html)
- Pacific Place - also a big shopping centre. Take the MTR to Admiralty
- Festival Walk - A big shopping center with a mix of expensive brands and smaller chains. There is also an ice skating rink there.
- Landmark- All the luxury brands have shops here Gucci, Dior, Fendi, Vuitton, etc. Central, Pedder Street
- APM- All new 24Hr Shopping Center in Kwun Tong (http://www.apm-millenniumcity.com/chi/index.php)
Hong Kong has a lot of street markets. Some of them just selling regular groceries, others clothes, bags or even electronics.
- Ladies Market - mostly clothes, toys, souvenirs, gadgets
- Flower Market - Prince Edward
- Goldfish Market- a whole street full of shops selling small fish in plastic bags and accesoires 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
- Jade Market
See the stunning Hong Kong Island skyline from Kowloon.
The racing season runs from September to June, during which time meetings take place twice weekly, the location alternating between Shatin in the New Territories and Happy Valley near Wan Chai. Of these, Happy Valley is the more convenient and more impressive location.
The most effective way to know how Hong Kong people live is to experience the local life of an ordinary Hong Kong resident.
There are many traditional heritage locations throughout the territory.
- Kowloon Walled City Park (http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/parks/kwcp/en/index.php) in Kowloon
- Shatin, New Territories
- New Territories
- New Territories
- New Territories
- Po Lin Monastery and the Tien Tan Buddha Statue on Hong Kong/Lantau.
There are a variety of museums (http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/en/cs_mus_lcsd.php) in Hong Kong with different themes.
Hong Kong is not all skyscrapers, and it's worthwhile to go to the countryside, including the country parks (http://parks.afcd.gov.hk/newparks/eng/country/index.htm) and marine parks (http://parks.afcd.gov.hk/newmarine/eng/index.htm).
- Lantau Island is two times as big as Hong Kong and is well worth checking out if you want to get away from the bright lights and pollution of the city for a spell. Here you will find open countryside, traditional fishing villages, secluded beaches, monasteries and more. You can hike, camp, fish and mountain bike, amongst other activities.
- Lantau Island.
- southern side of Hong Kong island.
Seeing different sides of Hong Kong by Public Transport
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.
- Kowloon. It goes along Peninsular Kowloon and heads through the New Territories. Then it goes into Sha Tin new town. Afterwards it goes through Tai Po Road, where you can see many traditional Chinese villages and the sceneric 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, which is near the Hong Kong - Shenzhen boundary. The journey takes 105 minutes and costs HK$8.20 for the whole journey with a traditional non air-conditioned bus.
- Take a tram jouney on Hong Kong Island
See the fireworks over the Harbor from Hong Kong Island or Kowloon
There are four major trails in Hong Kong.
- Lantau Trail on Lantau.
- Hong Kong Trail on Hong Kong Island.
- Maclehose Trail through the New Territories.
- Wilson Trail starting on Hong Kong Island and finishing on the New Territories.
Perhaps the number one highlight of Hong Kong is the cuisine. Not only is it a showcase of traditional and modern Cantonese cuisine, the various regional cuisines from around China, such as Teochew and Sichuan are all well represented.. There are also excellent Asian and Western restaurants as well.
Residents tend to eat out alot more than in other countries. Perhaps because of this eating out can be fairly cheap, as long as you stick to local restaurants, and avoid the often overpriced western counterparts.
Above all, Hong Kong is known for its dim sum (??), delicately prepared morsels of Cantonese cuisine served from a neverending procession of carts and eaten with tea. Dim sum is usually eaten for breakfast or lunch and is often the focus of family get-togethers on Sundays. The best place to have local style Dim Sum is in a public housing estate in the New Territories. Chinese restaurants in tourist districts are expensive. You will never be able to experience an authentic Hong Kong style Dim Sum meal in a tourist district.
A uniquely Hong Kong-style eatery starting to make waves elsewhere in Asia is the cha chaan teng (???), 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 yuanyang (??), 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.
Cooked food centres (Dai Pai Dong ???) provide economic solutions to diners, and they are popular with local citizens. There are many cooked food centres in various districts.
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. Maids who cook for their employers usually go to the market everyday to buy fresh ingredients, just like the restaurants.
- Island side. The traditional hotspot for both eating and drinking with westerners is Lan Kwai Fong in Central. Wan Chai is also fun, if slightly sleazier with numerous girly bars along Lockhart Road, while Causeway Bay and Eastern Soho out beyond Quarry Bay offer a less touristy experience.
Knutsford Terrace is a popular drinking and dining spot in Kowloon but there are many other places in and around Tsim Sha Tsui. Some of them can get pretty expensive though - up to USD10 for a drink in some places!
To really go to town, spend a few hundred HK$ drinking in the Felix bar at the top of the Peninsula Hotel, Kowloon-side. Possibly the best view in the world, especially from the gents'!
Popular lagers include Tsing Tao (pronounced 'ching doe') or San Miguel.
Imported San Miguel is better than the locally produced variety. More expensive bars end will likely serve this, but at others you may have to specifically ask for "Philippine San Miguel" (and pay more) At the lower end only locally stuff will be available. Imported bottles can be easily distinguished as they have brown glass with white frosted lettering. Locally filled bottles use a label.
One of the best way to drink in Hong Kong is to have a walk around all the bars first and have a look which ones are doing special offers and what time they run Happy Hour. Most bars have a Happy Hours, which makes for a more cost effective way to drink. Also keep in mind the races on a Wednesday night at Happy Valley race course, you only pay $10hk for entry and pay around $100 for a jug of beer. Also Wednesday nights is ladies night, during which many bars in Wan Chai give free drinks to the ladies.
The legal drinking age is 18. Public drunkeness is rare.
Accommodation in Hong Kong tend to be on the small side, probably one step larger than in Japan. Accommodation ranging from cheap backpacker hostels to the ritziest luxury hotels can be found in the city. As a rule of thumb, expensive luxury accommodation are on Hong Kong Island while cheaper digs can be found in Kowloon and the New Territories .
Besides luxury five star hotels, there are also a variety of more affordable hotels, guest houses, backpacker hostels, and holiday camps. The government maintains an online list of licensed hotels and guesthouse. The online directory can be found here (http://www.hadla.gov.hk/english/).
A few Youth Hostels (http://www.yha.org.hk/eng/index.jsp) are available in Hong Kong for booking, but most of them are located outside the city. The YMCA 'The Salisbury' is not a real YMCA, but rather a 3-4 Star hotel with nice rooms, private bathrooms and so on. Its location right at the southern end of Kowloon (and next door to the Peninsula) makes this an ideal place to stay for budget-minded travellers. For the truly budget-minded, there are numerous cheap hostels that can be found inside Chungking Mansions and Mirador Mansions buildings, near the intersection of Nathan Road and Mody Road in Kowloon.
The major tertiary/post-secondary institutions in Hong Kong are
- Macau, the former Portuguese colony and present gambling haven is just an hour away by TurboJet ferry. Ticket prices start at HK$141 for the one-hour ride to Macau. The ferry building is near the Sheung Wan MTR station.
- Zhuhai, across the border from Macau, is 70 minutes away by ferry.
- Shenzhen, mainland China boomtown just across the border can be reached by KCR Eastrail in about 40 minutes.
- Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province can be reached by Through Train within 1h30 and 2h depending on the type of train. (http://www.kcrc.com.hk/eng/services/services/GuangdongLine.asp)