What to know before you go to Hong Kong

Get out of Central, take to the water, and eat as a lot as you can: a sensible information to Hong Kong.

Many guests come to Hong Kong anticipating some model of New York—and positive, there are shiny glass towers, a significant finance district, cocktail bars, and hundreds of eating places (greater than 14,000 and counting), however Hong Kong has a definite character rooted in Cantonese tradition. Venture past Central and you’ll uncover ornate temples, tea outlets, Chinese herbal-medicine apothecaries, dai pai dongs (family-run out of doors eating places), and astoundingly dense neighborhoods–not to point out a public transit system that leaves New York (and plenty of different cities) within the mud. It’s one of many world’s most gratifying cities to discover, thanks to its hyper-efficient metro system, historic tram, and open-air Star Ferry.

Then, there’s the meals. Hong Kong runs on carbs, from artery-blocking volumes of dim sum to deep bowls of wonton noodles and pineapple buns smeared with melted butter. And when you’re not consuming, you’ll doubtless be on the transfer, simply making an attempt to sustain with the town’s tempo.

Visit within the fall. Hong Kong has a subtropical local weather, which suggests summers are sweltering. It’s like strolling round in a thick, cauldron of boiling soup—two steps and you’ll sweat by means of your shirt. Spring showers have ruined many a journey plan, whereas winter skies appear clogged with air pollution. But then there’s autumn: probably the most blissful time of yr. Visit from October to November when the solar’s out, the mercury hovers round 70-80 levels Fahrenheit and Hong Kong activates all its charms.

The Octopus card will let you faucet your means onto any type of public transit. Photo by: martinho Smart / Shutterstock.com

Get an Octopus card. The Octopus card is among the handiest ‘purchases’ you could make in Hong Kong. Available for a HK$50 deposit (which you get again upon return) on the airport, MTR stations, and all comfort shops, the little plastic card will let you faucet your means onto any type of public transit, moderately than fumble with cash to buy a bodily ticket (sure, it’s 2019; no, Hong Kong’s ticketing machines don’t take bank cards). Octopus playing cards are additionally helpful for fast purchases, like a bottle of Tsingtao beer at 7-Eleven or a double-shot Americano at Starbucks.

Carry money however keep in mind that you’ll by no means be removed from from an ATM in Hong Kong. Photo by: testing / Shutterstock.com

Carry money. Hong Kong is superior in some ways, however a stunning variety of cafes and transit choices don’t take bank cards or Apple Pay. For guests, the most important headache will doubtless be taxis, which require money cost. That mentioned, there’s an HSBC financial institution roughly each two blocks, so you are by no means removed from from an ATM.

Understand politics. The relationship between Hong Kong and China is difficult. Founded in 214 BC by the Qin Dynasty and later ceded to Great Britain within the 1842 Treaty of Nanking following the three-year First Opium War, Hong Kong’s standing as a British colony continued for the subsequent 156 years till the ‘handover’ again to China sovereignty in 1997. The metropolis is at present a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China and can adhere to the Basic Law, a mini-constitution stipulating “one country, two systems” till 2047. However, the mainland has tightened its grip on Hong Kong over the previous few years with new infrastructure tasks, election screenings, declining press freedoms and the growing use of Mandarin in faculties. It’s delicate however, then once more, there’s no want to keep away from political discussions—the truth is, your taxi driver would possibly dive proper in. Just keep in mind that not all Hongkongers determine as “Chinese” and most cherish their native tongue of Cantonese, so thank folks with an “mmm goi” moderately than  “xie xie” and you’ll do exactly advantageous. 

The Golden Bauhinia Square is the place handover ceremonies between Hong Kong and China had been held in July 1997. Image Photo by: TungCheung / Shutterstock.com

On that be aware, be taught some lingo. Or, not less than, a number of phrases. English and Chinese are each official languages of Hong Kong, however the latter is the mom tongue. Roughly 90 p.c of the inhabitants speaks Cantonese—not Mandarin, which is broadly spoken in China. Cantonese has 9 tones (9!), making it a difficult language to grasp, however you can simply decide up a number of phrases to use round city. For occasion, ng-goi (pronounced mmm-goy) means thank you in addition to excuse me; jou-sen (joe-san) means good morning; and hou-hou-sihk (ho-ho sick), means ‘yummy’.  That final one will come in useful. And only for enjoyable, you can add ‘la’ to nearly any phrases to add emphasis or categorical  exasperation.

The MTR is your finest pal… It all the time amuses me to watch folks run for the MTR—the town’s metro system. Rest assured, the subsequent prepare will arrive in about one minute. The velocity, cleanliness, and effectivity of the MTR is astounding, and a exact 31 minutes will take you from one finish of Hong Kong Island to the opposite. You also can journey all through the New Territories, head down to the Southside, or take the Airport Express—it makes exploring Hong Kong a breeze.

In 31 minutes, the MTR will take you from one finish of Hong Kong Island to the opposite. Photo by: shawn michael / Shutterstock.com

…however keep away from it at rush hour. The worst place you may presumably be at 6 p.m. on a weekday is on the Central, Admiralty, or Tsim Sha Tsui MTR stations. You’ll get caught in a wave of individuals, who don’t have any selection however to transfer on the identical glacial tempo for concern of falling over and getting trampled. At rush hour, you may anticipate 5, six, seven trains to come and go before you can lastly squeeze on.

If you’re trying to cruise across the metropolis above floor, go for the historic ‘ding ding’ tram or a double-decker bus. Photo by: voyata / Shutterstock.com

Skip minibuses, take the ‘ding ding.’ While out and about, you will doubtless see little purple and inexperienced minibuses buzzing by. The inexperienced vans have set routes, whereas the purple ones don’t—you can hop on and off wherever alongside the way in which. But these little buses have developed a popularity for being harmful due to quite a few crashes. If you’re trying to cruise across the metropolis above floor, go for the historic tram (nicknamed the ‘ding ding’ for the sound it makes) to discover at leisure, or hop on a double-decker bus.

Get out of Central. Neighborhoods like Central and Tsim Sha Tsui are the first touchdown spots for vacationers due to their central places, eating places, museums and malls. But they’re not the perfect illustration of native Hong Kong tradition. Take the MTR to neighborhoods similar to Sham Shui Po, Kowloon City, Yau Ma Tei, or one of many smaller outlying islands (like Peng Chau or Cheung Chau). You’ll discover extra cha chaan tengs (post-World War II diners) similar to Mido Cafe or Kam Wah Café, cooked-food markets such because the Kowloon City Market and Cooked Food Centre, and plenty of mom-and-pop outlets. Further area within the New Territories, there are historical walled cities like Kat Hing Wai Walled Village (constructed centuries in the past by Chinese clans) and climbing trails.

Know your siu mei out of your shu mai. Hongkongers greet one another by saying: “Have you eaten yet?” This hints on the deep, deep appreciation for meals on this metropolis. Dining out, whether or not for dim sum or dinner, is the popular means to join with family and friends, and you’ll see eating places packed to capability nearly daily of the week. The native delicacies is Cantonese, from southern China, and tends to be gentle and nuanced, moderately than large, daring, in-your-face flavors—suppose steamed fish, congee with pork, rice noodle rolls, and stir-fried morning glory. A couple of of the preferred dishes sound related, similar to “shu mai” (a well-liked dim sum dumpling, full of pork and shrimp) and “siu mei” (barbecued meats) however, both means, you’ll find yourself with a scrumptious dish. If you are nervous about language boundaries, then stick across the Central, Sheung Wan, and Causeway Bay areas. Street-food lovers ought to head over to the Kowloon peninsula for excellent, frills-free meals at Australia Dairy Company (order the signature scrambled eggs on toast) and Oi Man Sang (attempt the black pepper beef). For a extra polished expertise, cease by stalwart favorites similar to The Chairman, Seventh Son, and Above & Beyond for a top-shelf introduction to Cantonese delicacies.

A couple of of the preferred dishes sound related, similar to “shu mai” and “siu mei” however, both means, you’ll find yourself with a scrumptious dish. Photo by: PeatPing / Shutterstock.com

Eat as a lot as you can. Hong Kong could be finest recognized for its Cantonese delicacies, however the selection is astounding. There’s French, Italian, Greek, Japanese, Peruvian, Mongolian, and dozens of mash-ups—generally all beneath one roof. Though you can simply eat meals from world wide, Asian cuisines are significantly nicely represented in Hong Kong. Try Sri Lankan at Hotal Colombo, Vietnamese at Chôm Chôm, Japanese at UMI, and Thai at Chachawan, simply to identify a number of.

Make buddies over dim sum. At some old-school eating places, similar to Lin Heung Tea House in Central or Sun Hing in Kennedy Town, there is no such thing as a designated seating. You merely teeter on a tiny stool wherever there’s a gap. These sharing tables present ample alternatives to make new buddies. From the bowl of boiling water in the midst of the desk (use it to rinse your teacups and tableware before consuming) to the road out the door, there’s no scarcity of ice-breakers.

Try an old-school restaurant like Lin Heung Tea House. Photo by: Nicole C. / Yelp.com

Party at Club 7-Eleven. For an reasonably priced evening out, simply head to a comfort retailer, then unfold out throughout one of many many well-liked stone stairwells in SoHo, within the hilly streets above Central. There are not any open-container legal guidelines, so you can deliver beer, wine and cocktails with you wherever you go—that features the waterfront, parks, and even public rooftops. For instance, the rooftop of the International Finance Centre (IFC), Hong Kong’s second tallest constructing, is a well-liked spot to mingle after work.

Karaoke is among the hottest methods to spend a weekend night—and early morning. Photo by: Kirk_Zamieroski / Shutterstock.com

Get into karaoke. Whether you’re already fluent in Canto-pop or just love a heartfelt rendition to “Hey Jude”, karaoke is among the hottest methods to spend a weekend night—and early morning. You can carry out in public at bars like Cinta J in Wan Chai (full with a reside band) or e book a non-public room with your individual private display screen, mics, snacks and drinks service. A couple of of the preferred karaoke golf equipment are Red MR, Neway, and Music Box.

Head for the rooftops. Hong Kong’s skyline is known for a cause. It’s a forest of high-density skyscrapers and LED lights, all centering round Victoria Harbour. And it’s stunning. Rather than be a part of the lots alongside the waterfront, discover a rooftop bar for a view. For one thing reasonably priced and relaxed, Beer Bay atop the Discovery Bay Ferry Pier, in Central, ought to suffice. Meanwhile, an upscale evening out would possibly lead you to the rooftop of Ce La Vi in Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s famed nightlife strip, or Sugar, in Quarry Bay; or Popinjays, on the roof of The Murray resort in Admiralty.

Seek out speakeasies. Hong Kong has its share of nice dive bars (Castro’s, The Wanch, and Club 71, simply to identify a number of) however cocktail lovers might want to savor correct pours. Over the previous few years, speakeasy-style bars have develop into well-liked. Finding them takes a while, and only some are price the additional effort, similar to Foxglove, J. Boroski, Room 309, Butler, and Mizunara the Whisky Library.

Eat late-night at Tsui Wah. After hours, the preferred place to find yourself is Tsui Wah. Founded in 1967, the native eating establishment now has branches all around the metropolis. It’s like Hong Kong’s reply to McDonald’s (although you can discover loads of these too if you choose a Big Mac) however with traditional Cantonese consolation meals. Try the favored wonton noodles, beef brisket curry, crispy pork chop buns, fried rice, milk tea, and candy buns drenched in condensed milk.

Tsui Wah is like Hong Kong’s reply to McDonald’s. Photo by: george picture cm / Shutterstock.com

The white-and-green Star Ferry boats have been criss-crossing Victoria Harbour for greater than a century. Photo by: Benson Truong / Shutterstock.com

Take to the water. Some well-liked sights are price doing, and the Star Ferry is one in all them. These stunning white-and-green boats have been criss-crossing Victoria Harbour for greater than a century. They’re not solely a soothing means to commute, however they’re additionally insanely reasonably priced at simply HK$2.20 per experience. If you’re balling out, use the upstairs entrance to experience ‘first class’ (basically, there’s air-conditioning) for an additional 50 cents. Another means to cruise across the harbor is on a conventional junk boat, such because the red-sailed Aqualuna. Tours run almost each hour and tickets embody a welcome wine or beer.


Explore the outlying islands. Most vacationers affiliate Hong Kong with trendy Central or the crowded streets of Mong Kok, however the territory additionally has greater than 260 outlying islands—dozens of which you can go to. Lamma island stands out as an excellent day journey. On this car-free island, there are a number of seashores, out of doors cafes, bars, and a conventional fishing village off to the east that’s simply accessible through the Family Trail. Then there’s Lantau, which is large, however filled with fascinating landmarks, from outdated Tai O (a fishing village with vibrant stilt homes and markets) within the southwest to the distant Trappist Monastery, accessible through a hike from Mui Wo, within the east.

Escape to Lamma island for a straightforward day journey. Photo by: SisterF / Shutterstock.com


Dragon’s Back path solely takes round 2.5 hours from begin to end. Photo by: Phongthon Preuksrirat / Shutterstock.com

Go on a hike… The territory is roofed in a community of climbing trails, a few of that are simply accessible from Central. The most approachable is the hour-long Morning Trail, another route to The Peak (the most effective lookout factors on Hong Kong island) ought to you discover the historic Peak Tram too touristy. Another straightforward trek, Dragon’s Back, takes about 2.5 hours from begin to end. The hikes begins at Cape Collinson Cemetery in Chai Wan (on the japanese finish of the MTR’s Island Line), heads up and throughout an undulating ridge with views of the South China Sea, then finishes close to Shek O Village (a well-liked seashore city on the Southside). For one thing a bit tougher—and time intensive—head up to Sai Kung to trek Stage 1 and a couple of of the Maclehose Trail, which is able to take you previous the East Dam of the High Island Reservoir, a little bit of Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark (full with fascinating rock formations), and round Tai Long Wan bay for simple entry to a number of of Hong Kong’s most beloved seashores.


…however keep away from Shek O on a sunny weekend. Unfortunately, everybody else in Hong Kong could have the identical good thought. If you have some flexibility, head to the hills, seashores—or actually any comparatively accessible out of doors website—on a weekday for a a lot quieter, stress-free time out. If the weekend is your solely choice, go early to keep away from the crowds.

Shek O can get pretty busy on a sunny weekend. Photo by: Wan Kum Seong / Shutterstock.com


Mind the selfie-sticks. Last time I used to be in Shek O, I witnessed roughly 30 younger ladies wait in line to take a selfie in entrance of a pastel-painted wall. Around the nook on the seashore, folks had GoExecs, drones, and selfie-sticks galore. Whether for social media or private functions, images is a continuing in Hong Kong—significantly within the metropolis’s extra picturesque corners.


Look for unbiased style at Tai Kwun. Photo by: stherpoon / Shutterstock.com

Shop at Tai Kwun, not Harbour City. Instead of wringing out your pockets at Harbour City and IFC, search for unbiased style at Tai Kwun. As the town’s largest heritage conservation mission to date, the approach to life heart is situated on Wyndham Street in Central, on the positioning of the previous Central Police Station compound. In addition to numerous eating places, bars, artwork galleries, and efficiency areas, there’s additionally an extended record of native labels, similar to GLUE & GOODS, Harrison Wong, Loveramics, and Loom Loop.


Book a foot therapeutic massage. Thanks to centuries of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), foot reflexology is a typical follow in Hong Kong. Essentially, it’s believed that the foot has ‘reflex’ factors that represents organs and glands. For instance, your large toe connects along with your mind, whereas your heel corresponds with the sciatic nerve. And in accordance to TCM, massaging these particular factors ought to immediately enhance the corresponding physique elements, restore stability, and enhance total wellness. There are cheap foot-massage parlors throughout. A couple of of the preferred parlors embody Gao’s, Tai Pan, and Happy Foot, however actually you can stroll in wherever to take pleasure in a 45-minute rub-down for round US$15-20.

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