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Hong Kong: 14 - 28 Jul 2018

Updated: May 13, 2023

1. Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) is the main airport in Hong Kong. It is located on the island of Chek Lap Kok, which largely comprises land reclaimed for the construction of the airport itself. The airport is also colloquially known as Chek Lap Kok Airport, to distinguish it from its predecessor, the now-closed Kai Tak Airport.

-Customs: you will not get your passport stamped when you go through customs. Instead, a landing slip will be issued. This appears to be done to save time, but I cannot confirm (either if this is why or if it saves time).

-Transfer: There are numerous ways to travel from the airport to your hotel (train, bus, public bus, Uber, taxi). I used the Hong Kong Airport Shuttle Service ($72.20 US for two, round trip). I booked online, paid with a credit card, and was emailed all the details required, the most important being my Booking ID and the location of the shuttle. After clearing Immigration (your passport will not be stamped) and Customs, proceed to Arrival Hall Counter B18 and show them your Booking ID. You will be personally guided to the shuttle bus. The bus will then take you to your hotel (this is not a direct bus, although, with us, there was only one other customer, who was let off before us). Shuttles depart every 15-30 min from 0700 - 2300. We only waited 15 minutes for our bus. It then takes around 30-45 minutes to reach Hong Kong Island. To get back to the airport at the end of your stay just reverse the process. Seamless.

-Money Exchange: do not change money at the airport, the exchange rate was terrible. Also, the service while friendly was not automated. The clerk did everything by hand (counting, calculating, etc) which is different than most airport money changers which rely on computers to ensure accuracy.

-the Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the USD @ 7.75 - 7.80 HKD/USD with bank notes issued by various local banks. Most businesses (especially small ones) do NOT take credit cards (they take cash or the Octopus Card). Either way, be prepared to withdraw HKD from ATMs quite frequently.

2. Uber vs. Taxi: Uber is not as economical as most other cities. My own experience taking a taxi back to Causeway from Central confirmed this: Uber quoted 82 HKD, taxi actually cost 48 HKD. Taxis appear to be plentiful on Hong Kong Island, which avoids the "mandatory" 15-minute wait for an Uber (it's always the same no matter what city you are in: confirm Uber and be told a ride is 5 minutes away, then 5 minutes later it is still 5 minutes away . . . Rinse and repeat). All taxis use a meter.

3. Butterfly Hotel on Morrison: Excellent hotel. If you want to stay in Central because it's closer to the action, I get it (but you will be charged accordingly). Stay in Causeway and you will be charged considerably less (and Central is a tram/MTR/taxi/Uber away). Excellent service and a nice-sized room for $120/night. Booked a small room via for $105/night and then upgraded at check-in to a larger room with a great view (room #1805).

-right around the corner is the Sunshine Laundry Factory Company (26 Sharp Street West). 24-hour service. A bag of laundry costs 700 HKD. Excellent service.

-if I had to do it over again I might stay in Sai Ying Pun, it’s close enough to Central, but far enough off the beaten path to get a good deal on lodgings.

4. Food and Drink: Hong Kong has thousands of small restaurants, street stalls, and dai pai dongs that offer cheap food that sometimes can be rather bland (traditional Hong Kong cuisine is known for minimizing spices so the essence of the ingredients can be tasted).

-many streets have a storefront that serves a variety of meat on a stick cooked in boiling oil. My favorite was Lobster (four lobster balls on a stick) for ~13 HKD (not sure if it was actual or faux). Make sure you put some sauce on it.

-Man Mo Dim Sum: featured on Travel Man: 48 Hours in Hong Kong. It's a French take on dim sum, which works quite well due to the delicious sauces (pesto, dijon mustard, etc)

-Happy Paradise: featured on Tony Bourdain's Parts Unknown. A modern take on Cantonese classics.

-Dim Sum: we tried a few dim sum restaurants (there are hundreds) and found Lin Hueng in Central to be our favorite. We were the only Westerners (always a good sign). Like many restaurants in Hong Kong, this place was very well-lit, as the locals enjoy eating so much that they insist on being able to see their food.

-Under the Bridge Spicy Crab: You mean Under the Bridge Overpriced Crab. 100 USD for a crab and a mound of breadcrumbs!!

-Ap Lei Chau Market: Buy some super fresh seafood at the first-floor market, then take it upstairs and pay someone to cook it for you. All the prices are a little vague and the shopkeepers don't speak English. You will not glimpse another Westerner during this culinary adventure, with social media commenting "Yes, this place is hard to find and is located above at the fish market. It is a place for local (sic), just a dirty and noisy location for locals with fresh (sic) served meals . . . Food court for insiders. Just functional and loud and interesting if you want to see how locals are eating." You had me at "hard to find . . ."

5. The Tian Tan Buddha (the Big Buddha) and fishing village Tai O on Lantau Island. Part of the reason to visit the Big Buddha is to take the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car. Get your Ngong Ping 360 tickets online the day before you go (to avoid waiting online at the Cable Car station). I used the Ngong Ping 360 website which then emailed me the pdf tickets. You may want to use which appears to offer discounts. Take the MTR to the Tung Chung station, take Exit B, and walk 3 minutes to the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car Station. Show the pdf on your phone (no need to print it out) to one of the workers (they are everywhere) and they will put you on the correct line. We chose the Crystal Car (vs Standard) which has a glass floor, not sure if it was worth the extra bucks. There is no need to take the cable car up and back, instead take the cable car up, and then walk five minutes to the Big Buhda (minimize any time spent in the faux town. Do NOT see the Walking in Buddha's Footsteps movie - instead familiarize yourself with Buddha's life via Wikipedia). After visiting the Big Buddha proceed to the bus stop (nearby where you exited the cable car) and board bus 21 to Tai O (remember your Octopus Card, busses run frequently, and 30 minutes later you are in Tai O)

-Tai O is the most accessible fishing village on Hong Kong Island and even with a fair amount of tourists still seems quite authentic. Exit the bus, cross the Tai O Steel Bridge, and then work your way right on Kat Hing Street. You are looking for a series of restaurants that have patios that overlook the river. If you reach the San Ki Bridge you have gone too far.

Have a beer (I recommend a Blue Girl) and some fish balls. After you have eaten, explore the town, it's a rabbit warren of streets and alleys. Tai O is known for dried fish. Unless you know you really like this stuff, I recommend buying the smallest amount possible (or not buying any at all). We paid 38 HKD for a bag of dried squid . . . it was inedible. We gave it to our hotel front desk who was very reluctant to take it, possibly because she did not feel comfortable taking a gift from a guest (or more likely because she knew what she was getting into).

-Go back to where the 21 bus lets you off and take the 23 bus back to Tung Chung.

6. Victoria Park: If you are staying near Causeway, this place is worth a visit, if only to see how a public park should be run (a jogging path covered in that spongy material that is soft on the knees, clean and free public toilets, litter and graffiti free, a real oasis in the city). There is a boat pond where locals race their miniature boats (this is very popular in Hong Kong). Along Causeway Road, there is a statue of Queen Victoria which is worth a look.

7. Octopus Card is issued by the MTR (the major public transport network serving Hong Kong), for travel on the subway, busses, or trams. Get one per person at any MTR station immediately upon arrival. Go to the customer service centre at the station and give them 150 HKD (cash, they do not take credit cards), they will give you one Octopus Card (100 HKD on the card, 50 HKD deposit). Use the card for subway, bus, tram, and at many stores and restaurants. Top up as needed at any MTR station. Just prior to leaving Hong Kong turn in your Octopus Card at any MTR station customer service centre and get your deposit back less a modest fee (@9 HKD).

- the MTR (the subway) is a fast and cheap way to get around all of Hong Kong.

-the Tram (the "ding-ding") is a ridiculously cheap (2.6 HKD) way to travel around Northern Hong Kong Island (east-west). It can be a little slow though and is NOT air conditioned. Sit up top for great views of the city.

8. Central–Mid-Levels escalatorS and walkway system is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world: use google maps to find the bottom (at Queens Road and Cochrane Street) and ride it to the top, then cross it off your bucket list.

9. A good grocery store in the Causeway/Wan Chai area is Park n Shop (302 Hennessy Road), next to the Hennessy Road Playground.

10. Hong Kong Coastal Defense Museum: take the MTR out to Shau Kei Wan, then follow the signs to the museum. If military history is not your cup of tea, then take a pass on this free attraction. If it is, then you will find it interesting. Formerly a fort built in the 1880s to defend the narrows at Lei Yue Mun, Hong Kong has done a fine job turning it into an informative museum.

11. Misc:

- Required watching:

+I’m In The Mood For Love: Hong Kong @ 1962. One of the most beautifully filmed movies ever made.

+I Spy: Carry Me Back to Old Tsing-Tao: Watch to see how much Hong Kong has changed in 43 years. I Spy was an interesting series for numerous reasons (just ask my Brother-in-law), one being that it was the only tv series filmed on location all around the world.

+Parts Unknown: Hong Kong: Bourdain's unique take on Hong Kong food and culture with an emphasis on capturing a disappearing Hong Kong.

Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

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