Welcome to Alan's Hong Kong Guide!
This is my personal guide to Hong Kong - based on my discoveries when living in Hong Kong in 2001-2003. Hope you like it!
Hong Kong's Top Attractions
1. The Peak
It's probably the most touristy thing to do in Hong Kong, but just accept it and enjoy. Scream out loud "I am not a traveller, I'm a tourist".
From the race to get a good seat on the peak tram to the views on top, you'll understand why this is an essential visit. For best enjoyment, take the tram up while it's still light. Book yourself an evening window table in the Cafe Deco restaurant (above Shooters 52), then head to enjoy the view. As you enjoy your meal, the view will transform to a sea of lights - perfect for the tram ride back down.
2. Tsim Sha Tsui Harbour
A perfect complement to the view from the peak is the view from Tsim Sha Tsui harbour. At night, the sea level view to Hong Kong island is spectacular, enhanced by the low lighting and the local Hong Kong residents fishing (the 'No Fishing' signs must be for the benefit of the tourists only, I think). For the ultimate tourist souvenier, you can even have your picture taken with the lights of Hong Kong island behind you. It you don't have a companion and steady hand, or a tripod, it may be the best way to get a picture.
Start near Star Ferry when it's light and take a slow stroll along the concrete walkways as night falls and continue past the Museum of Art to "catch" the ad-hoc fishermen at work. Turn round and retrace your steps back to Star Ferry, where you might wish to continue by boat to Hong Kong island by night (upper deck preferred). You can also get the boat from Discovery Bay, but it's ten times more expensive than the Star Ferry. I've never taken the ferry from Discover Bay myself. Maybe it includes a glass of champagne.
3. Cheung Chau Island
A wonderful day trip or weekend away from Hong Kong Island (take the ferry from the Macau ferry pier). Cheung Chau Island is refreshingly free of all traffic, has some nice walks and beach life, and is a good place to eat seafood and drink beer at half the cost of central Hong Kong.
If you want to stay the night, there's only one hotel - but it has nice views and is near the beach. Expensive though, and not much else to recommend it. Alternatively you can try your hand renting a local room from the accomodation stalls near the ferry. At least one guide book claims it is easy to get ripped off here if you don't speak the local lingo.
4. Ocean Park
Spread out over a huge area, Ocean Park features pandas, sealife, amusement rides (inc two rollercoasters), and some pretty long cable cars. It's a fun day out. Everything (except food and drink,etc) is free after you buy your ticket. If you're a Hong Kong resident, you can get a yearly pass.
Catch the bus from Admiralty.
5. Maid Sunday
Nothing can prepare you for Maid Sunday!
There are so many maids in Hong Kong, most of them from the Philippines. They work six days a week for around 3600 HKD (about 330 UKP) and accomodation - though many get paid much less than this legal minimum (as low as 2000 HKD).
Sunday is the normal day off, and the maids take to the streets to meet with their maid chums. Anywhere there's shade, you find some maids.
The best place for maid hunting is around Star Ferry, near central.
6. Kowloon Park and Hong Kong Park
Two welcome breaks from the concrete of the streets, although sometimes it seems like there's not much greenery in Hong Kong Park! It's mainly sculpted water features.
Kowloon Park has a huge outdoor swimming pool with timed entry - morning, afternoon, and evening - which is worth seeing if you're in the area. Again, don't expect fields of green but it's bigger than Hong Kong Park, and more fun when you get into it.
Hong Kong Shopping Guide
1. Tsim Sha Tsui
If you believe everything you read in the tourist guides, Tsim Sha Tsui is the place to shop. Not so. While Tsim Sha Tsui does have it's attractions, such as being offered the services of a tailor every few seconds, fake Rolex watches, the too good to be true (literally) electronics shops, and the proximity to most of the tourist hotels, the shopping is best elsewhere - away from this 'tourist district'.
The only exception to this is the expansive Harbour City, which can be worth a browse for the upmarket and occasionally trendy fashion labels (and Gucci outside). In fact Harbour City is so big, you can lose yourself here. So, head for Zone B which will probably satisfy all your fashion, electronics, and (if you get hungry) cafe needs.
If you find your hotel is on the Kowloon side, near Tsim Sha Tsui, spend your local time savouring the harbour around Star Ferry or take a walk in Kowloon Park and admire the outdoor swimming pool. Then, when you want to shop, take the MTR to somewhere where you wont be hassled as a tourist.
2. Causeway Bay
This is where Hong Kong comes to shop, and is a far more pleasurable experience than Tsim Sha Tsui. For a start, you wont be tourist prey. On the weekend it's packed to bursting, which can be part of the fun.
Highlights include Times Square (the atmosphere of the square outside and the four floors of restaurants are a bigger attraction than the 8 floors of shops), Sogo and surrounding, and Ikea!
In Causeway Bay you'll find fashion outlets (Diesel, etc), occasional electronics stores (see below), HMV, VCD shops, a Hello Kitty cafe, the excellent Page One bookshop (in the basement of Times Square), and much more. If you're going by MTR, get out at Causeway Bay - which takes you to Times Square. By Taxi, ask for Times Square. You can also take the Tram from central (look out for Sogo). Taxi's back home can be found at Times Square or near Ikea.
3. Wan Chai Computer Center / Electronics
There are many places to buy electronics in Hong Kong, but as a tourist you need to be very careful. Tsim Sha Tsui, for example, has a reputation for trying to seperate tourists from their money, without coming through with the goods.
The Wan Chai computer center, next to Wan Chai MTR, has two floors of electronics - laptops, digital cameras, and even one or two pirate software outlets. You can find some of the best prices for electronics in Hong Kong here, and the retailers are pretty genuine and speak English. Certain electronics are imported from Japan, hence the cheaper prices - don't be afraid to ask, the retailers will be happy to tell you. For what it's worth, I bought an Apple iBook at Wan Chai computer center, a number of Smartmedia cards, and various computer accessories. I usually find the Wan Chai Computer Center a relatively safe place to shop and the prices to be some of the most competitive.
Probably the safest place to buy electronics in Hong Kong is Fortress/Zoom - you'll find outlets in Causeway Bay and throughout HK (but not at Wan Chai computer center). It's the equivalent of Dixons in the UK - standard prices, slightly iffy sales staff, but generally you can be "sure" that if there's a problem it will be fixed. You'll also find a number of electronics outlets in Times Square and around Causeway Bay (see above). I bought a 29" TV and a digital camera from those outlets, and have bought many things from Fortress. Be sure to campare prices around, and if possible, check the Wan Chai computer center.
If you do buy electronics in Hong Kong, the best advice I can give is to check the prices in a number of shops - and avoid Tsim Sha Tui. The prices in Fortress should give you an upper limit - and are pretty standard for Hong Kong genuine goods. Usually the best you can expect is 10-20% cheaper than Fortess - towards 20% if it's an market import and/or from the Wan Chai computer center.
If you're quoted a price that's much much cheaper (eg, 50%) then question why - it's probably not true. Similarly, if anything looks "dodgy" - such as different prices each time you visit or for residents, or if the retailer is too insistent - then go elsewhere.
You may pay up to a 3% surcharge for credit card payment, but it's probably worth it for the safety that credit cards offer. Remember to check the position with international warranties. There's currently no sales tax in Hong Kong - so no need for duty free.
For more information about the Wan Chai computer center, try a search on Google - the official website has recently disappeared.
4. Ladies Market
Gucci bag for 5% of the shop price? There are so many fake things here, you'll wonder whether anything is real. Near Mongkok MTR.
Hong Kong's Most Overated Attractions
Don't waste your time in the 'famous' market. It's the same old junk you can buy anywhere, if you take leave of your senses. If you want atmosphere and beaches, go to Cheung Chau instead.
Hong Kong's Biggest Disappointment
1. The cost of Food and Drink
The food and alcohol in Central and Kowloon is very expensive - even during Happy Hour. Expect to pay 30 to 60 HKD for a bottle or pint of beer - thats about 3 to 6 UKP!! The most popular areas for eating are Soho, Causeway Bay, and Wan Chai.
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