We have departed Hong Kong, and it was a lot of fun on the whole. Getting around was surprisingly easy. The MTR is easy to navigate and is very cheap and efficient. The city buses were a little more complicated – but not too bad. Taxis are also plentiful and relatively inexpensive.
Hong Kong is extremely safe. At no point did we feel even the slightest bit threatened. I would not have any hesitation walking around the city in the middle of the night.
There was more of a language barrier than I expected, but it was certainly nothing insurmountable. Being that Hong Kong was a British Colony up until about 15 years ago and English is still one of the two official languages of Hong Kong (the other being Cantonese), I was not expecting there to be much of a barrier at all.
English is listed on all official signs and spoken for all announcements. But, many of the residents do not know English outside of some basic words. The hotels, airports, and nicer restaurants all had English speaking staff (and they were usually younger). On the other hand, the street restaurants really did not speak much English; one street restaurant did not even have its name in English on the sign…We had to pick it out from a picture off my phone.
Communicating in Hong Kong to home was very easy. The hotel had a fast internet connection, which we used to call home via Skype. I had also unlocked my cell phone prior to leaving, so I bought a SIM card from the hotel business center for about $20 which got us unlimited 4g data for the duration of our stay…That was money very well spent, as being able to use Google Maps when out and about is invaluable.
Speaking of the hotel, the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong was great. Breakfast had a wide selection and was of high quality. The room was recently renovated and had an unbelievable view. I’ll try to do a full review post on the hotel eventually.
I was fortunate in that I really did not experience any jet lag…at all. I maybe woke up early the first two days, but by the third night I was up to my old tricks of staying up late working on the computer (editing pictures). Alyce had it a little worse. She was ready to go to bed around 7:30 p.m. the first couple nights, but that is not as bad as it sounds since she is usually in bed by 9:00 at home. Really, we were both very fortunate that we did not get bad jetlag despite shifting our time zone 14 hours forward.
I did not really experience a culture shock either, but I think Alyce got it a little bit our first day out. We were a little more off the beaten path and did not see many American looking faces during the day. Also, we walked through the area where hawkers walk up and try to push stuff on you….”Rolex, Tailor.” A note though: all the hawkers were Indian looking. The Asians were never pushy.
Weather in Hong Kong was very mild – considering we were there in the dead of the Hong Kong winter. Highs were usually in the low 70’s with lows in the mid to low 50’s. Sometimes there was a breeze blowing, which would make it a little more chilly. We had sun a couple days, but there is always a fog/smog over the city. The chance of rain was 0% everyday.
So with the general info out of the way, this is how we spent our time:
On our first day we were up early because we were not yet able to sleep in. After eating breakfast at the hotel lounge, we walked to the Wan Chai Ferry dock and rode the Star Ferry to Tsim Sha Chui.
Once there, we walked along the Promenade and got a great view of Hong Kong Island. Note: Hong Kong consists of several islands and a peninsula off of mainland China. Most of the action takes place on Hong Kong Island and the peninsula (Kowloon).
Past the Tsim Sha Chui Promenade was the Hong Kong avenue of stars. We really did not recognize many of the stars, but the big attractions for the locals (or Asian tourists) were the same ones we recognized—Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. There were also several interesting statues around. They did not mean anything to us, but I’m sure the locals knew what they were.
After strolling around the promenade, we made our way to Nathan Road. Nathan Road is probably the busiest/biggest street in Hong Kong. Think of it like Broadway in New York or a much busier Canal Street in New Orleans. We started at the beginning and walked towards Mogkok, where several of the markets are located.
Nathan Road is extremely busy with people coming from what seemed to be every direction. There were also Indian looking hawkers who spotted us and tried to sell us anything; they were very persistent. Again, the Asians are much more mild mannered and not pushy.
A couple blocks down Nathan Road, we took a detour to Simpson Sin Tailors. A side bar on custom tailored suits…I originally was considering getting a suit made in Chiang Mai Thailand, but I was leaning against it as the suits were not overly cheap and apparently weren’t of the best quality—though shirts are supposed to be easier to make and are fine to purchase in Thailand. Thanks to a generous gift (thanks mom and dad) I decided to go ahead and get a suit made in Hong Kong, where they are very high quality if you go to the right place (NOT the Indians who try to stop you on the road).
And that brings us to Simpson Sin. I first saw this place on Anthony Bourdain’s show. For those of you that know how I plan/research things, you know I rarely take anybody’s suggestion without further research—including Anthony Bourdain. Anyway, I looked in to Simpson Sin more and found that the quality was excellent; they actually come to some US cities every year and take measurements then ship custom tailored suits/shirts back after tailoring them.
The people at Simpson Sin were very friendly and spoke good English. They took my measurements and cracked some jokes. But really the main guy reminded me of my dad in that all he wanted to talk about was how big/heavy my camera was (it is not that heavy); he said his son had the same camera.
After leaving Simpson Sin, we made our way to the Ladies Market in Mongkok. It was just opening as we got there at 11:30 a.m. There was a lot of setting up taking place and – to be honest – most things being sold were junk (knock offs, etc.)…Maybe we did not see the other stuff.
After perusing the market, we caught the MTR to Sha Tin, to catch some horse races. We did not bet on any, but it was fun to watch he horses run and see how in to it the Hong Kong people got. The races ran every 30 minutes. It was pretty tame—until the horses made the final turn, then everyone started yelling. It was a relaxing way to spend the afternoon after lots of walking.
After watching 4 or 5 races, we caught the MTR back to Central and then walked to the street restaurant we wanted to try for dinner. On our way to dinner, we happened to walk through a food street market, which was pretty cool.
We arrived at Kau Kee for dinner to get some authentic Hong Kong food. We were directed to a table for 6…which already had 4 others at it. A little awkward at first, but you get used to it quickly. One guy at the table had lived in in Los Angeles for a couple years and spoke good English; he helped us out. We ate Brisket and Noodle soup, which was very good. The broth was extra spicy which is right up our alley. After Kau Kee, we made our way back to the hotel via the MTR.
To start our second day in Hong Kong, we caught the bus to Stanley after breakfast at the hotel. Stanley is a town on the South side of the island on Hong Kong. We walked through the market which seemed to have more knock off type stuff. Also, there was a lot more tourists and foreign nationals in Stanley. After the market, we walked around a giant mall in Stanley, which also contained a grocery store which was neat to see. Side note: there are high end malls all over Hong Kong…literally, all over. I can’t imagine there is enough people shopping to support these malls, but I guess there is.
After the mall, we walked a path and saw a little temple, then made our way to the beach. The beach was very quiet and peaceful—a nice break. On the beach was a family with two pugs playing; it was fun to watch them run around and get in trouble.
After relaxing there for an hour, we made our way back to the bus stop and caught a bus to the peak tram. We rode the tram up to the peak of Hong Kong. There were lots of tourists here, but you are a very brief walk from a nice quiet peaceful walk around the peak.
This was a “must do” in Hong Kong, and I tend to agree. Really, it is a good view of the city and a nice walk. I wouldn’t kill myself to get up there, but it is worth the trip IMO.
Following the peak, we made our way back to the hotel and got ready for our meal at Harbourside. Harbourside was very good. It was a higher end buffet with a wide variety of things to try. This was good in that you could try different foods without having to order a entrée of each. You also had a great view of the harbor from the restaurant. Harbourside won’t be winning any awards for food innovation any time soon, but the food was of high quality and allowed you to try several different things. It was worth the stop.
We then walked back to the ferry and rode across the harbor to the Hyatt.
For our 3rd day in Hong Kong, we decided to take a day trip to Macau. Macau is another small country located just off mainland China. Similar to Hong Kong, it is a special administrative region to China…meaning it is “kind of” China. Basically it is its own country, but is a colony to China. I don’t know…I’ve read in to it, and the special administrative thing confuses me.
Anyway, we caught the ferry to Macau, which took about an hour. We cleared customs and were in the second country of our journey. Immediatley after clearing customs, we were accosted by people offering tours. Once you get the point “no” across they leave you alone, and you are free to walk outside to the free casino buses. We went to the Grand Lisboa, where we’d be eating lunch.
Upon arrival, it took a little bit to get my bearings—it was the first time of the trip I was not exactly sure where I was going. But, we made our way straight to where we wanted to go and walked around Senado Square to the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Macau was a really cool place…just as busy, but different from Hong Kong. While Hong Kong is a former British colony, Macau is a former Portugese colony; so all the signs have Cantonese and Portugese. Macau is also the gambling capital of the world—yes, bigger than Las Vegas. The Chinese apparently love to gamble, and baccarat is their vice.
After walking around, we made our way back to the Grand Lisboa for lunch at Robouchon au Dome, and it was excellent. We are fortunate enough to have eaten at many excellent restaurants, and this ranked up there with any of them…and I was wearing tennis shoes. Not my first choice, but plenty acceptable there.
After lunch, we wandered (or wondered, as Alyce will tell you a pronounce it) over to the Wynn and caught some kind of dragon show and the fountain show. We then found a neat spot and sat and relaxed as we watched the sun set…or at least one of us was relaxed.
We then caught some of the city lights and made our way back to the ferry to head to the hotel.
Our last day in Hong Kong…Wow that went by fast. After breakfast, we caught the Ding Ding Tram to Victoria Park. I love going to parks in other cities because it is relaxing and you generally get to see people up to their ordinary business. Victoria Park was certainly no exception.
In the park, many people were doing their morning Chi exercises (for lack of a better/more accurate term). It was very interesting to see. We also sat around and just relaxed amongst the gardens…It was certainly not a bad way to spend a Tuesday morning.
After the park we took the ferry back over to Tsim Tsa Chui to pick up my suit. That was quite the experience, as I have never worn anything else that fit me like the suit. When I was putting it on, I was thinking it was going to be too tight; but it fit perfectly. And again, all the tailors wanted to talk about was how heavy my camera was. We really liked it there and highly recommend Simpson Sin.
We then made our way back to the hotel with my new suit. Once there, we began packing (yuck). After a little break, we ventured back out to Soho/The midlevels. Before we left Wan Chai, we stopped at a roasted meat shop called Joy Hing. It was hard to find because it did not have an English sign, but I was able to recognize it from a picture. We had roasted duck and pork, which were both good.
Soho was a more residential area, but it contained the world’s longest escalator. We road up to the top, then walked our way down—passing many tourist oriented restaurants along the way.
I had read about a restaurant called The Chairman being good close to this area. We made our way over there, and fortunately they had a table for two.
Dinner was excellent. All of the food was good, but the Mussel’s with chili sauce was unbelievable. The squid and pork belly were both also very good.
Finally, we made our way back to the hotel and called it a wrap for Hong Kong.
I really liked Hong Kong. The people were very friendly; they may not have spoke English, but they all knew “thank you very much” and “I’m so sorry” in the off chance they actually had to tell you no.
There was always action; I do not know where all these people came from. The subways (MTR) were always packed. Yet everything was always organized and orderly. And everyone was courteous—a rarity around the US.
Also, and unrelated, you never saw any fat people—literally. It was strange. Another thing, we may have seen two black people the entire time. It was not something I was looking for, but you just happened to notice it the one or two times you actually saw a black person…Again, these are just observations and are certainly not meant to offend anyone.
We did a lot in Hong Kong—Alyce may tell you we did too much. But in reality, we barely scratched the surface of what the city/country has to offer. I really wanted to go to Sai Kung for the seafood market, but it was not in the cards. Aberdeen and Repulse Bay are supposed to be neat little towns. They even have a Disneyland there. And we saw maybe 5% of the markets in Hong Kong.
All things said and done. It was a great stop. As a city, I’d compare it to a busier Chicago in the US (but much cleaner and safer) and would not hesitate to return.
Link to all the pictures (same as the one posted previously):