Once under colonial rule, cosmopolitan Hong Kong is a glamorous gateway to modern Chinese culture and a shopping and dining hub.
One of Asia's most exciting cities, Hong Kong is a glamorous gateway to modern Chinese culture. Once a backwater of the Middle Kingdom, it went on to flourish under colonial rule, and now, more than a decade after the return to Chinese sovereignty, the city has amalgamated its tumultuous history into a unique blend of East and West, traditional and cutting-edge.
Imagine old Taoist temples, in their brilliant red and ochre coatings, sitting comfortably amidst majestic colonial structures. A towering jungle of chrome and steel skyscrapers hover above it all. The backdrop is an emerald expanse of mountains (Hong Kong is mostly country parks), while the foreground is filled by Victoria Harbour, the busiest in the region. It’s a picture-perfect city to say the least.
Visitors are typically shocked by the lightning-speed pace at which the city moves, and the efficiency of service and transportation. Everything always works here, making first-time visits a breeze, which is highly fortunate as the days can be packed with activity from early morning to the small hours of the night. Fitting in a mountain hike, a beach visit, a temple stroll, a shopping spree, a pub crawl, and enormous meals in between is all possible in a single Hong Kong day. Brace yourself and jump in!
The best months in Hong Kong are October, November and most of December when temperatures are moderate and the skies are clear. June to August are the hot and rainy months, while January and February are quite cold especially since most buildings do not have central heating systems. March to May are foggy and humid. Follow the weather at the Hong Kong Observatory website (http://www.hko.gov.hk).
Singapore citizens with a valid passport travelling to Hong Kong can stay for up to 90 days without a visa. If they intend to stay longer, or travel for the purposes of study, training, employment or residence, they must apply for a visa. The applicant can either apply to the Hong Kong Immigration Department directly, or through the Chinese Embassy or Consulates.
Only Hong Kong dollars are accepted. Sometimes Chinese Renminbi is also accepted, but this should not be taken as the norm, and exchange rates should be taken into account.
Hong Kong is known for its vast and efficient public transport system. From the airport, take the Airport Express train service to get to Kowloon and Central within 25 minutes. There are few places of interest that cannot be reached by minibus, bus, or by the Mass Transit Railway. The various ferries that service outlying islands around Hong Kong, as well as crossing Victoria Harbour, also make scenic trips for visitors. Visit www.gov.hk for complete information on all of Hong Kong's public transport.
Hong Kong has high health standards with well-stocked pharmacies and good hospitals. However, bird flu cases do occur occasionally, with patients being infected abroad and then travelling into Hong Kong. The etiquette is to wear a surgical mask if you are suffering from cold or flu. Hong Kong also boasts one of the lowest crimes rates in the world. Pickpocketing is rare, but it does occur if you are particularly careless about your belongings.
|How are you?||Neih hou ma?|
|Fine, thanks||Hou hou do jeh|
|Excuse-me! (to get attention)||Ching mahn!|
|Thank you||Do jeh|
|What's your name?||Neih giu mat yeh meng?|
|My name is…||Ngoh giu…|
|Nice to meet you||Hou gou hing gin dou neih|
|Are you on Facebook/Twitter?||Neih yauh mouh jyu chaak Facebook/Twitter?|
|Where’s an internet café?||Mohng ba hai bin douh?|
|Where can I get a taxi?||Ngoh hai bin douh ho yih wandou dik si?|
|Where is the bus/train station?||Fo che jaahm/ba si jaahm hai bin douh?|
|A one-way/return ticket to…||Yat jeung heui…ge daan chihng/seung chihng fei|
|Do you have a room for one/two?||Auh mouh yat/leuhng go yahn ge fohnggaan?|
|When's check out?||Gei dim teui fong?|
|Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar?||Neih ho m ho yih gaai siuh yat gaan hou ge chaan teng/jau ba?|
|A table for two, please||M goi bei leuhng yahn ge toi ngoh|
|A menu, please||M goi neih bei choi paai ngoh|
|The bill, please||M goi maaih daan|
|Where's the toilet?||Sai sau gaan hai bin douh?|
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For the best and highest vantage point on Hong Kong Island, head to The Peak. Take the 3.5km (2.1-mile) Peak Circle Walk for an easy and restorative stroll with sweeping vistas of Victoria Harbour unfolding along the trail. Or head to the Peak Tower, an anvil-shaped building with a large observation deck. For a complete experience, take the historical Peak Tram, an 1888 funicular railway that travels the sharp gradient to and from The Peak.
Tai O is one of the last places to experience Hong Kong as a fishing village. Although the fishing trade is dying out, the area retains the charm and slow pace of a seaside town. Consisting mostly of houses on stilts and an ageing population, Tai O makes a great day-trip for escaping the hectic city. Look out for dried seafood and unique village snacks, as well as the conservation project, the Tai O Heritage Hotel, which used to be the Tai O Police Station.
Star Ferry (Central-Tsim Sha Tsui route)
If there's only time to do one bit of sightseeing in Hong Kong, make it a ride on the Star Ferry. The green-bottomed boats transporting passengers between Central Pier and Tsim Sha Tsui are much more than just a commuting tool. For the duration of the sub-ten-minute ride, the ferry will get passengers up close and personal with the postcard-perfect harbourside skyline that made Victoria Harbour so famous. A night ride is best for seeing the stunning neon-lit shore.
Sai Kung Beaches
It's easy to forget that this metropolis has rich natural offerings, but a trip to Sai Kung puts things back into perspective. The area is home to the Sai Kung Country Park, a haven for hikers and climbers. Visitors can also find countless beaches here, each more pristine and isolated than the next. Rent a boat or catch a private ferry service at Sai Kung Town to reach the whitest strips of sand, or take a boat tour of the rocky spectacles that make up the Hong Kong Geopark. Return to Sai Kung Town for a seafood feast along the waterfront.
The Big Buddha is so gigantic it can be seen clearly from afar. Sitting 34 meters (111 ft) tall, the bronze statue looks placidly over the northern territories of Hong Kong, towards mainland China. In its vicinity is the region’s most important Buddhist building, the Po Lin Monastery, home to many monks as well as beautiful Buddhist iconography and a reputable vegetarian restaurant. The area is popular with Buddhist pilgrims as well as avid hikers in search of the perfect sunrise from nearby Lantau Peak.
Happy Valley Race Night
One of the most famous horse racing venues in the world, the Happy Valley racecourse holds weekly night races (suspended during summer months). The race grounds are spectacularly verdant against a backdrop of city lights. Stands are filled with serious punters bent over racing statistics sheets, as well as the less serious who come for the beer garden and live entertainment. Once the bell rings and the horses hit the turf, everyone comes alive, cheering on their number. Come to try your luck and soak up the party atmosphere.
Kick start a day of shopping by exercising your bargaining muscles at the Cat Street bazaar. Located on Upper Lascar Row, between Ladder Street and East Street, this semi-outdoor alleyway market is the place to find that Chinoiserie knick-knack. It's lined with stalls peddling old posters, black and white photos, jade, wood carvings, Bruce Lee memorabilia and knock-off antiques, as well as the real deal.
For men who appreciate the finer things in life, check out The Armory for a ready-to-wear or custom-made suit. Just browsing the products in the gentlemen's club environs of this boutique makes one feel classier. Even the accessories will have you drooling: Bowhill and Elliott velvet slippers, Saint Crispins brogues and Fox umbrellas.
Or visit Lane Crawford, a one-stop shop for high fashion brands, home decor and luxury beauty and skincare. The emporium is one of Hong Kong's oldest retail businesses, with four store locations around the city. The new LAB Concept section at the Queensway Plaza branch is where you'll find exciting artist-designer collaborations and new young brands introduced each season.
If it's street flavour that you're after, head to Rise Commercial Building (5–11 Granville Circuit) in Tsim Sha Tsui. It may look like a grubby little mall from the outside, but it hides numerous boutiques on the inside. The trendiest Korean and Japanese street trends pop up here immediately after they hit the blogs, while budding fashion talents test the selling power of their creations, filling the shelves with dramatic eyewear, statement bowties, and one-of-a-kind jewellery.
Cat Street bazaar, The Armory, Lane Crawford, Rise Commerical Building.
There's nothing more Cantonese than starting the day with a dim sum brunch. Established in the 1930s, the quaint Luk Yu Teahouse (24–26 Stanley Street, Central) has changed little, with its uniformed doorman and authentic recipes of Old Canton. Try the almond and pork lung soup and stuffed liver. The only drawback is the notoriously bad-mannered service.
For a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, head to the Central branch of Tai Cheong Bakery at 35 Lyndhurst Terrace. This is where you can find the Hong Kong egg tart, an iconic local snack inspired by the British custard tart. Encased in a flaky, buttery pastry, the eggy custard has a rich, almost caramel, flavour.
A more hearty, sit-down afternoon tea can be had at Kam Fung Restaurant (41 Spring Garden Lane, Wan Chai). A typical cha chaan teng, or tea restaurant, Kam Fung does a mean cup of milk tea, revving any weary pedestrian back up. Complete the meal with their famous pineapple buns filled with butter, or the incredible chicken pies.
For a memorable evening, make a trip to Sai Kung Town (from MTR Choi Hung Station take minibus route 1A, or from MTR Hang Hau Station, take minibus 101) where the waterfront boulevard is filled with hawkers selling fresh seafood. Take your pick of fish, lobster and clams, then hand it to one of the restaurants lining the boulevard for their kitchens to prepare a dish in a typical Cantonese manner. Try steaming razor clams with garlic and black bean sauce.
Luk Yu Teahouse, Tai Cheong Bakery, Kam Fung Restaurant, Sai Kung Town.
If you can muster the determination, it's worth it to hike to Lantau Peak to see the sunrise, then follow this with a visit to one of Hong Kong's largest landmarks, The Big Buddha. Sitting 34 meters (111ft) tall, the bronze statue looks placidly over the northern territories of Hong Kong, towards mainland China. Also in its vicinity is the region’s most important Buddhist building, the Po Lin Monastery, home to monks, beautiful Buddhist iconography and a reputable vegetarian restaurant.
For those who would prefer a less strenuous activity, tour the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Shatin. Built to resemble a traditional Chinese courtyard, the museum houses 12 exhibition galleries with an extensive range of relics that express the history, culture and arts of Hong Kong and the South China region. The Bruce Lee exhibition features more than 600 items related to the life of the late film star, including his famous black-and-yellow jumpsuit.
To get a taste of Hong Kong performing arts of a more traditional kind, visit the Yau Ma Tei Theatre. This recently refurbished historical building presents Cantonese opera by some of the biggest names on the scene. Alternatively, check out what's on at The Fringe Club). Converted from an old dairy, this clubhouse is now home to one of Hong Kong's most popular live stages. There's a show on nearly every night, ranging from indie acoustic to rock bands and original plays, and the venue includes a small art gallery.
Lantau Peak, Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Yau Ma Tei Theatre, The Fringe Club.