Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hong Kong Planning

I visited Hong Kong in 2004. It was the first place I ever visited outside of North America. Here is what I wrote (journal style) during that trip. I must go back so here is some planning I am doing for that eventual trip.


MAP



GETTING AROUND

Hong Kong has good public transportion. Buses, the subway (MTR), the tram, and the Star Ferry have a unified payment card called the Octopus card. When you get on a bus or MTR you scan the card and then when you get off you scan again and the fare is deducted from the card. I believe the tram on Hong Kong island and the Star Ferry are flat fee rides so you only scan the card on entering. The card can also be used at some shops as payment. More money can be added to the card at MTR stations.

Tourists can buy an Octopus card that includes one or two Airport Express one way trips. If you are using the airport (and you probably are) then this is the card to get. More information can be found at these links.

HOTELS

The hotels in Hong Kong aren't cheap. I did a post on lesser known hotels that are near MTR stations. Of course just about all of the "brand name" hotels are found in Hong Kong and cost hundreds of dollars a night. If you can afford the price I think the Intercontinental Hong Kong is in an excellent location and has a fantastic lobby lounge with floor to ceiling windows affording a view of Hong Kong Harbour. The Grand Stanford is a different Intercontinental in Hong Kong, which I'm sure is fine, but isn't in the best location. I did stay at the Marco Polo Hong Kong and liked it a lot. It is integrated into Harbour City. There are two other Marco Polo hotels in this large complex, the Prince and the Gateway. The Marco Polo Hong Kong has the one pool for all three hotels however. The benefit of being in Harbour City is all of the food options as well as a small market within easy reach. The location is also a very short walk from the Star Ferry, which will take you across to Hong Kong Island.

I also stayed at the B P International hotel, which falls into the more affordable category. At the time, many of the rooms had bunk beds, but the hotel has done a renovation since I've been there and no more bunk beds as far as I can tell. The hotel is next to Kowloon Park and a public pool. The walk to the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry is through the park. Luckily Kowloon isn't a big area and you are never a far walk from where you want to go.

A well regarded affordable hotel is the Salisbury YMCA of Hong Kong. It is in Tsim Sha Tsui right next to The Peninsula Hotel. The location is a short walk to the Star Ferry, to all of the shopping, to tea at The Peninsula, and to the great lobby lounge at the Intercontinental.

I wasn't able to see everything in Hong Kong on my first trip, which is one of the reasons I want to return. Here are some of the things to do.


KOWLOON:

Tours

HONG KONG ISLAND:
  • Mid-Levels Escalator
  • Ride the Tram
  • Visit a Wet Market
  • The Peak is a must see. The Peak is on Hong Kong Island. If you can, go there twice, during the day and at night. Or just before sunset so you get both day and night. The weather changes a lot so if you get good weather, get up to the peak. Also, there are good walking options at The Peak.
  • Stanley Market and Murray House. Going to Stanley Market gets you out of the dense city that is Hong Kong to do some shopping and sight seeing.
  • Jumbo Kingdom in Aberdeen - A place to go to dinner after visiting Stanley Market. Jumbo Kingdom is a huge floating building with more than one restaurant to choose from.
  • The Verandah in Repulse Bay. Afternoon tea (closed on Mondays) or Sunday brunch. Frommer's also has a review of The Verandah as well as Luxe Dining. Not much more to do in Repulse Bay for toursits, except to go to the beach if it is summer time.
  • Ocean Park. I went to Ocean Park during my first visit to Hong Kong and I might like to go back. It is on the quiet side of the island and has a nice mix of things to do. I've read that they are doing well since Hong Kong Disneyland opened (the opposite was expected to happen) as a nice alternative.
  • Horse Racing at Sha Tin and Happy Valley. Sha Tin is in The New Teritories, but the place to see the races is Happy Valley. It is amongst the city on Hong Kong Island. An incredible spectacle from what I have read. Horse Racing happens twice a week in Hong Kong from September through July. Generally speaking, races happen Wednesday night at Happy Valley and Sunday afternoon at Sha Tin, but not always so check the schedule. I took the tour to Sha Tin that you can book at most hotels. It includes transportation, access to a guest suite area in the Jockey Club, a very nice buffet, a tour down to the winner's circle, and some money back in the form of credit for betting.

NEW TERRITORIES AND LANTAU ISLAND
Tours

MACAU

One thing I didn't do was get over to Macau. It is probably good for a day trip while visiting Hong Kong. You can get there easily via ferry that takes about an hour or by helicopter if you have more money to spend. If you are a gambler or just want to stay in one of the new casino resorts then Macau might be a fun overnight trip. Here are some points of interest and things to know:

HELPFUL LINKS

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