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Reasons to visit Hong Kong soon March 8, 2007

Posted by Al in : travel , trackback

I’ve just returned from my second visit to Hong Kong, and once again I thoroughly enjoyed myself. In part this was due to my girlfriend, Winnie’s, family out there who were wonderfully hospitable and looked after us well. However I felt at home in Hong Kong on my first visit, and felt even more so during my second visit – I think I could easily live in Hong Kong, and would like to do so if ever I won the lottery. However I have only been to Hong Kong during the winter season ,and I’m not sure whether I could face the summer heat and humidity – so maybe winter in Hong Kong, summer in Britain. Although, the next time I visit the place and if I could go to buy some dehumidifiers, I would.

Anyway here are some reasons to visit Hong Kong:

  1. fantastic architecture: everything in Hong Kong is built vertically as land is in short supply. This has lead to loads of skyscrapers, and some of them (the Bank of China, HSBC, Lippo building, etc) are wonderful pieces of architecture. There is also the wonderful Tsing Ma bridge and the world’s longest and biggest cable car. Go there, crane your neck and enjoy great design;
  2. the best public transport in the world: the MTR is Hong Kong’s underground railway – and it’s amazingly clean, efficient and convenient. Lines cover most of Hong Kong and both stations and trains are wonderfully clean and pleasant places to be in. Buses are frequent and cover all of the territory –  not only are they clean and air-conditioned, but they are cheap as well. Smaller minibuses are also available and whilst their timetable is a little irregular (they won’t leave until the last seat is filled), they are fast (often scarily so) and cover the whole territory as well. Taxis are every other car on the roads in Hong Kong and they are cheap – not as cheap as other forms of transport, but still cheap. And then there’s the Octopus card, which is the greatest invention ever. It’s a simple RFID card (we use the same kind of card for security in work) which carries monetary credits. It can pay for you MTR, KCr and bus transport – you just pass your card near to a receiver on entry and money gets deducted on a bus, however on the MTR and KCR money only gets deducted at the end of the journey once your fare can be calculated by how far you’ve traveled. The Octopus card can also be used for purchases at McDonalds, 7-11s and numerous other shops, which is very useful;
  3. the shopping: wander around the Central and you will find Gucci, Yves St Laurent, Luis Vuiton, Chanel, and all sorts of very expensive shops. Money is everywhere in Hong Kong and you will find all the biggest and best shops waiting for you. Head up the Kowloon peninsula to MongKok and you will find lesser shops with products going a lot cheaper – Sei Yung Choi St is full of electrical and mobile phone shops all competing for your business. You will also find street markets which have stuff cheaper again – don’t expect and guarantees or warranties though. Head further out to Sham Shui Po and find junk being sold alongside good quality goods – all cheaper again. Hong Kong is built for shopping and shopping is the city’s main pastime;
  4. food: after shopping comes eating out in Hong Kong, and there are so many restaurants to choose from. Food is ridiculously cheap, and yet still very good. If you like Dim Sum, spicy snacks or full on Cantonese meals, then Hong Kong has hundreds of restaurants to suit your culinary taste. If you visit Mongkok then pay a visit to the Tsui Huen restaurant on Tung Choi St – it’s got really good Thai/Chinese food at good prices. If you are trying to have a meal at lunchtime or early evening then don’t be surprised if you have to wait for a table – even though Hong Kong has an amazing number of restaurants the good ones are always busy so queues are a way of life;

There are many more reasons to visit Hong Kong, such as the world’s largest seated Buddha (35m tall), the world’s longest cable car, the world’s longest outdoor escalators in Ocean Park, Ocean park itself, double decker trams, the view from the Peak and many more. But if I assume that the majority of readers of this blog are primarily English speaking, then the fact that most Hong Kong residents have at least a modicum of English is another good reason to visit the place. Having been under British rule for 99 years the roads are laid out British style, with traffic driving on the left. The majority of signs are in both English and Cantonese, which makes life a lot easier. And everyone knows basics of English, such as numbers and the word “toilet” (which can sometimes be one of the most important places to find in a hurry!).

However the benefit of having a local populace who speak English is one of the reasons why you ought to visit Hong Kong sooner rather than later: slowly English as a second language is being overtaken by Mandarin and soon you may not find that many locals who can speak English. 10 years ago Hong Kong was China’s gateway to the rest of the world and English speaking westerners were everywhere. Since China has opened up and embraced a more capitalist method of doing business then Westerners have started to visit China directly, and Hong Kong has lost some of this trade. Instead the territory has decided to make itself more of a tourist destination (which is another reason to visit the place), but is now receiving more visitors from mainland China than ever before. Given this, and the fact that Hong Kong is now back under Chinese rule, then the schools are now concentrating on Mandarin as a second language, rather than English. I could notice a small change in language preference since I was last there only a year ago, and so I’m not sure how long English will be widely accepted and understood. So if you have ever though about visiting Hong Kong, but had been putting it off, then maybe you ought to think about going sooner rather than later.


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