It is an oft-stated goal of the government of Hong Kong to make the city a New York or London of the East. In our view they are succeeding and the British heritage in architecture and infrastructure gives it a unique western appearance among Chinese cities. Taxis, buses, trucks and pedestrians interact in frighteningly close proximity. (See “Pedestrian Safety”, below) It is excitingly chaotic with a profusion of smells, a constant hubbub of sounds, and busy, busy, busy people constantly about their business, seemingly 24 hours a day. If you feel that the purpose of a city is “so that you can get what you want any time of the day or night” then “Honkers” is the place for you.
The tailors of Hong Kong are highly skilled, and while even they cannot make a shirt or a suit while you wait, once they have measured you up, they can run up a bespoke shirt, suit or pants in astonishingly short times. (Once they have your measurements a number of them will even accept orders and forward the finished garment internationally).
Your safest way to cross a road is to ‘go with the crowd’. Over the border in mainland China you find it even more hazardous to make an impromptu crossing and following the crowd is very strongly recommended as the motorists get up to high speed and are pretty lawless. (Add to that the fact that the majority of mainland Chinese motorists are very inexperienced, and that trucks, cars, taxis and bicycles all use the same roads and it adds up to a lot of daily accidents.)
Stanley Market is an absolute must for the shopaholic. Shops in the market sell everything from the tacky (T-Shirts with ‘I love Hong Kong’ across the front) to high-quality, gorgeous silk clothing, scarves, ties and souvenirs. And a great deal more, besides!
The prices at Stanley Market represent good value and amazingly are pretty similar to Shenzhen and Guangzhou on the mainland, which are known for their inexpensive prices. As is true in most Far East markets, bargain, haggle, negotiate! Usually you can drop the price to half of the asking price without much difficulty. You can do even better if the shopkeeper is keen for a sale, and you haggle with some skill.
The views from up here are definitely worthwhile. Do not be put off by the prospect of mist – we found that instead of putting a dampener on our day, it gave the tops of the buildings craning through the mist, a mysterious and somewhat spooky appearance that was appealing in its own way.
Artists selling colourful seasonal depictions of Hong Kong do a roaring trade up around Victoria Peak.
Take a break at a pub
The ubiquitous Irish-themed pub can be found in Hong Kong. They tend to serve hearty fare and a selection of imported and local beers and spirits. We found Delaney’s in the Wanchai District much to our liking – it has a vibrant atmosphere with a variety of sports constantly shown on their screens. There is also a sister pub in Peking Road. (The Dublin Jack pub is a part of the same group too and the experience across all three of them is consistently good. But one would need to have heroic liver capacity to try all three in one day!)
There are a great number of hotels in Hong Kong ranging from the particularly dubious through to ultra-luxurious. You get what you pay for. On my last visit I wanted to be in the Wanchai District, where we found the JJ Hotel – a budget hotel within comfortable walking distance of some good restaurants and nightlife. The rooms were clean, en-suite and included the slippers that are de rigueur in Chinese hotels (seemingly independent of the star rating or price).
All hotels in Hong Kong (and Mainland China) require a ‘room key’ deposit on check-in. This is not necessarily a set price, and can often be negotiated. In Hong Kong a budget hotel may require a deposit of 500 Hong Kong Dollars. At a particular hotel in Beijing they eventually accepted a payment of 300 Yuan, where their original request had been for 100 US dollars.
Make sure you get a receipt.
How you choose to pay for this will depend on how much cash you have, and how much credit is available on your credit cards. Our preference is to pay cash because then when you leave you get paid out in cash and the books are squared. If you pay by credit card you are likely to find that the amount will only be refunded some weeks after the reversal was due, so you may well have to settle the amount with your credit card company yourself before finally receiving the repayment.