Hong Kong

Hong Kong

About Hong Kong

Best Places to Visit in Asia - Bustling Street filled with people
Bustling Street filled with people in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of our favorite cities to visit in Asia. She is exciting, fast paced, colorful, and filled with fun and excitement. It is no wonder she is nicknamed as the Pearl of the Orient.

There are skyscrapers in the business district that creates an impressive skyline. Plenty of shops with a plethora of products that will please any hardcore shopper.

Charming famous attractions offer a glance in history, respite from the hectic modern world, and even theme world fun and entertainment like Disneyworld. Of course, not to forget, the myriad choices of delicious world class dishes that can be found in top class restaurants, appealing local cafes, and street side stalls.

Religion

The main religions in Hong Kong are Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. The small communities of beliefs are Christians, Roman Catholics, Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Baha’i.

What To See In Hong Kong - Big Buddha Blesses Everyone
Tian Tan Buddha, © Timotheus Lee for Asia Travel Gems

Yet, at the same time, a majority of the people have no religious affiliation. All religions are tolerated and respected.



Culture

There is a high level of cultural tolerance in Hong Kong. Cultural influences from the western world began during the British rule. At the same time, the ancient Chinese culture were held strong and dear.

Today, you can see people still practicing Chinese traditions while celebrating Christmas with as much fervor as Chinese New Year.

Certain Chinese beliefs and Feng shui are taken very seriously in Hong Kong. For example, before any construction or renovation changes to a building, Feng Shui experts are often consulted. It is believed that the right action by following the advice of the Feng Shui expert can bring business success.

Another example, is the belief that the spirits of the land must be appeased before starting any project in the area. There will be prayers and offerings that must be respected.

Languages

The majority of the population speaks Cantonese, a Chinese dialect. There are other dialects spoken, too. Mandarin, the national language, has become more widely spoken in recent years.

Due to the British rule, many of the Hong Kong people speak English. Those working in the government, business and tourism sectors are usually fluent in English. Though there are still some locals who do work in industries related to the three sectors, and are not so good at English.

Do be respectful, and communicate as best as you can when you encounter such cases. Some would even speak in Chinese or Cantonese mixed with English.

Dress Codes & National Dress

There really isn’t any National Dress for Hong Kong. The only consideration is that women may wear the lovely cheongsam as formal wear durinng important occasions.

Best Places to Visit in Asia - Cheongsam
The Lovely Cheongsam

The cheongsam is a body-hugging one-piece dress. It is also known as qipao.

As for dress code, there is none to follow. Basically, dress wisely for the season you are going to be in Hong Kong.

For example, during the colder months, pack for layers. Best to wear long pants rather than shorts due to the cold weather. Also, have a light jacket that you can easily wear when outside, and remove when indoors.

During the warmer months, it is all right to wear shorts or bermudas. T-shirts or polo for men, and light blouses for women is fine.

Check out the Weather in Hong Kong section (below) for more info on the weather so that you can plan what to bring for clothing.

Sports

Hong Kong people are quite active in sports. Football, cricket, basketball, swimming, badminton, table tennis, cycling and running are popular.

Though not a sport, many Hong Kong people like to trek on weekends and holidays. They go outside of the city, and into the nature havens to enjoy a good hike.

Festivals and Public Holidays

The holidays and festivals in Hong Kong are predominantly Chinese. Most are celebrated with lots of color and excitement.

Best Places to Visit in Asia - Lion Dance during Chinese New Year Celebrations
Lion Dance during Chinese New Year Celebrations, © Timotheus Lee for Asia Travel Gems

Here are the holidays and festivals:

  • New Year’s Day
  • The day following the first day of January
  • Lunar New Year, Second day of Lunar New Year, Third day of Lunar New Year
  • Ching Ming Festival
  • Good Friday
  • Holy Saturday
  • Easter Monday
  • Labour Day
  • Buddha’s Birthday
  • Dragon Boat Festival
  • Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day
  • Day following the Mid-Autumn Festival
  • National Day
  • Day following the National Day
  • Chung Yeung Festival
  • Christmas Day
  • The first weekday after Christmas Day

Where is Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is located on China’s south coast, at the mouth of the Pearl River Delta. It is surrounded by the South China Sea with one of the major attractions that is the Victoria Harbor.

Best Places to Visit in Asia - Map of Hong Kong
Map of Hong Kong, image source: Moddlyg

The country comprises Hong Kong island, the Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories as well as hundreds of outlying islands. One of the most famous islands is Lantau Island. It is where the Hong Kong International Airport is found, and the popular Tian Tan Buddha.


How to get to Hong Kong?

There are many options to arrive in Hong Kong, and here they are:

By plane

Hong Kong International Airport services more than a hundred airlines that fly to and from cities all over the world. This includes budget airlines, too.

Hong Kong’s national carrier is Cathay Pacific. It is a decent airline with good service.

Best Places to Visit in Asia - Hong Kong's national carrier, Cathay Pacific
Hong Kong’s national carrier, Cathay Pacific

Getting To and From the Airport

This is easy and convenient. Plus the options re not that expensive at all. There are trains, buses, taxis and hotel transports to and from the airport.

If you are not carrying too much luggage, consider the MTR, which is very affordable. It only takes about 25 minutes to reach Hong Kong Island.

Also, there are free shuttle buses from Kowloon and Hong Kong stations to major hotels. Check out How to Get Around Hong Kong (shown below).

By train

The MTR has regular routes between Hong Kong and Guangdong, Beijing and Shanghai. Arrivals and Departures are at the Hung Hom Station. Everyone needs to pass through the Hong Kong Immigration.

By boat / ferries

There are high speed ferries that travel to and from Hong Kong via ports in Mainland China. These also service Kowloon and the Hong Kong International Airport.

There is the Hong Kong – Macau Ferry Terminal, Hong Kong – China Ferry Terminal, and Hong Kong SkyPier.

Visas

Most nationals from most countries do not require a visa to enter Hong Kong if visiting as a tourist. The period of stay can be from 7 to 180 days, depending on which country you are from. Do check with your tour agent or your local China Embassy for further details.

People who travel frequently to Hong Kong for business purposes can get a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Travel Pass. This helps to make immigration procedures faster and simpler. There are criteria to get this special pass.


How to get around in Hong Kong?

Getting around Hong Kong is easy. There is by MTR, bus, tram, taxi or ferry. All easily paid by using the Octopus Card – more about this card below.

By MTR

Best Places to Visit in Asia - Hong Kong's MTR
Hong Kong’s MTR

The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system extensively covers all major districts. It is the fastest and most efficient way to get around Hong Kong.

The MTR has eleven lines. See the map below for all of them.

What To See In Hong Kong - MTR Map
MTR Map, source: MTR, Click Image to See Larger Version

As you can see from the map of the train lines above, you can get from your hotel to almost anywhere in Hong Kong easily.

The MTR also has a light rail system that runs between Yuen Long and Tuen Mu, both in the New Territories. There is also inter-city service to Mainland China.d

By Ferry

From Central or Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island, you can board the Star Ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. And vice versa. The ride is delightful and offers sweet views of the sea, skies and the harbour.

Best Places to Visit in Asia - Hong Kong's Ferries
Hong Kong’s Ferries

When going to and back from the Outlying Islands, go to the Central Ferry Piers on Hong Kong Island. The ferries there can bring yu to islands like Discovery Bay, Peng Chau, Lamma Island, Cheung Chau, and the popular Lantau Island where you can see the famous Tian Tan Buddha.

Tip: Take the Fast Ferries to save time.

By car/taxi

You will never find any lack of taxis in Hong Kong. All journeys are metered. They are also relatively cheap, air-conditioned, and clean.

Hail a taxi along the street, at a taxi stand or at mall or hotel taxi queues.

Taxis are categorized by three colours. The Red Taxis can travel throughout most of Hong Kong, except Tung Chung Road and the entire south side of Lantau Island. Green Taxis service only the New Territories. And the Blue Taxis can only operate on Lantau Island.

Exceptions are Hong Kong International Airport and Hong Kong Island. All taxis can travel to and from these places.

By bus

Bus route cover almost all of Hong Kong. The buses are comfortable, and many are air-conditioned.

Do try the double-deckers that are popular with locals and tourists. When you sit at the top deck, you can enjoy really cool views of the city.

You can use the Octopus Card to pay for your bus journey. See further details below about the Octopus Card.

Trams

If you can, schedule some time to take things a little slower, and board the historic trams. These double-decker streetcars have been providing travel since 1904. Grab a seat on the upper deck on these charming vehicles for a chance to explore the city at a slower pace.

Best Places to Visit in Asia - Hong Kong's Trams
Hong Kong’s Trams

The Peak Tram

The view of Hong Kong from The Peak is famous and spectacular! Do visit during the day and night to enjoy the views in different light.

To get there, there is the Peak Tram that chugs along the steep slopes. The journey only takes about seven minutes and offers sights to remember.

Payment by the Octopus Card is accepted. See below.

Octopus Card

The Octopus Card is really a necessity when you visit Hong Kong. It is not only to pay for your travel by MTR, buses or trams. It is also useful for purchases at convenience stores, fast food joints, supermarkets, and many more.

You can get one of these at any MTR station. Best choice is to get the Sold Tourist Octopus Card. It costs HK$39. The On-Loan Octopus card has a refundable deposit of HK$50.


Best time to go Hong Kong

My friends in Hong Kong tell me that the best time to travel to Hong Kong is between October to March. And I found this to be true.

The weather from October to December is cool and pleasant. It gets colder from January. By end of March to April, it is still all right. But it can get quite cold and foggy.

From May to September, the weather is hot and humid. At times, quite uncomfortable. There is also heavy storms and typhoons around this period. Do check weather forecast if you really have to travel during this period.


Things to see in Hong Kong

There is so much to see and do in Hong Kong that we cannot list them all here. There are historical sites, museums, serene and lush gardens, fun theme parks, and many more.

Ride the century-old tram up to Victoria Peak, the highest peak on Hong Kong Island, and enjoy majestic views of Hong Kong. Explore Po Lin Temple, Man Mo Temple, and the renowned Tian Tan Buddha.

Be dazzled by the Symphony of Lights at Victoria Harbor. Also, feast your eyes on the most beautiful skyline there.

Do not forget the hundreds of islands where you can explore old fishing villages, and enjoy fresh seafood.

Just to name a few.


What to eat in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is famous for excellent tasting food. There is the popular dim sum, also known as yum cha, where you can enjoy a wide variety of snacks, buns, noodles, cheong fun, glutinous rice with meat wrapped in lotus leaf, and much more.

Yum cha is an experience that you must try when in Hong Kong. The other is breakfast at local cafes where you can taste the local Bo Lo Bun and other local delights.

Besides dim sum, there are other Chinese food that visitors must try; such as Wanton Noodles, Siew Lup (barbecued meat), etc.

Of course, it is not all Chinese food. There are places serving Italian, French, Western, Indian, and others from other parts of the world. And there are also fast food chains like MacDonalds if you feel a need for that.


Shopping in Hong Kong

One of the main activities that tourists partake in any visit to Hong Kong is shopping! The malls are numerous, the stores offer plenty, the night markets are overwhelming.

While Hong Kong is slowly losing its reputation as a bargain hunter’s paradise, there are still many places where one can get really great deals. Even high end branded goods at huge discounts.

Also, most people go to Hong Kong for clothing, luggage, jewelry, cameras, electronic goods, and cosmetics. For those who fancy Asian art and antiques, there are still some excellent selections at specialty stores and galleries.

Clothing

The hottest and latest fashion can be found at malls such as IFC, the Landmark in Central, Times Square in Causeway Bay, Pacific Place in Admiralty, and Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui.

There are also medium sized malls and shops that showcases mid range brands such as Giordano. If you prefer something a little more unique, check out the hip and trendy independent shops. These feature local designers, and can be found in Sheung Wan, Wan Chai, and Tsim Sha Tsui.

Minimalls in Tsim Sha Tsui are not to be missed. Here, you can find all things young and trendy. There are local designs as well as popular stuff from Korea.

If you do not mind off season items, there are outlets at Horizon Plaza in Ap Lei Chau, with brands like Prada. These are heavily discounted, and worth a visit.

Not to forget, the street and night markets on Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei and Tung Choi Street in Mong Kok. Also, the eastern end of Granville Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and Cheung Sha Wan Road in Sham Shui Po. These are places where you can find garments at really low costs.

Computers & Electronic Goods

There are some places where you can find good bargains for compter and electronic goods. But honestly, we do find there are other cities that have better deals.

If you really need to buy something in Hong Kong, we suggest Wan Chai, and the malls and flea markets in Sham Shui Po.

Cameras

When shopping for cameras, do note to consider only those that have a price tag. Do not buy any camera that does not have one.

That said, you can find great camera stores at Stanley Street in Central, Kimberley Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Sai Yeung Choi Street, Tung Choi Street, Sim City at Shantung Street in Mong Kok.

Gems & jewellery

Hong Kong is a popular place to buy jade. You can find good quality jade at the Jade Market in Yau Ma Tei. Pearls are also popular finds, both cultured and freshwater.

If you are not experienced in buying gems and jewellery, consider only those that offer you certificates. Also, make sure that the shop will buy it back at a fair market price.

Art

Looking for paintings, sculptures, ceramic works or installations? Or merely browsing?

There are many galleries along Wyndham Street, Hollywood Road in Central, and Sheung Wan.

Annual art events such as Art Basel, the Hong Kong Art Walk, etc are superb opportunities to acquire some art or immerse in the local arts scene.

Antiques

Antique hunting can be quite a challenge in Hong Kong, especially if you are looking for authentic ones. If you are, it is better to visit reputable antique shops along Wyndham Street and Hollywood Road in Central and Sheung Wan, auction houses and large emporiums.

Bargaining

Bargaining is accepted in Hong Kong. But be careful if you are able to bring any price too low. Chances are they will charge you for something else at a higher mark up or the goods may be questionable. A trick that may be used is to sell goods that have no international warranty.

The best way to shop is to check out the prices at a few stores before buying.

Guarantee & warranty

As mentioned above, some imported goods may only have a warranty that is valid only in Hong Kong. If you buy it, and return to your country, the warranty may not be honoured by the brand.

What you can do is to make sure what you purchase has an international warranty. Alternatively, it may be possible to exchange the warranty card with the importer for one that is valid for your country.


Weather in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has a humid subtropical climate. The only thing to watch out for is the unpredictable typhoons. That can affect your travel plans.

Spring (March to May)

Weather starts to get hot and humid. The evenings can be cool, though. Average temperature is between 17 to 26 degrees celsius.

Summer (June to August)

This is the really hot season. We have been told by friends in Hong Kong to avoid visiting during this period. Average temperature is between 26 to 31 degrees celsius. But it is the high humidity that makes it feel very warm.

Autumn (September to November)

The weather starts to turn cooler. There can be gentle breezes that bring respite to the the heat. This can be considered as some of the best months to visit Hong Kong. Average temperature is between 19 to 28 degrees celsius.

Winter (December to February)

If you prefer cooler weather, then these are the better days to visit Hong Kong. The weather is cool and dry with lots of cloud coverage.

Not so good if you prefer more sunny days. If you prefer the latter, consider Autumn described above.

The average temperature is betwween 12 to 20 degrees celsius. Although, there have been instances when the temperature dropped lower. There have even been reports of snow occasionally at the higher areas.


Currency in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong dollar (HKD) is the legal tender in Hong Kong. And it is best to use this when making purchases or paying for hotel fees or cab fares.

Other currencies like the Chinese yuan (RMB) or the US dollar (USD) may be accepted at some establishments. But the exchange rate is not good. In the end, it is better to use the Hong Kong dollar.



If you have ANY questions about Hong Kong, ANY at all, please submit your questions as comments below. I will be happy to help you out.

Thank you for reading this.

Wishing you and your loved ones safe and happy travels,

Timotheus

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