Monday, December 5, 2005

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Blegging for help on Hong Kong

I'll in Hong Kong all next week to take a first-hand look at the World Trade Organization's Ministerial Conference. I'll be representing the Geman Marshall Fund of the United States as an "NGO observer" -- those of you who have read my scholarly work on globalization can drink in the rich ironies of that designation pour moi.

Anyway, while I won't have oodles of free time, I might have the occasional hour or two off. So I'm asking you, good readers, to fill me in on what must be seen and done in Hong Kong, or even Shenzen. Sure, the New York Times' Keith Bradsher provides some useful tips, but I have every confidence that the collective intelligence of readers can improve on Bradsher's advice.

UPDATE: Hmmm.... Justine Lau and Frances Williams have a report in the Financial Times implicitly suggesting that the NGO protestors might get a bit unruly:

Peter Yam, the police director of operations, said he expected at least three large demonstrations to take place, each of which could draw as many as 10,000 people.

“We have measures to deal with all scenarios. We will not allow anyone to disrupt the conference, threaten the personal safety of others, cause damage to property, or cause serious disruption of traffic,” said Mr Yam, who said 9,000 officers, or one-third of the force, would be deployed.

In comparison, fewer than 800 police were mobilised on Sunday when 250,000 marched for democracy in Hong Kong.

posted by Dan on 12.05.05 at 10:06 PM


First, if you're going to go to Shenzhen get a China Visa before you get to Hong Kong. They charge more for Americans here in HK, about twice as much as a EU passport, and it takes a couple days processing. You can get one cheaper in the US. The giant copy market is right next to the Lo Wu-Shenzhen crossing in a big five story building. If you're into copy DVD's and the like you'll find them there. It takes about an hour to get to the border on the KCR Rail.

Second, SoHo is more interesting to drink in than Lan Kwai Fong. Check out The Feather Boa. Go to Wan Chai if you want to watch a different type of market in action.

posted by: Beau on 12.05.05 at 10:06 PM [permalink]

It's been too long since I went so I can't tell you what to see, but we had a marvelous time there.

I do recall finding out that apparently (or apparelly) there are folks that go to Hong Kong and Paris for their fashion. The quality and style are good, and the savings seem to pay for the cost of the airplane ticket.

Also, the citizens there absolutely love heath bars which for some reason are not available there. Take lots of heath bars with you, in fact, pack an entire suitcase of just heath bars, we did, and use them exclusively as tips. The citizens will love you.

posted by: jerry on 12.05.05 at 10:06 PM [permalink]

I lived in Hong Kong for four years (1996 to 2000). You can purchase a visa for Shenzhen at the border on the spot if you really want to see Shenzhen. Shenzhen isn't that great a place, but if you want to say you "crossed the line" you can do it. It's about HK$150 if I remember correctly, so no need to go through the painful Chinese visa application process beforehand. Also, I never heard of the heath bar thing in the entire time I lived there.

One thing -- lots of visitors to Hong Kong hang out on Hong Kong Island or the ritzier parts of Kowloon. That's like going to New York City and only seeing the Upper West Side and mid-town. Definitely cool places, but if you have some down time and want to see how most Hong Kongers really live, jump on the train to one of the "new towns" - either Tuen Mun (via KCR West Rail) or Sheung Shui (via KCR East Rail) and just walk around a bit. Instead of fancy Benzes and BMWs everywhere you look (like in Central) you'll see more modest modes of transportation. But it's still Hong Kong so it's all perfectly safe.

Definitely get yourself an "Octopus" stored value transit card as soon as you can. They charge a HK$50 deposit (which you can get back if you return the card when you leave) plus however much value you want to deposit onto the card. All of Hong Kong's public transportation takes the Octopus, making it really easy to travel on the trains, buses, and even mini-buses -- just get on and touch your card to the reader and you're good to go. It's also accepted at McDonalds and 7-11s (which are everywhere). You can buy one at any MTR (subway) or KCR (suburban rail/connection to China) ticket office, and then reload it yourself at most MTR/KCR automated ticket machines. Also highly recommended is buying the latest version of what I call the "Hong Kong Map Book". It's a small bound book -- I think about HK$80 now -- that has detailed, bilingual street maps of the entire territory, nicely organized with key maps, and has lots more detailed information on public transportation. Very handy to have, and many of the guys who sell newspapers and magazines sell them as well -- just ask for the "map book" (dei tu shu). Feel free to e-mail me direct if you have more specific questions.

posted by: Rick on 12.05.05 at 10:06 PM [permalink]

It is cheaper to get the visa in the US, but much faster in HK. You can get it same day. Have a couple passport pictures and a bit of money (I forget how much), deliver the passport in the morning to the travel agency, and have it at night. They take care of everything, even signing the application form.

As someone else said, Shenzhen is no great shakes. There may be academic value in checking out how the people live though.

In HK, food is fantastic. After I came back to the US I could not eat Chinese food here for a few years, as it does not compare. Now my taste buds are back to par, and I eat again. Go for dim sum (as with all Chinese food, it's more fun with other people). Ask your hotel where the *best* dim sum in your area is. No point going all the way there and getting second rate dim sum, is there?

Also, at the other end of the scale, street food from little noodle shops can be absolutely excellent. Not expensive, and worth trying. Really cheap. If you don't like one, leave it and try another one...

Free half day? check out Macao

Have fun!

posted by: Gengis on 12.05.05 at 10:06 PM [permalink]

Haven't been, but I will be in the spring. Can you write up a brief to-do/no-to-do list? Have fun.

posted by: Eric on 12.05.05 at 10:06 PM [permalink]

I spent a summer working there recently so here are my thoughts.

Hong Kong is like any large city so I would keep in mind what you like to do when you visit a large city such as New York, whether it is eat, shop, visit museums or tourist areas. Hong Kong has its share.

Food: Hong Kong has excellent food and I would dine with locals as much as possible because they will know what to choose from the list of 1000 dishes. The chinese love to eat and talk so they spend hours gabbing around a table having a great time. I agree that Dim Sum is definitely worthwhile. Enjoy those chicken feet.

Shopping: The Paris of the east I believe. Avoid the malls and try the night markets on the Kowloon side. Also it is a great place to get hand tailored suits and shirts. Not as cheap as Bangkok but a definite steal.

My favourite tourist areas were Stanley and the arts center in Kowloon. Stanley presents quite a contrast to the density of the rest of the island. Take the ferry between the Kowloon and the island to take in the view of the city. The skyline is amazine since it is not interrupted by bridges.

Enjoy. Hopefully the conference schedule leaves you some time.

posted by: stprice on 12.05.05 at 10:06 PM [permalink]

One touristy thing to do - the Peak tram followed by a stroll around Victoria Peak - great views, and on a clear day you can see all the way to China (literally).

Feather Boa gets a thumbs up - try their (if I remember correctly - it was a long night...) chocolate martini - good stuff.

Also, get out to one of the islands via ferry, which is quite cheap - a few of the islands have small fishing villages that are quite cool to walk around. And the art museum in Kowloon is lovely - plus the views across the harbor towards HK proper are spectacular.

Enjoy !

posted by: yomama on 12.05.05 at 10:06 PM [permalink]

The Big Buddha on Lantau Island is very impressive. The bar at the top of the Peninsula hotel in Kowloon has urinals which are more or less glass windows overlooking the city. Amazing!

posted by: Richard on 12.05.05 at 10:06 PM [permalink]

How easy is it to get around in Hong Kong without any Chinese? I may have a chance to visit next month.

posted by: RPM on 12.05.05 at 10:06 PM [permalink]

followed his gaze and saw that it was 9:01:50 Almost two minutes had casino Marty shook his head wondering if he would ever get to Eileen While .

posted by: casino on 12.05.05 at 10:06 PM [permalink]

Featherboa great bar WAS one of my favourites ... except for the fact that they are racists against Chinese customers if you go in with a mix group there is no problem but if you are a group of Asians Stella the CHINESE proprietor will look at you with disdain and say its members only and full.....

posted by: lee on 12.05.05 at 10:06 PM [permalink]

Hey! going to China in April, want to know where would the jewelry manufacturers are, the electronic mfg's and the designer purses? Going to Hong Kong, will stay in H.K. but will visit Shenzhen,how long will we have to stay in Shenzhen to deal with mfg's? Will we need more than one day or plan for 2-3 days for business purposes.

posted by: S.G. on 12.05.05 at 10:06 PM [permalink]

Where should we buy our visa, Can we use the visa daily from H.K. to Shenzhen or will we have to plan on staying in Shenzhen for a few days then go back to Hong Kong for the duration of our trip. How should we plan this? Can we take our purchases with us across the border, is there a limit and what can't you take back across the border? Any advice?

posted by: S.G. on 12.05.05 at 10:06 PM [permalink]

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