Co-authored by Tony and Tiffany Wun
This is a mini-guide to Hong Kong for my friends going to DIS 2018.
Some things worth knowing
- MTR (subway) is super convenient way to get around. Most interesting destinations are a short walk from MTR stations. Each MTR station has lettered exits, each of which links to different interesting landmarks. These exits are also sometimes meeting places, “I’ll meet you at Causeway Bay, exit B.” The MTR and bus systems all use the same payment system (Octopus Card). Get one when you land, and load it up with (say) 200 HKD. This should be enough for quite some time.
- When getting on and off transit, you tap your card (to get on), and tap your card (to get out).
- Use the CityMapper app to help plan your routes. This is available for both iPhone and Android, and it is pretty good. It will give you multiple routes from one location to another, understands one-way streets, different modes of transportation, and allows you to plan in advance. I find the estimates on timings are really good.
TODO Once you get off the plane
- Hong Kong airport has a free public shower facility, so feel free to use it if you got off a long flight.
- Get a SIM card for your phone from 7-11 in the airport. For a week’s stay, you should be able to find a pretty good deal (i.e. a few Gb for your stay) for no more than $15 or $20 CAD. Ask the person behind the counter to help you get it activated on the spot, as the instructions are sometimes not also written English.
- You can use the ATMs in the airport to withdraw HK$ for your stay (it is likely a better deal than exchanging currency). Rule of thumb is 1 CAD is 6 HKD, so withdraw maybe $50 CAD per day of your visit, plus maybe $50 for MTR usage.
- From the airport is an Airport Express Service that runs on the MTR system (so you pay for it using Octopus card). This is the cheapest way to get in and out of the city from the airport.
- My favourite restaurant (I’m cheap) is Cafè de Coral, and it is essentially “Chinese fast food.” The menu rotates through the day, and there are a ton of places like this. This place is cheap, the food is good, and fairly standardized.
- Din Tai Fung is a very popular place to eat. One of the locations won a Michelin star at some point, I think. If you go, make sure to get the xiao long bao (soup dumplings).
- Crystal Jade is another very popular restaurant, and a go-to for me for their xiao long bao and noodles.
- In the mornings (i.e. when you’re jetlagged and waking up at 6 or 7 in the morning), you will often find that bakeries or congee houses are open. Do not be afraid of these.
- Bakeries are easy – they tons of really awesome pastries (mostly savory!! woo hoo!). The protocol in these is to take a tray and tongs, and select items, putting them onto the tray. Take both to the till, and the person will total it up.
- Congee houses serve congee (rice porridge). These are all (as far as I know) savoury. My favourite is one called “century egg and pork”, which you will want to order with either fried noodles, youtiao (a kind of savory Chinese donut), or rice noodle roll (often with some kind of savory filling).
- Tim Ho Wan is a cheap and yummy dim sum place. There are a lot of them around Hong Kong.
- 7-11’s in Hong Kong (and Asia in general) actually edible food compared to the “gas-station” ones here – you can get a late night snack or even a full meal if you’re hungry for really, really cheap (Onigiris!)
- HKers drink “ 奶茶 / lai cha” (aka HK style milk tea) in the morning instead of coffee, which is black tea with evaporated milk added into it. Can be served hot or cold. People judge breakfast places by how good their lai cha is, so you can usually trust it to be good. Lemon iced tea is another good one to have, especially when it’s hot outside.
- Dessert shops are often open late, and are also really fun to check out; these places usually serve “ 糖水 / tong sui”, which are sweet, soupy desserts. I recommend getting “ 豆腐花 / dau fu fa”, which is a warm tofu pudding with syrup on top. ”芝麻糊 ”, or black sesame soup, is another good one too.
Places to Visit
- Causeway Bay is a crazy awesome place to get lost and wander around. This area stays “open” pretty late into the evening. If you find the intersection with Sogo on it, you’re in the right place. Wandering between here and Times Square is fun.
- Mong Kok is even crazier than Causeway Bay, and has a bunch of street markets in the evening. You’ll find tons of street food and street vendors. It is also insane.
- Wan Chai Computer Centre is at Wan Chai. It is crazy awesome.
- About 50-60% of the people in Hong Kong also speak English. (maybe more, I just made that number up) The population is also very used to travelers and tourists, since it had long been a “Gateway to the East”, so do not be shy about only speaking English.
- Hong Kong has two “sides” based on where they are in relation to the Harbour – the South side is “Hong Kong Island”, and the North side (connected to mainland China) is “Kowloon side”. DIS 2018 is on the Kowloon side.
- If your stomach is a bit weaker (like mine!), it is best to avoid iced/tap water (and also ice cubes in your soda!!). Tea is a common drink, and will come with almost any meal. One strategy (not sure if it is an old wive’s tale) is to drink a yogurt drink each day. Because it is tasty and sweet, I usually drink a Yakult each day. These are available from any 7-11 for only a few bucks for a pack of four or five.
- Keep an eye on your stuff. Wallets and phones in front pockets, backpacks zipped to the side, and maybe slung on your front rather than back.
- A fun thing to do is to hop on a trolley on Hong Kong Island (also called a “ding ding” – probably because of the noise they used to make). This is super cheap, and can take you from one side to another.
- Another fun thing to do is to take a Ferry ride across the harbour.
- Prices for rides on transit are mainly determined by distance. So, several stops on an MTR ride costs more than one or two stops. There is a bit of time to do transfers between different modes of transit. Your Octopus card will help track that for you. Note: there is an idiot tax – if you tap into an MTR station and tap out of it again, even if you didn’t ride the MTR, you need to pay a fare.
- Some restaurants (yay! Cafe de Coral) and convenience stores (e.g. 7-11) will take Octopus card as a payment method.
- HK is hot, but buildings usually keep the AC going at full blast (so it might be a shock going from sweltering hot to freezing cold). You might want a light cardigan or a scarf.
- Cantonese is a tonal language, with 6+ tones that could exist for one sound, and all can mean different things. It’s very difficult to master for foreigners. If you try out a few words in Cantonese, don’t be offended if people don’t understand what you’re saying; if anything, they would probably get super giddy and excited that a foreigner knows a few words :)
- Bring an umbrella and a rain coat. HK often gets rainy, but June is typhoon season.
- Power is 220V, takes UK style plugs. Bring an adapter if you need one. Some hotels will have spare adapters, while others will have US style plugs. If you forget your adapter, you can pick one up for cheap at the Wan Chai computer center!