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4 or 8 days to do all of HK? - Impossible! Late TR

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Thx a mint to rkkwan (and best wishes for a con't speedy recovery) and Cicerone who both provided much appreciated details to make my trip awesome!

My trip was Oct 31-Nov 20 and the weather was still very warm, up to 29C on many days. Near the end of the trip, I did need a light jacket at nite. I only had one morning with any rain, but it really rained and people were ducking under awnings, walking under newspapers, etc.

Transportation
I took the A31 Bus from the airport to Tsing Yi and while I did not succumb to waving down a cab, I wouldn't suggest this for the faint of heart. Altho the walk looked simple (1/4 mile) from Google Maps, there were a lot of stairs to go up and down, and some stairwells only led to residential towers. You had to go in the towers to get down to street level. There probably was an easier way to walk but in the dark, in an unfamiliar place I couldn't find it. Thankfully, the locals that I stopped to ask were very helpful. For my return trip, I took a short cab ride to Maritime Square and the Airport Express. I'll do this next time, both ways.

One of the most amazing things about HK is the transit system is incredible with ferries, MTR, air conditioned buses with nice seats, trams, trains, mini-buses, and vans (never figured these out) moving literally millions of people all day and nite. I rode the Star Ferry both ways during the day and at nite as it was very convenient, and incredibly cheap. After a few days I noticed the MTR was actually quite expensive relative to other modes but still inexpensive compared to the US. I rode Bus 41A a lot since it followed the MTR route for much of the way, was convenient if I was going to the Mong Kok area, its bus stop was right behind my building, and I like watching the street scene from the top window. However, if I was heading to the HK side, I'd always hop the MTR - 16 minutes to Central compared to 55 mins by bus to only TST.

Interestingly the "best seats" on the buses - first row up top - were usually empty. Apparently there have been some horrific accidents in the last few years where the front row passengers died after being thrown through the upstairs windshield when the bus slammed into the back of another bus. Therefore locals, don't prefer those seats. It was the perfect viewing perch for me tho - and I felt the metal bars installed would stop me if we did hit something...lol!

The mini-bus 88B was a great tip - I used it a few times when I didn't want to walk to Tsing Yi MTR. The Kwai Fong MTR transfer is very quick and easy from the bus stop. 88B actually stopped in the next development, Greenfield Gardens. What was interesting that local shop owners didn't seem to know where the 88B stopped. I guess there are too many forms of transportation of which to keep track.

Apart from 41A, I didn't take a lot of buses since it seemed they were named according to residential complexes (vs. street names) so it was hard to figure out where they went. However, the info poles at the bus stops had lots of info on them.

The few times I took cabs, it seemed like 16HKD was the standard fare and it got me quite far. There was a 5HKD charge for every piece of luggage put in the trunk. The few times I wanted to go not too far (e.g., from Happy Valley to MTR station), I could hear the cabbie muttering probably unflattering things about me. Oh well. I always rounded up to the next 10 figure (20, 30, 40, etc.) so hopefully that eased a bit of their pain. One cabbie took my 60 for a 44HD fare and when I said just to give me 10 back, he just said, "thanks" with no change. That was a bit awkward...LOL!

Even tho the Tsing Yi MTR runs "infrequently", it still provided great service. The longest wait was 8 minutes. Some buses where I live only come once an hour so 8 minutes seems like carpool lane speed!

The Octopus card is a definite must. Its convenience was highlighted to me once when I did not refill it and tried to take a bus. Also the card uses "touch" technology (i.e., it doesn't need to be swiped to be read) so riders don't have to take it out of their wallets, etc. This makes it really handy. I just put it in the bottom of my purse and put my purse on the reader. Made it a lot easier as I didn't have to get the card out all the time, fumble thru my purse at the turnstile, worry about it dropping out, etc.

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    Eats
    I ate mostly at casual places, including some very unique open air restaurants in market areas. I tried Kau Kee for their 4th generation family-made beef brisket noodles and wasn't impressed. However, the "best egg tarts in HK" on Lyndhurst Terrace, which boasts the former Governor as a customer, lived up to its billing. Chao Inn in Peking One, specializes in tasty Chui Chow food, and had great views of the harbor, including the light show.

    The local fast food eateries, like Cafe de Coral seemed to have locations everywhere. Some other tasty treats were Beard Papa cream puffs at the Mong Kok MTR station, Exit E; bottled guava & lemon juice from the Pacific Coffee Company's many locales - this stuff became 'addictive' to me and I had to have a bottle everyday...LOL!; I tried McDonald's unique HK offerings: tasty Thai chicken wings snack and so-so soup pasta for breakfast.

    Food from the street vendors was ordered by pointing, some more interesting things were "stinky tofu" - one bite was enough for me!; tasty takoyaki (octopus balls); curry squid; pancake bubbles were a perfect snack. I was very surprised at the variety of snack items available. I noticed a lot of young adults eating noodles from very small clear plastic bags. When I came upon that vendor, I watched for a while and figured out that you order a noodle, and then the different toppings you want (veggies, meats, shrimp, etc.) and one of the many vendor's staff adds some sauce and tosses up everything you asked for and you get a pair of very thin chopsticks, I equate them more to skewers, to eat the mixture. A bit messy to eat while walking as others were, but when I stopped in an alcove it was a delish tide-me-over snack. I found these types of foods very unique and fun to sample! However, ordering always made me anxious.

    I went to dinner at Sai Kung but it ended up being quite windy and cold so I didn't wander too much; had a drink in Lan Kwai Fong district.

    Dessert houses seem popular and I enjoyed offerings from various locations of Honeymoon Dessert (durian cream dessert, black sesame sweet soup, baked tapioca pudding) and Hui Lau Shan, tho it was very hard for me to order at this place since I am allergic to mango and many of its offerings included mango and only some of the menu items are translated into English. In the end, I had a half papaya filled with something - never figured out what it was filled with but it was very tasty.

    I met some of the wedding party at Luk Yu Teahouse for dinner. Most of their "signature" dishes needed to be ordered in advance so we were not able to sample those; still, the squab & ham, and stuffed fish fillets dishes were excellent at this traditional Cantonese restaurant.

    Casual food was inexpensive relative to US prices and everything I had was very tasty. Some portions were sized more to my preference esp the soup noodles, but rice and fried noodle dishes were large enough to share. One thing I noticed is that napkins are not provided in most places, some places had a roll of TP on the table to serve this purpose. I always had a few napkins in my purse and a daily handkerchief to dry my hands after washing.

    Sitting with others is a very common practice and when sharing tables, it appears customary to not exchange greetings with those already seated. If the table seated 6, and there was a couple at the table, my instinct would be to leave a seat open beside them to give the dining parties space/privacy. However, one restaurateur barked at me to fill in the gap so that subsequently arriving dining parties could sit together (i.e., the table could be used at maximum capacity). These are the type of nuances that were learned along the way (=

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    Activites
    There are some excellent tours available thru HK Tourism. I took one of the beautiful Lian Nan Gardens. The vegetarian restaurant at the back is elegant and has delish offerings (my timing was during their tea/snacks).

    Other the temples and gardens are fascinating to explore and tour: Wong Tai Sin temple, Big Buddha, Po Lin Monastery, and Nature Centre guided walk (free, register in Ngong Ping village) which ended at the Wisdom Path.

    I took in most of the tourist attractions/areas: Flower, Bird, Jade, Goldfish, Ladies, and Temple Street markets; Gold Coast; HK Museum of History; race nite at Happy Valley; Mid-levels Escalator up and walked back down to check out the surrounding neighborhoods; Avenue of the Stars; Ocean Park; HK Disneyland; Ngong Ping 360, Statue Square, Peak at nite for the lit skyline views and during the day including the Lugard loop, Cicerone's Severn walk (perfectly described!), and "hiking" up to Victoria Garden - for the Peak, you can bypass the Peak ticket line if you pay by Octopus. TST East felt festive with many buildings displaying their holiday scenes in Christmas lights.

    Shopping was everywhere: Mong Kok including Langham Place, Sham Shui Po - lots of computer and electronic stuff, Causeway Bay, and Yau Ma Tai neighbourhoods; Tung Chung Factory Outlets - not worth the trip, IMHO; Ocean City/Harbourview shopping complex; Yue Wah; SOGO a Japanese dept store; Wellington and Granville Streets.

    Also, I wandered thru a lot of neighborhoods: TST, Wan Chai, Lai Chi Kok, Lan Kwai Fong, separate trips to Sheung Wan and Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan via the HK tram, Hart Street area with its many pubs, Knutsford Steps's restaurant row. I just got off at different MTR stations and wandered around. When I felt "lost", I just asked which direction to the closest MTR station.

    By accident, I went into HK Industrial Building 1 blk from Lai Chi Kok MTR and it was a whole building of affordable fashions in a wholesale environment, but most also sold retail. Some fashionistas brought suitcases with them to help carry their finds! One thing I noticed is that the HK girls (young women and adults) while fashionable, dress very conservatively; no tank tops nor cleavage that is so familiar with US teens.

    There is a wet market over 4 tiers on Sheung Ko Tan Street not far from where I was staying in Tsing Yi. I walked up there first thing in the morning a few times to take in the local ambiance, pick up some fruit, enjoy self-serve dim sum - absolutely no tourists here, well besides me...LOL!

    I went venturing out and tried to get some local services, such as getting a jacket I bought altered while I was there. It was fun to have to look for a service, like have a mission, rather than just browse. It was very interesting to me that shopping was concentrated. For example, one would find streets and streets of stores all selling the same types of products: Lockhart sold building materials, Prince Edward had a malls dedicated to wedding needs, I happened upon another street that had shop after shop of beautiful beads and embroidery accessories.

    Getting away from urban HK was also very interesting: rented a bike in Mui Wo and rode thru the villages and to the waterfall; walked the Mini Great Wall and checked out the Cheung Po Tsai Pirate Cave area (bring a headlamp and you can go in the cave(s) on Cheung Chau; walked the picturesque trail from Yung Shue Wan to Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma Island and then took the kaido to Aberdeen and junk to Jumbo; rambled along the spectacularly Cicerone-written up Tsz Lo Lan Shan Path around Repulse Bay and bussed into Stanley Market for a late lunch; marvelled at Monkey Mountain at nite - hundreds and hundreds of monkeys initially I was very apprehensive and we never got out of the car; Tai O on the day I went to Big Buddha; and checked out a few communities in New Territories: Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun, Shek O, Bak Lih, Lau Fau San, Yuen Long and Tai Mo San.

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    Macau
    I took a day trip to Macau. Strangely, I was not allowed to buy more than 2 tickets with my Visa cc. Lord Stowe's Portuguese egg tarts lived up to its reputation as well. In fact of all the bakeries I stopped at in HK & Macau, none of them disappointed! And my thighs will tell you now, I stopped at a lot of bakeries...LOL!

    Saw lots of Macau, including Hac Sa beach, landmarks and historic sites in Coloane, Taipa and Macau. Checked out the Venetian and Grand Lisboa, neither of which had my fave Wheel of Fortune slots. Did the typical tourist stuff: lunch at Dumbo - tasty but nothing outstanding; Taipa porkchop bun was worth the 10 min queue; checked out the Fortress and surrounding area but didn't have time to go into the Museum; picked up a lot of goodies from the jerky, candy stores. I wasn't that fond of the almond cookies so passed on those. However, the candy selection (ginger, ginger coconut, mango, peanut nougat, etc.) from Koi Kei was outstanding and picked up quite a bit of these. Unfortunately, the pork jerky I brought back was confiscated at US Customs.

    The Macau International Food Festival was on during my trip and it was great. 200 stalls of all sorts of food. It was very crowded but there were enough eating areas and a diligent bussing/clearing/sweeping staff. I sampled from many stalls for my dinner that nite.

    There was plenty to see and the 7am to 10pm day trip gave me a very good sense of it but I agree with other posters that an overnite trip will not leave one with too much time. However, staying overnite didn't work into my plans and I really enjoyed seeing what I could in a full day.

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    Final Thoughts
    Hong Kong is an amazing place - what struck me most was the density. Even tho I'd seen pictures and knew it was dense, I was not prepared for it. Along with density comes noise and while I love urban environments, I was happy to return to a 40+ flr residential flat every nite.

    Also surprising to me was that even tho HK is very modern, etc. at street level it still seems to be a labor-driven economy. I was fascinated with the bamboo scaffolding that was used to renovate most (all?) buildings, it seemed regardless of height! I did not see any metal scaffolding.

    Having a local cell phone was invaluable. The 7-11 at the airport does not carry the Supertalk without IDD. I waited until I arrived at my accomms and found one at the local 7-11.

    Even with three weeks in HK, I barely had enough time visit museums, tour temples and gardens, day trip to Macau, browse the plentiful street markets, sample the incredible food, laugh at the pandas in Ocean Park, feel the magical pixie dust of Disneyland, explore Lantau, Lamma and Cheung Chau islands, and of course shop! Now I know how to answer threads that ask, "will I be bored after 8 days in HK?" There are still many things I did not get to and I feel the urge to plan another trip! Thx again for all the help Fodorites!

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    Hi klam chowder- enjoyed your TR a lot! IMO, you've seen more of HK in 3 weeks than probably a lot of the local HKers! (for example, when I visited the Nan Lian Gardens last year, it turns out that none of my HK friends have been there themselves!)

    And I applaud you for trying out all these street vendors and local diners. I imagine they can be bit intimidating to folks who don't read Chinese or speak Cantonese.

    LOL re Beard Papa. I actually had my first one at the Beard Papa in San Francisco. I think they're all over Manhattan too.

    So, the porkchop bun @ Taipa is really that good? Perhaps I'll give that a try next time.

    Thanks again for this great TR.

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    Thanks very much for your report. Sorry that the walk from the A31 to your building was harder than I anticipated. But seems like you did get there afterall. ;)

    You're correct about the first rows on double decker buses. I used to sit there all the time, but even I'll pick like the 3rd row now...

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    Thx a mint for the feedback (= Always good to know someone read it...LOL!

    yk & Kathie, I remember reading your TRs during my planning too.

    RE: locals going to attractions, I had a similar experience. I ended up going to Lantau with a local who said she'd like to join me since she'd never been to 360 or Big Buddha!

    She preferred the snack at Po Lin so I had that too instead of lunch. It included a plate of fried vermicilli noodles, a choice of 2 dim sum from a large variety of sweet or savory offerings, and a good size bowl of sweetened soft tofu dessert. Eating it all was lunch in itself - and all for $23HKD!

    I had my dork moments in HK too. The HK tourism board had a promo on for Halloween chopsticks if you ate specific traditional HK foods (sampan congee, bbq pork buns, egg tarts, etc.) from participating restaurants. I thought it would be very cute for me to get these and send them to my nieces & nephews so I printed off the list and choose a place close to where I was at the time. When I finally found the place, I could see patrons inside. I tried to push, pull and slide the door but couldn't open the door. Some patrons looked up at me and probably thought, 'stupid tourist'...LOL!

    There was a sign but it was in Chinese so I didn't know what it said. If it wasn't for those chopsticks I wanted, I would have just gone somewhere else. Turns out I had to push a big white button to the side of the door...LOL! The kicker? The "Hallloween" chopsticks were deceivingly represented in the brochure. They looked like they had attachments on the chopsticks (e.g., a witch using the chopstick as a broom), but it was just printed on cardboard around the plain chopsticks...sucker!

    Enjoy-la!

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