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Hong Kong Feb 5, 2011 -Chinese New Year Feb3. Problem with Hotels

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thinking of stopping in HK for 2-3 days prior to a VietNam Trip. Problem would probably be landing Feb 5th from USA. I have lots of points with Marriott-thinking of JWMarriott, but if bookings are flood for the chinese new year-maybe not such a good idea. Would like to pay only about $300/night for 2 people and want something super accessible: advise on which side to stay. Pros and Cons-first time visitor. I am sure my wife would like to wander and look at the shopping ( not buy too much) but like good quality things, possibly some clothing. Advise on hotel bookings, great location so one can walk out and go easily to places (I was at the Courtyard Marriott in Ginza Tokyo which was about 2 blocks from all the shopping in Tokyo-to give you an idea of our likes-location/location at not an outrageous price. Also have ponts with starwoods and hilton). Thanks

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    Jack, you'll have no problem finding a hotel that equal or better in quality to the Ginza Courtyard for <$300.

    The JW Marriott is in a pretty good location based on your criteria. It's connected directly to a large and upscale shopping mall, it's also connected to the subway, and it's adjacent to a very large and pleasant park. Biggest downside (compared to your criteria and to many other HK hotels) is that you can't really step outside the front door and be in the middle of things. The Conrad (use your Hilton points) is in the identical location and is a slightly nicer hotel. The problem that I'd have with either of these for a 1st-time visitor is that their location doesn't give nearly a good a feel for Hong Kong as does ther hotels.

    If you want to be in a comparable class of hotel, step outside the front door and be in the middle of things, and stay well under $300/night, my choice would be Causeway Bay. The Crowne Plaza (probably around $225) and Holiday Inn Express (probably around $150) are both good choices there.

    Tsim Sha Tsui is another location that you'd like. The shopping is a bit more downscale, and you have more riff-raff on the streets annoying you with offers for crap watches or crap tailoring, but the neon lights are great. The Sheraton and a new Hyatt, among many other, are there. The view of the harbor from the top 2 floors of the Sheraton are spectacular; otherwise, the hotel is just another business-class hotel. (If you re thinking of splurging for any part of the trip, 2 nights at the Sheraton would be memorable -- but again, only in the Towers section with a harbor-view.)

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    If I do go, I am thinking of Tsim Sha Tsui since it seems a lot of evening activities are in Kwoloon and I would like to be reasonably close to my hotel: light show, night market, etc.

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    I had mentioned that the Lunar New Year was high seasons for HK hotels because that is what I was told when I was in HK recently. A person working at the hotel told me that the influx of mainland Chinese has affected both hotel and restaurant bookings during that period. But Rkkwan certainly knows HK a lot better than I do so if I am wrong I stand corrected.

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    Chinese New Year is a time for mainland Chinese to visit famiies because that's usually the longest holiday in the year for many. There may be a few affluent ones that decide to visit Hong Kong, but very few. For one, most go there to shop, and many shops are closed for at least 1-2 days in HK.

    Also, hotels like Marriott is mostly catered to business travelers from abroad. There is ZERO business happening during that time in HK, so these higher-end hotels will be emptied out.

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    From your experiences: if I land the afternoon of Feb 5th (the new year is feb3: I am told things start Feb2. Thinking of the new Hyatt in TST-Kwoloon. The 5th is a Saturday. Would do wandering that Sun and Monday (Feb6-7), leave probably Feb 7th in afternoon. Will the night market be closed,etc. I have not bought tickets yet -just gathering info first. Possibly a little itinarary suggestions also. Bottom line, how negatively with being there feb5-7 be? Especially wandering/not buying/but looking at the markets?

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    Everything will be back open by the time you get to HK. It's actually a good time to visit. Except that you'd have missed the large fireworks on the night of the 4th. If you can, arrive a day early.

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    If your wife wants “good quality” things, then you don’t, IMO, want to spend time in places like the Ladies Market or the Night Market, as the quality is not good. Even Stanley, the best of the lot, IMO, which is quite pleasant as it is on the water and is a reached by a very fun and scenic bus ride, does not offer quality clothing: the pashminas and silk scarves are polyester (nice local artwork though). The street markets on the Kowloon side which show up in the guidebooks are filled mostly with poor-quality fake watches and handbags, and a lot of junk like T-shirts, baseball caps, plastic jade, etc. (Whenever I go to those markets, I am totally amazed that people would fly thousands of miles and spend a good bit of money travelling to Hong Kong only to waste time looking at that crap. Meanwhile, the Tin Hau temple nearby is basically devoid of tourists.)

    For good-quality clothing, she can find plenty in shopping malls, however the prices in the shopping malls will not be any lower here than they are at home. If she has time and patience, she could look at the discount outlet shops, places like Horizon Plaza in Ape Lei Chau near Aberdeen, Dickson Warehouse or the Citygate Outlet near the airport (the latter is very much like a US-style “discount outlet” mall and I don’t think prices are any lower than at discount malls in the US). There is no sales tax here, so that is one potential small savings. There are some Hong Kong designers who have boutiques which are quite interesting, especially in the SOHO and NOHO areas of Hollywood Road (e.g. Gough and Peel Streets), Yu Wa Street near the Times Square Mall in Causeway Bay, and in the Island Beverly shopping centre in Causeway Bay, but again, these are not going to be bargain-price items. So she should have an idea of what to expect. I believe that the Hong Kong Tourism Board has a pamphlet on discount outlets, and may even offer shopping tours to the outlets, check their website at discoverhongkong.com

    I think Hong Kong is a good place to have shoes and bags made, as quality is good and you can design to your own specs or have items copied. This is not cheap, but the fit and materials are excellent. Many people have clothing made here, I can recommend tailors. Again, you will pay for good tailoring, but the fit and materials used are very good. It’s a fairly good place to buy jewelry (not as good as say Bangkok), and things like Chinese cultured pearls are very inexpensive. (I have not priced them in the US in a while, they may be inexpensive there as well as this point, as the PRC seems to have overwhelmed the market. They are not Japanese quality, but still quite pretty and you don’t need to keep them in a bank vault. ) You can buy porcelain lamps, vases and decorative items here in a range of quality, and even have things like a set of china made to your own design. There is a gentlemen who makes beautiful and relatively inexpensive silk lampshades. These, IMO, are the kinds of things which are a good buy here, I don’t think that clothing is any longer. (As virtually none of it is made in Hong Kong anymore, check your labels.)

    But really there is so much to do here other than shopping that I am not sure I would spend much time concentrating on the shopping in any event. Click on "Destinations" above, and then scroll down to Hong Kong. A helpful description and basic itinerary suggestions will come up. The Fodors guide book to Hong Kong is excellent. Frommers.com also has a website with similar info and their guidebook is pretty good. You can get the 6-page fold-out paper Luxe Guide, see http://www.luxecityguides.com/; however there is very little sightseeing advice in it, it is mostly shopping and restaurants. Also check the Hong Kong Tourism Board website at http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/ for other ideas, as well as the Leisure and Cultural Services Department website at http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/en/home.php to see all events and museums offered by the government. Finally, please search this board for my list of personal reccos called “Cicerone’s Reccos for What the Locals Do for Fun in Hong Kong (Hint: We DON’T Go to those Awful Night Markets....)” this should give you some ideas for what to do, including a list of walks and some sources for more walks. For a quick photo of one walk, click on my name above and see my profile. For a description of another of my favourite very easy walks on Hong Kong Island, see my posts called “Cicerone’s Favourite Hong Kong Walks II: Paradise Found! From Happy Valley to Stanley in High Heels! (Almost) The Tsz Lo Lan Shan Path” and “Cicerone's Favourite Hong Kong Walks III: The Dragon's Back” and “Cicerone's Favourite Hong Kong Walks: Severn Road, The Peak “. You can find all of these posts by clicking on these links:
    http://www.fodors.com/community/asia/cicerones-reccos-for-what-the-locals-do-for-fun-in-hong-kong-hint-we-dont-go-to-those-awful-night-ma.cfm http://www.fodors.com/community/asia/cicerones-favourite-hong-kong-walks-ii-paradise-found-from-happy-valley-to-stanley-in-high-heels-alm-1.cfm
    http://www.fodors.com/community/asia/cicerones-favourite-hong-kong-walks-iii-the-dragons-back.cfm and at http://www.fodors.com/community/asia/cicerones-favourite-hong-kong-walks-severn-road-the-peak.cfm

    As I mentioned to you in my other post, I would encourage you to try to arrive in time to see the fireworks in the harbour on Feb 4. To miss it by only a day seems like a shame. In fact, I think being here in the lead-up to the Lunar New Year holiday can be quite fun, as there are various flower markets (a big one in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, but other smaller ones) and other events going on. Other than closures of virtually all shops and non-hotel restaurants on Feb 3, you will not really notice much after that. Tourist shops and many restaurants will be open on Feb 4. Feb 3 is a great day to do things like the Peak or the Big Buddha on Lantau as locals will be at home having family celebrations and so those places are virtually empty (and will be mobbed on other days that weekend).

    I assume you have looked into pros and cons of travelling in Vietnam during Tet and are OK with that.

    Unless you have a harbour view room for the fireworks, I would recommend staying on the Hong Kong side. It’s just more convenient for sightseeing and getting to restaurants. I think the Marriott or the Conrad would be very good choices. Of the two, I would take the Marriott as many of their rooms have harbour views, while the Conrad’s do not to the best of my knowledge as they face the Peak. (You should be able to see the fireworks from most if not all of the harbour view rooms at the Marriott, but confirm when making a booking, note that some of their rooms are small so get the largest available, they have rooms with two queen/double beds which are qutie large and would be a good choice even if yo don't need two beds). I would disagree fairly strongly with the comment above that one can’t “walk out the door” of the Marriott or Conrad and be in the “middle of things”, because one certainly can. If you walk out front door, turn right, walk 3 blocks down Queens Road and turn left, will find the start of street market area which also features small noodle stalls and other inexpensive restaurants. If you instead turn right, you are in the more upscale Star Street bar and restaurant area. So you can run the gamut in just a few blocks from the more affluent Hong Konger to the more average Hong Konger. Another 2-3 blocks takes you to one of the best veg/meat/fish markets in all of Hong Kong (the Wan Chai market) which has everything from live snake meat shops to paper “hell” money shops where you can buy gifts to appease dead ancestors. The Queensway Mall, just across the street from the hotels, is a typical average shopping mall for “regular” Hong Kongers as well. The hotels also are on the double-decker street tram line which can take you on a fantastic journey all along the island, east to west, to get a bird’s eye view of the street life. The hotels are also walkable in moments to the base of the Peak Tram. It’s a very easy walk to Central from both hotels as well.

    I would agree that the Crowne Plaza is a fine choice, and I like the neighborhood as it is quite interesting (they have a good local street food market at Bowrington Rd, and are close to the Happy Valley horse race track). However, if given a choice between the Crowne Plaza and the Marriott/Conrad, I would take the Marriott/Conrad as they are in a more convenient location in terms of sights and public transport, being that they are on the tram and several major bus lines and are walkable to Wan Chai and Central. (They are also on the subway line. Both the Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn are quite a long walk to the subway, but personally I don’t consider that a drawback as the subway does not go a lot of places where you want to go.)

    If you end up on the Kowloon side, the Hyatt Regency seems quite nice, I have only seen the lobby areas and the main lobby restaurant. One thing to note is that to the best of my knowledge they don’t have their own spa, and the last time I checked, their gym was not yet done, so if this is important you might want to check on when it will be completed. I am not at all a fan of TST, as you will see mostly other tourists, it has few interesting sights, and other than a few exceptions it has mostly mediocre restaurants, but if you have points I can see the advantage of staying there. I believe some of the rooms have harbour views, so do check on this as that would really be the one advantage to this hotel.

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    I've stayed at the Conrad several times, and I'll confirm that they do have some very nice harbour view rooms. The hotel is a twin to the Shangri-Ls: half of the rooms face north toward the harbour, and half face south toward the Peak area. Because of the height of nearby buildings, only the harbour-view rooms on the top 5 or 6 floors have good views.

    I'll stick by my front door comment, though I understand Cicerone's point. However, when you step outside the front door of the Conrad (or the Shangri-La), you're across from the British Consul, on the street leading to the Supreme Court and HK Park. Exiting to the Queensway means going through the mall. I love great hotel lobbies, and when I think about stepping out of the front door into the middle of everything, I probably take it oo literally. (As an aside, that's one of the reasons I don't care for the Sheraton. Where's the front door of that place? Does it have one?)

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    Cicerone: I thank you for your comments. The reason I was thinking of the new Hyatt on TST is that it is easy to see the 20 minute night show> Where else can I see it? if I am at the Marriott (JW). Since I know Manhattan well, possibly you can tell me how the TST compare with NYC Time's Square, the area around The JWMarriott and the others are similiar somewhat to what in Manhattan? (to get an idea what I would be din for). Quite interested in easy mobility from airport and around HK. Thank you.

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    Once you see the light show, you will realize that choosing your hotel based on the ability to see the show is not at all necessary, and sort of silly given the rather minor nature of the event. Also, you can see the show from both sides of the harbour, as buildings on both sides participate, including buildings fairly far back on the Kowloon side. You can see it from the Peak, and would be able to see it from most harbour view hotels or restaurants on the Hong Kong side. You can see it from the Star Ferry crossing the harbour, which may be one of the better places to see it, esp the ferry to Hung Hom as you would get a longer view on both sides. You can see it from the outdoor bar at SEVVA on Hong Kong Island, which IMO is probably the best place to see it as you can have liquor during it which helps a lot in the enjoyment. (The bar at the Intercon hotel may also work, but there is a 2-drink minimum.) It is something of a letdown I would say. (Although I have never seen it from the Kowloon waterfront, where I understand there is music and commentary, which includes the buildings lighting up as they “introduce” themselves. I think that would be somewhat funny if nothing else. I imagine IM Pei and Norman Foster just wanting to vomit when their magnificent buildings do this each night. ) Of course from your hotel room, you won’t get the soundtrack either.

    Yes, I would say that TST compares fairly well to Times Square in terms of a being a tourist centre as opposed to a city centre (I often use that comparison as I grew up in NJ myself), in that most New Yorkers do not spend any time there, but most tourist go there because they think it represents New York. Times Square is mostly hotels and mediocre restaurants and other tourists, as it TST. (In the old days, Times Square had some seedy character, but Disney and ESPN took care of that.) Of course TST has the really, really stunning harbour view, both day and night, which Times Square does not, so you will find locals on the harbourfront enjoying the view.

    There is no doubt, however, that a harbour view hotel room in Hong Kong is very special and memorable, and if you can get one at the Hyatt then I would certainly say you should consider it. I just would not do so for the light show. The “show” the view puts on each night and day is enough, IMO.

    The area around the JW is closer to perhaps SOHO or Greenwich in that there are some very good restaurants, yet local people live in the neighborhood and there are local markets and a neighborhood feel. (But think of Greenwich being closer to mid-town, and you could walk to mid-town. That is the JW Marriott in terms of being close to the Central business district.) There are no touts trying to sell you a fake Rolex or offering to make you a suit, unlike on the TST side where you will be pestered by touts when you step out of the hotel. I would say that the area around the Crowne Plaza is like the Upper West Side, there are more Europeans living there. (Hong Kong is of course so much smaller physically than the NYC boroughs, even Kowloon, which is sort of like staying in Hoboken or Jersey City on a trip to Manhattan, is only a few minutes by subway or ferry to get to Hong Kong Island.) All of Hong Kong is very safe, so I would not have any concerns on that point.

    I don’t know if you have considered the Courtyard in Sheung Wan on Hong Kong Island as a possibility. This neighborhood would be like Battery Park (but a more ethnic, less upscale version, and sorry no Century 21 nearby) in that it is out of the main business district and on the waterfront. The rooms have some very nice views and their corner suites are really something. This is one of my favourite, and IMO, one of the most interesting neighborhoods in Hong Kong: full of traditional medicine shops, dried fish stalls, tea stalls, temples, and all sorts of old-fashioned shops you don’t find in many parts of Hong Kong any longer. It is not in the centre of upscale shopping or restaurants (although a few notable ones are not too far), but has a real low-key charm of its own. Given a choice, for a first-time tourist the JW Marriott/Conrad is probably better, but if you really want a feel for a traditional Hong Kong neighborhood, I thought I would mention it, and it does have some very fine views. It is on a major bus line and on the street tram line, and the hotel offers a shuttle bus service, so while it is out of the main area, transport would not be an issue. (Plus the neighborhood is so interesting for walking.)

    Hong Kong is very easy to get around as it has a superb inexpensive public transportation system consisting of subway, an extensive bus and ferry network, and the street tram, all supplemented by rather in inexpensive taxis, so hotel location in terms of pubic transport is not really that big a deal. (Much of the sightseeing in Central will be done on foot.) That being said, IMO, most of your sightseeing, eating and possibly shopping will be done on the Hong Kong side, so that is another reason to stay on the Hong Kong side. While taking the Star Ferry over is very pleasant and extremely scenic, even that can get old after a while (and does involve a longish walk to/from the pier on the Hong Kong side). And you can take the subway over of course, but that can be crowded, can involve longish walks underground to and from trains (esp. from the Hyatt to the trains in TST) and the subway does not go to many places you will want to go, esp. on the south side of Hong Kong Island.

    To or from the airport, there is not a whole lot of advantage to staying on either side; although staying in Causeway Bay is a longer journey to the airport than TST or the Central/Wan Chai areas. There is a dedicated rail link for the airport which will take you to/from the airport in about 30 minutes from stations in Central and TST. You can then connect by taxi or bus to your hotel. A taxi take directly from the airport takes about the same amount of time (at least to Central and TST), but costs quite a bit more.

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    Sorry, so sorry the penny just dropped for me on your travel dates and Marriott points. Your visit is February 2011. Consider using your Marriott points to make a booking at the Ritz-Carlton Kowloon which is opening in November/December 2010 and has the best view of any hotel in the world. No hyperbole there, and views are superb in every direction. They ought to be, as the lobby is on the 101st floor or so and the rooms are above that. I did a construction tour of this hotel about a month ago, and spent most of it at the windows just agog at the views. I have some grainy camera phone photos which I would be happy to send you.

    The hotel has absolutely no surrounding neighborhood to speak of, as it bounded on 3 sides by highways and on the fourth by a fairly large piece of vacant land. You can’t really walk to anything, although the hotel is part of a huge very upscale shopping mall which has many restaurants in addition to tons of shops, and an indoor skating rink. The mall is also the Kowloon station for the airport express and a stop on the MTR, so you can get to the airport and to other parts of Hong Kong by subway and of course by taxi. The location is not really convenient, and there is no neighborhood at all to speak of, but IMO, the view makes up for pretty much everything. In addition to great harbor views, the sunset view from the pool is spectacular.

    If they don’t take Marriott points, and if you feel like paying for a room, THAT hotel is worth the money for the view, IMO.

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    Actually, you can see the view from the Ritz-Carlton Kowloon by looking at Nick Gleitzmen’s photos which he took about 9 months ago from the lobby level before the glass went up, see http://www.nickgleitzman.com/hkpanorama/index.htm. You can buy these as well. The first three at the top of the series are taken from the Ritz. I have seen these in finished form in galleries here (I bought the sunset one for my office right after my tour) and they are really something. You would think that they were taken from a helicopter.

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    Actually I would rank the hotels as (i) Ritz-Carlton Kowloon and then (ii) in a tie the JW Marriott and the new Hyatt. While I prefer the location of the JW Marriott, the view which would be offered by a harbour view room at the Hyatt is very special. If you can secure one, I would think pretty hard before giving that up. Especially if you are here on a night of the fireworks, but also just generally.

    I just learned today that the Ritz most likely won’t open until after Lunar New Year, so you may be able to take that out of the running.

    SEVVA is a bar and restaurant located on the Hong Kong Island side on the top floor of a mid-rise office building in Central. It is behind the Mandarin Oriental hotel. It has a large outdoor deck, which is rare in Hong Kong, and offers some very nice harbour and city views. See http://www.sevvahk.com/. It could be a good place to watch the light show, as you can sit outdoors on their big comfy sofas and have a drink while watching. I think the bar is better than the restaurants. The do a nice afternoon tea as well.

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    Cicerone is Sevva very expensive? on a par with Aqua Roma?
    We loved working our way thru your restaurant list on our last visit and just may have a trip again to visit our son in Gz in late September, just started thinking of more restaurants to try!
    thank you.

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    I have not eaten at Aqua Roma in quite a long time, so can’t compare prices. I think SEVVA is more expensive than Hutong, probably on the magnitude of about 10% or maybe a bit more, but it can be hard to tell because Hutong is Asian-style family servings and SEVVA is individual servings. SEVVA has a set lunch which is about US$55, so dinner a la carte is going to be more than that. From memory (I could not find prices on their website), I would say appetizers at SEVVA are probably between HK$150-250, entrees are between HK$250-350+ and deserts are all at HK$100 or more. And their wine is quite expensive. You could easily spend US$100 per person for just a 3-course meal without any wine or liquor. Is that similar to your experience at Aqua Roma?

    I have to stress that SEVVA is not really on my list for the food, which is I think can be uneven (as is the service) and is expensive for what can be just an OK experience. It really is there for the great open deck bar. If you want a good western meal in a nice setting on the more expensive end of the spectrum, there are other options. The Mandarin Grill for one would be a great place, or Caprice in the Four Seasons. For Italian someplace like Tuscany by H or Gaia or (if you can get a booking) The Drawing Room, which has the chef from the old Ritz-Carlton (now torn down). By the time of your visit in September 2011 the new Ritz-Carlton Kowloon will be open, and they will have an Italian restaurant with staggering views which I can predict with some confidence will be excellent. (You will look down on Aqua Roma quite literally almost a hundred floors below you…)

    I think SEVVA would be nice for tea, as their pastries are quite good. I hear their brunch is actually good, although I have not been myself.

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    I am finally secured regarding dates of trip: learrive in HongKong 2PMon a Wednesday Feb 9th. Depart on Vietnam Airways on Feb11 at 2:55PM. Stay courtesy of points. JW Marriott. Possibly advise in total time to allot for traveling back to airport that Friday midday. Plan to possibly leave luggage at airport in storage, bring little with us into HongKong. Possibly would like advise in how to construct touring for those 48 hours to maximize sites. Wife loves eating fish. Considering going to Limma Island? How to pack in watching the light show with all else, when to go to the peak, when to wander around the areas of Central, where exactly are those stalls of shops a few blocks from the JWMarriott. Have a lot of time to construct plan. Then, hook up with my collegues on their vietnam-cambodia tour four about 7-8 days. Will have some questins about that later. Also later, unfortunately have a tight connection inSan Francisco (cant exactly change without incurring more expense): leave Saigon at 7:05PM on Saturday Feb19th-leave HKG 1AM with Cathay to SFO-arrive 8:55PM-must then take AmericanAirlines 11PMflight to JFK. On Freq flier points but I had to buy plenty of points for the various children helping us plus breaking up each leg of trip. thank you. Jack

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    To answer your specific questions:

    1. You only need to be at the airport about 1.5 hours before your flight. Generally if you leave for the airport 2 hours before your flight, you should be fine, you could leave 2.5 hours if you wanted, esp if you want to collect luggage at the airport. By taxi or private car, the trip takes less than 30 minutes. By train, the trip takes about the same, but you have to add on 10-15 minutes to get to the train station, get a ticket, perhaps wait for a train, etc. You may be able to check-in on line the day before your flight, this often is not allowed for US bound flights, but check with your airline. If so, you have a little more leeway on time as you won’t be waiting in check in lines at the airport. If you take the Airport Express train, you can check in at the airport, including checking luggage (which may not help you if you have luggage AT the airport.). But generally, plan on leaving 2-2.5 hours before your flight.

    2. You can leave luggage at the airport, go to http://www.hongkongairport.com/eng/aguide/baggage.html#left for info. The Left Luggage area is in the "Meeters and Greeters Hall" , which is in the main arrivals area, the Left Luggage area is on the far right of the hall as you exit the baggage claim/Customs areas.

    3. For things to do, click on "Destinations" above, and then scroll down to Hong Kong. A helpful description and basic itinerary suggestions will come up. The Fodors guide book to Hong Kong is excellent. Frommers.com also has a website with similar info and their guidebook is pretty good. You can get the 6-page fold-out paper Luxe Guide, see http://www.luxecityguides.com/; however there is very little sightseeing advice in it, it is mostly shopping and restaurants. Also check the Hong Kong Tourism Board website at http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/ for other ideas, as well as the Leisure and Cultural Services Department website at http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/en/home.php to see all events and museums offered by the government.

    Finally, please search this board for my list of personal reccos called “Cicerone’s Reccos for What the Locals Do for Fun in Hong Kong (Hint: We DON’T Go to those Awful Night Markets....)” this should give you some ideas for what to do, including a list of walks and some sources for more walks. For a quick photo of one walk, click on my name above and see my profile. For a description of some of other favourite walks on Hong Kong Island, see my posts called “Cicerone’s Favourite Hong Kong Walks II: Paradise Found! From Happy Valley to Stanley in High Heels! (Almost) The Tsz Lo Lan Shan Path” and “Cicerone's Favourite Hong Kong Walks III: The Dragon's Back” and “Cicerone's Favourite Hong Kong Walks: Severn Road, The Peak “. You can find all of these posts by clicking on these links:
    http://www.fodors.com/community/asia/cicerones-reccos-for-what-the-locals-do-for-fun-in-hong-kong-hint-we-dont-go-to-those-awful-night-ma.cfm http://www.fodors.com/community/asia/cicerones-favourite-hong-kong-walks-ii-paradise-found-from-happy-valley-to-stanley-in-high-heels-alm-1.cfm
    http://www.fodors.com/community/asia/cicerones-favourite-hong-kong-walks-iii-the-dragons-back.cfm and at http://www.fodors.com/community/asia/cicerones-favourite-hong-kong-walks-severn-road-the-peak.cfm. Other than that, I would need to know what your interests are. Some people think that Chinese Opera is a “must see”. Some people think that Bruce Lee movies would be. Some people think eating in a local Michelin-ranked restaurant would be. It’s really a matter of what interests you.

    I would note that Wednesday February 9 is a night on which there should be horse-racing at Happy Valley, and as this would be the first race meeting of the new year, would be considered a very lucky time to go bet on the ponies. You might consider doing that on the Wednesday evening. It’s really the quintessential Hong Kong activity.

    4. With regard to eating fish, as lovely as Lamma Island is, it is not necessary to go there to eat fish, as you will be eating the SAME fish as if you had stayed in Hong Kong. Virtually none of Hong Kong’s fish is local (and when you see the industrial effluent poring into the harbour from the Pearl River you will understand why), so you won’t be getting the “fresh off the boat” fish by going to Lamma. However, it’s a pleasant ferry trip, and you can take the nice Lamma Family Walk (or more challenging walks). The little seafood restaurants line the water in both Yung Shue Wah and Sok Kwu Wan and are pleasant. I think the seafood is overpriced on Lamma, and there are as good and in many cases better places for seafood in Hong Kong, but no harm in going. However, you have a very short time in Hong Kong, and taking 4-5 hours out of it to go to Lamma to eat fish may not be the best use of it. By the way, the Marriott has an excellent seafood restaurant, called the Fish Bar, which has pleasant outdoor seating and would be worth a stop for lunch or dinner. You could also go someplace with a view for dinner and see the lightshow and have fish for dinner into the bargain. Otherwise, most any Cantonese restaurant would work, as the Cantonese love seafood, and nobody steams a fish like they do, IMO.

    5. Once you figure out what you want to see and do, you can work out the itin as to particulars of time for each event. IMO the Peak is best at sunset and dusk so you can see the city/harbour in both daylight and night light in one trip, but see what works best with your schedule.

    6. For the markets near the JW Marriott, you want to go to the Wan Chai market area. This is about a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel. The markets are esp lively at lunch and in the early evening, but most any time is good; the only time they would be very quiet are first thing in the morning before about 10:00 am, some stalls won’t even be open. They close around 6:30 pm.

    To reach the markets, from the hotel lobby, go out the front door, turn left, walk out the driveway past the Upper House Hotel to the end of the street and turn left again. Walk down hill for about 10 yards until the street intersects with very busy Queensway, turn right and cross the small street, going under the underpass. Cross another the small street here. You are in Wan Chai now on Queens Road East. The main markets are 8 blocks down on the left, but there are a few things along the way:

    #1 This tall glass office building on the right will be the first building you pass once you enter Wan Chai, This is Pacific Place 3. The building is between Star Street and Wing Fung Streets, either of which will take you up to Star Street which has a number of restaurants on it and the little streets leading off of it. (You can also walk underground from the Marriott to Pacific Place 3, but above ground is more interesting and usually faster.)
    #51 is the excellent Sift bakery should you want/need a cupcake
    #66 at about this number, on the left hand side of the street, is Greeson Street, which is a pedestrian-only market street worth a short stroll. Vegetable, fruit and plants are on sale here. (You can walk out to the end, to Johnston Road, the street with the trams on it. Turn right and then just stroll along here until you come to Spring Garden Lane on the right, where the Wan Chai markets begin, at about #106 Johnston Road, turn right into Spring Garden and see below for a description of the markets.) Otherwise when you have seen enough of Greeson, turn around and go back to Queen’s Road East.
    #106 is the equally good and more traditional Happy Cake Shop if you want to try a Pineapple Bun; they are not what you think but are excellent nonetheless. Or try an egg tart, which is a custard in a pastry shell.)
    #128 is King Tak Hong Porcelain Co Ltd, what I used to call a “dime store” when I was growing up, just full of household stuff, including woks at US$5-15 (depending on size) and the accouterments like traditional bamboo whisk wok cleaners for US$1.25
    #127 is a small temple which is worth a stop

    Then walk a few more blocks until you come to a tall white round skyscraper on your right set back a bit from the street. This is the Hopewell Centre and is #183 Queens Road East. With the Hopewell Centre at your back, cross the street, turn right and walk a block or so looking for Spring Garden Lane on your left. Turn left down Spring Garden. This will take you into the heart of the market, when it intersects with Cross Street. (On the right just at the intersection is a shop selling incense, paper “hell money” and other offerings for the dead). Go right into Cross Street, which is pedestrian-only. The market is roughly in the shape of a capital letter “H” with a another dog-leg bump on the left side. The cross bar of the H is called Cross Street. There are 3 or 4 streets branching off here which are all worth a wander to see the butchers and live fish, etc. Wander around as long as you have time or inclination for.

    A stop at the Pak Tai Temple on Stone Nullah Lane would also be interesting. A map of the area will help, IMO, a good one is the map of the area surrounding the Wan Chai MTR station, you can find this on-line at http://www.mtr.com.hk/eng/facilities/lm.html, scroll down to “Island Line” then click on “Wan Chai” and a map of the streets surrounding the Wan Chai market will come up. It is quite detailed and shows all the MTR exits from the Wan Chai station, the market areas, major buildings etc. You can enlarge it and print it out. You can find similar maps for areas around all the MTR stations.

    You can then either walk back to the hotel, go down to Johnston Road and take the tram back, take the MTR from Johnston Road to elsewhere, or take a taxi. You can also get to Stanley by going to the Hopewell Centre and taking the #6 bus at the stop on the opposite side of the street from the Hopewell Centre. (i.e., as you face the Hopewell Centre, buses going in the direction to the left/east). You can get to the Peak by going to the Hopewell Centre and taking the #15 bus from the stop on the opposite side of the Hopewell Centre. (Not quite as thrilling as the Peak Tram, but some good views indeed.) You can also take a bus to the hotel by going to the Hopewell Centre and taking virtually any bus at the stop on the same side of the street as the Hopewell Centre. Most every bus will all stop at Pacific Place Mall/Admiralty MTR, but read the signs.

    7. Well, that will be interesting, with a 2-hour connection time in SFO and you have to go through Immigration, baggage claim and Customs in SFO. If this were a transfer at any Asian airport, I would not worry, but at a US airport, that time does seem quite tight. I used to use SFO all the time before they started non-stops from Hong Kong to JFK and EWR, and generally 2 hours was enough, but I have to say that my last connection through SFO was before 9/11 so I can’t speak to speed these days. The good news is that generally I find international flights to be 15-20 minutes early on arrivals, as they make up time when flying. So you may have a bit more like 2.5 hours. But I would have a contingency plan just in case things go pear-shaped and you don’t make the connection.

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    The only hotel I would stay at in Hong Kong is the Hotel Intercontinental. Why? People the world over go there to see Victoria Harbor, and it is astonishing especially when the light show gets going on HK island everynight. The Intercontinental is on the Kowloon side, a short and delightful stroll from the Star Ferry where you can shop your brains out, course that isn't hard to do on the Kowloon side with Nathan road being right there. Why you would want to shop in China is a mystery to me...when you could take ferrys to small and cool islands within an hour, wander amazing temples (check out the Western...best architecture and paint, worth the cab, not too extreme) or sightsee any of the other great things to see there....besides stores, course if you live in a rural area with no shopping maybe that is the lure. The Hotel Intercontinental will be a bit above your 300 budget but a few hotels really are worth it. A harbor view room will not be soon forgotten, this hotel is their flagship property right on the harbor, heck just lounging in the pool and infinity edged whirlpool overlooking the harbor is just soooo cool. The tai chi teacher is an old old man who teaches a freebie to non tai chi people and he is an experience to witness for sure. The spa is extremely nice as is the lobby lounge with floor to ceiling windows and that amazing view that makes HK famous. I've spent alot of time in HK, really, conclude that is the best place at least to me.

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