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Hong Kong for Chinese New Year and Itinerary Help--what's open, what to do

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Hi all--

I think I have read every Hong Kong post here and copied most of them (thanks Ciccerone!) but I still have a few questions:

I am arriving late on Sunday, 30 January, staying at the Salisbury YMCA--I'm getting in at about 10pm, what is the best way to get from the airport. I'm a female travelling solo.

Here's what I have so far:
Monday or Tues: flower markets
Wednesday: Dragons Back hike with Hong Kong Walks
Saturday: Horse racing (yes!)
Sunday: Church/leave for Singapore

Please help me fill in the rest of my itinerary and I promise to stay away from the night markets. I am interested in culture and history (I have already read "Golden Boy" by Martin Booth)

My questions are:
1. I want to get a Birkin bag copied--not a fake Hermes, but a bag that looks like a Birkin in shape etc without the Hermes fakery--i'm not trying to fool anyone, I just love the style and would like a quality bag. What's the best place to go, and what day should I go, considering the CNY holiday? Will I have to have a bag to copy or will they know what I am talking about? I'm also looking to copy some shoes.

2. What is the best options for restaurants on CNY? Do you need to make reservations? I'm hoping that by adopting a Chinese student here in the US for Christmas someone will invite me to their home for dinner, but in the meantime, what's a good suggestion for a festive diner dining alone?

3. does the parade pass in front of my hotel? What day is the parade and when does it start? How early do you have to get there to get a good view? I've heard of rumors that you can buy a seat at the viewing stand, the Hong Kong Tourist Board website has no info--am I just too early?

4. Will all of the temples be packed on Thursday Feb 3? what's the best one to go to--I want to be respectful, but I also want to take part in the festivities.

5. I leave on Sunday at 8pm for Singapore. Should I leave my luggage at the hotel or take it out early to the airport? When I come back from Singapore I will be coming home via Hong Kong--will I have to re-enter Hong Kong and then leave? Are United and Cathay Pacific in the same terminal

6. finally, is there an Anglican/Episcopal church I can visit on Sunday?

Thank you SO much in advance!

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    Airport to YMCA Salisbur, easiest is taxi, about HK$250.

    Also quick and a bit cheaper is Airport Express train to Kowloon Station (HK$90), then take free shuttle K2 to Kowloon Hotel/Peninsula, which is next door to YMCA: http://www.mtr.com.hk/eng/airport_express/complom_free_bus.html
    If you miss the last shuttle, then just take a taxi. Short and cheap ride.

    Cheaper and also direct is take the Cityflyer A21 bus. HK$33.
    http://www.nwstbus.com.hk/routes/routeinfo.aspx?intLangID=1&searchtype=1&routenumber=a21&route=A21&routetype=D&company=5&exactMatch=yes
    Get off at Stop 14, Nathan Road before Middle Road, which is across the street from the Peninsula.

    1. No idea. Others may help.

    2. Many of the local Chinese restaurants are closed for Chinese New Year Day, Thurs Feb 3, as well as the next day Fri Feb 4. Most should be open again Sat Feb 6. Those inside hotels will be open. People have festive meals with families at home during CNY.

    3. The parade should pass in front of your hotel. Too early to get info. Just check this website later: http://www.discoverhongkong.com/festivehk2010/eng/cny/highlight_celebrations.jsp
    And yes, you can buy a ticket for the grandstand, though it is generally NOT a must-do event for locals (especially if it's chilly that night), so you should also get good view by just standing along the route.

    4. Temples and monasteries may be busy on CNY, but generally not overly so. For a local temple, Wong Tai Sin is the one with most worshippers. For buddhist monastery, you may want to trek out to Po Lin Monastery on Lantau, though lines may be long for the cable car and cost is higher since it's a public holiday.

    One temple that's super crowded is the Che Kung Temple in Shatin, but on the 3rd day of the new year, meaning the Sat Feb 5th. Worshippers go there to turn the little windmills inside to change their luck (for the better, supposedly).

    5. Easiest is to buy a Airport Express ticket and use the in-town check-in at the Kowloon Station anytime that morning. You can then wander around and then ride the AE to the airport in the afternoon.

    Most of the gates at HKG are in the same huge concourse. And you never go through immigration when connecting at HKG. At SIN, have your bags checked through to your final destination. You'll go through security check at HKG on your return transit but that's it.

    6. Here's the website for the Anglican Church of HK:
    http://www1.hkskh.org/index_en.php
    Closest one to your hotel should be St. Andrew's, up Nathan Road:
    http://www.standrews.org.hk/
    Sunday service in English at 9am, 11am, and 6pm.

    BTW, while one or two regulars here may hate the night markets, and I never buy anything there, you may still find it interesting to wander around. Won't hurt you and you have plenty of time.

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    Here are my thoughts on your questions:

    Monday or Tues: flower markets

    The main flower market for Lunar New Year is in Victoria Park. I would NOT go late in the evening of Feb 2, as many, if not most, of the flowers are gone by then and the place looks bedraggled. Locals only go at that time to get good bargains, which is not what you care about. You want to see the families and kids and food offerings, etc. Therefore, go in the early evening on Jan 31 or Feb 1. Sometime between 5 – 8 pm and you are likely to run into crowds, which is part of the fun. The afternoon of Jan 31 or Feb 1 or even early in the day on Feb 2 is fine too, there will just be fewer people. Depends whether you want to look at the flowers or the crowds.

    Wednesday: Dragons Back hike with Hong Kong Walks

    Is this with Walk Hong Kong (http://www.walkhongkong.com/guidedhikeshongkong/dragonsbackhike.html)? Curious to know if you like this group; I know very little about them. The walk includes the Shau Kei Wan market, which is quite colourful. The restaurants in Shek O and Big Wave Bay should still be open (they may close toward the early afternoon, sort of like Christmas Eve in the US); but both beaches are really lovely and worth seeing so I would recommend that you stay on after the walk to do that. There is also a temple in Shek-O out on the rocks which is worth a visit. It is of course perfectly possible to do this walk on your own; but a guided one could be fun.

    Saturday: Horse racing (yes!)
    You have to go to Shatin racecourse for that. It’s the first race of the New Year. It is probably going to be very, very crowded. As you are flying Cathay, they have a lounge at the track which you may be able to use. See their website or give them a call.

    Please help me fill in the rest of my itinerary and I promise to stay away from the night markets. I am interested in culture and history (I have already read "Golden Boy" by Martin Booth)

    Don’t forget that the fireworks will be Thursday, Feb 3 around 9 pm (check with your hotel for the time, it may be earlier like 8 pm). You should have a great view from your hotel (assuming you have a harbour view room, of not, ask the hotel if there is an area reserved for hotel guests from where you can watch). The streets in front to the hotel will be closed to traffic and will be jammed-packed, which can be fun for before or after, but for actually watching the fireworks, I would strongly recco that you do that from your hotel.

    Don’t forget that on Feb 3, 4 and 5 public transport will be running on a holiday schedule, which means more frequently than on weekdays; and ferries to places like Tung Lung and Tap Mun (Grass Island) also run more frequently. These can be good days to take ferry trips, or go into country parks like Sai Kung which only has bus service on weekends and public holidays.

    I don’t have a high opinion of the night markets, because what you mostly see are other tourists and lots of junk. (If you do go to the Ladies Market or Temple Street market, walk down the sidewalks on either side and avoid the vendors set up in stalls in the middle which is mostly tourist tat. The sidewalks, behind the street stalls, have the small restaurants and the more interesting shops, IMO, esp for religious items in the Temple Street market.) But the local street/food markets are wonderful. There is one on the opposite side of Langham Place Mall from the dreaded Ladies/Night Markets in Kowloon, and great ones in Central (Peel and Graham Streets) and Wan Chai. There is a very good one in Bowrington Road in Causeway Bay which can be done as part of a tram trip to the area, e.g. Happy Valley. Shau Kei Wan has a good one which you will see on your Dragon’s Back walk. These markets tend to close around 7 pm. They will be entirely dead on Feb 3 and 4, so go before or after LNY.

    The area around the Ladies Market/Night Market like the Jordan and Yau Mai Tei MTR stops are also interesting to walk in terms of the sheer number of people around, esp in the early evenings or on a Saturday afternoon. Times Square and the area around Sogo Department store in Causeway Bay are two other interesting areas (and Times Square has the added bonus of being near to the Bowrington Road local food market. But Sogo is near to an interesting Tin Hau Temple and also the Lin Fa Kung temple on Lin Fa Kung Street in the Hai Tang area.) Lots of neon, esp on the Kowloon side. Again on Feb 2 and probably the 3rd these areas will be very quiet, but on other nights should be hoppin’.

    As you have a good bit of time and are interested in history, you might want to buy copies of Jason Wordie's books "Streets Hong Kong" and/or "Streets Kowloon". Both would offer interesting walks around various neighborhoods, most off the beaten tourist track. I also just picked up a copy of a new book by Peter Spurrier called "Heritage Hikers Guide to Hong Kong" which looks very interesting to me. (These appear to be walks more than hikes.) He has written two very good books on countryside hikes in Hong Kong which you may find very useful too. You may be able to find these on Amazon or your bookstore may be able to order them. You can buy them all in Hong Kong, but you may want more time to review them before the trip.

    I want to get a Birkin bag copied--not a fake Hermes, but a bag that looks like a Birkin in shape etc without the Hermes fakery--i'm not trying to fool anyone, I just love the style and would like a quality bag. What's the best place to go, and what day should I go, considering the CNY holiday? Will I have to have a bag to copy or will they know what I am talking about? I'm also looking to copy some shoes.

    I can’t believe you would not have come across my reccos for having shoes and bags made. Bear in mind that a good quality homage to a Birkin will cost about US$350 to start and will go higher depending on what leather you use. For very good quality, go to Mayer shoes or LII Couture. However, they take a week or so to make, so you might want to contact them now and pre-order. This is esp. the case as the mainland factories where their work is done are likely to be closed for the whole week of LNY. I would call them soon to discuss what you want, and you can give them credit card info. Mayer has Birkins in its window, so they will know exactly what you are referring to and the Chan brothers at LIII Couture should understand as well. If you want to copy shoes, you should bring them or a photo; but my concern is the lack of time. With shoes, I like to have a chance for one fitting so they can make adjustments as necessary. However, the shops can also mail you the bag or shoes if they are not done in time.

    If you have not pre-ordered anything, then make the shoe/bag place your very first stop on Monday Jan 31 in hopes of having things ready by Sunday Feb 6.

    Mayer Shoes
    Mandarin Oriental Hotel
    5 Connaught Road
    Central
    Tel: 852 2524 3317

    This would be my first choice in terms of quality, selection and ease. I am on my second Birkin with them. Highly recommended. They automatically add a mobile phone pocket, I also have pockets for my Blackberry, sunglass and regular glasses. I have mine lined with red suede so you can easily see everything inside. Consider what you need the bag to do, and they can adapt it.

    LIII Couture
    Shop 75 Tower 2
    Admiralty Centre
    18 Harcourt Road
    tel 2136-9739

    They make virtually all my shoes. They have made me leather and suede knapsacks and did a very good job. Good quality as well. Their English is not as good as at Mayer.

    Maylin
    Peninsula Hotel Shopping Arcade
    Salisbury Road
    Kowloon

    Ashneil
    Shop 114 Far East Mansions
    5-6 Middle Road
    Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowlon

    I have not had anything made at these last two, but they have a good reputations. You will see lots of places to have cheaper places to get the bag made, but I can’t vouch for quality.

    Another thought is to buy a used genuine Birkin at one of the Milan Station shops. They will run a bit more in price, but are the real deal. Quality also seems good to me. Take a look at http://www.milanstation.com.hk/b5/ for locations, there are several on Hong Kong Island and several on the Kowloon side.

    What is the best options for restaurants on CNY? Do you need to make reservations? I'm hoping that by adopting a Chinese student here in the US for Christmas someone will invite me to their home for dinner, but in the meantime, what's a good suggestion for a festive diner dining alone?

    Actually, on the first day (February 3) IMO your best options are hotels or some stand-alone Western restaurants. For any thing outside of a hotel, the first day will just be hit or miss as to what is open. It’s like Christmas Day in the US. By the second day (Feb 4), the larger restaurants should be open (esp. in malls), and most Western restaurants will be open. You may find restaurants in malls in Central and Kowloon to be open on Feb 3 as well, as about 1/3 of mall shops are open on that day.

    IMO Chinese and Asian restaurant in general are hard to do alone, as everything is served family style, so it’s hard to order a variety, or if you order a variety then you end up with way too much food. Dim sum is OK as portions are generally 2-4 small pieces, but portions for everything else is quite large. You might want to do dim sum lunches and then Western dinners. Sushi or something like tempura or other Japanese would of course be an exception and would be fine for a dinner choice.

    For one person you are unlikely to need a reservation most anywhere, but on the 4th and 5th it may be worth doing.

    Even if you successfully adopt a Hong Kong Chinese student for Christmas, I would not expect an invitation to their home. You may be invited out for a meal in a restaurant, which of course would be fun too. But I don’t think you would be invited to a “reunion” dinner on Feb 2 or to a dinner at home on Feb 3.

    Does the parade pass in front of my hotel? What day is the parade and when does it start? How early do you have to get there to get a good view? I've heard of rumors that you can buy a seat at the viewing stand, the Hong Kong Tourist Board website has no info--am I just too early?

    The parade is on the evening of the first day (Thursday Feb 3). I believe it starts at 8 pm. I have never been a big fan of it, but it is close to your hotel. The tickets I think are sold through travel agents, or try Cathay Pacific or American Express which I believe are both sponsors. If you have a harbour view room, you should be able to see virtually all of it, as it starts at the Cultural Centre and ends at the New World Centre.

    Will all of the temples be packed on Thursday Feb 3? what's the best one to go to--I want to be respectful, but I also want to take part in the festivities.

    Generally I think you will find the main temples to be very crowded, as least the ones in city centres. I don’t know that there is a “best” temple, as people tend to have their own gods which they favour and would go to that temple. Or something like Wong Tai Sin is for good luck at the beginning of the year, which is why it is popular. If you don’t mind crowds you certainly may enjoy it.

    There are hundreds of temples in Hong Kong that you can certainly make a visit to. There is a Tin Hau temple not far from you hotel (Public Square Street); there are 2 in Stanley, and a large one in Repulse Bay which might be a good choice for the 3rd as you can also go to the beach there and do the esplanade walk over to Deep Water Bay. There are 2 quite near the Wan Chai markets, the Pak Tai Temple on Stone Nullah Lane in Wan Chai might be a good choice for the 3rd, it’s walkable to/from Hong Kong Park and the base terminus of the Peak Tram. (It’s also walkable to/from the Star Ferry if you take it to the Wan Chai pier.) There is the Man Mo Temple in Hollywood Road. There are two near the Maritime Museum (which may be open on Feb 3), there is one on Grass Island (Tap Mun). There is a large one at the Chi Lin Nunnery (could be quite crowded on the 3rd.) There are at least 2 on Lamma Island, and several on Lantau together with monasteries. Every small village has it’s own temple (perhaps not a gorgeous one, but in many cases very nice, i.e. Lamma Island and Cheung Chau).

    However, I actually think the Po Lin Monastery is a good place to go on Feb 3, as I think it should not be crowded. (I have not been on LNY, but this is based on the fact that it is too far a journey for a short trip which is what most people do in terms of a temple visit on the first day; most of the day is taken up visiting relatives. The Peak is basically deserted on the first day of the holiday, and that might be another good thing to do on that day.) I would avoid Po Lin in the 4th, 5th and 6th. January 31 or Feb 1 would be good days for Po Lin as well.

    I leave on Sunday at 8pm for Singapore. Should I leave my luggage at the hotel or take it out early to the airport?

    You don’t need to take it to the airport. As mentioned above, you can go to the in-town check-in at the Airport Express Station in Kowloon (this is the train to the airport). You can check in for your flight and leave your luggage, which will be sent on to the plane. Another option is to check-in on line at your hotel or an internet café (which you can do at least 24 hours in advance). Then just leave your luggage at the hotel and hop the train with it about 1.5 hours before your flight. This will save you having to go to the Airport Express station twice, and also gives you the option of just taking a taxi from your hotel to the airport and skipping the train (costs more but is of course quite a bit more convenient)t. And this is even better if the hotel will give you late check-out, which means you can change clothes/freshen up before leaving for the airport.

    When I come back from Singapore I will be coming home via Hong Kong--will I have to re-enter Hong Kong and then leave? Are United and Cathay Pacific in the same terminal.

    There are 2 terminals at Hong Kong Airport, but Terminal 2 is for more budget airlines. Cathay and United both fly out of Terminal 1. If you arrive into Gates 1-32, and are departing at Gates 33-above (or vice versa), you will have to take a train to get between these gate areas. But it is quite easy. Follow signs for your gate number and it will lead you to the train.

    If you are flying Cathay from S’pore to HK, and then United on to the US, you most likely will have to get your boarding pass for the United flight once you land in Hong Kong. Your luggage will be automatically transferred but Cathay to your United flight, but Cathay is unlikely to be able to issue you a boarding pass. It’s quite easy to get a boarding pass, just go to the correct “transfer” desk after you get off the plane. You will NOT go through Immigration and out to the main check-in area, the transfer area is special area for people making connections. You just go to the transfer counter for your airline and show them your ticket. To the best of my knowledge, you can’t check in on line for flights to the US, but if you are able to do that, then do it in Singapore the day of your flight and you will already have a boarding pass.

    finally, is there an Anglican/Episcopal church I can visit on Sunday?

    IMO the prettiest Anglican church in Hong Kong is St John’s. It’s the oldest in Hong Kong, and is in a nice setting in Central. It is on Garden Road see http://www.stjohnscathedral.org.hk/home.html. They have a bookshop where you can purchase fair trade items and cards, etc which benefit charities.

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