Exchange Rate: $1 Canadian = HK$7.8
Overall: Though we were only in Hong Kong for 24 hours, it was enough to show us that it’s a very liveable city, at least in the autumn. There’s a real feeling of diversity with ethnicities from all over the world living and working together side by side. It’s technologically modern, clean and easy to get around with multiple transport options available for the choosing. Though not everyone speaks english, almost all public signage was in english and chinese, so we didn’t have too much trouble getting from place to place. We preferred Hong Kong Island to Kowloon, mostly because we were able to walk down the streets without bumping into someone else every other second.
Costs: Hong Kong is an expensive city to rent or buy property in, and of course it has a full range of luxury and 5 star restaurants and hotels to choose from. However, we found daily living costs to be completely reasonable for a city of this size. We had a great dim sum meal at Maxims Palace for HK$120 and public transit, taxis and the Star Ferry were inexpensive. For example, our trip across the Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry cost just HK$2.20 each, less than 30 cents.
What we did: It is surprisingly easy to take in most of Hong Kong’s major attractions in 24 hours. While we didn’t make it to the outlying islands and beaches, we were able to take in the view from Victoria Peak, watch the Symphony of Lights from Tsim Sha Tsui, wander around Hong Kong Park, eat delicious dim sum, ride the Star Ferry, have drinks in Soho, see the Mid-Levels escalators and get a palm reading on Temple Street.
Food: Like any other large multicultural city, there is a wide variety of food on offer at every price point. While we didn’t partake in anything other than dim sum and Cantonese food, we did walk by multiple European, Asian and Indian restaurants. The dim sum is almost exactly the same as what I’ve had in Toronto, down to the quality, price and presentation, however I found the Chinese food to be somewhat greasier and fattier than what I’m used to. I guess Chinese food in Canada has been further adapted to please the North American palate! Makes sense I guess, but it means I’m still craving chow mein and sweet and sour pork!!!
A note about my drug of choice, coffee: With the exception of Starbucks, I didn’t see too many large coffee chains, and while we didn’t walk by any independent coffee shops I’m sure they must exist. Clearly I’ll have to go back to Hong Kong to find them!
Travel tip: The Airport Express from Hong Kong Station is super fast, efficient and economical. For HK$80 each, we made it to the airport in 24 minutes flat. From Kowloon station, the journey is 20 minutes, and from Tsing Yi station, just 12. For added convenience, most airlines have check-in counters at Hong Kong and Kowloon stations, where you can free yourself of your luggage. The train leaves every 12 minutes.
Attraction tip: For a classic Chinese face reading, take the MTR to Jordan station and head to Temple Street. Face Reading, or physiognomy originally derived from Daoist philosophy and uses the structure of your face to reveal your personality, past history, current situation and future fate. On Temple Street, you’ll find booths upon booths of fortune tellers available for a reading. Some of them claim to provide readings in both english and cantonese, but it’s best to verify, because we found this wasn’t actually the case. We were lucky enough to have a bilingual friend translate the reading for us, and if you can swing it, I think this is the best way to do it. Oh, and don’t be afraid to barter the price. For HK$180, the Bear received a 30 minute face and palm reading, which was very entertaining.
When in Hong Kong: My Hong Kong friend Kate says, “we all do it,” so in a restaurant, don’t feel weird about doing dishes at your table. To blend in with the locals, wash your bowl, plate and utensils in a mixture of hot water and green tea before dining. This keeps everything sanitary and you can rest easy knowing that you haven’t got any wayward germs on your plate!