01 September 2006

Hong Kong Tips

I have only been here a short while, but have already learnt a great bit which has enabled me to adapty fairly quick. This post will be updated as new things are found out and explored. For a quick briefing, I am 6 feet tall, white, and speak no cantonese at all. So needless to say I stick out a bit in public, but not all the time (there are many brits in certain areas) Also I am living with my girlfriend, who has lived in Hong Kong since she was 7, we met in college. She also does not speak Cantonese, so going out together proves not much easier in terms of communicating. So here's my first impressions on the main areas, and generally getting to know Hong Kong.

1 - I'm Big! I wouldn't have thought being 6 feet to be crazy tall being from North America, but here I feel like a giant sometimes. Particularly in buses or trams. Double decker buses are hard to manage on the top floor, especially if you have bags with you. My advice, stay on the main floor seating area, but you might have to give up your seat to an elderly person.

2 - Sit on top! I know I just said stay off the top floor if you are tall, but it is the best way to see the city. From the top of a double decker, sit in front, and you will feel like you are on an amusement park ride, the fee is well worth it, especially if taking the East route to Stanley market, we almost had a head on collision with another bus, aparantly this is normal on this road.

3 - Take buses/trams to save money. Generally this is the best way to travel if you have time to spare. The fares are quite low, usually less than $1 CDN, and the buses are all AC! Trams however are not, but they are really cheap. Personally I would avoid trams because I am too tall to stand up on them, and you will probably need to stand at times, guaranteed during rush hour. If you want to get from one end of HK island to the other quick, take the MTR/Subway, it's very clean, and very fast, also AC. If you want to go anywhere else in HK you must take a ferry or the MTR or an expensive cab ride.

4 - ONE camera at a time. If you plan on bringing a camera(s), only use one at a time! Do not attempt to have 2 cameras out at once, or one will most likely be stolen, broken, or dropped. It is just too busy to be carrying around any more than what you can hold in your hand. I would not bring a tripod unless it is at night. Also bring a Polarizing filter!

5 - Shoes! Well the first thing I bought here was a pair of shoes, and I have to say the experience was awesome! Go to Mong Kok! Go there for anything! There is one street in particular that has at least 50 shoe store within 3 blocks. And they are all legit stores. No fakes. Prices will be low if you buy out of season wear, and even if they are not most pairs will be probably half what you'd pay in North America, and there is amazing variety. I think I saw at least 200 different version of converse classics. Adidas, Nike, New Balance, Puma, Reebok, and most other major brands can be found here.

6- Umbrella. I highly recommend bringing one every time you go out anywhere. I have been caught in the rain twice now, and it's not fun!

7- Carry cash. Most places take cash only unless it is a major establishment or nice restaurant. Even the 'Peak Tram' the most well known tourist site, only takes cash!

8- Learn to walk on the left side. Most NA's tend to walk to the right. Well not only do people drive on the left here, they also walk on the left. Escalators etc. are all backwards compared to NA. Also be prepared to walk into people, or be prepared to be walkin into and knocked down. Although most people inside malls etc. are friendly to everyone's own path, the streets can get ugly. If people are carrying umbrellas they don't notice what they are hitting so watch your eyes. Also if it's crowded don't wait for everyone, or you will wait forever, you don't get "waved in" here.

9- Phrase Book. As with any country it helps to know what people are saying sometimes. I picked up the Lonely Planet Cantonese phrase book, so far it's been great. Very small, simple easy to learn phrase book.

No comments: