Exploring Hong Kong: getting there and our first meal in HK

Aids and I arrived in Hong Kong at 7:30 am. There was a line for immigration but the wait was bearable. Our baggage was waiting to be claimed by the time we got the coveted stamp in our passports (I love HKIA!). First order of business was finding out where the airport buses were. After that, I got in line for the information counter (there was only one lady fielding questions) to find out where the China Travel Service (HK) booth was (it’s booth A10 in the arrivals hall), as they offer discounted admission tickets to some of Hong Kong’s attractions.

The tickets we bought:

  • Ocean Park – HK$240 instead of HK$280
  • Round-trip Peak Tram + Sky Terrace – HK$56 instead of HK$65
  • One-way Airport Express ticket (Kowloon) – HK$72 instead of HK$90
  • One-way Ngong Ping cable car ride – HK$80 (no discount. Boo!)

Edit: we found out later that Ngong Ping is one of several attractions (including Ocean Park and the Peak Tram) that participates in a promo wherein you can get 10% off the admission ticket if you present a recently used ticket from one of the other attractions. So if you’re going to Ngong Ping during the later part of your trip, you can save the Ocean Park or Peak Tram ticket (which you already got at a discount :D) and present it when you buy your cable car tickets onsite. Ten percent off for minimal effort sounds good to me! Promo runs until January 2012.

We took the Cityflyer airport bus going to Tsim Sha Tsui as it was much cheaper compared to the Airport Express train ($33 versus $72) and the room we got was only some steps away from the bus stop. You get a free sightseeing tour too! However, we decided to take the Airport Express going back as we had an early flight. The bus route starts at 5:30 am and takes about an hour, so we could have missed our flight back if we’d taken it. And besides, taking the AE was an added experience πŸ™‚

Note: if you’re taking the Cityflyer bus from and to the airport, Citybus offer a round-trip bus ticket + Ocean Park ticket for only $295 πŸ˜€

We arrived in TST by 9:30.Instead of a hotel or hostel room, we rented a private room via Airbnb. Why Airbnb? First, hotel rooms in Hong Kong are extremely expensive in October (think 3x the usual rate) because of the trade fairs that bring hundreds of business people into town. Case in point: we just missed the HK Electronics Fair and could have gone to the China Sourcing Fair (I forget for what products). Second, we didn’t want to get a hostel room because this was a special occasion and we wanted something nicer than the usual clean but tiny room. We ended up staying in Cory’s apartment. He and his girlfriend Carla were such great hosts – very friendly and accommodating. They left for a business+leisure trip two nights after we got there so we had the place to ourselves for the rest of our stay.

The guest before us was still in the apartment by the time we got there so we just dumped our bags and got some brunch. Carla recommended a barbeque place along Hankow Road and we did look out for it, but we missed it somehow and ended up in a hole-in-the-wall noodle shop. It was more than a little intimidating at first, as it was full of locals and the owner spoke limited English. Good thing the menu had photos and English labels so the tried-and-tested pointing method worked πŸ˜€ One bowl of shrimp wonton noodle soup was HK$33.

We went back to the apartment to rest a bit and unpack some stuff. The day’s itinerary: the museums along the harbor front, the Avenue of Stars, and the Mong Kok night markets!

Hong Kong trip planning references and craziness

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Aids and I are going to Hong Kong this October for our 5th anniversary (OMG 5 years?!) – it’ll be my 2nd trip (though the first time I went was way back in high school) and his first overseas trip ever. So yes, being the sort-of travel veteran compared to him, the trip planning was mostly done by me πŸ˜›

Some of the references I used:

“Hong Kong (Step by Step)” by Ruth Williams (Insight Guides)

Some of you may be asking “why buy a guidebook when everything is online for free?”. Three reasons: 1) I wanted something I could carry around, 2) this guide organized the interesting places into self-guided walking tours (I love walking tours – I try to walk everywhere whenever practical), and 3) this one includes a full-color map. I love maps. My sense of direction isn’t the greatest so having a map on-hand is important. Bonus: it has lots of pretty pictures that inspire me to take my own pretty pictures πŸ™‚

Airbnb.com

Hotels in Hong Kong are super expensive in October owing to the trade fairs that bring lots of people to town but we didn’t want to stay in a hostel either. (Hey, it’s our anniversary. We wanted something nicer than the standard hostel.) The answer – getting a room via Airbnb! I’ll post photos of the room we booked when we get back. Location’s great (right in the middle of Tsim Sha Tsui), free use of the Wi-Fi, linens, kitchen, and roof deck, and reasonably priced (US$85 per night plus Airbnb’s $34 processing fee).

Hong Kong International Airport’s transportation page

Everything to need to know on how to travel to/from the airport is right here πŸ˜€

MTR travel planner

Most places you’re likely to visit on a short trip to Hong Kong can be reached via MTR. This website calculates the fare and approximate travel time between stations. Tip: get an Octopus card. It’s a reloadable card that you can use to pay for the MTR, Star Ferry, public buses, groceries, and fast-food. Aside from the convenience, you get a discount on the MTR if you pay via Octopus card πŸ™‚ Mark P is lending us his Octopus cards while Jovan is lending us her HK SIM card. This reminds me: I must do a proper post on the “Brotherhood of the Traveling Octopus Cards”.

Whee I’m excited πŸ˜€ I’m even getting a new bag for the trip – will write about it soon. All I can say is that good things come to those who are persistent!