WORKABOUT // Hong Kong, China

I have been visiting Hong Kong for over a decade on business. Every year there is a toy fair in early January. The usual routine is to leave London on a Friday evening, arrive in Hong Kong late Saturday afternoon, have our first customer dinner Saturday evening, set up the booth at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on Sunday morning, have the afternoon off, before another dinner Sunday night. The show runs from Monday until Thursday. Usually we all take the midnight flight back on Thursday night to arrive back in London on Friday morning.

Phew! All go. But instead of wasting precious time in our rooms relaxing we make a point of doing something on Sunday afternoon and, meetings permitting, evenings. So here are our magnificent seven workabouts. Things you can do around a business trip in Hong Kong. Each is discrete, but could be turned into an itinerary for a city break in Hong Kong.

Magnificent 7 // Hong Kong, China

1. Victoria Peak 

2. Half day Island Tour

3. Tian Tan Buddha

4. Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

5. Temple Street Night Market

6. Star Ferry

7. Symphony of Lights

Getting there –

It takes the best part of 12 hours to fly non-stop from London to Hong Kong’s International Airport. We used to fly Virgin, however after a particularly bad experience one year that was not handled well, we all changed to flying BA.

HK International Airport is relatively new and located on an island and reclaimed land around it. The airport is vast but well signposted and spotlessly clean. Getting through passport control is well organised, but can take some time. A landing card has to be completed.

Please note: if you are travelling directly to Shenzhen in China on the ferry, do not go through passport control with everyone else; follow the signs to mainland transfers.

Getting from the airport is very easy. Either take the Airport Express train, an Airport Bus, an Airport Shuttle or taxi. The Airport Express train is quick (130km/hr), frequent (every 12 minutes) and reasonably priced. If there are more than two of you travelling in a group then taking a taxi is probably the best way to go.

Where we stayed –

Over the years we have stayed in many hotels. We prefer to stay Kowloon-side rather than on the island.  For business (and leisure) travellers looking for value for money I would recommend:

Novotel, Nathan Road, Jordan. Comfortable with free wifi. Has a bar and good breakfast (additional cost). Close to Jordan MTR (subway), Temple Street Night Market, Nathan Street shops and restaurants. 20-minute walk to the Star Ferry.

YMCA, Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. This is not what you think. It is a proper 4-star hotel. It is also comfortable with free wifi. Some rooms have fabulous views of the harbour and Symphony of Lights laser show. Nice swimming pool. No alcohol/bars on premises. Restaurant OK at best. Close to Nathan Road and only 5 minutes to MTR and Star Ferry.

To Eat and Drink –

Where to start? There is so much choice and restaurants come in and out of vogue. However in Kowloon we tend to gravitate towards Knutsford Terrace, off Kimberley Road. It is an easy walk from either of the above hotels and has a lot of options (maybe 30 or so restaurants featuring most of the world’s cuisines) for you to choose from. All in one pedestrianised street that is always buzzing.

On the island, there are two areas. One is Lockhart Street in Wan Chai. It is close to the Exhibition Centre and there are some good restaurants along this street. However this is also a red light area and home to a lot of ageing topless bars as well as offering cheap drinks – about half the price of those in than Lan Kwai Fong. (see below).

Lan Kwai Fong is a small square of streets in Central, a district of Hong Kong. This is much more upmarket than Lockhart Street and touristy, with prices to match; however it can be fun, is always buzzing and is safe.

To note –

  1. Tailor, Sir?/Handbag, Madam?/copy watch? – On my first visits to Hong Kong I really hated the hawkers on Nathan Street trying to sell fake goods. Now it is simple to ignore them. No need to be rude, but not entering into a conversation or any eye contact is my suggested approach.
  2. Egg tartsLocated in Central is Tai Cheong Bakery, whose Egg Tart is Hong Kong’s former British Governor, Chris Patten’s favourite.
  3. Local food– Sometimes it is better not to ask what you have eaten until after you have finished. Chicken feet are not as bad as you think. I personally do not like congee (rice gruel) at breakfast.
  4. Transport – The MTR is absolutely brilliant. Clean, safe. Easy to use. Much, much better than London’s underground system.
  5. Disneyland – On one of my business trips the family came too. My wife and daughters absolutely loved HK’s Disneyland.picture-345

    Magnificent 7

    1. Victoria Peak

    Fabulous panoramic views are the major reason to visit Victoria Peak. It is a simple must do experience when you are in Hong Kong. Getting to the Peak is simple. You can take a taxi, however the 120 year-old funicular Peak Tram is the way to go. Nearest MTR is Central.dscn0122

    2. Half Day island Tour

    On one of my earliest visits I took an afternoon HK Island tour. There are loads to choose from. The one I booked was with the HK Tourism Board and went to Victoria Peak (including the Peak Tram), Aberdeen Fishing Village, with a sampan ride on the harbour, a visit to a jewellery factory (yawn), Repulse Bay and Stanley Market. This tour was reasonably priced and you get to see a lot of the island in a short time. Great if you are working and can wangle a half-day.dscn0124

    3.  Tian Tan Buddha

    To get to the Tian Tan Buddha (and the Po Lin Monastery opposite), take the Ngong Ping 360 cable car. It is a 25-minute scenic ride to the village of Ngong Ping, next to the Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. There are two types of cable cars. Pay the little bit extra and take the cable cars with the glass floors. The queues are shorter and the views over Lantau Island absolutely wonderful. Closest MTR is Tung Chung (take Exit B to cable car).img_1693img_1713

    4. Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

    You can read all about this Monastery on line. We loved it. There are Buddhas everywhere in a respectful and tranquil setting. The walls of the main temple are lined with nearly 13,000 miniature gold ceramic Buddhas. Each is about 12 inches high and adopts a different pose and expression. The monastery is non-residential and managed by lay-people, and is a terrific way to spend an afternoon. Located in Sha Tin in the New Territories. Take MTR East Rail to Sha Tin station and take exit B and walk past Pai Tau Village on the left. Or simply take a taxi.


    5. Temple Street Night Market

    I love this market. It has some wonderful finds like beautiful hand-made greeting cards, as well as the ubiquitous waving lucky cats and iPad/iPhone covers, to out-and-out tat. Every time I visit I find something to take home. There are also fortune-tellers and a plethora of outdoor food stalls. I generally eat at one of the stalls when visiting and the standard of food is OK, even if the presentation is uninspiring. So much more fun than London’s Chinatown. Closest MTR is Jordan.

    6. Star Ferry

    When exhibiting for the best part of nine hours in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, it is a real treat to travel the 7 or 8 minutes on the ferry from Kowloon to Wan Chai in the morning. This is another absolute must for all visitors. It costs next to nothing and is simply wonderful.

    7. Symphony of Lights

    This is a free laser light show held every night at 8.00 pm involving beams projected on to 40 or so buildings on either side of the harbour. The show is narrated in English on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The best views are from the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, hotels with a view (eg YMCA), the promenade at Golden Bauhina Square in Wan Chai and from sightseeing ferries on the harbour.

    Lessons Learnt!

  • Book things online to avoid queues, especially the Ngong Ping 360 Cable car
  • If you are going to use the MTR a lot, buy an Octopus Card
  • Avoid eye contact with hawkers and staff outside bars on Lockhart Road
  • If you are at an exhibition in Hong Kong wear comfortable shoes as most shows go from 09.30 AM until 18.30 PM

Fun Fact. Hong Kong can be loosely translated as meaning “Fragrant Harbour” in Cantonese.

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