The First-timer’s Guide to Hong Kong

BY RICK TAN

 

first-time-in-hk

The Language Barrier
The main tongue in Hong Kong is Cantonese, which happens to be a dialect quite commonly spoken in Singapore as well. If you already speak it, great! You’re good to go. If not, it would be useful to pick up a few useful phrases before hopping on the plane. However, if you’re not confident, it’s alright to begin with English first. Try Cantonese next, before lastly trying Mandarin. Although not their first language, most Hong Kongers can converse in Mandarin. However, there has been political tension between China and Hong Kong, and hence it may be a bit sensitive.

Street Sellers
While snaking the streets in search for your accommodation or the best food in town, you may run into roadside promoters. They are usually non-Chinese, and may be very persistent in their attempts to sell you their products. As they typically operate in a group, it can be quite intimidating. For safety, it is best to avoid and ignore them.

Accommodation
If you’re going to be out shopping and food hunting all day, it doesn’t make sense to splash hundreds on a luxury hotel, right? Those on a budget can consider the guest houses. Most of them are easily accessible, and are reasonably comfortable for a good night’s rest. The only thing is that the rooms and toilets may be small. However, they are completely functional.

Getting Around
The public transport system is called the Octopus—like the sea creature with legs that can go everywhere, get it?—and it is the most efficient and cost-effective way to get around Hong Kong. With an Octopus card (loaded with value), you can take the trains and buses, and use it to pay at convenience stores. The trains and buses are the way to go, because traffic can get pretty congested in the city.

Food and Shopping
We’ve saved the best for the last: Food and bargain hunting! Have a taste of authentic dim sum at the various tea houses along the streets, as well as well-known fancy restaurants in the malls. Try Din Tai Fung, and see how it compares to the local franchise. Itching for retail therapy? Head to the night markets at Temple and Stanley street for local souvenirs and then check out the malls for their seasonal sales! While bargaining is not a practice in malls, go ahead and flex those “auntie” muscles at the marketplaces.


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