TRAVEL Q&A

Hong Kong in a Hurry

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By Scott Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 11, 2007

Q. We'll be in Hong Kong in May for just three nights. What do you suggest we see and experience during our short visit?

Stephanie Wrightson, Fairfax

A. If you spend any time with Lillibeth Bishop of the Hong Kong Tourism Board -- highly recommended, by the way -- get ready for sound bites both pithy and florid, especially on the subject of her city's rivalry with the Big Apple. There will be rimshot-ready fare such as "People say Hong Kong is like the New York of the East; it's actually New York on steroids" or "A New York minute is a Hong Kong instant." For this woman, a ride on the Star Ferry means that "for only 28 cents you get a million-dollar view," and Hong Kong itself can be summed up in seven words: "a small city that lives very large."

Any Hong Kong lightning round must include, Bishop says, a ride on the tram to or from Victoria Peak. ("Going down is like you're at Universal Studios. . . . You feel like you're falling.") The stalls of Stanley Market teeming with bric-a-brac and the occasional bargain are also unmissable. ("What is Hong Kong without shopping?") The sampans and junks of Aberdeen Harbor are worth a trip, while no less an authority than Guinness World Records has pronounced Hong Kong's nightly Symphony of Lights the "largest permanent light and sound show" in the world.

But wait, you're going in May, and that means a hodgepodge of special events to sort through, too. There's the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, featuring teetering towers of sweet buns, bun races and, for some reason, "little girls wearing makeup," Bishop says. Also, Buddha's birthday will be celebrated May 12, which should provide the extra push you need to visit such sights as Chi Lin Nunnery in Kowloon ("an oasis of serenity and peace"), and the aptly named Big Buddha statue at Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island.

Okay, we give up. It's all too much for a short stay, really. Visit the Hong Kong Tourism Board Web site ( http://www.discoverhongkong.com) if you dare.

My wife and I would like to spend our 30th wedding anniversary in Bermuda next April. Can you recommend a place to stay that is not ridiculously expensive and not far from the beaches? I have difficulty walking long distances.

Jim Cardellichio, Fairfax

You'll have to splurge, or at least approach the edge of splurge, to make your special-occasion vacation truly special. Among the reasonable-for-Bermuda options is the well-regarded Royal Palms Hotel -- which is a 10-minute taxi ride from Elbow Beach -- whose rooms around April start at $282 a night (800-678-0783, http://www.royalpalms.bm). Another idea is the Reefs in Southampton, whose rooms start at $335 and overlook a private beach (800-742-2008, http://www.thereefs.com). Both hotels' rates include breakfast.

On the other hand, horse-drawn carriage rides through Hamilton run just $20 for a half-hour, according to Kelly Petrone, a spokesman for the Bermuda Department of Tourism. And it costs nothing to visit Bermuda's moongates, archways made of coral and stone found at various spots around the island. "Standing under them is supposed to offer eternal good fortune and happiness," Petrone says.

Not that you and your wife need any help, of course. Information: http://www.bermudatourism.com.

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company


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