Going Our Way: In Hong Kong, culture and shopping go hand in hand

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By Carol Sottili
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, October 15, 2010; 1:49 PM

Who: Marcy Troy, 52, of Oakton

Where: Hong Kong

Why: Need a nice vacation to a somewhat exotic location

When: Seven days in November or December

Budget: Up to $3,000, not including air ticket (covered with frequent-flier miles)

"Ever since I saw the slick, stylized Hong Kong thriller 'Infernal Affairs,' I have wanted to visit this fascinating place perched on the edge of China. I'm interested in history, sights and shopping. A luxe hotel is what I prefer, but I will settle for something less than 5 stars - maybe 3.5 to 4?"

Hong Kong is a top destination for those who equate shopping with a successful vacation. This densely populated former British colony, now a special administrative region of China, sports a skyline of gleaming high-rises overlooking a bustling harbor. But the 425-square-mile area, which includes Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories and 262 outlying islands, also offers rural attractions: Forty percent is protected public lands.

Marcy Troy of Oakton, who's interested in both history and shopping, is lucky that she has enough frequent-flier miles to cover the airfare, as flights, which take about 20 hours each way from Washington with one connection, typically cost at least $1,000 round-trip. (American, code-sharing with Cathay Pacific, often offers good fares and convenient connections through New York.) It may be a little cheaper to travel in December, before the holiday season, when hotel rates are somewhat lower and airfares drop a bit. Weather-wise, expect little rain and high temperatures in the 60s.

Day 1. Fly to Hong Kong. Travelers arrive in Hong Kong the day after leaving the United States. The nonstop out of New York on Cathay Pacific, for example, leaves at 9:15 a.m. and arrives in Hong Kong the following day at 2:25 p.m.

Day 2. Check into the hotel that will be home base for the next six nights. Two areas that are convenient to mass transit and to many of Hong Kong's attractions are Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island and Tsim Sha Tsui (also known as TST) on the Kowloon Peninsula. In Causeway Bay, Lanson Place Hotel (www.lansonplace.com) is an upscale boutique hotel within easy walking distance of several shopping areas and the MTR (Mass Transit Railway system); rate for six nights starts at about $1,320.

Once settled in, take a 10-minute walk to Times Square (www.timessquare.com.hk), a multilevel shopping center with more than 200 shops. Or if a lively street market sounds more inviting, take a five-minute stroll to the outdoor market on Jardine's Bazaar. For dinner, eat Cantonese at Times Square's Chung's Cuisine, or go for the wonton soup at Mak's Noodle on Jardine's Bazaar.

Day 3. Buy a reloadable Octopus card at the Causeway MTR station and also consider purchasing a separate light rail/bus/MTR combo card (www.mtr.com.hk), available only for tourists; discount coupons are also available on the MTR Web site for the Star Ferry and other tourist attractions.

Take the green tram, known as the ding-ding (www.hktramways.com), from Causeway Bay to the adjacent Central neighborhood for dim sum and traditional tea at either the Lin Heung Tea House on Wellington Street or the Luk Yu Tea House on Stanley Street.

Nearby is the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator, billed as the world's longest system of covered escalators, which goes to the antiques shops on Hollywood Road and the souvenir shops on Upper Lascar Row (also called Cat Street).

In the afternoon, take the MTR to the East Tsim Sha Tsui stop and walk 10 minutes to the Hong Kong Museum of History (www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/Museum/History; closed Tuesdays), which showcases the region's history with more than 4,000 exhibits.

Day 4. Take the tram to the Central Star Ferry pier, and then walk or take the 15C bus to the Peak tram, which makes the steep trip to the top (www.thepeak.com.hk; tickets about $7). The Peak's observation deck offers grand views of Hong Kong Island, the harbor and Kowloon Peninsula. There are also hiking trails.

Next, do a harbor tour on the Star Ferry. Buy a day-hopper ticket (about $23), which allows passengers to get off and on at any of four stops. In the evening, a special ferry tour views the "Symphony of Lights," a multimedia light-and-sound show that emanates from more than 40 buildings on both sides of the harbor. The light show, which starts at 8 p.m., can also be seen from the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront promenade. (Tip: If viewing from the promenade, go on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, when the show is narrated in English.)

Day 5. Take an all-day trip to Lantau Island. It's easy enough to do via public transportation, but for solo travelers, a tour may be a good way to meet people and to take a break from figuring out bus and train schedules. (Tour companies include www.viator.com and www.grayline.com.hk.) Tour highlights typically include the 85-foot-high statue of Buddha (climb more than 200 steps to get a close-up view); vegetarian lunch at the Po Lin Monastery; a 25-minute cable car journey between the villages of Ngong Ping and Tung Chung; and a stroll through the Tai O fishing village. Cost is $80 to $90.

Go upscale for Cantonese dinner at Cuisine Cuisine (www.cuisinecuisine.hk), with locations in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui.

Day 6. No more shopping! An infusion of culture and history is in order. Take a class or a guided tour offered by the Hong Kong Tourism Board (www.discoverhongkong.com/usa/things-to-do/cultural-tours.html); choices include a free Chinese tea appreciation class or an architecture walk (about $26). Visit an ancient Chinese temple, such as Chi Lin Nunnery and its adjacent Nan Lian Garden (www.nanliangarden.org). Take in one of the many artistic performances during the Cao Yu Drama Festival (www.lcsd.gov.hk), which runs through Dec. 12. For other ideas, go to www.discoverhongkong.com.

For dinner, more dim sum and perhaps some roast goose at Yung Kee Restaurant (www.yungkee.com.hk) in Central.

Day 7. Homeward bound back across the international date line. If you take the morning flight on Cathay Pacific, expect to arrive in Washington in the afternoon.

Total cost: Hotel is about $1,320. Transportation, including a couple of late-night cabs and a two-day unlimited MTR card, will run $50 or so. Budget about $200 for sightseeing, leaving a generous amount of at least $1,400 for shopping and food.

Interested in having us help plan your trip? Go to washingtonpost.com/goingourway.


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