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Travelzoo Experience: Sensory Overload in Hong Kong

One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.

From the moment I stepped off the plane for a week in Hong Kong, I was in sensory overload.

  • Sound: English, English everywhere. After my 16-hour flight from Chicago aboard Cathay Pacific, I wanted the reward of hearing a foreign tongue after deboarding. But it wasn’t really until arrival in Kowloon that I heard the Cantonese I was longing for. As the week went on, a typical day also included hearing Korean, Japanese, Mandarin and English spoken with all sorts of accents.
  • Sight: Look up. Hong Kong isn’t called the Vertical City without good reason. Hundreds of high rises pierce the air while lining Victoria Harbour. Or, if you’re at Victoria Peak, one of the most tourist-trafficked spots, overlook the city skyline, harbor waters and countless skyscrapers sitting amid the hillsides. I was not the only tourist trying to take in the Central-Mid-level escalators on Hong Kong Island from my camera’s lens. This outdoor system begins at street level, ascending to 135 meters in one of the busiest districts, easing pedestrians’ day-to-day lives.
  • Taste: It’s hard to force yourself to branch out in a city filled with Michelin-starred pork buns, but it’s well worth it. From traditional Cantonese to modern takes on global cuisine, tastes are diverse as the city itself. One recommended culinary experience comes from the book “1,000 Places To See Before You Die," heralded by Travelzoo deal experts as both a roadmap and a lifetime challenge. It recommends that visitors sample the city’s colonial past with teatime at the Peninsula hotel. Finger sandwiches in the gorgeous neo-classical lobby were another trip highlight.
  • Touch: Bolts of rich fabrics, including the region’s famed silk, beckon to be felt from shop windows in Kowloon, a place where tailormade clothing is an affordable norm. But luxury labels are still king here, where designer shops take up gargantuan retail spaces in Central, and floor after floor of European goods require a second or third look and touch.
  • Smell: Tiny fishing boats still float around the Aberdeen Harbour, but as Hong Kong becomes more and more expensive, it’s also became home to floating homes and hotels. These small wooden boats are a sight that’s seemingly incongruous with the shiny city just meters away. And my (very necessary) rain jacket still smells like the incense burned at the Man Mo temple along Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan. The temple, which was built in the late 1800s, is a place to worship the gods of literature as well as war.

Things to Know

  1. Wi-Fi is plentiful and often free. From the airport to high-end shops, a free signal is never too far away.
  2. Hong Kong's MTR train system runs through Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and Lantau and is extremely easy to navigate. Save your dollar coins for the kiosks in the stations; not all machines take bills. Taxis are inexpensive, but the train is even cheaper.
  3. The location-enabled Yelp-like app of Hong Kong is OpenRice, a meal-time lifesaver.
  4. Tour guides depend on the generosity of tourists, and it’s customary to round up the taxi fare, but tipping is not a widespread practice. A 10% service charge is usually included in most restaurant bills.
  5. A good place to begin trip planning is the English-language Travelzoo Asia Pacific Top 20 list. Here you’ll find hotel discounts as well as regional flights should you want to explore neighboring areas.

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Tips by

Deal Expert, Chicago
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
See more Tips from
Hilary Solan