Hong-Kong, Shanghai and Beijing Advice | September 6, 2004

I’m off on my holidays soon, so thought I’d ask you folks for advice, Douglas Bowman style. I’ll be travelling around China for two weeks visiting Hong-Kong, Shanghai and Beijing and would welcome any advice you may have.

I’ve been to Hong-Kong before so have done a lot of the standard tourist faire. I’ll be going up to Victoria Peak again to grab some pics of the amazing Hong-Kong skyline. I’m also planning to head out to Happy Valley for a night at the races. Most people think that Hong-Kong is just banks and sky scrapers but it actually has some amazing nature and beaches. Last time I was there I spent a loverly afternoon hanging out at Stanley and also made the trip over to see the Big Buddha at Po Lin monastery on Lantau. This time I think we’re planning to walk the Dragons Back and possibly visit Cheung Chau island.

Hong-Kong has some great bars and restaurants so at least one evening we’ll be heading into SOHO to grab some food and ride the worlds longest escalator. Being a vegi it’s sometimes hard to try out the local delicacies but in Hong-Kong they specialise in making vegi food that looks like meat. I’m not talking Linda McCartney sausages or burgers here either. I’m talking vegi pork, duck and even shrimp that’s so convincing my girlfriend will ask before eating each dish, “But Andy, are you sure this ones vegi? It looks awfully like meat to me!”. I’m also looking forward to dim-sum at a floating restaurant and tea at the Peninsula Hotel.

After 4 days in Hong-Kong we’ll be heading out to Shanghai to visit my girlfriends parents who are working these at the moment. While I’ve been told that there isn’t much of old Shanghai left these days, it sounds like the spirit lives on with some amazing restaurants, bars and clubs.

Next stop Beijing. We’ll have 3 days, 4 night here, so will have to pack a lot of sightseeing into a very short window. On the first day we are planning to visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, a place I’ve wanted to go to since seeing The Last Emperor. Day two will find us heading out to the Great Wall, the only urban myth you can see from space. A structure so mind numbingly impressive that Nixon exclaimed upon seeing the Great Wall “It sure is a great wall”. Apparently there are 4 sites close to Beijing so I’d be interested to hear peoples recommendations on this front. Then on the last day we plan to hire bikes and go on a cycling tour of Beijing. I just hope my medical insurance it up to scratch.

And that’ll be pretty much be that. Just a half day left in Hong-Kong waiting for our international connection, and then homeward bound. I’m hoping to take some good pics so if any of the photographers in the audience have been, I’d love to hear your tips. If I get half as many good pics as Mike, I’ll be over the moon.

Posted at September 6, 2004 7:55 PM


Richard said on September 6, 2004 10:19 PM

(1) Don’t wear sandals at the Peninsula Hotel - they won’t serve you. Nor will they serve you if you offer to remove your sandals. Shorts are OK, sandals are not.

(2) Do not bet on horse number 4 at Happy Valley. In China, 4 is incredibly unlucky, so I reasoned that nobody would bet on number 4 - so I would get better odds than the horse deserved by always betting on number 4. Turns out, they give all the nags the number 4.

(3) The Forbidden City is a complete misnomer: we walked straight in.

(4)The Summer Palace is also worth a visit.

(5) Beijing hotel beer prices are a total rip-off; supermarket beer prices are an absolute bargain.

(6) Will email you some more details.

Adrian said on September 6, 2004 11:38 PM

I went to Hong Kong the past Christmas, and I can tell you the few places that really struck me as memorable:

1. Try to visit the Hong Kong Country Club. The oceanview from their restaurant is absolutely spectacular, with islands and the distant skyline. I was most surprised to discover that HK was covered with so many trees!

2. The fourth tallest building in the world: IFC. Just looking up it is a bit intimidating. As for the Bank of China building, you’ve probably seen it the first time you went there yah?

3. Lan Kwai Fong, the “hangout” district. Full of lounges, pubs, bars, clubs, late night dessert houses, etc. Absolutely cool, but can become extremely congested at night with people! So watch your wallets hehe.

If I think of anything, I’ll add more comments.

brian said on September 7, 2004 4:53 AM

Comedian Ross Noble visited there awhile ago, and you can listen to his travelogue online via the BBC. Funny stuff!

Kevin Navia said on September 7, 2004 6:41 AM

HongKong shopping… Mongkok, Causeway Bay and in Tsim Tsat Tsui.

It’s almost tradefair season in HK and in China this quarter.

Matt said on September 7, 2004 12:49 PM

I’ll second what someone else said, and that is you should visit the Summer Palace if you have the time. I took some great pictures there. If you are viewing the Wall from Beijing you will probably go to either Simtai or Badaling. I do like Badaling, but I’ve heard Simtai is less crowded and touristy. One more thing, take plenty of pictures for sure, but if you decide to check out Mao’s preserved body you many want to put the camera away, hehe. China is a great country with so much to see, enjoy yourself!

francey said on September 7, 2004 7:39 PM

Go to the summer palace and skip the great wall. It’s really just a wall, it smells like urine, and is all-around gross.

And you’re taking a bicycle tour? Stay safe! Drivers in China don’t really follow traffic laws…

Hugh said on September 8, 2004 12:25 AM

I studied in Beijing for over half a year in ‘96. I’m sure things have changed quite a bit since then, but Beijing is definately an acquired taste. You will want to see the Great Wall (it’s not like you will be there again anytime soon).

Ask a tour guide which site you should visit, then do the opposite. I expect that most sites have become even more commercialized than when I was there.

Hang around the university districts (like Beijing U.) and chat with International students. The ones with most facial hair will be the most helpful in terms of knowing the local scene.

Most importantly, bring extra toilet paper EVERYWHERE.

Kris said on September 8, 2004 2:53 PM

When in Shanghai, make use of their excellent, and very cheap taxis. It’s the best way around town. I found the underground to be convenient too, for great distances.

Be careful when crossing the road, the traffic is a mess. Bargaining for the right price when wanting to buy something is pretty normal in Shanghai. One also doesn’t tip in restaurants.

The train between Beijing and Shanghai is cheap and luxurious, much better than an airplane, as I heard people say who had also travelled by air. The bunk beds are of a good size too.

In Shanghai, ignore street salesmen. They target mainly foreigners, cheat on you and sometimes convince you to follow you to small, hidden shops where they force you to buy.

Places worth visiting in Shanghai:
- People’s Square. Big musea and exhibition halls there, as well as a crowded, but cosy shopping centre underground. Some good restaurants around there, good connectivity.
- The Bund, the Huangpu river area, especially at night (both sides of the river, great lightshow)
- The Grand Hyatt building (especially the lounge at floor 52, if I recall correctly), one of the tallest buildings in the world. The restaurant at the top serves delicious cocktails.
- The Shanghai Art Museum, contemporary art
- The Yu Yuan area if you like traditional Chinese buildings and gardens. A lot is commercialized though.
- The Xin Tian Di area for their typical Shanghainese architecture. Great place to go out at night.
- Nanjing road for all your shopping.

Belle said on September 8, 2004 3:32 PM

I am a native Hongkonger (spent all my life here so far) and a daily reader of your site. If you like, I can be your full-time tour guide during your stay. My honour!

Or you can email me and I could tailor-make an itineray for you according to your interests.

pid said on September 9, 2004 1:32 PM

you can’t beat an offer like that.

jodeci said on September 10, 2004 6:53 AM

Don’t know if I’ll be in town then, but here’s another frequent reader that would be honoured to be your Beijing guide. A few tips from my one year experience:

Be prepared to be surrounded by local vendors at the famous sites, and bargain at least by 1/3 of the price if you do intend to buy.

Guys won’t have much trouble with the restrooms, but gals should be warned that doors and locks are not a guarantee. Besides toilet paper, you should also be armed with wiping tissues as faucets do not always function properly.

No matter how tempting it looks, stick to cooked dishes. Refrain yourself from the yummy looking cold dishes, even if they do taste good :p

Take great care of your personal belongings. Always wear your backpack in front of you where you can keep an eye on it. Don’t leave cellphones hanging outside of bags or pockets.

Always ask for a receit for taxi rides. There are 3 different taxi rates (1.2/1.6/2.0), check the sticker on the rear window. It should cost around 100rmb from the airport to downtown (over 200rmb for 2.0s).

And least but not last: you do not want to mess around with the Red Army (seriously).