A noob’s guide to Hong Kong, for noobs.

This post was brought to you by Instagram and a lot of typing. Yes, all photos are mine. Please don’t yoink them – I haven’t watermarked my photos lately because I have been lazy.

If any part of my post appears as offensive, I sincerely apologise in advance – I’m just writing it how it is based on REAL experiences.

So as many of you have already pieced together, I planned a trip well in advance this year to go back to Hong Kong – “back” meaning I have been before, and it’s considered my other home – though not really. I have a few relatives (by few I really mean probably countable with a hand) and a few friends over there – I always delayed the trip because I thought that going alone was something really lame and I didn’t want to feel nigelated. Well, throwing aside my chicken-ness, I gathered my courage (and monies) together and just decided, hell with it – let’s try it. It was only a matter of time I went, and so yeah.

I picked some good dates in the respect that the air tickets and accommodation were medium priced (because the weather is actually pretty crap – average 30 degrees celcius with 70-90% humidity with varying UV levels). I made it as early as possible because of the dropping exchange rate.

I flew directly to and from Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific, with return tickets costing me around $1200AUD. I know you can get tickets cheaper, but bear in mind that they will be from a different air carrier and they may not be direct flights. It was my first time flying Cathay and it wasn’t bad – service was pretty good, food wasn’t bad, and the seats were quite comfortable and the aircraft is smaller than that of a Qantas plane as they only have 2 seats for the sides, rather than 3 beside windows. The next time I visit, I’ll be sure to redeem some points and upgrade myself to business on the way back… I didn’t get any sleep at all. But on the other hand, I was watching Mission Impossible 3, and it was for the first time that I realised Tom Cruise is a sexy mofo. ‘Nuff said.

I’m also sorry that I haven’t been around to comment on blogs and stuff. I got off the plane on Sunday morning at 6am, and went to work the next day. Had a graduation to attend on my first day off, and the majority of the rest of that day was used to construct this post. I’ll catch up on blogs… soon.

Plan your trip, use your time wisely.

2 weeks’ annual leave, 9 nights at a hotel, and lots of sight seeing to do. Or so I planned.

As you may realise, my experience with Hong Kong is quite limited. Each time I went back, it was to visit relatives almost exclusively, to hang around with them and basically rush home at around 5-6pm to buy ingredients and cook the night’s dinner. That’s hardly a holiday in my opinion – the fun is during night when you can go out and have dinner!

We barely had any time to do sight seeing, and we’d skip the things that we thought we’ve already done (like, for example we’ve been to Ocean Park before, so we wouldn’t go again even if it had a multi million dollar makeover). I have no memories of Tsim Sha Tsui or Causeway Bay or Central – places that my relatives would notoriously label as expensive. Most of our shopping was done in the Mongkok area (to be fair, it was close to where we stayed with a crapload of shiz you can do) or at places you generally would associate with the word “daggy”. In other words, this holiday experience is really new to me – I completely disregarded the fact that I had relatives I could stay with (I ADMIT IT I HATE STAYING WITH THEM – for a variety of reasons, namely it’s awkward, the location is crap and the place is crap) and decided to do this trip the way I wanted it. I get to control how much I wanted to spend, what I wanted to buy, where I wanted to hang out, who I could hang out with and not give a damn about what other people think.

In other words, from the eyes of a regular Hong Kong visitor, I’m a noob. I don’t know my way around, have no idea what or where anything is, nor do I know how much stuff costs. That’s why I decided to write about my holiday experience from a semi-documentative perspective because that’s the way I planned it. It was really visiting Hong Kong as a tourist… a complete noob.

If there are any “must go” to places, I’d say Mongkok, Tsim Sha Tsui, Causeway Bay, Ocean Park, Disneyland, Central, Kowloon, The Peak are all pretty generic places to visit. There’s also Ong Ping 360 but I was iffy with the whole cable car thing. It ultimately depends on what type of shopping you were after – I was happy to just hang around shopping centres (because they have lots of air con and the weather was too hot to hang outside) with things being sold with a priority on quality and a higher price point, than items with lower price points and compromised quality. Or if you were not after shopping, just sight seeing, then that’d change your journey dramatically too. Do your research before hand.

For the sake of this post, $8HKD = $1AUD or USD. That was the rough exchange rate I got for the majority of money I exchanged/ spent for this trip. It has dropped since :\

Draw maps. Or get some sort of data for your phone.

I brought a notebook with me with all the important phone numbers (friends, Australian Embassy, police, 1800REVERSE) and a few drawn maps in case if I got lost.

Obviously it’s just a map I copied from Google Maps, but I noted the places I wanted to go and hot to get to places. The most important thing to mark apart from the streets is the MTR station exits so that you don’t lose your sense of direction. Going to Causeway Bay was a breeze thanks to this map – I had no problem at all. The same goes for the other maps I drew – too easy.

If drawing isn’t your thing, you can always save maps to your phone (which is what I did for Melbourne – that worked too, but it was a bit clumsy). For those who really want it the most advanced way, Google maps.

If you have a smartphone like the iPhone, be sure to unlock your phone before you go overseas. I did that thanks to R, who kindly unlocked my phone for me. That way you can then get a SIM card in Hong Kong and go online, make calls and send messages. I used SmarTone which is actually Vodafone, because I got the SIM card from my manager. It is a prepaid SIM that can be bought for $48HKD (comes with $48 credit) and can be recharged in increments of $50HKD. If you recharge $100 in one go though, you get bonus $10 credit (more than $10 if you charge $200 in one go). The credit lasts a very long way – I managed to make 3 short overseas calls back home, and send multiple SMSes and local phone calls with the $48 it came with. You don’t need to register the card, just insert and go.

You can also use the SIM and turn on cellular data, which is charged at $8HKD/ hour; once you spend $24 on data in one day, the rest of the day is free until 11:59pm, which is really handy on the go. Much cheaper than hotel wifi, which is useless once you leave your hotel room.

Just to let you all know, Hong Kong does have a lot of free wifi, and it’s much more abundant than you think – most MTR stations and shopping centres have free wifi. There’s always a way to get free wifi, as long as you’re not in Central – Central trolls you so badly with free wifi that doesn’t really exist lol.

The bad thing about SmarTone is that finding a retailer can be hard; recharge cards are only available from SmarTone stores – there was only one in Tsim Sha Tsui, and I had to find out its address by googling it… and that was while I was yoinking free wifi from a shopping centre in the area lol.

Research transport methods to and from the airport in great detail, please.

The most important question you are faced with the first thing you arrive in Hong Kong is how the hell you are going to get to the airport when you go home, or getting to your accommodation. There are a few choices including buses, taxis, and the MTR which is an underground train system made of ridiculous amounts of awesome. The biggest mistake I did was take the hotel shuttle bus back to the hotel upon arriving at the airport. The shuttle bus cost $130HKD and the bus took over an hour to arrive. The good thing about the shuttle bus is that it takes you directly to your hotel, and you don’t need to worry about a thing – the worst thing was that being on a bus you are subject to any traffic jams, waiting for the damn bus to arrive, and also possibly being pooled on a bus with other people who are also waiting to get to their hotels – that’s right, the bus actually will pool a couple of nearby or “on the way” hotels and drop passengers off. I wasn’t too badly off, I was probably the third batch off the bus, but it is a pretty expensive form of transport, considering that a normal airport bus only costs like $23HKD (or $28 I forgot) !!! But don’t forget, the normal airport bus WILL stop along the way and you can’t control the route, it’s predetermined. The shuttle bus is by far 100% guaranteed you will get to your hotel.

The MTR is very convenient, costs about $60-$90 a trip depending on where you live (obviously the further the more expensive) and you don’t need to worry about traffic – it’s all underground and will run according to a timetable. It’s fast, clean and priced in the middle.

Taxis are convenient but can be pricey ($300HKD ish for the Kowloon area) and you need to pay for the tolls, and you will be subject to traffic. Drivers will also charge you $5HKD per piece of luggage you put into the boot.

Now that I know where my hotel is, I should have ideally just caught an MTR… or even the bus if I wasn’t in a hurry. It took around the same amount of time as me waiting for a shuttle bus to arrive anyway… pfft.The main difference is if you catch a hotel bus you do not need to pay upfront, but with an MTR or bus, you do, which means you need to exchange money BEFORE you get to Hong Kong. So yeah, research your travel methods.

You need an Octopus Card to survive.

You can buy an Octopus Card at anything that resembles a Customer Service counter for the MTR (MTR being the Hong Kong underground rail system). There are 2 counters at the airport when you come out of customs, and a card costs $150HKD, consisting of a $50HKD deposit (fully refundable when you return your card – less $8 or something if you’ve used it for less than 3 months) and $100HKD credit. If you don’t get this from the airport you can get this from any MTR station. You can use this card on all forms of public transport, 7/11, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Muji and some supermarkets. It’s super convenient because it means you can still get to your destination without having cash on you, and you don’t starve as long as you have some credit on your Octopus card. Recharging is pretty simple – you can do it yourself at the self serve recharge machines at MTR stations, or you can charge up at 7/11 or some supermarkets. This card is like a prepaid credit card – it’s awesome and it can reduce the amount of cash or loose coins you would otherwise keep for riding on buses and stuff. It stores up to $1000HKD.

I’d say forget about the $50 deposit and just keep the card as a souvenir – it’s just too awesome not to keep. You can do more research on this card, but using it and recharging it is fairly simple – you simply just tap and go. Easy.

NEW: Do not eat on public transport, do not spit, do not litter

I knew I forgot about something, and here it is – don’t eat or drink on public transport.

Not only are there fines imposed for eating/ drinking/ messing up public transport, it’s more of a cultural expectance that you do not eat on public transport. If you see people doing it, fair enough, but just don’t do it. They’re not doing the right thing.

Similarly, littering and spitting in public can lead to fines. But I mean, seriously, it’s not that hard to abide by. Common sense.

Exchanging an appropriate amount of money before getting there

I exchanged a significant amount of money before I got to Hong Kong because the exchange rate has been dropping. You may choose to apply for a credit card like 28degrees which doesn’t have any fees and charges the exact currency exchange rate, but not everywhere accepts cards – especially (small) restaurants and small boutiques (like the one off ones). Exchanging Hong Kong dollars can be a pain because the notes are larger, thickish and are annoying to store since it’s like carrying a mini wad of cash as heavy as half a brick around.

If you like, you can exchange money when you get to Hong Kong – the smartest way is to do it at a bank or try your hotel, don’t bother with the little currency exchange windows or Travelex, they tend to have really low rates and are only good if you’re really in a hurry for spare change. Banks are open Mon-Fri and for half a day on Saturdays. Currency exchange windows are open every day, so calculate how many days from when you arrive to when the weekend is – and allow for enough money to last you over the weekend. If you do not plan on buying anything, and just want to eat, a safe amount is $500 HKD a day (covers all three meals comfortably with enough spare change for a taxi even) given you are not eating at a fine dining place. If you plan on buying things, allow yourself an allowance of $1000HKD/day (for just maybe one or two items) up to $3000HKD a day (this can get you up to 10 items of clothing). If you’re into branded items or fine jewellery, I kid you not, you need to allow yourself $10,000HKD – and it’s not necessarily something big either.

As I said before, I don’t believe in credit cards, and I didn’t want to use my debit card at all since the overseas transaction fee is 5%. Instead, I brought Australian dollars to exchange. Don’t ask me how much, I won’t tell you 😛

Choose good accommodation that you can afford but must also be convenient

I chose The Kowloon Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui because it’s a 4 star hotel. 4 star meaning it should look clean, newish and have good service. If I go on a holiday I expect to go on it in style, but to me 4 star is good enough, 5 is too much ._. I rather spend my monies otherwise. Anyway ~

Tsim Sha Tsui is kind of a fancy place to stay since it is a bit more expensive than say Jordan, Yau Ma Tei, Mongkok and so forth, even though it’s only an MTR stop or two away. But Tsim Sha Tsui has its benefits, being where a lot of tourist attractions are, as well as shopping centres and just being awesomely located in relation to everything else, meaning you save time and money.

It has an MTR entrance literally outside it, which is awesome since the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR is a huge underground network which allows you to actually get from shopping centre to shopping centre without having to walk in the sun and get fried (yes, fried, not tired). The price of my room was around $170AUD a night, which is probably quite standard. Yes, the room’s a bit small, but it’s clean, air conditioned, has a really good bathroom and good facilities. It would have been cheaper if I had someone to split the cost, obviously – but since I didn’t, I went all out and of course booked a double bed room. SCHWEET.

There are other options like The Nathan Hotel which was a hotel I was quite interested in. It’s situated in Jordan, which is pretty well located – not as fancy as Tsim Sha Tsui, but it’s very close to an MTR. It’s also cheaper too (quite significantly – like $50AUD a night cheaper which is actually a lot of money). Either way, do your research. There are some really great hotels over in Central too, which is on the Hong Kong side – that’s actually not a bad place to stay if you’re more comfortable with speaking English. Central also has a direct MTR line to the Airport, which is super convenient. The hotels over in Central will also be more affordable, plus you can get pretty good views.

For the price I paid, I don’t get a good view of the harbour or anything. If you’re after a harbour view, I can’t say this is the best hotel to choose – there are probably other better ones to choose from, but for my purposes – which was a clean, good quality hotel which was super convenient to get to places – this was the one. Staying in a room for 9 nights is not a short period of time, I kind of grew really close to my room. It was my home for 9 nights. I really really liked my room.

I guess another good thing was that I could take advantage of their discount offers with their partners as they have a mini shopping arcade downstairs.

If I had anything bad to say about the hotel was that I knew that the corridors get vacuumed from 5:30am, and then the newspaper comes at around 6:30am-7am. How do I know? Because I get wakened up by the slightest hum of a vacuum cleaner. I’ve had my newspaper shoved violently under my door (I assume whoever did it grabbed onto my door handle for balance as they kneeled to chuck my paper in – but it ended up them thumping my door). I’d say there’s a 50% chance of being woken up earlier than expected – quite a significant figure considering how long I stayed.

Buy your items from places that are actually good deal for money. And spend on items/ things that are good value for money.

I spent an awful lot of money on bottled water, because in case if you guys didn’t know, Hong Kong’s tap water isn’t exactly drinking quality unless it’s boiled.

I went nuts on Evian water, which is actually the number 1 ranked mineral water in the world. It’s about $3 for a 500ml bottle here in Sydney, but in Hong Kong I saw them discounted from $14HKD to $10HKD a bottle at 7/11, and I bought 4 bottles in one go on my first night there. Just over a $1AUD for a bottle – bargain.

7/11 is convenient because there is one almost every single street, but on the long term, they are much more expensive – about 25-35% more expensive than supermarkets. A bottle of Evian water was actually only about $7 something HKD at Wellcome supermarkets, so yeah. Even cheaper. I ended up buying 1.5L bottles because they were a mere $17.80HKD each. I did that to force myself to walk to the supermarket once a day, so I wouldn’t be lazy and stay in my hotel room. Yes, I like staying in my hotel room – not exposed to direct sunlight, with a toilet, bed, TV to watch, and I get to wear whatever I wanted without caring about anything.

So the story is, shop at supermarkets when you can, they are cheaper than 7/11 unless you’re in a hurry or in an emergency and the supermarket’s not open. It happened to me on the first night, I was ready and about to sleep but realised I had to go and buy something – I ended up getting it at 7/11 rather than a supermarket, which was further away and closed since it was almost 11pm. 7/11s are open 24 hours so yeah. But if I bought what I did at a supermarket, I could have saved 30%.

On the note about water, if you like water that actually tastes good straight out of the bottle, Evian is a very good choice because I find that water heavenly – there are cheaper options (by like $1HKD) like Watson’s Water which seems to be pretty popular, but it is actually just tap water, but then boiled (ie. evaporated), and is largely made up of the evaporated water (ie the impurities were left behind in the boiling process). I think Watson’s water tastes pretty gross, there’s just something that doesn’t taste that nice about it, but it’s clean and cheaper than Evian for sure. These two are pretty much the most popular water bottles you’ll see in Hong Kong… there are other bottles, but I wouldn’t trust them as much as the two I’ve mentioned.

Be smart; don’t eat sashimi or raw foods if it’s really hot in summer, and get what you think is relatively fresh. Just play it safe. Don’t eat street food unless you’re fine with the water and food for about 2-3 days – THEN you can go eat street food.

BUY THINGS YOU CAN’T GET BACK HOME – that’s important. Don’t dilly dally on stuff that you can get back home for a similar price, do it if it’s cheaper.

No that’s not me with a huge belly. It’s me with my bag on my lap and the cape over it >_>

Services in Hong Kong can be a lot cheaper than back home, and that even includes transport or catching a taxi. My favourite is hair services – if you go to the right place, you can get your hair chemically straightened for as little as $298HKD (usually plus $10HKD service fee) which is like less than $40AUD. To put that into perspective, it costs at least $168AUD to get your hair straightened here, and that price is for short hair. In Hong Kong, it’s the same price regardless of how long your hair is. SCORE.

Getting your hair dyed is roughly the same price – $40ish bucks, so it’s just cheap. Either service includes a cut, all washing that’s required and styling at the end.

The thing is with these cheaper hair styling salons is that they tend to be chain stores (usually you can distinguish them by seeing their prices written very clearly at the front of their store) and the prices look cheap. The quality isn’t bad, it’s kind of above average. They’re generally comfortable, well renovated, ventilated and usually have about 20 seats inside as they can get quite busy. They might not be able to speak much English though, which is why they are cheap, and they tend to be located in places that may be hard to get to. Generally try small shopping centres in the Kowloon area – I find that if you go somewhere else like in Tsim Sha Tsui they will know English to a degree but they will be about double the price. Still cheap if you think about it compared to what we are charged here, but it could be cheaper *shrugs*. Always ask how much it is before you go in… that way you won’t be in for a surprise. I didn’t ask when I went in, because I knew how it was, but if you’re not too sure, always ask beforehand. That’s for your good.

Although I didn’t do anything else service wise, but getting clothing repaired/ hemmed, nails done, facials, massages and stuff of the like are all cheaper than here. If those tickle your fancy, you might want to check it out.

Makeup is so so important.

As you can gather, Hong Kong is a shopping wonderland with loads of stuff to buy. On my first night I dropped into Bonjour cosmetics and picked up a few essential items. As you can see from the price tags they are ridiculous bargains. I mean, it’s not super cheap – like the eyelash curler is about $9AUD (I bought mine for $10) – but essentially, Bonjour cosmetics is like a $10 shop – everything you see is like $10AUD, and at the end you will end up spending more than what you expect, a bit like going to a $2 store. The prices are pretty reasonable and I say are cheaper than SaSa’s prices. If you can get the item at Bonjour, get it at Bonjour. If you’re after fancier brands for skincare or really are after something that Bonjour doesn’t stock, then go to SaSa.

The items I pictured above are probably just the very very basic things you need, as well as a good moisturiser and a good sunscreen or BB cream with SPF.

Hong Kong is around 30 something degrees celcius, with 70-90 something% humidity, and has UV levels ranging from 4 (average) to 12 (extreme).

Literally you are wet as soon as you step outside – I never figured if it was sweat or water vapour, but it does not matter because it is irrelevant. If you think this is bad, it’s even worse in June, when it’s actually summer.

Tissues or a handkerchief may be useful in this weather. The most popular tissue brand to buy is Tempo which in my opinion is better than Kleenex by miles. They tend to be mint scented so you feel refreshed, and they help unblock your nose in winter if you have a cold. It’s very cheap and readily available everywhere, so BUY LOTS of Tempo if you have nothing else to buy haha.

I decided to wear makeup anyway, because being barefaced in such crappy weather makes you look really ugly (no offence… to myself in this case) – I mean, if you’re sweaty and gross, you can at least look somewhat glamourous! I also didn’t want to look touristy – I know it sounds a bit crazy, but I’ve been taught to always be super paranoid in Hong Kong. Maybe because I wasn’t hanging around anywhere dodgy this time around, but before I would literally wear a singlet with a zipped up compartment to store my cash and passport – this time I just chucked it into my bag (which I bought for this trip – I’ll get to it later) – I mean, of course people can’t steal if you’re like that. But generally Hong Kong is a safe city, but you still shouldn’t look like you stick out like a sore thumb. Don’t look too flashy, but don’t look too touristy either, because people generally target tourists since they tend to carry around large amounts of money. If you look like a tourist for a variety of reasons (like holding a map and looking around for directions), at least don’t look too flashy. Apart from fending against theft, it’s also so that sales assistants won’t claw onto you like a koala trying to milk out more money from you. But obviously, don’t look like a bum either – especially in Central – I always feel underdressed when I’m in Central. Just dress appropriately and sensibly. Don’t attract too much attention, especially if you are carrying a lot of valuables on you!

Don’t think you don’t need moisturiser in this weather. I kind of wrecked my skin because I didn’t want to moisturise too much, being worried about getting pimples and all on this trip – and my skin went INSANE. I was getting allergic reactions so itchy patches of these little bumps, redness, EURGH. It was terrible. Turns out I needed more moisture, so I forced myself to buy a jar of moisturiser even though I only had 3 days left in Hong Kong at that point. You probably can’t see these problems in my photographs, but it’s because Instagram does wonders… well I’ll be posting them up later. But trust me, my skin was a mess. And yes, it miraculously improved once I got back to Sydney. A lot of people didn’t believe that my skin was actually that bad because my skin improved so quickly… I think if I stayed an extra few days the damage would be even worse. I don’t know if I am seeing it wrong or not but it looks like I have some pigmentation on my cheekbone area ;A; I HATE IT SO MUCH. I’m not sure if they are from the sun or from allergies! I’m going to do a pretty intensive skin renewal routine in the months to come… 😦

Hate runny mascara that will give you panda eyes? Majolica Majorca is a gift sent from above – waterproof, sweatproof, holds curls, and comes in a variety of brushes for lengthening lashes, improving volume or whatever else they have. Best thing is that it really doesn’t smudge, doesn’t clump and looks really natural. I chose the most expensive out of the three which only was $110HKD (the other two were about $80) and this is the lengthening one. It contains small fibres which actually will lengthen your lashes by 1.5 times. I swear by it, because my manager thought I got eyelash extensions when I used this – my friend also commented on how good it was, so it’s obviously doing all the right things.

Dolly Wink pencil eyeliner has been pretty good too – it didn’t smudge while I was in Hong Kong (it smudges here in Sydney though -_-) – the thing I don’t like about it is that you need to sharpen it, and I’m really lazy when it comes to sharpening things. I think it’s such a waste of eyeliner, but oh well.

Dress smart.

The photo above is a photo showing me doing my laundry in my room like a BOSS.

Just because Hong Kong is hot it doesn’t mean that you wear short sleeves or shorts – the weather actually screams for you to actually wear thin long pants and long sleeves, because there are mosquitoes in Hong Kong. Yes, mosquitoes. The mosquito type is the type to actually draw blood from you several times, rather than just once, so you will find stuff like “Mopidick” or “Mopiko”or “Tiger Balm” or “White Flower Oil” advertised a lot, because mosquitoes are not uncommon. I saw several people with mosquito bitten legs – several bites per leg. To my luck, I didn’t encounter any – you will if you go to parks and places that are quite dirty, but I didn’t go anywhere remotely resembling a park.

By long sleeves I mean the item of clothing is a thin long sleeved top or light cardigan, do NOT wear blazers or the sort unless it’s night time – I wore a blazer (all day) and it was the stupidest thing ever. Unnecessarily hot and comfortable. In fact you don’t need a jacket at night. It doesn’t exactly cool down.

If you are not the long sleeved type of person, you need to wear at least two layers – one being a thin singlet and then a top/ dress of some sort over it. The reason for this is that the air con in buses and shopping centre vaguely resembles the temperature of a fierce fridge. It’s very easy to get sick in an environment when you go from super hot to super cold – imagine coming from 32 degrees and walking into a shopping centre at 18 degrees – yes, you can get sick. I always had two layers, and I was fine. I didn’t get sick.

Obviously, it’s smarter to also wear lighter colours like white or beige (as you can see I’m pretty stupid and wear black clothes) as they are cooler to wear – the reason why I didn’t wear white or light colours was because I dyed my hair and the colour would wash onto my clothes. That’s why I had to wear dark clothes. Another plus about dark clothes is you can’t see sweat marks – but ultimately it depends on how you want to dress. I rather feel hotter than show sweat marks – but that’s just me.

It is not abnormal to wear shorts or dresses in Hong Kong – but don’t dress over the top; by this I mean do not wear hot pants and a singlet top where your bra is showing. Hong Kong is still a relatively conservative place, and whist shorts, dresses, skirts can be quite short, as long as nothing is flashing that’s still considered okay (as in, not abnormal). Just be sensible with how you dress.

Slap on plenty of sunscreen on areas you do not cover.

Umbrellas are fairly common, but sunglasses and hats seem to not be all that popular.

On the note about clothes, I washed my clothes myself and just dried them in my room. The hotel has a cleaning service, but it wasn’t worth it. It was like $3AUD to clean a pair of underpants, which I think is pretty stupid so I just did it myself. This is probably a good idea, because the last thing you want is bringing back a bag of soggy, sweat reeking clothes from a weeks’ stay overseas in a super hot and humid environment. At least wash them so it doesn’t smell. I did that with all my clothes that I wore (smelly or not) so that was one thing I didn’t need to worry about. Yes, I had so much time I could wash and dry my clothes. All you need is a tub or basin, soap (hotel will provide this), clothes hangers (UNIQLO gives you the hangers if it comes with the item, or in my case, my hotel had them), set your fan to HIGH setting, leave your clothes to dry overnight and a hair dryer the next day to dry them off.

There are places to do your laundry, but I figured I might as well just do it myself. It’s not like you won’t clean your clothes again when you get back, so I thought I’d just do a mediocre job good enough until I got back.

On a slight tangent, it is normal to see men (of various ages) walk around topless. Because it’s damn hot, and most of them probably work jobs that require quite a lot of physical labour. It’s not quite the same as seeing a topless guy here in Sydney – they do it because they want to, not because it’s hot.

Be polite, but don’t get angry if you don’t get the same treatment back.

This was actually a self inflicted injury that I got while I was staying in Hong Kong; it was from scraping my arm accidentally on the corner of the chair in my room, which had a chrome/metal frame. Nasty. Looks better than it was because I applied a fancy filter to lessen the arm hair I had (LOLOL) but no, actually it was a pretty red scratch. I got a similar scratch like this on my arm while I was riding the bus as a high school kid rammed his backpack along my arm as he was trying to leave the bus. Yes, he had a big bag and carried a lot of stuff, but he could have avoided me, and most importantly, he could have said sorry. But he did not.

I’m not sure if it’s a recent thing or not but I didn’t get any apologies when I got bumped into. I bumped into an old man’s shopping trolley at a supermarket and mumbled sorry, but that was because he didn’t park his shopping trolley close enough to the side- and then I heard HIM mumbling that I should be careful.

I hate to say this, but Hong Kong locals can be rude, but only because we’re used to something else, and they don’t mean to be most of the time. I don’t blame them, but don’t let it get to you. It doesn’t mean that just because you’re there, you should do what they do. Do what you usually do, don’t get frustrated, and most importantly don’t get yourself into any arguments.

I once had a guy who slipped beside me to overtake me and ended up completely brushing against my bag and everything. Not a single word. The most I did was say in Cantonese under my breath which kind of meant “I’ll freaking kick your ass”, but that’s it. And I only said that because he was in front of me, within kicking distance lol. Look, really, don’t take any of this to heart. I thought that I should mention it because it was something I noticed – but like I said, just because they do it like so, doesn’t mean you lose your manners.

This can also be applied to pretty much everyone you encounter – not just locals. Could be a sales assistant with an attitude, or other tourists. Just… don’t. Just behave.

Of course, this is probably more common in other places, it’s not just Hong Kong okay – but to me it was a bit of a culture shock.

Toilet etiquette

This is my hotel room’s bathroom.

Generally Hong Kong has two types of water systems – the stuff that comes out of taps are from a dam located somewhere far away, and whatever that is used to flush toilets is actually sea water. If you find that your toilet flushing water is a bit yellow or has sediment in it, take into account that it probably pissed rain really hard recently – but it’s not like you should be worried, it’s just toilet flushing water.

In Hong Kong, you do not put toilet paper into the toilet bowl in public toilets. In other words, toilet paper is not meant to be flushed down a (public) toilet.

I know. It sounds ridiculous. But if you don’t do it that way, the toilet paper will clog up your toilet and you can’t flush the toilet. Repeat, I am saying this about PUBLIC TOILETS, not toilets like the one I pictured above.

The hotel toilet is sort of designed to take toilet paper – but if there is more than a certain amount, I find I need to flush twice to get toilet paper down.

The thing is with Hong Kong’s toilet paper is that it’s generally thickish and tough (it’s not as soft and mushy as say, Kleenex or Sorbent) so it does not disintegrate as easily in the water – it’s probably as strong as Viva paper towels, stronger when wet lololol. If you realised, in Australia our public toilets provide us with thin ass toilet paper which is like 1 ply and you need to grab about half a meter for it to actually do anything. In Hong Kong, you probably just need a few squares, but you’re too used to taking half a meter anyway (I mean, who knows, you might suddenly need to blow your nose or something, right???). The biggest mistake tourists will make is putting ALL of these toilet paper squares into the toilet. And when you flush, it doesn’t go down. And you’re not going to stick your hand in to clear that shit out.

There is a small rubbish bin located next to the bin. Actually, the feeling is very similar to visiting a toilet while you are singing karaoke in Sydney – the toilets are fairly similar in that respect. After you’ve used your toilet paper (used or unused), you chuck out your toilet paper into the bin. Then you flush (toilet paper free) and there are no problems whatsoever.

Public toilets in Hong Kong are generally cleaned out quite frequently, on an hourly basis (I know this from looking at the cleaner’s timetable where they need to sign off after cleaning the toilets ho ho). They are generally clean, with the exception of toilets I call “outdoor toilets” which are toilets that are located in a weird location, like for parks. From my experience, shopping centre toilets are fairly clean, outdoor toilets are not. They tend to be clogged up (because they are located in tourist locations) and are really disgusting.

Another thing I wanted to say is that if your toilet stall does not have a toilet paper roll holder, most likely you missed a toilet holder roll when you walk right into the toilets. You’re supposed to take your toilet paper before you go into your stall – kind of smart, so you know if there is toilet paper or not because you actually go to the toilet. This is a popular way of distributing toilet paper in older shopping centres. Newer shopping centres like Harbour City/ Ocean Terminal, restaurants and bars will have individual toilet holder rolls per stall.

It’s a bit of a hard habit to break since we’re used to putting toilet paper into the bowl, but you’ll probably remember once you see the bin beside you. For the same reason, we get people who don’t chuck toilet paper into the bowl, and put used toilet paper elsewhere here in Oz- ewww.

Unless you’re at a market stall, prices are generally not negotiable.

I think this is fairly straight forward – shops are generally not negotiable, unless it’s something like a (fine) jewellery store (even so the biggest discount you’d get is probably just 5%) or a very small one off boutique store in an arcade or something.

I put this photo up because most places which offer discounts actually require you to be a member and have a membership number to give you discounts. While I was at Skinfood I overheard a customer ask for a discount instead of a free gift… I mean of course the answer is no. But there are a lot of places which require membership, such as SaSa, Skinfood, some shoe stores, department store Lane Crawford – they generally offer you anywhere from 5-10% off your total bill. It sounds very little, but because the prices in Hong Kong are much higher (in terms of the amount of digits), 5% there is somewhat significant. Don’t expect major discounts from arcade boutiques either – they will most likely round it down to the nearest ten or something.

Market stalls are negotiable, but are only negotiable when buying in bulk or you can tell they’ve been having a quiet day. No use haggling over something if you’re not going to buy much and they’re busy as heck, it just won’t work.

And FYI, Korean skincare in Hong Kong is damn expensive. It’s much cheaper to order it directly from Korea – in my case I caved in because the apple scrub is brand new, and I can’t order the nail treatment essence online.

Aaaaand on a tangent once again, if a sales catches you staring at their display for more than 10 seconds, they will beckon you to come inside. Don’t be alarmed. It’s perfectly normal, and you can choose to ignore them if you wish.

If people try to talk to you (trying to sell you something) or hand you flyers, avoid them like the plague.

Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay were the two places by far I saw with the most number of people handing out flyers or trying to talk to you about something. In Tsim Sha Tsui there are a lot of Indians who try to talk to you – I’m not sure about what, but just pretend you don’t know English. Just be careful and don’t take flyers, because you don’t know what the flyer is! I mean if it’s just SaSa, fine, but some might be about… well. For instance in Macau I saw many many cards on the floor advertising sex services. It could be about religious cults. It could be about anything, really.

Keep your hands clear and avoid being touched or having stuff given to you. The reason I say this is because a few years back I was going to a temple with my family and some woman shoved a bunch of incense into my pocket (I was only about 12 years old at the time) and then told us to pay up. (To finish the story my dad got into an argument with her and of course we didn’t pay, nor did we take her incense)

Just don’t reply, put up a hand like “stop” and shake your head. That’s good enough to get your point across. Better to be careful!

Besides from that, I was taught to not take flyers in general sooooo yeah.

Keep some form of ID with you at all times.

It was more popular back then, but now that there are so many tourists it’s very rare for police to stop you and ask for ID.

It’s a very very common question, so don’t get taken back if you are stopped by police and asked to show your identification. Police are trained to do it and it’s the first thing they do before doing anything. I didn’t get asked this time around but I used to get asked at least once each time I went back. It is a requirement to show police ID when you are asked to show it. I’ve read on some websites that some people choose to keep their passports in their hotel safe and tell police they can’t show them ID and tell them the reason why, but… that choice is yours. I kept my ID on me at all times, and it’s just a precaution in case if anything happened to me so that I at least had ID on me.

ID is important for exchanging money at a bank, checking into a hotel, and going to Macau as you need to go through customs.

Well, having ID is just a good thing to do since you’re overseas and you should be doing that at all times anyway regardless of where you go.

Enjoy, have fun, and take care of yourself.

Hong Kong is a beautiful city. My trip was quite pleasant – I wouldn’t call it epic or anything, but it was a good experience since I saw Hong Kong from the eyes of a tourist rather than just being another family member going back to visit family. I got to go to all the places I wanted to go, and I got to skip whatever I thought was irrelevant without feeling like I was wasting time or being scolded for it. Hong Kong is especially beautiful at night (unfortunately I have no night photos) and it’s a very captivating city which will easily be able to take your breath away. I especially love getting off the plane when it’s night time, because I get to see the night lights as soon as I arrive – I think it’s really beautiful.

As you can probably gather, there were a few hiccups along the way because of my upbringing, what I’m accustomed to and because I’m generally a super paranoid person. But on the whole I really did enjoy myself and right now I’m missing my hotel room, and I miss the routes and transport I took for the 10 days I was there. I miss my friends over there, and I miss how busy and lively everything is. Obviously all good things come to an end, and hopefully I’ll be able to go back soon – possibly next year.

My next few posts will go into more detail about exactly what I did, where I went and how it was – this was meant to be a brief “survival” guide outlining what I thought was pretty obvious and needed extra attention. You could probably tell that I planned it pretty strictly and made sure that I had all the basic essentials and had most things under my belt. Hope you all enjoyed this post – if you are planning on going to Hong Kong, I hope you will enjoy it, or, hopefully this post might want to make you consider Hong Kong as a travel destination.


8 thoughts on “A noob’s guide to Hong Kong, for noobs.

  1. Hello! I see that you bought hadalabo skin products whilst in hk. I am actually thinking of getting similar products from their moisturising line because I have very dry skin. How do you find their products to be?

    • Hi! I’m really liking the cleanser and their toners because they don’t dry out your skin and are fairly gentle. I find the toner quite “wet” which is good, since it feels like my skin actually soaks it up. The price is also very good too, but unfortunately I haven’t tried their moisturisers. From what I’ve experienced though, they’re very good value for money and don’t make me break out. Hope that helps!

  2. Finally got through the whole post!

    Bookmarking for future reference. I’m a total HK noob so it’ll be handy when I go. Crossing fingers for the end of this year.

    That hotel is pretty nice!

    and yay for cheap Evian water!

    Kinda brave for travelling alone. Hope you weren’t lonely! XDD

  3. I don’t know the conversion from $1200AUD to USD, but that does sound like a pretty deal nonetheless for a direct flight. (I’ve only been to Australia once so I’m a little familiar with AUD money). I heard Cathay Pacific is really good compare to other airlines, but of course, business class would be more awesome haha

    I can’t imagine how you came back from Hong Kong and went back to work the next day O_O I would be too tired to bounce back to work.

    I can relate about staying with relatives–especially when I’m not close to them or speak the same language LOL And plus, you get more freedom to do whatever you want. So I think you made the right decision here 🙂

    I remember Mongkok was fun because of the affordable prices (I mostly shopped when I was inHK). Haha I like your detailed map…unfortunately, I can’t even read maps! If I had to draw a map..it would not make any sense =_=” Imagine how lost I would be if I was in hong kong alone, yikes! It’s so cool that you know how to write in chinese, though.

    O_O I did NOT know you weren’t suppose to flush toilet paper in public toilets… oops XDD (who is the noob now?)

    • The currency from AUD to USD is roughly the same (1:1) ^^ Cathay wasn’t too bad ~ but yeah, their business class seats looked really comfy ;_;

      I didn’t know that you weren’t supposed to flush toilet paper down either – I guess I was just lucky the other times that I didn’t put too much toilet paper in so it just went down. But what do you know, that’s what the bins are for 😉

  4. I think it’s great that you went alone to HK – I’d be too chicken personally! I am Chinese but I don’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese (I speak Teochew and pretty badly at that) so don’t know how I’d fare with the locals if I ever visit!

    Great post though! Very thorough and detailed – thanks for the heads up about the mosquitoes. Will keep that in mind when planning a trip to HK – I have fair skin and the mosquitoes tend to go sick when they spot me.

    Looking forward to your other posts – I wanna see what you bought! hehe 🙂

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