TRAVEL BLOG

Before Visiting Hong Kong

You will need a passport and visa to get in Hong Kong, even if you are entering via mainland China. You can apply for a visa at the Chinese embassy or at Hong Kong’s Immigration Department. Details of the entry requirement can be found at the Immigration Department’s website as well.

The official currency of the city is the Hong Kong dollar (HKD), denoted by “$”. So if you see a dollar sign, consider it HKD and not USD. Prices listed in US dollars have the “USD $” sign before them. The standard exchange rate is USD1 = HKD0.80 but banks may offer some slight variations. And airports as well as hotels will offer the least competitive exchange rates of all.

The best place to exchange large amounts is banks and to exchange small amounts is an independent exchange shop. Such shops abound in the tourist places and do not charge the fixed commission as banks do. However, use these shops well within the banking hours to get the best rates. If you have accounts with the HSBC, Standard Chartered or Hang Seng, you may safely and profitably use your ATM debit card instead.

China, Hong Kong antique street market

Things To Do in Hong Kong

Apart from sightseeing, Hong Kong excels in offering a multitude of activities for travelers of all tastes. These include shopping, clubbing, hiking, trailing and even gambling. Among other things, Hong Kong is a shopper’s paradise.

Shops in the city are marked by zero VAT, zero sales tax and fierce competition, which make it easier for shoppers to find quality items. However, don’t expect the costs to be cheap everywhere and be ready to put up your fiercest bargain if you want cheap shopping. Mong Kok in Kowloon is the major shopping district in the city. Shopping malls are abundant and the most popular ones include Landmark, City Plaza, IFC Mall, Pacific Place, APM, Festival Walk and Times Square.

Dim sum steamers at a Chinese restaurant, Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Cuisine

Hong Kong holds the much-deserved title of “World’s Fair of Food” and “Gourmet Paradise” and it spoils you for choice. The city’s unique east-meets-west style reflects in its cuisine as well and you can see popular global fast food joints or hot pot and dim sum restaurants flourishing alongside traditional Chinese Haute Cuisine establishments as well.

This makes it a good place to eat for both – travelers who want to experience the traditional Chinese cuisines and those that are homesick and have had enough of the Chinese food. It is also a good place to eat for travelers who want premium dining experience. Four among the world’s best 100 restaurants are in Hong Kong, as per the Restaurant Magazine. And you can easily use the Michelin Guide or Open Rice to find and locate other great places to eat.

Sightseeing in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is known for its tall buildings and one-of-kind activities for tourists. The most popular attractions include:
Victoria Peak Tower: Commonly called just “The Peak”, the tower is stylish, entertaining and thrilling to say the least. It is home to The Sky Terrace – city’s highest 360-degree viewing platform, among other fascinating things.

Ozone Bar, Ritz Carlton: The highest bar in the world, Ozone sits on the 118th floor of the building and offers unmissable views of the vibrant city.

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center: The building is one of the most stunning pieces of architecture in Hong Kong. If you have watched the Jackie Chan-starred New Police Story, you may remember the center from the epic finale of the movie. When there, be sure to visit the Golden Bauhinia Square as well.

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In addition, Hong Kong’s local markets, temples and gardens offer great experiences that are characteristic of Hong Kong. Popular attractions include:

Local Markets – Temple Street Night Market and Cat Street for jade, antiques and bric-a-brac; Ladies’ Market for inexpensive souvenirs and Stanley Market for the more premium ones. The Fa Yuen Street Market and Jade Market for some authentic Hong Kong-style shopping.

Temples – The Big Buddha and Wong Tai Sin Temple are two of Hong Kong’s most popular destinations for tourists who would like to make prayers while in the city.

Gardens – Nan Lian and Chi Lin Nunnery, two spectacular gardens right in the middle of soaring skyscrapers are ideal for some peaceful reflection and introspection. The Hong Kong Wet Land Park, though not technically a garden, is another calm and serene destination that will get you thinking.

Line of taxis at Hong Kong Island, China

Hong Kong’s Transportation

Hong Kong boasts a highly-developed transportation network, both internally and externally. It is well connected with all the major cities and countries in the world. The Hong Kong International Airport, which has been labeled the “World’s Best Airport” eight times by Skytrax, connects Hong Kong to all major cities in North America and Europe with one daily flight at least. Flights to and from Asia and Oceania are also frequent.

Getting into Hong Kong is also possible via helicopters and ferries, especially if you’re traveling from mainland China. Cruise ships from Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam are another way to get into Hong Kong.

While in Hong Kong, you will find a sophisticated mix of (private and public) rail, road and air transport to get around. These include the Mass Transit Railway (MTR), tramways, funicular or cliff railways, franchised buses, light public buses, taxis, ferries and aerial lift transports such as cable cars. You can also rent a car or a bike to get around.

MTR is the fastest and easiest way to get around. Taxis are another good option. Compared to other cities around the world, taxis in Hong Kong are easy to find and ride. They are also significantly cheaper. You can use the Octopus Card, which is a prepaid debit card the people of Hong Kong use to pay for services such as public transport and car parking. It can also be used in supermarkets, restaurants and convenience stores. You will get discounted rates when using the Card for public transport.

Essentials to bring

Climate

Rainy season in Cambodia is from May to October and it is best to avoid this time for a visit to this location because getting around with flooded roads can be a huge challenge here. November and January are the most ideal vacation times here as the weather is quite cool and pleasant.

Entry Requirements

You can get your visa when you land in the Kingdom either at Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. However, for entry from certain points, visitors need to have a visa ready. Online visa processing is possible and you can also get further information about these requirements from the Royal Embassy of the Kingdom of Cambodia located in their country.

Currency

The ubiquitous use of the U.S. dollar here is a great convenience although the Reil is the official Cambodian currency. Keep in mind though that Riel is not convertible so if you do opt for currency exchange into this currency do so with care. Keep well stocked with cash and travelers checks because credits are not accepted everywhere.

Medical

World class medical facilities are not easy to find in Cambodia and even the number of pharmacies is rather limited. Getting immunizations for malaria, thyroid, tetanus, cholera, TB, hepatitis A/B before you leave is a great idea. Carry your own medicines for relatively minor problems like diarrhea, cold and fevers and you should be able to manage just fine.

Beach umbrella on blue sky background with clouds

Activities in Cambodia

Beach umbrella on blue sky background with cloudsWith its spectacular beaches, Cambodia has much to offer for those who just want to unwind during their holidays. But if relaxing is getting to be a bore, then you can always get some fantastic shopping done and top it all off with some rocking night time partying. On the subject of shopping, Cambodia is the perfect place to buy silk, ethnic / artistic pieces and silver work. Expect to find Buddha themes predominant in the art pieces. If regular shopping is what you need to do, then the Russian market is a good stop. Souvenirs, western clothing, handicrafts, fake ‘antiquities’ and knick-knacks of all kinds – this market has it all. The Psar Thmei or Central Market is a good place to go to if you want to avoid the sun during your shopping spree.

The market features a stunning domed hall that is anMassage by fishes added attraction. You will find the shops more organized here and there are food stalls if you want to ‘refuel’ in the midst of your shopping. Willing to bargain hard? Then Psar Cha is a shopping center that you will find quite interesting too.

Take a tuk-tuk ride to the nearest local night club or spa just to experience the novel transportation method. And while you are at it, also experience the ‘fish pedicure’ where little fish nibble your feet. Don’t worry, it is safe, although maybe not the perfect activity for the ticklish or squeamish. The Siem Reap night market is a great place to get some really cheap shopping done. There are quite a few casinos here where you can play games of chance and test your luck too.

Ragni fritti

Cambodia’s Cuisine

On the subject of food, one of the places that truly deserve a shout out is the New Hope restaurant in Siem Reap. The surprising and heartening fact is that this is a trade school where former sex workers learn life skills. There is also a school for at-risk kids here. The food is delicious and you come away knowing that you have helped encourage a good cause!

Ragni fritti

If out-of- the-ordinary cuisine is what you are looking for, then maybe you would enjoy some spiders or a couple of tarantulas? At Eat a Spider, these are the special dishes you should expect to find. Does that make your stomach turn? Well, Cambodia is famous for its mangoes and bananas too so help your stomach settle down with these delicious fruits.

Cambodian stir fried noodlesTraditional Cambodian food is characterized with surprising contrasts in flavor. To taste the true Khmer flavor, a good start is the Bai sach chrouk which is a dish that combines rice and pork. This simple dish is something you will find on street corners too. Fish amok is another traditional dish which also shows the influence of Thai and Vietnamese cooking on Cambodia’s cuisine. Khmer noodles or Nom banh chok makes for a filling breakfast especially if you like the typical Asian combination of flavors and spices. On the beverages front, the Chinese tea, tikalok (fruit smoothie) are good options.

Angkor Wat, Siem reap, Cambodia

Exploring Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Siem reap, Cambodia.Despite its unfortunate association with the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia is, today, one of the most tranquil vacation spots you might ever see. The beguiling Angkor is a fixture on every holiday maker’s itinerary and with good reason. The massive religious complex with the Angkor Wat temple still standing guard over the ruins is truly an awe inspiring sight. Don’t rush your visit because the magical beauty of the intricately designed Banteay Sreri or the magnificent faces of the Bayon will surely make you lose track of time.

 

Royal Palace gardens in Phnom Phen, Cambodia

In the capital city, the Silver Pagoda as well as the Royal Palace are great attractions for all tourists. If you want to take in all of the Khmer temples in one sweeping panorama, the Preah Vihear situated on a cliff in the Dangrek Mountains is the perfect spot. The floating villages around the Tonle Sap, Cambodia’s large freshwater lake is another interesting sight to see. The lake may look dramatically different at different times of the year as the volume of water increases and depletes. If you love sealife then a visit to Kratie should be on your list. If you are lucky you can catch a glimpse of the Irrawaddy dolphin which is, sadly, dwindling down to extinction. Finish up your visit at Koh Ker, an ancient capital of the Khmer empire where you will find the imposing, pyramid like Prasat Thom that dominates the landscape.

Culture of Cambodia

Although Khmers dominate the ethnic groups in Cambodia, Vietnamese and Chinese do make their home here too albeit in much smaller numbers. In terms of religion, you will find a predominance of Buddhism here. The language used is modern Khmer although you might find quite a few French words peppering any conversation, a remnant of the years of French colonial ruling. Thankfully, English is spoken and understood by many, particularly in the locations where tourists tend to throng. French and Mandarin are also spoken, although primarily by the older generation of Cambodians.

One of the most interesting aspects about the Cambodian society is that individuals are always secondary to the groups they belong to. That is, the people traditionally put their family, their society and their country ahead of their own needs.

For foreigners in Cambodia, etiquette is a very critical aspect to brush up on before heading out here. Causing offense to others inadvertently or deliberately can cause serious problems and it is very important to avoid embarrassing or criticizing others, especially in public. On the other hand, complimenting someone in public on their hospitality is a simple way to add to their honor and show them respect or appreciation.

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