A trip to Hong Kong & Macau – Part 1

Published October 28, 2015 7:21 pm

Recently I come back from a 3 + 1 night trip to Hong Kong & Macau. It has been a awesome experience & there are many observations to share.  It will likely take couple of posts to share everything. I wanted to start with few check lists & observations for the whole trip.

What type of traveler are you? I was a traveler traveling with family with 2 kids (6-8 year old). It was my first trip with family to these places & I had decided to plan it out myself & not take service of a travel agent.

Observations

  1. If you are traveling with children, It is hard to stick to timed schedule. I am not sure if a time-tabled scheduled trip from an agent would have worked better. At the very least, I don’t like to go by a fixed schedule when on vacation.
  2. We did miss couple of places to visit, If it takes 3-4 days for a scheduled trip – for a relaxed unscheduled trip – it will take 6-7 days or we miss couple of places to visit.
  3. Have patience to deal with children. With children, you can’t maneuver it at pace you typically would go when you are alone or as a couple.
  4. Ensure itinerary is interesting for them. Children liked Disneyland the most – it was a long day 11am to 12am by the time we reached back to hotel. but all of us survived the day – they watched TV back in hotel (their cartoons show) for few minutes before going to bed.
  5. I had to push through the day trip to Big Buddha. It is a scenic trip with not much action for children. While we hold good memories from a unique day trip there – it was difficult to get them moving through the day – with long queues & walking steps up the mountain to reach Buddha statue. Nevertheless – it is a good spot.
  6. We missed ocean park – for a relaxed traveler – it is a day long trip IMO.

Mobile & WiFi access

  1. I had purchased two sims – one prepaid PCCW HKT sim for INR 1000 & one matrix postpaid for INR 500 rental.
  2. PCCW HKT prepaid – It had 600 min of local talk time & HKD 2 per min local call charges.
  3. matrix post paid – had incoming free. Combination of two sims allowed connectivity among both of us.
  4. Best was the handset from the hotel enabled with a) unlimited outgoing & incoming – local & international to India b) unlimited data access across HK. I did not know about this & only came to know after reaching my hotel. Good to check with your hotel. Still I need to take good care of this hotel handset since the penalty for any damage or loss is very steep.
  5. PCCW HKT prepaid also have option to enable 3 days / 2GB for HKD 38. I am not sure how good it is. I did not enable it.
  6. While free wifi spots are claimed to be available at many places like HKIA, MTR stations, macau ferry onboard but they are hardly reliable. You struggle to even to be able to connect and waste lot of time. Having a good mobile data access plan would be excellent & basic necessity IMO – at the least — to have access to google maps. I did not have one & but luckily got the hotel complimentary handset.
  7. Disable mobile data access on the sims I mentioned above unless u have bought mobile data access plan. Default data charges will be very steep & eat up your talk time in no time.

Traveler Maps

  1. MTR Map – I carried a color print of the route map here. It helps to understand the color coding & the concept of “interchange” among lines .
  2. Hongkong tourist map – is available at the tourist information desk/counter – at the arrival hall – at HKIA (Hong kong international airport).
  3. Macau tourist map – is available at the Macau ferry terminal on arrival at information desk/counter.

Hotel

  1. I picked Hotel Holiday Inn Golden mile @ Tsim sha tsui (TST) considering its proximity to MTR station, walkable distance to Victoria Harbor, walkable to Indian vegetarian restaurants @ TST and getting room with two double beds.
  2. I paid price little bit on higher side I think. but it is good to watch agoda.com for sales & strike a better deal.
  3. Location of the hotel worked out very well for us. We sparingly used Taxi during our stay.
  4. City bus from Airport (A21) touches Nathan Road – artery road of TST & drops almost in front of Hotel.

Vegetarian Eating @ HK

  1. It is tough. Most of the vegetarian restaurants – afaik – are in TST . They are very few.
  2. For a Indian Vegetarian – food can’t be on list of entertainment during HK trip. Sight-seeing & shopping can be on your entertainment list. Food is only for survivable.
  3. AFAIK – you get basic dosa, Idly, pav bhaji, aloo paratha etc – for lunch & dinner – at selected few Indian restaurants most concentrated in TST And it will cost equal to a good mid-high range restaurant in a India Metro.
  4. If you plan to have meals @ TST and travel – your travel plans typically won’t fall in place. E.g. we returned at 12am from Disneyland Trip, During Big Buddha day trip – we returned by 5-6 pm. At Big Buddha venue – they claim to have a vegetarian meal for HKD 98; I was afraid to experiment by paying HKD 400 for four members lunch.
  5. We had gone with enough home made food / snacks – parathas, bhujia, chips, chavana, bread, tang, gulcon-d.
  6. I found a good super market – Wellcome – on Mody road for buying fruits like Apples & water. Along with snacks, fruits also helped – to keep us going.
  7. We carried snacks, fruits, bottle of tang & water – during our day trips.
  8. Given the cleanness of the city – we ensured – we ate at few places only & did not litter it e.g. instructed kids to ensure cleanness & picked up in case of any dirt.
  9. As a side effect – it kept the food bill low for the trip – though that was not planned.

Intracity Commute @ HK

  1. Public transport system – MTR & city bus – is good.
  2. It takes little bit time to understand it. For a short journey – you may lose precious time available for you. For a relaxed traveler – it makes absolute sense.
  3. Taxi  can be  order of 2-5 times expensive depending on your group size & demographic of the group. E.g. city bus & MTR gives child up to 11 – half ticket price.
  4. It was an experience to use MTR for us – what an efficient public transport system – can look like.
  5. Octopus card & public transport work hand in hand. If you plan to use public transport daily – get one per person before you leave airport. It is available in Exit Area A @ MTR ticketing counter.
  6. Octopus card is another awesome electronic ticketing / money system. Paying money at grocery stores like 7-ELEVEN, Wellcome is one swipe away & u are saved of carrying load of local currency change. I have < 10 HKD in coins when exiting HK. Taxi are not powered with octopus card systems typically & hence you end up having some coins.
  7. Don’t forget to return & get refund for the HKD 50 deposit – night before you exit HK.
  8. If you travel out of HK & return directly to skypier ferry terminal @ HKIA (HK international airport) – you will not be able to go to area where MTR counters are there on airport. That means return your octopus card before. This happened for us since we returned from Macau to HKIA via Skypier ferry terminal.

There is more. Let’s talk more in next post.

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