I grew up in Hong Kong and recently returned for a holiday. The Island Shangri La is perhaps the best hotel in Hong Kong, as it is right downtown in Central and has entrances to the Pacific Mall. The rooms and services are brilliant as well.
Whatever hotel you choose, make sure to stay on the actual island itself. Kowloon does not have enough amenities or attractions to make it worth staying there.
Pacific Place, Supreme Court Road, Central, Hong Kong; tel: 852 2877 3838
If you're after a cheap, well-located place to stay in Shanghai, you can't beat the Captain Hostel. There’s a choice of dorms or private rooms and they’re very, very clean.
It's also just off the Bund (taxi drivers will always know that one) and not far from the main shopping strip and metro stations.
37 Fuzhou Lu (pronounced Foo Joe Loo); www.captainhostel.com.cn
This is an all purpose travel card and smart card. You can buy it for HK$150 which is $100 credit and $50 deposit. It can be used on the MTR, KCR, buses, ferries and the peak tram, so there’s no more queuing to buy tickets or trying to find the right change. It can also be used to buy items at the kiosks in the MTR and is accepted at places such as Starbucks and McDonald’s. Top-up terminals are located at all MTR stations.
Any KCR or MTR station
It’s a beautiful setting, reached via a long staircase with life-size golden Buddhas on either side and when we arrived about 10am it was almost deserted.
Incense burns everywhere, with gifts of flowers and fruit to Buddha left on tables outside the temples and pagoda. There is a vegetarian restaurant and a small souvenir stall.
KCR to Sha Tin
As well as the usual Jinshanling or Simatai Great Wall tours, you can also explore other parts which are completely unrestored. Beijing Leo Hostel run a tour/hike to Secret Shen Shui Hu for 100rmb.
It should be noted that you're not always following the path of the wall itself, and if you want to get the 'classic' wall experience (and photos) take another tour instead of, or as well as, this one. On the other hand, you will definitely avoid crowds and hawkers.
Beijing Leo Hostel, Guang Ju Yuan, 52, Da Zha Lan Xi Jie, Qianmen
In the main room of this vegetarian restaurant is a Buddha shrine where diners can, if they wish, burn incense. I doubt that monks will eat as well as we did in this long-established Shanghai retaurant. The menu is huge and almost any kind of Chinese dish one can think of is listed, but the difference is that it is all vegetarian even if the description sounds carnivorous. For example, the roast chicken is beancurd in a chicken shape. If you are fed up with pak choi and doufu, you'll love this place. We went twice in one day because it was so good.
445 Nanjing Xi Lu; West of People's Square and close to the Art Museum
One of many luxury hotels in Hong Kong but this one is just that bit special. Extremely well located on the Kowloon side, it’s just a few steps from the Star Ferry terminal and the malls of Ocean Terminal. Opposite it is the Hong Kong space museum and it is not too far from the Hong Kong science museum – both great venues for children. And of course the hotel has a shopping mall of its own.
Rooms are spacious and elegant and the service is as you would expect. However the best part of it is that the hotel does relatively affordable helicopter rides. A fab way to see Hong Kong or to buzz yourself to the airport.
It also has Rolls-Royces to transfer you to the airport – very comfortable and only a fraction of the price of what you would pay for a car transfer from Narita to Tokyo.
If you have the budget and fancy an evening of cocktails and piano music you have to go to the InterContinental Hotel.
If you get there for 8 o'clock, you can also see the light show the skyscapers perform nightly on Hong Kong Island.
My partner and I had a lovely evening of drinking expensive drinks, watching the scenery and he treated himself to a cigar.
18 Salisbury Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong; Tel: 852 2721 1211; www.hongkong-ic.intercontinental.com/
Watch out for friendly young female art students wanting to take you to nearby exhibitions of their work. To the unsuspecting, they appear to be genuine local Chinese who are amazed to see a Westerner. After flattering you by asking lots of questions about your country, they invite you to view their art work. While much of it is undoubtedly stunning, make no mistake; they're really trying to sell you some silk scrolls adorned with traditional Oriental calligraphy.
Tiananmen Square, Wanfujing Street
One of the great pleasures of living in Shanghai and China generally is tea. From an early age living in England tea was a staple. I first started buying oolong (tie guan ying), green and pu er teas from a shop on Nanjing Road. Later when I went back the lady that had worked there had opened her own shop. She had been so patient, knowledgeable and had a very calm air about her which was so pleasant in the hectic bustle of Shanghai it was only natural to go to her new tea shop on my return. Wan Ling, or Candy as she is also known, is willing to spend as long as you wish chatting about tea, letting you try a number of the types she has in the shop and providing a great insight into the fascinating world of Chinese tea. Her shop is slightly hidden in a Chinese antiques market, which is in fact a great benefit once you find it. The market offers a great place to explore for an hour or two depending on your interest (porcelain, jade, stones, carvings). This is an especially good place during some of the dark and damp days we get here in Shanghai.
Located fairly centrally, Wan Ling's Tea House is fairly easy to find - located on Beijing road at the corner of Wang Hang Du Road (Lu) it is in walking distance from Jing An Temple (Nanjing raod). Her website has a map and also exact location written in both english and Chinese (great for the taxi driver).
Be prepared to bargain hard for these Terracotta Warriors. We bought some from a shop in the night market and got them for what we thought was a bargain price of £5.
However, we bought some others from some hawkers at the Terracotta Army site at a fraction of the price (and the quality was only slightly inferior).
Xi'an night market and Terracotta Army site.
I bought a few of those cheap fake (well, obviously not original out-of-the-tomb) warriors and they are well worth it. Cost about 50p each and retail at The Pier and similar places in the UK for about £20.
Anywhere around the site
Brush up on your Arabic phrases if you're travelling to Kashgar. Most of the population are Uighurs and prefer using their own language, based on Turkish and Arabic.
You'll win more street cred than if you wander about spouting Chinese grammar.
The language can be found in your mouth.
It can be described as many things: a spicy omlette; a 'breakfast burrito'; the literal meaning approximates to 'egg pancake'. Great for a quick, cheap hot snack; a useful fallback for vegetarians in a meat-loving nation; plus great to watch them being made.
At streetside vendors everywhere
The historical Sunday Market is now jammed in amongst the modern tiled buildings of communist Han Chinese Kashgar. This does little to detract from the amazing looking people peddling their wares and produce.
Every Sunday - start early. Can be difficult to track down the livestock market due to the fact that it recently moved and the ever present language barrier. Any good guide book should point you in the right direction.
Please pay the extra 5rmb and go and see the pandas - but please do not visit the rest of the zoo - whilst the lush green grass and tranquil lakes and fountains lull you into a false sense of security, the cages the animals are kept in are horrendous - very small, the animals have very little food and generally very upsetting - the pandas however are kept in relative plushness and it's probably one of the few times to be able to see one up close - go early in the morning - the zoo opens at 7.30am, otherwise by about 9.30am the pandas are asleep for the rest of the day.
A bit of an escape from Kowloon and Hong Kong island's north side, Sai Kung has great seafood restaurants where you can pick your fish, then see it killed and cooked before your eyes. Then try out the amazing dessert places nearby for real Chinese sweets.
East coast of Hong Kong on the mainland
The Peninsula in Tsim Sha Tsui is famous - and very expensive. However you can visit for much less. You can try high tea in the lobby, but the real pearl is the bar on the top floor of the hotel (there's also a restaurant there).
It has the most amazing view of HK Island. Stupid prices, but just have a small beer and drink in the view. Or, even better, check out the view from the gents.
Tsim Sha Tsui - from HK Island, the Star Ferry is terrific value and also has a stunning view.
A park at the rear (northern exit) of the Palace Museum across the moat.
If your feet can bear one more climb after a day in the forbidden city, make it up to the "Pavillion of Everlasting Spring" which overlooks the entire city. Try to get there for sunset for incredible views of the hundreds of shimmering golden rooftops of the forbidden city and the expanse of Tian An Men square.
Jingshan Park, mentioned in all tourist literature, situated at the northern entrance to the Forbidden City across the moat.
Bus Route 35,104,109, Take Metro to Tian An Men then walk around the Palace Museum moat.
10 RMB entrance fee
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