Hong Kong: The Basics

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I spent Chuseok in Hong Kong.  I’d been through the airport/shopping mall many times, but for once I actually got to step outside and visit one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world.

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I wish I’d gone sooner.  As far as optimal cities for a four-day trip from Seoul, Hong Kong is ideal.  Direct flights are plentiful, and while it’s one of the most dense and crowded cities in the world getting around is a total breeze.  The subway (“MTR”) is clean, cheap, and fast, and you can actually take it from the airport all the way into the city.  Buses are also available, as are trams, an incredible ferry service linking southern Hong Kong island proper to Kowloon across the bay to the north, and rickety but serviceable taxi cabs.

Two quick notes on cabs: some of the drivers speak perfect English, and some of them speak none at all.  They’ll usually be familiar with major tourist sites and the larger hotels, but getting someone at your front desk to write down destination names in Cantonese is a good idea.  A good guide book will also have locations listed bilingually.

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Second, I got burned a few times waiting patiently at taxi stands while somebody else zipped in and got inside before me.  Do as the locals do and don’t bother waiting in line for a taxi.  (Sorry, dead British colonialists!)

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Overall it was a great trip, and I don’t even like shopping.  If you ever make it there you’ll understand what I mean by that — in addition to amazing culture and food and history, Hong Kong is capitalism distilled and unchained, literally starting once you step off of your plane.  It’s a rush.

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