Destination Hong Kong – An All Time Favourite Of Indians
Ever since I was a kid, I had been hearing of Hong Kong being mentioned by people as a destination that they had either visited, or were planning to visit. Today, I am 50+, but surprisingly, nothing has changed. Hong Kong remains just as popular as ever, with people of all ages. If one has not been there yet, you can be sure that it is on their wish-list. And rightly so.
Hong Kong finds itself a place in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and it is not just because it is a business hub. It is because Hong Kong as a destination has something to offer to everyone, regardless of their age, gender or tastes. And most importantly, it is because Indians do not require a visa to visit there, and can get a 14-day tourist entry visa on arrival. Of course, one would do well to remember that the final authority to allow or refuse entry rests with the immigration authorities. However, by and large, if one fulfills their criteria of having a hotel voucher along with proof of adequate funds to cover one’s stay, AND a return ticket, normally there should not be a problem. For me too, it was my first international destination way back in the early 80’s. Now, of course, I have been there more than a dozen times.
Visa-On-Arrival facility makes Hong Kong an ideal choice for last minute travel, in case one suddenly decides to go for an overseas holiday. After all, you do not have to worry about applying for a visa in advance. It is also popular with many first-time travellers, who normally find it difficult to get a visa for other destinations on a blank passport. For them, it becomes a way of obtaining some arrival & departure stamps on the passport 🙂 It is also popular with business-people as a business hub. It is popular as a connection hub for rest of Asia, China, Australia & New Zealand and also for the Western Coast of US. With so many convenient flight connections, it is a popular transit hub. Who wouldn’t love to stop in Hong Kong for a brief transit on the way ? It is popular with families because of so many things to see and to do. It is popular with people who love different cultures. In short, it is popular with almost everyone.
Known the world over for the amazing variety of shopping that it offers, it is little wonder then, that this destination is so popular with Indians. Whatever you may wish to buy, you can be sure that you will find it here. Oh, and did I mention that you can buy it within your budget ? Yes, that is true. There are so many different markets that one can visit, apart from the world’s best known brand outlets. If you can’t find what you are looking for within your budget in one of the branded stores, you can visit one of the local markets. There is so much variety in shopping that it is mind boggling. And yes, you will absolutely love their malls. And malls are not limited to some specific areas. They can be found anywhere and everywhere in Hong Kong.
One of the most popular shopping destinations in Hong Kong is the Tsim Sha Tsui (TST in short, pronounced Chim-Sha-Chui), a centrally located area in Kowloon. Tourists of all nationalities can be found in TST. The place is huge and one can easily spend a whole day there, just shopping, or window shopping. Think of any leading brand of the world, and you can find it in TST. In the same area, there is no dearth of food outlets, and you can several in each block. AND you can also find various outlets serving our very own Indian food, in case you are not the adventurous type and do not experiment with other cuisines. Any mention of the TST area will not be complete without mentioning Chung King Mansion – a building that is so popular with Indian. And Pakistanis. And Sri Lankans. And Nepalis. And Filipinos, And Mauritians, And Africans from all over the continent. And … er… never mind. I’m sure you got the idea. An Indian will feel right at home in this building, the lower three floors of which are various shops and restaurants, majority of which are owned by Indians and Pakistanis. Missing Indian food ? Head right up the stairs to one of the several Indian food outlets, including a south Indian outlet and a Sher-e-Punjab ! If you wish to change currency, you will find several money changers on the ground floor. Among these is Patel’s Wall Street Finance, who is my personal favourite and gives the best rate. The upper floors of Chung King have some small budget hotels as well as some dormitory style accommodations.
If shopping in malls and branded stores is what you prefer, Hong Kong will not disappoint you. In fact, you will be spoiled for choice. Walk down to Harbour City and you will find yourself in a mall that will take you almost a full day to explore. Or go across to the Landmark Mall. My personal favourites, however, are located away from the tourist areas. I prefer the mall at Tsing Yi station (pronounced Ching-Ee), and do most of my shopping there. However, for branded stuff, I prefer the City Gate Outlet Mall at Tung Chung. In this mall, one can find bargain sales on most of the well known brands. Although located on Lantau Island, City Gate Mall is definitely worth a visit and is easily accessible on the metro – the MTR, as the metro is known in Hong Kong. In fact, both, the Tsing Yi Mall as well as the City Gate Mall can be done in the same visit as both are on the same MTR line.
If you are a computer freak and looking for computer parts, or ready-made computers as well as laptops and other gadgets at fantastic prices, Hong Kong is again one of your best bets. Just head towards Golden Arcade in Sham Shui Po – a well known shopping area. Anything and everything in computers, mobiles and gadgets is available there at very reasonable prices. Of course, these are all privately owned small shops so it better to look around and compare prices at different shops, before deciding on buying anything. But be warned – gadget freaks will end up spending the whole day there !
For family fun, Hong Kong again has a lot to offer. There are several theme parks there, but the global favourites are Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park. The Disneyland at Hong Kong is not a very big one, but one would still require AT LEAST one full day to go through the whole park. Be sure to catch up on the 4D show in the Disney theater in the theme park – a wonderful experience that will leave you craving for more. Apart from the rides and shows, not to be missed is the Disney character parade that takes place at about 3 PM daily. Each season the theme of the parade is different. Also not to be missed are the fireworks that take place each evening after 8.30 PM – simply mesmerising is the word. Ocean Park is another theme park in Hong Kong that is HUGE. It features a lot of fun rides and roller-coasters that will have you screaming as you zip down on high speed. There is also a cable car within the park that will take you from island to another while you enjoy panoramic views of Hong Kong and the sea below. Adults and kids alike enjoy the theme parks, and I can promise you it will be tough to get the kids out of either of the parks !
Moving around in Hong Kong is fairly easy. Almost the entire Hong Kong has an excellent metro network known as the MTR, which is the best way to move around in Hong Kong. It is also the most economical way of touring Hong Kong and all that it has to offer. The best way to travel is to take the MTR for longer distances and one you reach your destination station, hop on to a cab to take you to the final destination, if it is not within walking distance of the station. Cab drivers in Hong Kong are highly disciplined and go strictly by the meter, so you need not worry about being fleeced, or being literally taken for a ride 🙂
Another good thing about Hong Kong is that it is by and large a very safe place. One can comfortably move around till late night without having to worry about safety. Of course, it has some notorious places as well, but only if you are brave enough to venture there. if you stick to the tourist areas, you will be fine. Very often, visiting Hong Kong is usually a matter of deciding whether to book a holiday package or moving around on your own at your pace. Well, each to his own, I would say. If you are going there for the first time, I would say go with a holiday package. Once you are there, and once you have got a little familiar with the place, then go ahead and explore. There is plenty that you can do on your own as well.
And if you haven’t YET been there, I would say go for it. Hong Kong is definitely worth it.