My attempt at a ‘Hong Kong 101’

So far, my blogs on Hong Kong haven’t been all that useful to any new comers so I am going to attempt a (very basic) Hong Kong 101 style post. First of all though, I will say that the Hong Kong Tourism Website is quite good.

Here goes….

Basic Geography

Hong Kong has 3 main bits and a couple of other islands. The three main parts are Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories.

  • Hong Kong Island is across the water to the south of the harbour.
  • Kowloon which is the coast from the north of the harbour to around Prince Edward district.
  • New Territories is North from Prince Edward(ish) to China.

Kowloon and New territories are one land mass but two separate areas if you understand what I mean. It’s like England and Wales/Scotland. The other main islands are:

  • Lantau Island
  • Lamma Island

Getting Around

Types of transport

There are six main transport types. MTR, bus, mini bus, tram, taxi &  ferry.

  • MTR – The MTR is essentially the London Underground but in Hong Kong. It covers mostly Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. The East Rail Line (which is part of the MTR but not really) goes up into the New Territories. There are different lines which take you to different places. I highly suggest a bit of research on the MTR Website before you arrive.
  • Bus – They go practically everywhere but I would not try and tackle the bus system on a first visit. It’s confusing. If you’re feeling brave, check the supplier websites for details of routes and fares (Citybus & New World First Bus, KMB).
  • Mini bus – Green Roof – Government endorsed with a set route and set pick up/drop off points. I would not try and tackle the bus system on a first visit. I can’t even point you to where you could find out about the minibusses. Sorry!
  • Mini bus – Red Roof – Government endorsed but route and pick up/drop off points are determined by the driver. Normally go further than the green roofed version. I would not try and tackle the bus system on a first visit. I can’t even point you to where you could find out about the minibusses. Sorry!
  • Tram – Only operate on Hong Kong Island. Runs from Shau Kei Wan to Kennedy Town and Happy Valley
  • Star Ferry – The Star ferry goes between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central/Wan Chai.
  • Taxi – Taxis are red on Hong Kong Island and green in the New Territories.

Paying for transport

  • Cash – Cash is accepted on all forms of transport. You can pay the driver directly on busses, minibusses, taxis and trams. You can buy tickets for the MTR and ferries using cash in all stations/piers. NOTE: Drivers will NOT give change for direct cash payments. Have the right change or prepare to lose some dollars.
  • Octopus Card – A plastic card with ‘touch in’ technology. You pre load it with credit then touch it on the readers available. You can buy them in MTR stations. You can use Octopus cards on trams, busses, minibusses (GREEN roof only), ferries and the MTR. NOTE: Octopus is NOT accepted in taxis or in RED roofed minibusses. You can also use credit form your Octopus to pay for things in lots of shops e.g. 7-11 and McDonalds.

Other things that confused me/I wish I’d known

  • ‘Ts’ is pronounced ‘ch’. Tsim Sha Tsui is pronounced Chim sow Choy (kind of but it’s a lot closer than saying Sim show shoe as I stared off doing) .
  • Boil the tap water before you drink it or stick to bottled water.
  • Happy Hour is king if you want to drink.

My tiny knowledge of Cantonese (limited to 90% food)

Cantonese is a tonal language meaning that your accent of tone up or down as you speak a word influence the overall meaning. This makes it tricky for us Westerners to grasp as, apart from raising tone up at the end of a sentence to indicate a question, we rarely use tone in our language day to day. Most of the time, with Cantonese, you can get away with a flat tone when speaking the odd thing. Where tone is important, it’s really important and any teacher/Cantonese speaker will make it very clear to you that you need to accent up or down. Anyway, here’s what I can say in Cantonese.

Note: All phonetically spelled (well attempted) and quite probably not correct

  • Dung Lie Cha – Iced Milk Tea
  • Gar Lay – Curry
  • You Dan (say Dan like you are asking a question. You must accent your tone UP at the end of the word) – fish balls
  • Chung Fun (Your tone needs to be higher in the middle of the words than at the end i.e. chUng fUng) – flat white rice noodle
  • Fan – rice
  • Char Ts-oo – BBQ Pork (The T is really soft. Think of assing a slight T at the start of saying the name ‘Sue’)
  • Guy – Chicken
  • Ow Yok (very soft k) – beef
  • Mean – noodles
  • Chow Mean – fried noodles
  • Toe Mean – noodle soup
  • Bow – bun (normally steamed)
  • Sh-ow My – Shrimp dim sum (ow as in “ouch, that hurt”)
  • Har Gow – Filled dim sum
  • Jo San – Good Morning
  • M Goy – Thank you/Excuse me/I’d like your attention

You can combine these to order food. e.g. Gar Lay Guy = curry chicken. Gar Lay Guy Fan = curry chicken with rice. Char Shoo Fan – BBQ Pork and rice. Char Shoo Bow = BBQ pork steamed bun. Guy chUng fUn – chicken flat rice noodle.

I manage to feed myself on this. For everything else, there’s arm waving and googling a picture of the food you want.


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