Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hong Kong Tops Asia’s Shopping Destinations

Hong Kong’s Tourism Board has long called the city a shopper’s paradise. Now, it can point to a study that hails the former British colony as Asia’s top shopping destination.

Global Blue, a Switzerland-based company that helps foreign shoppers to obtain tax refunds, teamed up with the Economist Intelligence Unit to rank 25 cities in Asia-Pacific on their shopping offerings for visitors. The researchers made their rankings based on five categories: Shops, affordability, convenience, hotel and transport, and culture and climate.

In the resulting study, titled the “Globe Shopper Index Asia-Pacific,” Hong Kong came out on top, scoring 68.5 out of 100 thanks to its convenience and wide selection of shops. The city was also praised for factors such as its long sales periods (the city’s stores marked down items for 22 weeks last year) and its shops’ multilingual staff.

Hong Kong’s one weakness was in the affordability category. Owing to its popularity as a tourist destination, especially among mainland Chinese, the city’s hotels are often full, which in turn pushes up room prices. Taxis are also relatively expensive compared to other Asian cities. On the other hand, the cities that performed well on the affordability ranking – Ho Chi Minh City and Dhaka were the top two – often ranked low in other categories, such as convenience and variety of shops and brands.

Last year, 41.9 million tourists flocked to Hong Kong, up 16% from 2010, and spent 253 billion Hong Kong dollars ($32.6 billion), according to the city’s tourism board. Sixty-seven percent, or 28.1 million, of the city’s visitors came from mainland China.

The study put Kuala Lumpur in second place with a score of 65.1, while Shanghai and Beijing scored 63.1 and 60.7, respectively. Singapore came in fifth, followed by Sydney, Bangkok and Tokyo.

While Kuala Lumpur doesn’t have Hong Kong’s international reputation as a shopping haven, the researchers pointed out that the city’s goods are cheap, the hotels are plentiful, and the metropolis has several gigantic malls, including three of the world’s top 10 shopping centers by size. Air-conditioned malls also help to make up for the Malaysian capital’s biggest weakness: The city ranked third to bottom in the study’s climate category.

Global Blue, which tracks world-wide movements of tourist shopping dollars, projects that the rapid rise of travelling shoppers from mainland China will continue despite the economic uncertainty in the country.

“We don’t see a slowdown at all,” said Per Setterberg, the company’s president. He added that while Hong Kong is a top shopping destination in Asia, many Asian shoppers still see the European capitals as their favorite places to shop in the world. “Those cities are the home to the large brands, and they want to go for the experience of shopping there.”

The company’s first “Globe Shopper Index” study, released last year, focused on Europe. London ranked as Europe’s top shopping destination, followed by Barcelona, Madrid, Paris and Rome.

Source:  WSJ

Friday, September 7, 2012

Soho Restaurants in Hong Kong

How many Soho restaurants are there in Hong Kong? And what is special about them. These mini to medium size restaurants in Central Hong Kong are mainly situated around Elgin Street, Staunton Street, Shelly Street, all easily accessible via the Central escalator. One thing special about these restaurants is that they are all very cosy, stylish and with wide range of international foods.

My office is nearby this area. Today I make use of my lunch hour to explore the Soho restaurants and here is a summary.

Pampas - Argentinian Steak House
G/F, 32B-C Staunton Street, SoHo, Central, Telephone: 2868 6959
They claim to offer fresh organic prime beef cuts flown in direct from Argentina
G/F, 47 Elgin Street, SoHo, Central, Telephone: 2525 9944
60-seat Mediterranean tapas and wine bar

G/F, 32 Elgin Street, SoHo, Central, Telephone: 2521 1608
Contemporary Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine with an Australian flavor

F.A.B French American Bistro
G/F, 30 Hollywood Road, SOHO, Central
Telephone: 2810 1600

Quite a cozy Italian restaurant.  There are many Italian restaurants lining up at Soho.
El Taco Loco, 9 Lower Staunton Street,
(Off Central Escalator) Central, Hong Kong, Tel: 2522 1239

Mexican Cuisine - Signature dishes include Frijolesy, Carne Asada as well as Tacos, Burritos, Quesadillas and Nachos. Margaritas and Mexican beers are a specialty.
Marouche Lebanese Cuisine
G/F, 46-48 Cochrane Street, SoHo, Central
Telephone: 2541 8282
The meat is mainly sourced from the US and New Zealand, but the spices and ingredients used are imported directly from Lebanon, and even the chef is Lebanese.

G/F, 14 Staunton Street, SoHo, Central, Telephone: 2869 6212
Evolving from the Royal Nepalese cuisine, into an assortment of contemporary dishes

I’m curious about Nepal food, so I took a photo of their menu.  Main course is BBQ/curry, your choice of meat/vegetables.  Starter is Bhenta Tareko (fried eggplant with Nepali herbs); Samosa (stuffed deep fried cone pastries with light spices) or soup of your choice (pumpkin, tomato, lamb, mixed beans), coffee and tea.  HK$98+10% service fee.

If you want to spend reasonable money and enjoy unique food in unique stylish comfortable restaurants, you may want to spend a month to do your lunches in this area.

The set lunches for most restaurants are set around HK$98+10% service fee.  This may be the way shop owners keep themselves competitive.  Please prepare to pay a little more if you choose to go a la carte.   

There are places lining up with Italian restaurants, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, British…you name it and you’ll find it.  If you want to explore more about Soho restaurants, click here.

Hong Kong Travel Blog - Soho Restaurants

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ocean Park Hong Kong

I went to the Ocean Park this Monday (25/6) on my birthday, free of charge (hey, local residents only).  In the same period Ocean Park is celebrating it's 35th anniversary.  Being one of the world's most visited theme parks, Ocean Park has a completely new look after its recent rennovation in 2011.

Many come to the Park to see the giant pandas.  Let me tell you, they are always sleeping.  Don't expect to see them in motion as in promotion videos.  Of course, if you are lucky enough, you'll see a sleeping panda, or you'll simply see an empty cage.  In order not to let you down, you must have to see the Red Panda.  This active lovely creature is far more worth seeing.

Must See
The Grand Aquarium
Goldfish Treasures
Sea Jelly Spectacular

Must Do
Cable Car (long waiting line)
Ocean Express (minimum waiting, 5 min ride connecting low and highland of the Park)

Shows (approximately 20 minutes)
Whiskers Harbour (Seals)
Ocean Theatre (Dolphins)
Birds Theare

Getting There
Take bus 629 from Admiralty MTR

Adult: HK$280
Children: HK$140
Birthday (local resident only): FOC, half price for accompanying partner

Time Table
Open daily 10am. Opening hours and show time has seasonally changes. Make sure to pick up a guide map at the entrance.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

City Hall and Sir Robert Black

March 2012 is the 50th anniversary of the Hong Kong City Hall. There are series of celebrations including exhibitions and free dancing shows.

Last Saturday I went to see the exhibition of the history of City Hall and found something interesting.  As we all know, Hong Kong became a British colony since 1842.  Since then English became the official language here.  Today we seldom have chances to read some really formally written English or Chinese.  I just found one at the exhibition and have decided to share with you here.  Mind you, the name of the then governor of Hong Kong was three lines long.  Here you go:

On the occasion of the formal opening of the City Hall on 2nd March 1962 His Excellency Sir Robert Black Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael & St. George, Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Governor & Commander in Chief of the Colony of Hong Kong, presented this scroll to the Urban Council upon whom the management of the City Hall had been vested by Ordinance on Wednesday, 29th March 1961.  It was received on behalf of the Urban Council by the Chairman the Honourable Kenneth Strathmore Kinghorn, Justice of the Peace.


You may notice that there are no punctuation marks in the Chinese version.  Yes the original was written that way.  In fact, ancient formal Chinese was written without punctuations.  The use of punctuation marks were only introduced in the recent 100 years or so.
The Higher Block of The Hong Kong City Hall and it's garden.  The building next to it was the Mandarin Oriental which was also built in the 60's.  Thought the building built at that period were similarly tall.  City Hall used to be a giant building at the waterfront of Central when it was built.  Nowadays it becomes a tiny little building surrounded by skyscrapers in Central.
There were several venues in the City Hall presenting various kinds of dances which recaps a short history of all the cultural performances being held here in the past half a century.

Hong Kong Travel Blog - City Hall 50th Anniversary

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hong Kong Chinese New Year Firework 2012

It is a tradition in Hong Kong that on the 2nd day of Chinese New Year, firework will be shown atop Victoria Harbour. I live on Hong Kong Island, so my best place to view firework is Wanchai ferry. In fact I must say viewing firework from Tsimshatsui waterfront is the best. Below I've borrowed a photo from Ming Pao which is taken from Tsimshatsui and is really stunning.

Weather is really cold this year - only 8 degrees and it was quite freezing standing for 23 minutes outdoor at the harbour front. Even so, there are thousands of people crowding over both sides of the Victoria Harbour, not to mention people viewing the show from boat cruises, restaurants, offices and homes with harbour view.

Firework at Victoria Harbour 2012
Photo source: Ming Pao

Next year if you happen to visit Hong Kong during Chinese New Year, don't forget to view the firework show at 8pm on the 2nd day of Chinese New Year.

Hong Kong Travel Blog - Firework 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chinese New Year Photos in Hong Kong

As Chinese New Year is approaching, the city of Hong Kong is getting more and more colourful. Shops, restaurants, homes, everywhere - people are beautifying places with flowers and all kinds of CNY decorations. Let me share with you some of the views of Hong Kong.

Large floral decorations at Pacific Place Shopping MallA Close Up of the Tao Hua. May be weather is getting warm, flowers are opening up quickly.
Red and gold are typical Chinese colours at Chinese New Year. A big new year decoration at the shopping arcade of Times Square.
Even on a street, you can find decorations like this - Russell Street, outside Times Square.
My office is here at Times Square. Here are the tangerines at the lift lobby.
Almost all commercial buildings are deocrating their lift lobbies. Here's another one resembling the year of Dragon.
Chinese like gold bars, gold cubes, gold everything are used to decorate display windows.
The floral arrangement within hotels are added some Chinese colour as well. The yellow ones are only available around Chinese New Year.
Some traditional new year decorations outside a hotel restaurant.
The reception areas of a Chinese restaurant. See beautiful floral arrangements.

Even MacDonald's is adding some Chinese taste to its cappuccino. I really don't know how they turn their house symbol 'M' into this Chinese character 'fortune'. Wonderful!

Chinese New Year Dim Sums are all given good names. The dumplings below have pork's tongue, dry oyster and hairy vegetable - all related to profit, good business and lucky money.
Pork's knuckle is also a must-eat during Chinese New Year, meaning lots of lucky money throughout the year.

City Views of Hong Kong - Chinese New Year 2012