Spotlight: Hong Kong
Chinese sophistication rules this cosmopolitan city and financial capital
Hong Kong is renowned for its overcharged, hyperkinetic glamour, befitting its status as one of the world's premier international cities. The distinct Chinese character and sophistication are what make “HK” so much more compelling than any other glitzy, financial capital. A day in Hong Kong can take you from shopping among the city's seven Louis Vuitton stores, to stopping for an afternoon snack at one of countless street noodle shops, where designer bags perch among foldout chairs and ice cold Tsingtao beers. In dusky apothecary shops, you'll find businessmen and ladies dressed to the nines, standing at the counter drinking little bowls of fortifying herbal soup—the Chinese equivalent of an Italian espresso bar—before their evenings out at Michelin-starred restaurants. Hop on a morning round-trip ferry to Macau or China, take an afternoon stroll through the city's rambling hillside parks, and you can still toast the sunset from a rooftop bar. A city where retail shops open from 7am ‘til 1am, and the Mandarin Oriental serves dinner and breakfast at 3am—Welcome to the city that truly doesn't sleep!
The Star Ferry: the ancient green and white double-decker wooden boats carry millions across the harbor from Hong Kong Island back to the Kowloon mainland daily. In less than 10 minutes, and for less than 50 cents (you get a cool brown token to deposit in the machine but you don’t get to keep it!), you get unrivaled views of the world's most spectacular harbor front.
Most tourists make “The Peak” a prime destination, which features the highest mountaintop vistas of the island and neighboring Kowloon. Take a taxi up and the tram down; there’s less of a queue going down than up.
A 20-minute taxi ride from Central to the south side of the island brings you to Stanley, a peaceful seaside area with restaurants and markets and a petite Buddhist temple. Go there to unwind from the hustle and bustle.
Every salesperson, waitress, and taxi driver will speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. A run-in with a stranger on the street will hit at least two out of the three. Restaurants will likely have English menus; just ask nicely! And throughout, British influences remain so all signage is English-translated.
Most memorable experience
Apart from the occasional typhoon, Hong Kong is balmy year round, meaning that island getaways on rented yachts and junk boats is a go-to weekend affair. Nothing beats a day out on the high seas with 10 of your closest jet-skiing, champagne-swilling mates, an on-board chef to grill fresh seafood, a quick lie-down on the beaches of surrounding islands and a sunset return—you and your happy band of sailors will be drunk on music, hazy memories, and Hong Kong's glittering shores. For as low as US$50 a person, it's not a bad way to wrap up a Sunday, every Sunday.
Best places for a single girl or groups of girls to go out
Dinner in Soho (take your pick among the multitude of cuisines), post-dinner drinks on popular and bar-filled Wyndham Street (try Goccia and Pastis). Hong Kong has just about every major Chinese cuisine at your fingertips: dim-sum, Shanghai-ese, Canto, Fuzhou, Szechuan, you name it.
If you want to dance ‘til you drop do you’ll want to do so in the Lan Kwai Fong district at legendary Dragon-i or the new, hip Tazmania Ballroom across the way. For a nightcap and sexy bar, lounge-y scenes try Sevva Terrace or Armani/Privé, both in the Central area.
Safety & Medical Tips
Walking alone and at night
Safety Scale - 1: Generally safe, however remain cautious to your surroundings. Hong Kong may be one of the safest major cities in the world. Of course, exercise the usual precautions if you are in more remote places.
For visitors, generally the only payment option is up-front payment -- unless it is an emergency situation requiring ER attention. To search for private care, www.hkdoctors.org is a website developed and maintained by the Hong Kong Medical Association that provides a searchable database of all registered doctors. There is usually no referral or pre-registration requirement for seeing either GP's or specialists. With private care, doctors will both write and fill prescriptions within their own clinics so that patients receive medication immediately.
Popular over-the-counter drugs for cold/flu symptoms
OTC drugs for cold/flu: Panadol is the most popular remedy and is a UK brand equivalent to Tylenol or Advil. A popular local brand of cold and flu remedies is Fortune Pharmacal. Otherwise, most UK brands and many American brands are also available. Virtually all over the c
ounter medicine is clearly labeled in English.
Watson's and Mannings are the two largest pharmacy / drugstore chains and are ubiquitous throughout the city. Supermarket chains (Wellcome, Park'n'Shop) will also carry medicine and everyday drugstore products. Otherwise local pharmacy shops can offer both Western and Chinese brands; you can recognise the shops by their red cross signage.
Over-the-counter drugs available for curing women’s infections
Thrush: Topical treatments for relieving yeast infections are available at pharmacists/drug stores though they are usually kept behind the counter. Fluconazole may be less readily available depending on the store.
Process to acquire birth control pills
Birth control (including the after-morning pill) can only be acquired with a doctor's prescription.