Sarah

I loved visiting the MUJI shops (Japanese), I also loved going to the wholesale clothing area in Kowloon where buyers from all over the world go to find the next fashion item.

Sham Shui Po, Cheung Sha Wan and Lai Chi Kok

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SarangP

The night markets are an interesting spectacle, and the variations in pricing for the exact same merchandise based on street position (i.e. proximity to the ends of each block) might be interesting to an economist.

Temple Street market and the Ladies Market at Mong Kok are worth checking out.

Corrine

Hello I am an African-American female currently finishing up my exchange year in Hong Kong. I have been traveling in and out of the city,. I never bring anything to declare, but of the 5 times I have re-entered the city I have been singled out by customs each time coming from 5 different locations (Beijing, Newark, Taipei, Tokyo and Bangkok). I only wonder if this is a case of institutional racism or just bad luck

Paul

I strongly suspect that there is an inverse relationship between the quality of tailors and the level of on-street solicitation that their employees engage in.

For example, if you are a well-dressed Westerner in Mongkok, you will be solicited constantly by employees of various tailors, offering cut-price bargains.

But the tailors considered top-end (for example, Sam's, which claims to have dressed President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright, amongst others), do not seem to engage in the same on-street solicitation. (Maybe they solicit at top hotels; I can't afford to stay there!)

Even mid-level tailors seem less aggressive: their well-dressed employees loiter at the entrance to their premises, but do not range further afield.

A brief walk around the tailoring district of Mongkok should bear these observations out. I wonder what the behavior of tailors and their employees can tell the (information-poor) tourist about the quality of the product.

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Ellen Sun

I'm from Hong Kong (currently in Philly for college) and I can attest that as a Caucasian person, you're already at a disadvantage when you shop at local markets in Mongkok and Prince Edward. My white boyfriend had trouble bargaining when he visited me this summer.
That being said, don't skip up on the cheap shopping, great nightlife (Lan Kwai Fong, Wan Chai) and fantastic eats! There's a Robuchon, which is Michelin-starred, but the local eats are the best.

s tsui

check out the horse races at happy valley (on wednesday nights), hire a boat to tour the brand new hong kong geopark, dine at seafood restaurants in sai kung, and tour the city on star ferry and the tram. man i miss home. :)

Jonah Keri

I'm sure you'll get plenty of suggestions for things to do, so instead, here's a topic worth writing about:

Hong Kong built a brand new island to accommodate its new airport, and it's been a boon to the city, bringing in more flights more efficiently with minimal congestion and also not too far out. Why don't more cities do this? Los Angeles has floated the idea, but to no avail. Several major cities around the world would likely benefit from a similar plan.

adora

You have to check out the hygiene theater. After SARS outbreak of 2004, they always (claim that they) sanitize the carpets in the mall. Is there evidence that we are catching virus from our shoes? Many people still soak their shoes with bleach every day when they get home.
They would stick a piece of plastic, like glad wrap on elevator buttons in some small commercial buildings. (Large fancy ones, they hire people to wipe after you.) The plastic is suppose to protect us from viruses but no one ever cleans or change the plastic.
Try coughing in the subway (MTR), people would jump and bust out face mask to protect themselves. While the same people would touch the safety bar in the MTR and eat with their hands.

Also, HK is a city with one of the highest wealth gap. You will see that they hire people to do simple things that we in N. America use machines for. On rainy days, you would see that they have people in commercial building entrances putting bags on your umbrellas (like umbrella condoms, so they don't drip all over). On the other hand, things that are supposed to be expensive are often affordable for the middle/upper-middle class. You wouldn't miss the sea of Gucci and Luis Vutton handbags.

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adora

Also, the contrast of buildings. People often tell you how pretty and nice HK is. Sure, the subway system is impressive, but there is also an ugly side. The urban decay is very serious. Even without earthquake or typhoon, some buildings can collapse. Mainly in Sham Shui Po area. I grew up in North Point, it looks damn ugly last year I was there.

Basically, the most unique thing about HK is the contrast of wealth. You have people eating $8 million truffles on one end, and you have 10% of people living on less than US$600 a month. Yet, the crime rate isn't as bad as in US. Is that because of nice public housing?

It is very humid this time of the year. if you wash your clothes, it wouldn't dry in days.

Amy

Maids! With just HKD$3500-5000 (USD$500-700), you can hire an in-house maid from the Philippines or Indonesia! Even a supermarket cashier can hire a maid.

It causes problem with the lower class and encourage racism against darker skin people. Yet the government thinks it is essential for child care for the middle class. Many young adults under age 30 don't know how to do basic housework. It also devalues labor. You will not see anyone using Roomba, dishwashing machines, clothes dryer... or any time saving housework devices. People who can afford these machines would rather hire maids. Or maybe it is more superior to have someone do things for you?

Dave

I'm a foreigner who's lived in HK for several years.

I'd like to know why there are so few homeless & panhandlers here. You'll see the occasional one or two, but it seems to be restricted to about one for each 6 city blocks. Do the police sweep them to an undisclosed location to keep up appearances, or do the unemployed have other methods of finding food to eat without the need to beg? It's a bit surprising given the ultra-low-tax / ultra-capitalist government here that I wouldn't have guessed provides much of a safety net for the downtrodden.

For an interesting study in the incentives of migrant workers, visit the parks in Central / Admiralty on a Sunday where you'll see a good number of HK's 300,000 - 400,000 female nannies singing & entertaining themselves outdoors on their day off - generally from the Philippines, who leave husbands & children behind for years to make a measly US$500/month to work 6 days/week and on average are treated quite poorly by local employers.

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rusty

because apartments are so small (even for the very rich), and cars are inefficient (narrow roads downtown) and heavily taxed, money that would otherwise get spent on real estate, housewares, and cars instead gets spent... on designer goods? there are certainly different types of products serving as class markers

Harrison B

I'd love to know if Hong Kong is upset about Western imperialism. They benefited a lot, but that doesn't necessarily make it okay.

SP

Having lived in HK for 20+ years, I'll suggest a few.

The Sevens: 26-28 March 2010. It's basically our local carnival, especially if you manage to get into the famed South Stand.

TakeOut Comedy, a comedy club on Elgin Street. The format will be familiar to Americans, but the content is unique to Hong Kong.

Lamma Island. A place to get away if the city gets to be too much. Take a sampan ride from Lamma Island to Aberdeen as well; you won't regret it.

Chung King Mansions. Full of legal and illegal immigrants, prostitutes, gangsters, drugs and fantastic Middle-Eastern and Indian food.

"Cage homes". If you get a chance to visit one, do it.

A Star Ferry ride around 8pm. Try to get on the lower deck, if you don't get seasick easily.

Paul M in VA

Hong Kong is wonderful place. Some ideas:

Something to notice: See the line that forms around the block at Louis Vuitton store in Kowloon. These are MAINLAND Chinese people on vacation. They go to LV store to make sure that they are NOT getting cheap knock-off goods. Strange irony there.

Something to ask about. How healthcare is managed. My understanding is that there are effectively 2-systems. The"public" system that most anybody can make use of and provides basic/poor care, and totally separate system of private hospitals only for the wealthy. Is this what "public" healthcare in America would become?

Someplace to go: Don't miss the men's room at Felix's on the top floor of the Peninsula Hotel. You'll see what I mean when you go...

Julian M

I spent my childhood in HK before coming to the States for college. Besides what's already been said on maids and wealth gaps, here are some really random observations that might be fun to look into:

- re: Weather - What temperature necessitates people to bring umbrellas out in the sun; Demographics of jeans-wearers when it's ridiculously hot out
- re: Food - Tastiness of food vs. Grottiness of place (this HAS to be an inverse relationship)
- re: Wealth - # families that have a personal driver; # families that pay more on their car(s) than on rent
- re: Health - Vitamin C consumption compared to other countries; which beaches have the most elderly people swimming at 5am

Make sure you take the 6 bus from Central to Stanley Market, the "most scenic bus ride" according to Guinness, and costs you less than a dollar (sit on the top deck, on the right side). Best seafood I've had is at Rainbow restaurant on Lamma Island. Also, HK has notoriously good wonton noodle soup - I can't find noodles made like that anywhere else. Have fun!

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Atlanta

I would love to see a discussion of land use and ownership.

It may have changed in the last 8 or so years, but when I lived there the government owned all of the land and financed itself with annual land "sales" which are actually leases for up to several hundred years, paid up front. This resulted in extraordinary housing and office costs due to severely limited supply of land to build on. When I was there, I paid over US$5,500/month for an appt. smaller than what I paid $1,200/month for in Los Angeles (LA ain't cheap). Restricted supply is needed to keep prices high (1) so that the government can sell high in the future and (2) to protect the investments of middle and high-income individiuals who have spent fortunes buying their apartments (50 year mortgages were common).

As an aside, I would also like to know how conservatives can regularly and with a straight face state that HK is the freest economy in the world while all this goes on.

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Madre

So many of the comments above consist of misinformation that I don't even know where to begin. But here are a few facts:

- The public health care system is EXCELLENT. I have used both the private system and the public system (during emergency situations) and I was amazed by the professionalism and care given to us by the doctors and nurses in the public hospitals. The hospitals are well equipped and top notch - they are much better equipped than the private clinics. Anyone with a HK resident card can get care, stay as long as the doctor prescribe, get full meals, medicine etc. for HKD100 only. The only problem with the public hospitals is that they are in great demand and if one is not deemed to be an emergency case, the wait can be long.

I have only ever used private practice when I had my children - even then, should there be any maternal or infant risk, they would ship the patients to the 2 top pubic hospitals affiliated with the university med schools because they are the only ones equipped with the know-how and facilities for such situations.

- a domestic helper in HK makes more monthly salary than a domestic helper in Singapore, and more than a medical doctor in their native country the Philippines. My helper is able to support her entire family and hires a helper to take care of her mother back home. That's why they come to Hong Kong in droves.

- a foreign domestic helper in HK is entitled to pubic health care, public legal aid, and public schooling for their HK-born children. Can the US match this??

- it is extremely racist for people to say that "local" (read: Chinese) employers treat the helpers poorly. The statistics are not there. Many non-Asian expats come to HK and are quick to judge HK people without any understanding or attempt at understanding the local culture or language. I know this is in itself a racist statement but it is true.

- I am currently visiting Texas and I see mostly non-white people serving in restaurants and hotels. I chat with them in Spanish. I wonder why so many Americans come to HK and criticize our society for being racist??

BTW, Hong Kong is fun and don't forget hiking in the country side and going to the beaches. Hong Kong is 70% green. The "urban jungle" is only 20%. Now if you choose to never to get out of the urban ghetto such as Lan Kwai Fong, Central, Midlevels, etc. then you are missing a lot of the beauty of Hong Kong.

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jdiec

@madre
While I agree with most of your points about HK, I have to wonder what sort of white-guilt you must be suffering from to have a blind-spot large enough to miss the obvious racism that exists in HK among all minority groups there on a regular basis. In the 10+ years that I lived there, I have read stories of the way domestic helpers (not just Fillipino) have been treated by their employers that would enrage any but the most jaded Americans. To be fair to the Chinese in HK, I will point out that the HK government has enacted a lot of legislation to help protect foreign workers in and has reached the point where I've started hearing stories of domestic helpers abusing labor laws in order to extort money from their employers who are powerless to fire them without serious legal consequences.
Of course, I'm only talking about racism in one not-so-small minority in HK. I could fill pages with the stories of local attitudes towards mainland Chinese, Inidians, Pakistanis, and Whites (whom get to know how an Asian in the US feels when people assume they are all the same). Suffice to say, I'll save my conversations of reactions to the US electing a black president for another time.
Fact of the matter is, racism is endemic to every part of the world regardless of socioeconomic status. That racism is so well-documented in the US is a testimony to how Americans have chosen to confront it as a real problem in our society compared to most other developed nations who generally choose to sweep it under the rug if not openly persecute certain groups.
To have lived in HK for any extended period of time and say with such a black-and-white moral certainty that Chinese treatment of domestic workers is simply a "cultural and laguage thing" is as incredibly simplistic and patronizing as it is to imply you aren't a racist if an American can speak to a Mexican in Spanish.

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Chester

Try out the local public transportation system, It's far more extensive, efficient and cleaner then what you have in America. You can get to most places in Hong Kong without a car. Take the MTR (Hong Kong subway), taxis, buses and ferries.

Try the local eateries, called "dai pai dongs", which is street-side restaurants. They have truly tasty Chinese cuisine for a very cheap price.

For a bit tranquility, you must visit the Chi Lin Nunnery at Diamond Hill in Kowloon. It's traditional Tang Dynasty-style Chinese Architecture and gardens is stunning and beautiful.