Comparing short stays in Shanghai and Hong Kong


Posted by Caleb | January 24, 2017

Continuing our retroactive posting strategy….here’s another!

Thinking about taking a short trip over to China to explore some of the grub, culture and mega-city life?  We thought it was a good idea and with new visa rules, and turns out it is a piece of moon cake to get in.

We spent five days in Hong Kong and three in Shanghai and for a non-relaxing, 12 hour-day traveler, that was about right.

We hit Shanghai first, using the new 72-hour visa to get into the country for free with little hassle.  This new rule allows travelers from most western countries to apply for a visa on-site and get in for free for 72 hours, compared to the old method of getting an invitation from the government.  Here is a good blog to help you with it.  The only thing you need to prepare is printed proof of your exit flight to present with your I.D.  Once they see that you are planning on leaving, you’ll breeze through.

Tips for Shanghai:

  1. See the big stuff but don’t plan on dedicating an entire day to each attraction. Nanjing road, the Bund and People’s Square are all worth the sight.  They are all surprisingly clean for any country and the amount of electricity being pumped out could be melting glaciers by itself.  However, don’t plan to spend more than an evening walking around if you don’t have the it for full on shopping.  All these areas are heavy on the prices, light on the English.
  2. Hit up the tea. One of our favorite activities was a tea-tasting. We visited the FengHui Tang Styled TeaHouse, tucked away in a little corner of the Old Shanghai district. We were the only ones in there and ended up getting a private, pressure-free tasting. It is free if you buy something, or if you love tea but prefer to drink the free kind since you live in hotels, you can pay $10 USD each for the tasting.
  3. Save on money and time….Ride the metro.  Despite there not being much English, it’s still relatively easy to navigate and the quickest way to move around the sprawling city. Just beware that sometimes you’ll walk for what feels like miles underground past rows of McD’s and designer stores before getting to the actual subway entrance.

Hong Kong Tips:

We also spent five days in Hong Kong.  It was enough to get a good feel for the city, not quite enough to do everything we wanted.  Here are a few of the hits.

  1. Dismiss the markets, head to Hollywood: If you have been on the road for awhile or if you aren’t looking for cheap souvenirs, stay away from the daily markets.  We tried out the Ladies market and the Mongkok area but were not impressed as it was a revolving door of the same crap.  If you are looking for more interesting (but expensive) stuff, head to Hollywood Road in the Soho neighborhood as it is lined with antique shops and custom art that can at least offer variety and as with nearly everywhere in HK there are some trendy bars and restaurants nearby.

Fun to walk around for awhile in Mongkok but we were sick of cheap souvenir markets by this point.

  1. The Best Happy Hour in the World: Check out the Stone Nullah Tavern in the Wan Chai neighborhood.  It is a beat-the-clock happy hour starting at 5 p.m., M-F.  Drinks start at $1 HK Dollar (about 13 US cents), with prices doubling every 30 minutes.  Crazy cheap prices and the expats know it, however it was run smoothly with ample number of English speaking staff.  The food is cheap too, we suggest the meatball sliders. For comparison, the average drink price in Hong Kong is around $13, making this literally the best happy hour in the world.
  2. Cheapest Michelin Starred Restaurant: Michelin the tire company puts out a restaurant guide every year and it is supposedly a big deal to get any star from them.  One of the cheapest restaurants in the world to receive said star is in Hong Kong, a dim sum (small plate) place called Tim Ho Wan.  We attended and ate like one of those fat Buddhas.  We went at about 2:00 p.m. on a Wednesday and were immediately seated and had our food within 15 minutes.  I suggest trying this method as we read several other places that the lunch and dinner crowd can be a pain.
  3. Don’t miss the views from Victoria Peak and Tsim Sha Tsui: Touristy or not, you can’t go to Hong Kong and not take in the world-famous skyline from these two vantage points. You can hike to the top of Victoria Peak, but if it’s 100 degrees you won’t want to. Ride the tram instead, just be prepared to wait in line and throw an elbow or two to squeeze in. The Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade offers scenic views the harbor to Hong Kong Island. It’s stunning both during the day and night, but don’t worry too much about catching the daily light show, we rushed around to get to the harbor to see it one evening and were ready to bolt after 45 seconds.

View from Victoria Peak

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