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The Hong Kong Visa Run – June 2017

What a great trip to this amazing city!  As usual, finer details are below for friends looking at doing this trip from Da Nang.

I’ve never been to Hong Kong before, but Jim visited 34 years ago with one of his RAAF mates, Flan.   I was absolutely gob-smacked by the concrete jungle but also very impressed with the efficiency of transport from the airport to the hotel and then from the hotel to the actual flight and also the ferries.   We stayed at the Ibis Hong Kong Central & Sheung Wan Hotel and the views across Victoria Harbour were amazzzzzzzzzzing from the 32nd floor.  Also the location was excellent and walking distance to the SoHo area, Hollywood Road, the MTR, Stanley Street Markets, Ladder Street (I thought I was going to DIE :/) and a few minutes walk to the ferry terminal.  Perfect location really.

On arrival, we caught the airport train to Central for $170HKD (2 people) and then a complimentary bus to the Hotel.  We had a list of things to do, depending on the weather and how we felt and embarrassingly, we didn’t do much except take in the surrounds and enjoy.  We were supposed to meet Jim’s mum and dad who were stopping in Hong Kong for the day with their Cruise, but there must have been a misunderstanding somewhere along the line, as it didn’t happen.  What was crazy though, is that we bumped into friends from the Gold Coast, Jennine and Andrew which was completely unplanned!  We knew we were going to be there at the same time but thought we’d catch up in Vietnam when they were there and we all had a little more time.  So in the end, we had a great afternoon and a few beers and we look forward to seeing them again in Da Nang in a week or so and showing them a few of our favourite places here.

One tour we had planned was to Victoria Peak which provides panoramic 360° views of Hong Kong from The Sky Terrace 428, but the trams apparently were broken down and tourists would instead have to travel there by bus.  We did catch a taxi to the terminal however as there were a g-zillion people lined up and that line did not seem to be moving, we jumped into the next cab back to the Hotel.  That was an experience too – we’re sure that taxi driver was on something the way he was fidgety and driving.  It reminded us a little of our first Thailand driver experience! For some reason he went down some little road, and the police pulled him over.  I was secretly hoping they’d drug test him and we’d have to go to a new taxi but that didn’t happen.  

Jim’s version…

And it is Jim here, continuing the story. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Honkers. Even the airport has moved out to another island now where there is plenty of room. It is a huge airport and quite easy to get around funnily enough. When departing there, the checking in is super quick and efficient, just as you would expect from this city. Then when you get advised you are departing from Gate 217, you start to realise how big this place is. The gate numbers go up into the 500’s just for your info. And all we could find was signs saying ‘Departure Gates this way’. So we followed them and ended up on underground train that didn’t seem to have a driver.  Caught us a little off guard here but we were following the signs. So this little back to the future train flies through this tunnel, where we are instructed to get off, only to get onto another train. Then the penny drops as there are signs everywhere for the various gates. We find ours easily enough, and end up leaving this place super impressed with its infrastructure.

I may have jumped the gun there a bit as there is more I want to say about the city. Like Learne said, very easy to get around. Not so easy finding a pub if you are not in the pub areas. Once we worked out we had to head to the SoHo District, all was good as there are pubs everywhere. There is a huge expat community in HK but it is a little different to the expat communities we are use to in either Hua Hin or Da Nang. We are assuming that most of the expats here actually work and are actually on pretty good coin. They would have to be as going out in HK is not that cheap. Probably comparable to average decent city pub prices in Oz though when you think about it.  When in Da Nang, we are use to approx A$1.50 beers and A$6 wines. In HK, these were on average about A$10 for either. Our first night in SoHo was a Friday night, so you could imagine the place was pretty busy. Good fun going out and enjoying the city pubs for a change where not everyone is dressed in t-shirts, shorts and flip flops.

After that Friday night, the next day I at least planned to do a little touristy stuff and thought the walking tours around the same sort of area would be a good starting point. Took us a little while to leave our hotel room in the morning, because like Learne pointed out already, we had an exceptionally great view of the Harbour and downtown Kowloon. And it was a fairly hot day and one us was a little dusty from the night before, and doesn’t like going out in the heat when she feels like that 🙂 So this walking tour involved a fair bit of walking as you would imagine. So our Maps.me app does not work as well as it should when surrounded by skyscrapers, so there was also a little back tracking, and eventually we got to the famous Ladder St. Now to describe this street, is quite easy. I wouldn’t call it a street. I would call it a staircase. A very long staircase that goes up a very steep hill over several hundred metres between the ring roads that run around that area. And we had to go to the top. I dead set thought Learne was going to have a heart attack! I was sweating but she was really struggling. Hence we didn’t complete that tour but instead found a pub, where we had one beer and cooled down. Walked out of that pub straight into Jennine and Andrew, who had just walked out of another pub about 50 metres away. What’s the chances of that happening?  Needless to say, we all ended up back in a pub.

I would call Hong Kong a vertical city as everything either goes up into the sky or down under the ground. Those MRT stations are a long way down to get to the platforms, and the trains run all over the island and also under the harbour to the mainland and other islands. Other than the airport express, we caught a few local trains. Australia could learn a thing or two on how to set up a railway. Their station platforms are very different. Long and a real skinny platform where you stand facing a glass wall waiting for the train. Never really got a good chance to look around the platforms as we never waited for more than 30 seconds for a train. Once the train pulls up, not only does its doors open, but so do the ones on the glass platform wall. We always seemed to end up in the centre of the train, where I would look both ways and could not see the ends of the train. They were busy without being packed and really fast. Great experience. They also have plenty of trams and buses running around the city, if your game. Taxis everywhere also, but the drivers are a little out there for my liking, but they are cheap enough.

I’m sure there are some really good places to eat food in HK with a huge selection of restaurants, but that’s not really our thing. Generally we are quite happy to eat where the locals eat, and even though we tried a few different dishes, nothing really blew our hair back. It was all about seeing a new city. It is not somewhere we could live as it is a full on city with little green space. There just didn’t seem to be any escape from the hustle and bustle. But I am happy I went back and I’m glad Learne got a chance to visit and experience it.

Jim’s report on the arrival back at Da Nang’s new airport

And after me sleeping all the way home on the 1.5hr flight on Hong Express, we arrived at the new Da Nang International Terminal which has only been open a couple of weeks. It is big, it is modern, but if you need a visa on arrival, be prepared for a lengthy wait of an hour or so if everyone else on your aircraft also needs one. If there is something that lets Vietnam down, it’s their antiquated visa system. Talk about a dog’s breakfast. But the good thing is, if you are travelling to Vietnam from Oz, you can normally get your Travel Agent to organise the visa before you arrive, although that will cost you a few extra dollars. It might be worth it if you are unsure what to do as the visa on arrival can be bit of a daunting experience if you have never done it before.

Then the plan was to hit up an ATM at the airport so we had some Vietnamese Dong to spend, but whoever designed the new International Terminal must have thought that anyone arriving from another country would bring Dong with them as they didn’t bother to put any ATMs in the new terminal. WTF were they thinking? I’m sure they will fix that up soon enough 🙂

So another visa run out of the way and now we’re able to stay in Vietnam for at least another 3 months. I’m not sure if we’ll head back to HK anytime soon. Maybe for the Rugby 7’s or a trip to Macau. There are plenty of new places to discover in Asia, and we have already started discussing this. Cheers.

Details for others planning on doing this run from Da Nang

Visa info

Don’t forget Entry/Exit forms, a passport photo, Visa Letter and USD for stamping fee

Visa Letters $15 USD p/p

Stamp Fee $25 USD p/p

($106 AUD)

Flights

Hong Kong Express (no check-in luggage)

TOTAL $377 USD

($530 AUD)

 

Accommodation

We definitely recommend where we stayed – it was an excellent location:

Ibis Hong Kong Central and Sheung Wan

Address: No 28 Des Voeux Road West, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Phone: +852 2252 2929

Standard 1 Double Bed Harbour View

TOTAL 2868.80 HKD

($488 AUD)

Tipping

Most restaurants will levy a 10% service charge but waiters will expect to be given some loose change. Restaurants that don’t add a service charge will expect a 10% tip. However, tipping is left to your discretion. Bellboys, porters, restroom attendants and taxi drivers are happy to accept loose change.

Taxis

  • Always go according to the meter (required by law), and don’t haggle or accept flat rates
  • Get a receipt at the end of the journey. It shows the taxi number and time of your ride, in addition to the fare. If you have any complaints or left your belongings in the cab, at least you will be able to trace the driver
  • Be aware of taxi touts at the airport terminal and popular tourist sights. There have been reports of drivers asking for double or more than the meter rate at locations such as the Peak, the lower peak tram terminal, and Canton Road. Best to head to the taxi rank if there is one nearby

 

 

 

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