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Short stopover in Hong Kong on 12-31 -- help?

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Hello everyone,
My girlfriend and I will be stopping in HKG for about 8hrs on 12/31, and I figure we ought to make the most of the stop. We land at 1510, depart at 2345, so officially 8.5hrs. I figure it'll take us 30min to get to the cab stand at the airport, and we should probably be back at the airport 1-1.5hrs early, so really just 6.5-7hrs on the ground. I'm a cook, so focus is on eating. Also, I've been to HK, but my girlfriend has not.
Anyway, last time I did this sort of thing, about 10yrs ago, I went for dim sum first thing, and then cabbed it to some waterfront town 30min or so from HK, where the boardwalk is lined w/restaurants w/lots of live seafood out front (I can't find my notes, so am at a loss, plus I'm sure a lot has changed in HK since). I was thinking a similar strategy would work well here, but am seeking advice. We don't do this kind of travelling often, so want to make the most of it. And we're definitely more into cheap authentic eats (i.e. street food, dim sum, etc), than fancy overworked food (i.e. 3-star michelin).
Anybody here do anything like this recently? Any thoughts on what it'll be like there on the afternoon/eve of 12/31--is this going to hamper our travel, or just clear the roads for us? I'm kind of tempted to just hire a cab, guide, etc, and pay them a sum for the day to just take us around, invite them to dine w/us, etc. Is this going to be ridiculously expensive, or worthwhile? Anybody in-country, free, and want to take us around in exchange for food and equitable payment ;)?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. It's about 60 to 90 mins to get into central from the plane door if you go by train - taxi is no faster. The time variation is based on queues at immigration which can be long for non-residents. That gets you into town by about 16:30 which is really too late for a lot of Dim Sum but Tim Ho Wan should still be serving - very inexpensive, but limited, although the good dishes are very good.

    HK is going to be quite on Monday as the Tuesday is a holiday and quite a few businesses will knock off early, restaurants should be OK but you won't get one close to the Harbour with a view as they are prime fireworks spots - and that could be another problem as you will want to leave to get back to the airport about two hours before you leave which could be when the crowds leave the fireworks - so allow for crowds. Given the limited time maybe book a decent early meal at a place like the Ming Court could be better than rushing all over town in the 5 hours you have - and heading to the coast is probably too far.

    Given your limited time why not

    1. I recommend taking Airport Express train to/from HKG, as it is comfortable, reliable and fast. Whether you get off (and get back on) at Kowloon or Hong Kong / Central station, you're talking essentially the period of 4.30p-9p (9.30p if you're not doing the check-in at the MTR station upon return) that you have to roam around. I agree with PhilD that going out to the coast is not really feasible.

      How about this? Take the train into Hong Kong station, head into the IFC for a meal at Tasty's or Crystal Jade XLB La Mien. Top it off with gelato at I Scream Gelato also inside IFC. Then take the Star Ferry across to TST. Kill an hour or so in TST walking the TST Promenade (Avenue of Stars), drink at Peninsula lobby lounge, venture through Chungking Mansion, whatever. Catch the 8pm Symphony of Lights show. Taxi to Kowloon (or better yet, ferry back to Central because you can't get tired of taking the Star Ferry) to catch the return Airport Express.

      13 Replies
      1. re: chowmouse

        Good suggestion by chowmouse! Prefer Tasty's myself since more choices and love their noodles and congees. Instead of Chungking Mansion, I would suggest heading into the side streets and get some Cantonese B-B-Q meats to take onto the plane for 'munching'!!

        1. re: Charles Yu

          Agree with Charles - I'd do Chungking Mansion only if I'm a long-term resident of HK, or else a frequent visitor looking for some spicy Indian/Bangladeshi food alternative to the usual Cantonese or Western fare. Besides, there are a few very nice Indian restaurants on HK island itself these days.

          BTW, wouldn't Lan Kwai Fong be pretty exciting on New Year's Eve? Certainly warrant a peep-in unless the OP wants to avoid crowds.

          1. re: klyeoh

            If there is one place in HK I would avoid like the plague on NY eve it is Lan Kwai Fong. From early evening the crowd barriers will be in place & a strict one way system for pedestrians will be in enforced (enter only from the top IIRC). Think saturation policing, public address announcements etc. There was a crush / stampede there on NY eve several years ago, ever since there has been overkill policing to avoid a repeat. This doesn't deter hundreds (thousands?) of kids descending on the area to wear silly hats & swig booze from 7-Eleven. If thats your idea of fun go for it, otherwise don't even think about it.

            1. re: GayMeadow

              Well, thanks to one of my HK-based sisters and her husband, WE are all going to be watching the fireworks from Aqua restaurant on the 29/30 floor of One Peking Road. I'm spending 10 days in HK over Christmas and looking forward to the New Year countdown away from the heat & humidity in Singapore :)

              I didn't realise this but my sister told me that Aqua just won the Best Italian Restaurant in HK award from the Italian Chamber of Commerce in HK recently. So, they are celebrating their 'Ospitalia Italiana' award in a BIG way this New Year's Eve.

              1. re: M_Gomez

                Singaporean having Italian Pasta ( from Aqua Rome menu ) and Japanese Sushi ( from Aqua Tokyo menu ) in Chinese Hong Kong!! Cool!!! Enjoy!!

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  What a cosmopolitan world we live in, Charles:- I'm Portuguese-Eurasian (from Malacca), my husband's Cantonese Chinese, my 2 sisters who live in HK are married to a HK-Cantonese and a Macanese (part-Portuguese) respectively.

                  1. re: M_Gomez

                    Talk about cosmopolitan world. Fellow S'pore chowhounders Fourseason and Klyeoh might be joining me In Hong Kong next March for the resumption of our annual HK chowmeet! Fancy joining us?! SCMP food & Wine editor Susan and famous local food blogger e_ting plus long time chowhounders Peech and HKTraveller will hopefully all attend!! Should be fun!!

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      Now you nearly made me cry forgetting about me joining in in March as well. ;)

                      1. re: NilesCable

                        Nilescable! PLEASE DON'T CRY!!!!
                        You are always welcome to join and meet the 'regulars'! Depends on everyone's schedule, that's all??!!

                      2. re: Charles Yu

                        Sounds delightful, Charles. Let's see if I can come to HK again so soon after my Christmas and New Year visit.

                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          Charles - count me in as well - hopefully around in March - although Easter plans not firm yet.

                          1. re: PhilD

                            I don't think you need to worry about Easter, as it should happen the weekend before.

                            1. re: PhilD

                              Charles - has this Chowmeet come together for March, I should be in HK around that time and would be keen to put some faces to names. My new email is in my profile.

            2. Thank you all for the replies and ideas. I've been away from the computer for the past week, sorry for not replying to anything myself...
              Recalling the last time I did a simple stopover in HK, I'm recalling now that it was around 12hrs, hence my ability to grab dim sum in the morning and still get lunch on the coast before heading back to the airport... I agree that this time around, only 1 meal is realistic...
              That said, considering that food is the priority, does it make sense to go somewhere like Fung Lum or straight to the coast, sacrificing time in town? If there were time leftover, we could get something to drink in one of the hotels, etc, but otherwise could just head back for HKG...
              Fireworks go off before midnight? Trying to figure out what time we should try and be near the airport express back toward hkg.
              Note that I'm not all that gung-ho on going to the coast, etc, it's just that the meal there last time was so memorable, and I'm more interested in the food than the number of Michelin stars (I've begun avoiding starred restaurants in earnest in the past years since I'm usually disappointed by the quality:price ratio (though I realize that Fung Lum, which I mentioned above, has a star))...

              Thanks again!!
              Jonathan

              5 Replies
              1. re: jnagar

                Not sure if it was Sai Kung that you went to the last time. I understand your burning desire to go back to where you had a great experience. Personally, I don't find Sai Kung to be a place worth going just for food. It's a pretty cool place to go to on a nice sunny day, but it'll get dark within an hour after you'll probably arrive, and Dec evenings can get quite chilly. The last time I went to Sai Kung, I found restaurants to be surprisingly expensive for what you get. But that's just me. Some additional comments...

                - Regarding when to catch the return Airport Express train back to HKG, see my earlier post.
                - You say this will be your gf's first time in HK. Obviously you know her best, but most people would enjoy seeing the HK skyline, Star Ferry, Symphony of Lights, etc, on their first and only visits.

                1. re: jnagar

                  Good point about fireworks, never been for Dec NYE only go for CNY or SAR day and they are early but NYE will be midnight I assume.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    Fair enough--you make a good point re: Sai Kung and my g/f. Like many such experiences, I'm sure with time it's been a bit idealized in my memory. I'll do some research re: the IFC eateries, but your plan, chowmouse, seems to be a good way to take a lot in given the amount of time we have.
                    Last question, though I spent a week+ in HK 10+ years ago, I never did get an up-close view of the big Buddha by the airport--given our proximity, might it make sense to cab it to see it prior to our rush into the city, or am I once again attempting to bite off more than is worth attempting to chew?
                    Thanks again for all the candid advice, folks, I appreciate it!

                    1. re: jnagar

                      I would leave the Buddha out. It is nice to go there, sure, but if you do that, you should also go down to Tai-O to see that nice old fishing village. But if you do that you should plan at least 3 hours. Just to see the Buddha is, in my opinion, a waste of your little time better spent in the city.

                      1. re: jnagar

                        Agree w/ NilesCable regarding the Buddha. For me, the best part of going to the Buddha is riding that new Ngong Ping aerial tram to get there. But all that takes a huge bite off your time, and also I've been there a couple of times when it was so foggy that you can't even see the Buddha from the bottom of the steps.

                        At the IFC, I actually prefer Crystal Jade over Tasty, but it seems to me that a lot of people on this board speak more highly of Tasty. So maybe you should go with Tasty (been to Crystal Jade many times, but Tasty just once for the first time last month). You really can't go wrong with either, as long as you're after good cheap food and not attentive service. Crystal Jade is more of Shanghai-style food but they also serve great DanDanMein and a potpourri of other great stuff. They have excellent XLB's and also love their green beans with garlic and minced meat, and other non-Cantonese dim sum type stuff like this sesame pastry thing that has crabmeat and mushroom inside. Tasty also serves up a great variety of stuff, including great noodle dishes and more of Cantonese dim sum type things. At 4.30~5pm timeframe, you shouldn't have to wait, although on New Year's Eve things could be different.

                  2. Here's a possible itinerary that combines some sights and eats: Airport Express to HK station (do not take a cab!), walk to Tasty for dim sum in IFC. Unfortunately, this area is all high end malls, not interesting in my opinion so you can either jump on the Star ferry at the Central dock OR if you want to see a little bit of this side take the Ding Ding (double decker trams) to Wan Chai and walk to that Star ferry dock. Take ferry to TST, enjoy view of harbour, walk up Nathan Road, Metro to Yau Ma Tei, walk down Temple Street Night market, eat seafood at side walk restaurant, take cab to Kowloon station, Airport Express back to airport.
                    I'm not a local but a frequent visitor and this is a variation of a day tour I did with some first time visitors and they loved it.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: crawfish

                      Again, thanks everybody.
                      We're finally back from our trip, and I thought I'd report on the HK portion should somebody find this thread for a future NYE in HK... We went to Tasty for some bao, shrimp roe noodles, and shrimp dumplings, and then headed downstairs for Crystal Jade for some hot+sour soup and XLB. We didn't face a wait at either place--somehow, just as I was trying to get a number at Crystal Jade, the hostess said she could seat us right away--felt almost like I was cutting or something, but I'm guessing the rest of folks waiting were larger parties. Anyway, everything was good. Shrimp noodles were perhaps the least favorite, and I wish I had ordered thicker noodles for the soup, but it was all great. Sadly, a bug I must have ingested in Vietnam began to take hold between the two meals, and by the end of the whole thing, my g/f and I were feeling pretty crappy.
                      We hopped on the ferry across the water (next time, wish I had brought smaller US bills with me to exchange rather than taking out $100-500 HK just for a $5 ferry ride), and Ave of the Stars was already pretty packed at 7:30. We waited for the show (I have to say quite underwhelming given the huge crowds), and finally fought to get out when it ended. We couldn't even cross the street to get a stomach-settling drink at the Peninsula--as mentioned in an above post, everything was barricaded, and it was a mess. We ended up walking all the way to Kowloon station (stop at a pharmacy for some drugs) and basically got to the Airport Express with enough time to get us to HKG with 2hrs to spare. We could have easily pushed it another hour--little in the way of lines at the airport, but were glad to be back in the airport with enough time to shower and drink some tea. Anyway, all in all, having known how wonderful the Cathay lounge was, were we to repeat on a future NYE for whatever reason, I think we'd just hole up in the lounge and enjoy what looked like great food. Otherwise, could have been a blast in HK, were it not for the ridiculous crowds and cold...

                      Thanks again.
                      Oh, and anybody need a Viettel SIM card for Vietnam? It has next to no cash value left, but it does have unlimited 3g through the 15th of January... I'll give it to you for free if you'll pay for the shipping--I'm in Portland, OR, US, and could send it priority mail for $5 or so, I think.