I don’t know if I can say that I’ve really been to Hong Kong. According to my passport, I’ve been here 5 times, and all 5 times I’ve been stuck at the visa office.
My experience of Hong Kong is basically limited to a few stops on the metro, mainly Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui. Wan Chai is where the visa office is, and that’s where I have to go two to three times on every trip to Hong Kong.
Everyone who’s ever had to get a Chinese visa will know that it’s a trying experience. The lines are long, they don’t always open when they say it will, and the policies always seem to be different than what’s on their website. Which is what I found out after waiting 2.5 hours…and on my birthday too!
That’s right, a little over an hour before they stop giving numbers, and there’s still 210 people ahead of me…
There really isn’t any reliable way to know exactly what you need to obtain a Chinese visa. Sometimes you need proof of accomodation (hotel) and a return flight to get a tourist visa, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you need proof of relation if you’re visiting a relative, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes they ask for an invitation letter sometimes you don’t. At the Chinese office in Thailand, I was asked to get a health evaluation for my work visa, even though it wasn’t listed on the website. I’ve tried every single time to get a multiple entry visa because it says I can on the website, and it’s never worked before, but I got it this time. You just never really know what will happen, and the infuriating thing is, you just have to deal with it.
In general, Mondays and Tuesdays aren’t a great time to go for a visa. If you are planning to go on those days, you should go half an hour to an hour before opening, or the line will be heinously long (see above picture). They won’t give you a number unless you have a completed form; they pass out applications while you’re waiting in line. I wouldn’t recommend downloading the forms from the website, because they’re often outdated;I think there’s only been once or twice where the form I downloaded was accepted. You should have the information ready (in general, home address, work address, address in China), as well as a passport picture. If you’re visiting an individual, you’ll need an invitation letter from that person, as well as a copy of their Chinese ID or passport. A foreigner with a residence visa in China is allowed to issue invitations. Oh and disregard the “Applicants are advised to apply his/her Chinese visa from the Embassy or Consulate-General of Peoples’ Republic of China in the country where he/she resides or works permanently” notice on their website; they do allow people who don’t reside in Hong Kong to get a visa.
*Disclaimer, all this information is up to date as of November 12, 2013. I can’t guarantee it’s accurate in the future…
Hong Kong is a mix of the old and new; you’ll see evidence of traditional Chinese culture mixed with all the amenities of the modern world. You’ll see the bright white Apple store and Louis Vuitton on one street, and herbs and street vendors on the next. There old hostels and glamorous five-star hotels. You can have wonton noodles for $3 at a local cha chaan tang (tea cafe), or crab and winter melon soup at a 2-star Michelin restaurant. There’s something for everyone!
Taken in Wanchai. Some women doing Taichi under an office building!
Taken on one of the many skybridges in Hong Kong.
The one bright side of my terrible visa ordeal was that I found this great restaurant, Yin Yeung, in Wan Chai. Usually they don’t take walk-ins (they require a reservation 5 days in advance), but I told him it was my birthday (it really was!). I’m really glad they let me in, because it’s one of the best Cantonese food I’ve ever had! You don’t order anything, they have a set tasting menu. I spent HK$200 on this meal, but mine was a special order and not their full-course meal.
Taken at Yin Yang in Wanchai. Make a reservation before going!
Organic vegetable soup. All the vegetables used at this restaurant are grown in a local organic farm.
Organic vegetable with shrimp sauce. No idea how they make a simple stirfry vegetable dish so good!
Claypot rice with Wagyu beef and music egg. Not sure what a music egg that is but it’s good! I personally don’t like to eat it with soy sauce, I find it covers up a lot of the natural taste of the beef and rice.
There’s a dessert place at Causeway Bay that I always go to, because they make the best Hong Kong-style desserts (imo of course). It used to be located under the Holiday Inn Express (near Time Square), but now they’ve moved one street down to Yiu Wa St. If you go later in the night, you’ll have to wait in line if you want to sit down, although it’s mostly empty during mealtimes.
Taken of Cong Sao Star Dessert. The long lines of locals prove me right!
My mango milk custard dessert! Got takeout to avoid the line…make sure you eat it quickly though, it’s best eaten cold.
On the same street is an interesting coffee shop called Coffee Academics, offering a huge variety of coffees, prepared they way they would in Europe. Unfortuanately, the service was a little lacking, and the salad I ordered was substituted for another one without my consent. They also didn’t have a lot of the things they have listed on the menu, which was disappointing. However, the manuka honey latte I ordered was definitely different; coffee lovers should still give this coffee place a shot.
Taken at Coffee Academics.
Mauka honey latte! I’m a sucker for coffee art…
I’d heard that the famous ramen shop from Osaka had opened up its first overseas branch in Hong Kong, and being a ramen fan I had to check it out. I was advised not to go during mealtimes, as people have reported waiting in line for FOUR HOURS. Four hours for a bowl of ramen? No thanks.
Taken at Ichiran at Causeway Bay.
The ramen here is served in the Japanese way, designed to expedite the eating process. Each person gets a little booth and fills out an order form that allows you to customize your ramen. Everything is optimized so that as little time as possible will be spent on waiting for service; there’s tissues on the wall, a water tap and cup in each booth and a button to call for service (usually to order food).
They might have booths for groups, but if you come yourself or in couples, most likely you’ll get this a little one like this.
The Japanese way is to provide instructions for everything in order to minimize confusion.
The ramen appeared quite quickly after I handed in my order form. You can choose the type of soup base you want, how soft the noodles are as well as the condiments and toppings.
Ramen with thick soup base, medium soft noodles, spring onion, chashu and a salted soft-boiled egg.
The cost of this meal was HK$101 ($13), which is quite a lot for ramen. The ramen was exceptional, but the price and location (it’s quite hard to find) make me reluctant to go for it again.
I swear, next time I’ll go just for Hong Kong, and really get to know it better. It’s definitely a place worth returning to!