My mini Hong Kong guide, part 2 (places, accommodations, and other tips)

For part 1, which featured my food finds, click here.

PLACES

Boo

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I’ve never been to a gay bar outside the country (writes someone who hasn’t even been to OBar), so I considered it a treat when a friend offered to take me to Boo, which was just across our hotel in Jordan.

Boo targets ‘bears,’ which in gay culture means someone who’s stocky and fuzzy, and well, looks like a bear. Nevertheless, everyone is welcome here, though once you part the curtains and enter the place, expect everyone’s eyes on you.

I liked the bartenders and waiters—they wore these orange overalls that just make you want to hug them, lol. They were very friendly, too; they made sure to get us seats and liked to kid around.

Hoegaarden and Stella Artois (I forgot the third) are served draft in 500ml mugs, aside from your usual cocktails.

The place has a relaxed vibe, which is perfect for lounging and having a conversation. There’s a karaoke machine which is more charming than annoying, so expect cantopop songs playing nonstop with the occasional Beyonce and Lady Gaga. Dancing however, is limited.

There is no entrance charge.

5/F Pearl Oriental Tower, 225 Nathan Road, Jordan

Disneyland

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Go on a weekday and if you only have a day to spare, then start first thing in the morning. If you don’t like being tossed around by roller coasters and just want to relax, then Small World (hear the song sung in Tagalog!) and Mystic Manor are my highly recommended rides.

Edward, the greatest (and cutest) animal balloon maker I've ever seen!

A post shared by Jason D. (@bluearden) on

The food however is expensive (meals start from US$73) and bad for any standard. They couldn’t even get hotdogs right, as Pam would attest. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about it since you can’t bring food or drinks, except for water.

There are no Frozen characters or merchandise yet as of this writing.

www.park.hongkongdisneyland.com

SHOPPING

K11 Art Mall

If you are a design enthusiast, you’ll likely have a field day at K11 Art Mall. From installations to wall art to lounge and café chairs, you’re bound to recognize international names that have headlined the art world.

I’d qualify this as a boutique mall due to its specialized nature and select retailers, which means the place isn’t crowded with tourists who are hoping to shop in as many wide-ranging stores in one stop.

Prices are in the mid- to high-range, though there are what I consider good bargains for small tech accessories, such as M.Craftsman power banks. Also, a pair of Dr Martens are cheaper by HK$40 here, than those I saw in Fa Yuen (Sneaker Street).

18 Hanoi Rd, Hong Kong

Kapok

A store is found in K11 Art Mall, but if you are on Hong Kong Island, visit their flagship and larger store in St. Francis Yard.

Nevertheless, its shop in K11 is well stocked. You’ll find well-edited selections that are not widely available in most of Hong Kong.

It features beautifully crafted leather goods, such as bags, cases, wallets, and bracelets; and accessories like watches and silver. This place is perfect for any stylish man in your life.

www.ka-pok.com/webshop

ACCOMMODATION

Shamrock Hotel

Hotels in Hong Kong are getting smaller and more expensive. While scouring the net, I actually saw rooms with no walls between the bed and toilet/sink, except for an open divider.

I would highly recommend booking months in advance via AirBnB, especially those offering units in newly built condos for half the price of regular hotels.

Otherwise, Shamrock Hotel in Jordan should suffice if you could afford to shell out more. It is in a perfect location, right next to an MTR, at the heart of TST and the night markets. (And across Boo, lol!) The free Airport Express shuttle bus also stops a few yards from the entrance.

The entire property reminds me of a boutique hotel due to its size. The room is cramped but my 6’1″ frame fit on the bed just fine. The service is excellent—I never had to wait for more than 5 minutes when I requested for an adapter (only 1 per room) and chopsticks. Towels are replaced daily. There’s also daily room cleaning and turndown service. Overall, this is a well maintained hotel.

From HK$900+ a night; 223 Nathan Rd, Hong Kong-Kowloon

OTHER TIPS

Money Changer at Chungking Mansions

Chungking normally conjures thoughts of scammers and shady characters, but this is actually where I ‘discovered’ the best money changer for Philippine pesos (PHP) so far. I found it back in 2001 and I’m amazed it remains a reliable money changer through the years.

When I went there, the buying price for PHP was 0.175, which was so close to the market price that day (about 0.18). (The second best I saw offered 0.16 near Jordan station; the worst were Travelex at the airport and Western Union.)

If you’re trading a large amount, these cent differences matter a lot.

It’s the entrance beside ‘Sony’; the shop should be the third money changer on the right (I think it’s the one with the widest counter. In any case, just compare the displayed rates when you’re there):

I only compared the buying rate for Philippine Pesos so I’m not sure if they offer a good rate for other currencies.

One2Free SIM card

With free messaging apps, getting a Hong Kong SIM is more practical than activating your roaming service.

I got the One2Free prepaid micro SIM card for HK$88 (HK$100 for nano SIMs), and registered for the HK$78 seven-day unlimited data plan, leaving me with HK$10 for calls and texts. But with apps like Viber, I didn’t have use for the HK$10 as having a data plan allowed me to text and call local and international numbers for free. (Also, when I switched my local SIM card to One2Free, Viber retained all my existing messages.)

Signal was good the entire time, no lags. Speed was okay from Disneyland to The Peak and everything in between.

However, note that data is capped at 3.5G a month. Heavy data users are penalized with a slower connection. (Think torrent and streaming high quality videos).

The Hong Kong Tourism Board and PCCW jointly offer their own SIM package but the disadvantage is you can’t top up or ‘load’ your card, which might be a disadvantage if you need phone credits for emergencies.

The card is available in 7-11, but if you buy it at a 1010 Shop (CSL), they can set up the data plan (you need to subscribe to it) and switch SIM cards for you. 1010 has a stall at the airport.

Level 7, Departures Check-in Hall, section F

Airport Express Travel Pass

This ticket includes unlimited MTR travel for 72 hours, plus the remaining hours of operations that day. For discounts, order online.

Don’t forget to claim your HK$50 deposit when you surrender your card at the airport! More details here.

Airport Express also offers free shuttle bus to/from hotels and check-in services at its Hong Kong and Kowloon stations. See other info.

Airport Express Single journey: HK$209 (online price)
Airport Express Roundtrip: HK$285 (online price)

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