Tag Archive | "Hong Kong"


Dolce and Gabbana Photo Fiasco

Posted on 08 January 2012 by onthegroundtravel

Once in a while, we find companies put themselves in these unfortunate circumstances that arouse public anger against them, when all the bad press could have dissipated quickly if only the companies had been quick to react.

Today, Dolce & Gabbana is in hot water for allegedly stopping photographers from taking pictures of its storefront from the side-walk.  First of all, as travelers, I am sure many of us have encountered situations where a store or business is not comfortable with you taking pictures of its interior.  But being stopped for taking pictures of the store front?  That’s really a first.  If anything, we all know the side-walk is a public area, and everyone should be allowed to take pictures there.

No Photo

Now, Hong Kong people are so infuriated about the situation because to add insult to injury, it was alleged that the security guards at D&G told the photographers that only mainland tourists who are visiting from China are allowed to take pictures!  Really?  Someone really has the gut to tell Hong Kong people that they have less rights than visitors in their own town?  Doing so is not only discriminatory, but given the current environment, is completely culturally insensitive.

One can argue that this is an isolated incident, and that the action of the security guards in question does not represent the official D&G stand.   This could very much be true, but if that’s the case, the most effective way to deal with the public’s discontent is for D&G to come out with a public statement stating such.  Even an offer of some sort of promise to beef up its diversity training  would ease public anger and all the bad press will go away quickly.

In time of crisis, keeping quiet is the worst of all strategies.   Photographs are said to be worth a thousand words.  Preventing photos from being taken in public places are worth just as many words.   Don’t mess with photographers!

For the full story check out the articles from the South China Morning Post and the Telegraph.


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Let’s have some Dim Sum in Hong Kong! – Part 2 of 2

Posted on 06 January 2012 by Danica

In part 1 of  “Let’s have some Dim Sum in Hong Kong!”, I discussed a few common and tasty dim sum dishes to try out.   Now that you know what to order let’s talk about when it’s served and how to order.

3) When

Dim sum is traditionally a breakfast food.  However, most restaurants now offer it until ~4pm. Dim sum price is also dependent on the time you arrive/leave the restaurant.

The dim sum hours and price varies by restaurant, but in general, there are three sessions:

a) Morning (opening time until noon):  If you want the lowest cost dim sum, this is the best time to go.   But don’t overstay your welcome since you often must pay and leave the restaurant by noon to be eligible for the lower prices.  If you leave after noon, you must pay the lunch time price.

b) Lunch (noon until ~2pm):  This is when almost everyone goes to have dim sum.  Not surprisingly this is when dim sum prices are at their highest.

c) Afternoon Tea (~2pm until ~4pm):  Prices are either the same as the morning or somewhere between the morning and lunch prices. You must enter after 2pm.

While we are on the topic of prices, all dim sum dishes are categorized into 5 different levels: S, M, L, XL, XXL.  On the dim sum ordering sheet or the restaurant menu, the specific price for each category is listed.  Then, next to each dish, either the specific price of the dish or the category that the dish belongs to is listed. Note that while the dishes are categorized into different “sizes” such as S, M or L as mentioned above, the category does not necessarily represent the size of the dish, but rather the perceived value of the ingredients inside the dish.  For example, anything with seafood such as the shrimp dumpling is likely to be L and above, no matter how small is the actual dish.

4) How

When you arrive at the restaurant, the hostess will either a) ask you how many people is in your party and lead you directly to your table, or b) give you a number so you can wait in queue until a table is available.  It is customary for Chinese to share table during breakfast and lunch at a restaurant (dim sum or not).  So don’t be surprised if you get seated at a partially occupied table.

If you want a table to yourself, ask the hostess when you arrive, but the restaurant may choose not to accommodate your request.   You will have to wait much longer for a private table than a shared table.

Once you are led to your table, you will be asked what type of tea you want.  There are many types of Chinese tea to choose from.  If you are not sure, just say green tea or black tea etc. My favorite tea is Jasmine tea, shown here:



The waitress will bring you back two pots: one with tea and the other is just hot water.  In some restaurants, an extra empty bowl is also provided.

The tea pot has… well, tea.  The hot water however serves 2 purposes: 1) It provides hot water for the tea in case you need more water; 2) Some Chinese also like to rinse all the utensils, bowls and plates themselves, so you can use the water to rinse in the extra empty bowl provided for you.  I don’t usually do step #2, but it really depends on you and how comfortable you are with the sanitary environment of the restaurant you go to.  When you run out of water for your tea, just tell the waitress and she will refill the water for you.

By the way, a small charge for tea per person (not per serving) will be added to your bill.  Can you decline the tea, you ask?  I suppose you can, but no local ever declines tea.  So I don’t really know what the reaction will be…Try at your own risk ;)

At this time, you should see some dim sum ordering sheets on the table.  In traditional restaurants, servers push food carts with different dim sum dishes around the restaurant.  When they pass by your table, you can just point at what you want.  Many restaurants in the U.S. that sell dim sum still use this system.  However, in Hong Kong, almost all restaurants have transitioned to the made-to-order system.  You need to locate these dim sum ordering sheets on the table, check off the dishes you want, and hand them over to the waitress.  In Hong Kong, mark the items you want with a check-mark, NOT a cross (‘X’) like we do in the U.S., otherwise you will confuse the waitress.  We briefly forgot to do this and ended up with a confused waitress.    dsc_2039


After you have done this step, relax and your food should arrive shortly.  If you want more, just mark them on the ordering sheet again and repeat the process.



When you are ready to pay the bill, just tell the waitress and you should be all set.

We hope you find this two-part dim sum series helpful for your travel.  Dim sum is integral to the Hong Kong culture.  If you have never had dim sum when you come to Hong Kong, it is like going to Italy without trying pizza, Morocco without the tangines, and Spain without the tapas.

So go on out and try some dim sum!  And while you are in Hong Kong, don’t forget to watch the Symphony of Lights performance by the Victoria Harbor!  What’s your favorite dim sum dish?  We would love to hear from you!


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Let’s have some Dim Sum in Hong Kong! – Part 1 of 2

Posted on 05 January 2012 by Danica

When many tourists come to Hong Kong, they automatically assume the standard cuisine of the Hong Kong people is Chinese food.  While this is true, “Chinese food” is such a generic term that it hardly describes the regional uniqueness of the cuisine that’s popular and common here.  What I miss most from Hong Kong is the DELICIOUS dim sum that is typically served in the morning till early afternoon.  Therefore, in this two part post, I want to introduce you all to the art of ordering dim sum so you too can know what to order when you are here.

For today, I will focus on what is dim sum, the most popular dishes and where they are served.  Then tomorrow, I will touch upon when to go for dim sum, how to order them, and some cultural tips so you are comfortable ordering them on your own.  And of course, if you still have questions after reading the posts, just drop us a comment below!

1) What

I think of dim sum as the Chinese version of the Spanish tapas, with Chinese tea replacing your sangria.  Dim sum is a collection of small meat or vegetarian dishes.  It is usually served with Chinese tea (no surprise here!).  In recent years, you can also order other types of beverages such as bubble tea (you HAVE to try it), or other healthy drinks made with different herbs and vegetables common in this part of the world.

Some of the most popular dim sum dishes are:

a) Ha Gaau (Shrimp Dumpling, 蝦餃)


b) Siu Maai (Shaomai, 燒賣)


c) Cha Siu Baau (Barbecued Pork Bun, 叉燒包)


d) Cheong Fan (Steam Rice Noodle Roll, 腸粉) – Note that there are many different types of fillings.  Most popular are beef or shrimp


e) San Juk Guen (Bean Curd Skin Rolls, 鮮竹捲)



2) Where

Most Chinese restaurants offer dim sum seven days a week.  Note I said restaurants, not cafes or noodle shops, and certainly not places that serve cuisines from other parts of the world!  These restaurants are usually quite large in size, and most likely require you to walk up some stairs or take an elevator to get to.  This is because real estate in Hong Kong is like gold, and very few restaurants (…none?) can afford such a large space on the ground level.  If you are not sure where to find one, just ask the hostess or the reception desk at your hotel.  These restaurants are more common than you think if you know where to look.

Here is how a typical Chinese restaurant that serves dim sum looks like inside:



Now that you made it inside the restaurant, do you know what to do?  If you don’t, the waitress is likely to just bring you an English food menu and you will end up ordering the same thing that you always do back home, like pork fried rice, chicken with broccoli etc.  How boring!   If you want to actually order some dim sum, then come back tomorrow for the second part of this series where I will go through the mechanics of ordering dim sum.

See you tomorrow!

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Happy New Year from Hong Kong!

Posted on 31 December 2011 by onthegroundtravel



Hundreds of thousands of people gathered along Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong to celebrate the arrival of 2012.  This year, the countdown started at 11pm with periodic fireworks shooting off from the iconic buildings along the Harbor every 15 minutes.  At midnight, a spectacular pyrotechnics display, with its center along the facade of Two International Finance Center, marked the beginning of a new year.

Tips for Your Travel:

1) We have recently blogged about the ideal location to watch The Symphony of Lights performance along Victoria Harbor.  The same rules apply for watching the New Year’s fireworks, including staying on the Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) side rather than anywhere else on the other side of the Harbor.

2) If you find the crowds along the Harbor is too unbearable, then sorry, for New Year’s Eve, the TST promenade is the best and only option you have if you want to watch the fireworks.  All viewpoints inside the Ocean Terminal are closed at 8pm to the general public.  For 2011, the Ocean Terminal had a shopping promotion, where  if you made more than $1000HKD in purchases at two different stores inside the Terminal and charged the purchases to a credit card, you would be able to redeem a VIP ticket to view the fireworks from the upper garage.  The promotion started around Christmas.  Next year if you use this option, please make sure that the store you make a purchase on is part of this promotion.  There are several shopping areas connected together to the Ocean Terminal so if you’re not careful you may accidentally walk out of the Ocean Terminal into another mall without realizing it.   Note that these tickets are very popular, so hurry and get your hands on them before they run out!


3) Arrive early!   We mean Times Square on New Year’s Eve early.

We arrived at 7pm thinking that we’d be early enough to find a nice spot to view the fireworks.   Really, who would wait 5 hours for a few fireworks!?   Apparently thousands of people.   It turns out that the TST promenade is a great picnic area, and so by 7pm, many revelers already settled down with blankets, playing cards, and having dinner.   If we were to do it again, we would arrive by 4pm at the absolute latest to stake out a decent spot.

4) If you are like us who typically scope out the location the day before to identify the best photo spots, know that on New Year’s Eve, police typically create a 4-5ft buffer zone along the Harbor.  This buffer zone will become an issue for your photography, so if you want to capture a clear unobstructed view of the fireworks from all the buildings (such as the ceiling of the upper level on the promenade) at midnight make sure you plan for it.  Experiment with your camera by stepping back several feet from the edge of the Harbor and you’ll know what we mean.

5) Good luck and enjoy the show!  Hong Kong also celebrates Chinese New Year with a similar fireworks display, and we are certain that the tips above apply for that day also!    If you missed a good photo on New Year’s Eve and are around for Chinese New Year  you’ll have a second chance!


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Christmas in Hong Kong!

Posted on 24 December 2011 by Danica


Few other cities celebrate Christmas like Hong Kong does.  Every year around Christmas time, buildings on both sides of the Victoria Harbor are lit up with Christmas lights.  The nightly Symphony of Lights performance is particularly attractive around this festive time when laser beams dance around the city, energized by the holiday lights.  The light and music show starts at 8pm but it only  lasts about 10 minutes so it’s essential to be at the harbor or other viewing points in advance or risk missing the show.

While people in other countries typically spend time with their families indoors on Christmas Eve, Hong Kong people take to the streets to watch the lights, shop, have dinner, and Sui Yeh (another meal after dinner) on that day.

Yesterday, we decided to participate in this Hong Kong tradition of viewing the festive lights on Christmas Eve.  We boarded the Star Ferry from Wanchai to Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) in early evening.  The lighting was perfect for pictures around this time, and we were able to get a few good shots of the Hong Kong skyline from the ferry.  We arrived at TST around 6pm, and the Harbor was already packed with crowds jostling for the best position to watch the Symphony of Lights performance at 8pm.  We had dinner as quickly as we could (almost all restaurants had queues stretching out the door!).  Fortunately, we still had time after dinner so we went to Ocean Center to window shop.

We then joined the crowd of tourists, locals, families and photographers (many equipped with tripods) to watch and photograph the Symphony of Lights.   From there we went along Salisbury Road and Nathan Road with the rest of the crowd to see the area Christmas Lights.  The roads were closed to traffic to accommodate the thousands of people in the area.   Despite the large crowd,  everyone progressed in a civilized and orderly fashion.  Around midnight, we headed back home via MTR.


Tips for Your Travel:

1) Take the Star Ferry from Wanchai to TST.  You can take pictures of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center and the Golden Bauhinia Square before boarding the ferry, and you will be right in the middle of all the action when you arrive in TST

2) Catch the Symphony of Lights show at 8pm from TST.  Although you can watch the show from both sides of the Harbor, the view from TST is more impressive.  The soundtrack is broadcast is different languages: English on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; Putonghua on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; and Cantonese on Sunday

3) If the harbor front area is packed and you find yourself looking for a quiet spot to take some pictures of the Harbor, try heading to the top level of the parking garage inside the Ocean Center.  It’s outdoors, the crowd is minimal, and the views are just as good.

4) Be prepared for road closures and traffic detours on Christmas Eve.  But don’t worry, the crowd is orderly, traffic signs are in English, and you should not have a problem finding someone who speak English to help you.

5) If taking the MTR, insure you have enough money loaded on your MTR ticket or Octupus card for your return trip.  The metro stations in the area will be packed and you will have to wait in long lines to recharge your card or ticket.


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