A note for those of you reading this.
1. It's very long.
2. If you wish to reply, please don't quote the whole post, just the part you would like to comment on.
3. I have a lot of info including maps and phone numbers and addresses of things we did on this trip, I just don't have the time right now to post it. Feel free to ask.
Hong Kong and Macau, China
Hong Kong - Macau Trip Report
Monday morning, 7:00am
We got to JFK at 7am, a full 3 hours before our Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong. Check in for Business Class was an absolute breeze, as was the special security section. As an added bonus, we met Steve Martin at security, and got his autograph. We proceeded to the British Airways Terraces lounge, which we had access to because of the Cathay-British relationship. The lounge was nothing crazy, but it was pretty nice. Two of my friends took showers in the lounge which they said were awesome. The lounge had a full, self-serve bar with plenty of beer and some pretty expensive booz. I just had a bowl of cereal and some orange juice...all on the house of course.
Business class on our Cathay flight was pretty good. The seats were similar to what I sat in last year, on First Class with Virgin. Each seat is private and has a 17" screen with enough TV shows, movies and music to last the 16 hour flight. The seat is a lie-flat seat, so after takeoff I arranged my seat that way and got some much needed sleep, although I found it to be much more comfortable to sleep in the reclined position, as opposed to lie-flat.
When we arrived, we hopped over to the Macau Ferry Transfer desk and bought tickets for the turbo-jet. The tickets were $29USD each. Our departure time on the ferry was not for another couple of hours, so we chilled in the airport, visiting random stores and checking the place out. There is a 7 minute bus to the ferry, and the ferry takes about 35 minutes to get to Macau. The regular economy seats on the ferry are fine for such a short trip.
We didn't go through immigration in HKG, so upon arrival into Macau we needed to do that. The lines were pretty bad, but luckily we got off the boat first so we made it through in under ten minutes. It just so happens that we only had carry-on with us, but if you have checked luggage, the ferry company will get your luggage for you and have it available when you get to the Macau port.
Upon exiting the Macau Ferry Terminal, we took a cab to our hotel, the Holiday Inn on Rua De Pequiem. We went to sleep almost immediately and woke up at 4am. After enjoying the microwave meal mart meals we brought along, we went walking around. Our first visit was to the Wynn Macau, and then to the MGM Grand. After that we took a cab (about $50HKD, or $6USD) to the other island and visited the Venetian. The tables here in Macau have very low minimums. You will find some which are $10HKD which is about $1.30USD. Others are $25HKD or $50HKD, still a cheap thrill. After the Venetian we came back to our hotel, did some food shopping, and went back to sleep for a few hours to be able to stay up the rest of the day.
(You should not plan much for the first day after travel. Even travelling in business class and having the luxury of a lie-flat bed will not prepare you for how jet-lagged you will be.)
When we woke up we checked out of the hotel and took the free shuttle to the ferry terminal. If you have bags to check, you should get there at least a half hour before. You also need to go through exit customs where they stamp your passport so give yourself some extra time, but there's definitely no need to get there more than an hour before.
When we got back to Hong Kong we went to check in at our beautiful Courtyard by Marriot Hotel. We felt like we were the only ones there, as there were 6 people at our beck and call helping us when we walked in.
From the hotel we took a taxi to the "Peak Tram" to Victoria Peak. The price for the roundtrip tram is $37HKD, or $49HKD for the tram and access to the skytower, which, for the extra $2USD is definitely worth it.
The Peak is absolutely stunning, with views on a clear day for miles. There's also a whole shopping mall at the top of the peak. Be sure to visit Haagan Daaz if you're not Makpid on CY. (Make sure to check the lids of the containers for an OU-D.)
After the peak, we went to Shalom Grill, which is less than a 20 minute walk from the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal. The food there was decent. There's also a small grocery inside the restaurant, and there's a shul upstairs.
The next morning some of us went to Shachris in the Chabad at 61 Connaught Rd (same building as Shalom Grill) and (from what I hear) there was a full catered breakfast available afterwards.
We headed out by cab to the Star Ferry Terminal and from there boarded the Big Bus Tour. Unlike what they have in London, here there are no live guided tours, rather you must listen to the recorded voice on the headphones. The tour was pretty interesting. We did not get off at all in Hong Kong Island although if you do get off, you can hop on the next bus a half hour later. The cost of the Bus was high, but we bargained the girl down to about half of what she originally wanted.
When we got back to the ferry area, about a 75 minute ride, we took the ferry across to Kowloon. From there we walked along the boardwalk for about 15 minutes (beautiful views and picture opportunities) and then did another short 5 minute walk to the Mul Hayam restaurant in the Wing On Plaza at 62 Mody Rd. The steak there was excellent and the service was as well. There's a shul on that same floor if you require.
After eating our hearty lunch, we hopped on the Big Bus and got off at the stop that was just a few blocks away from what's called the "Ladies Market" and walked there. Don't let the name fool you...there's plenty to be had here. From fake Gucci, Prada and Burberry purses, to copies of Rolex, Brightling and Cartier watches, and little chachkalach of all sorts, you can find anything. There's an electronics market a few blocks away, and a street called Temple known as "Night Market", but I visited neither of these.
One thing you must know about Hong Kong (and China in general as well), is that everything is negotiable. Aside from Department Stores and upscale retailers, you should never pay the price they ask for. If they want $170HKD for a pair of sunglasses, offer $20HKD. I'm not joking. Stick with the lower offer and they will keep coming down in price. Walk away from them and they will call you back and offer you the item for cheaper. You will quickly get the idea of how to haggle just by doing it a few times. It's actually quite easy and really fun!
After hours of walking through the market, we ran over to Jantzen Tailor in the Bank of China Building. Before I tell you about this guy, let me tell you about everyone else. When you walk in Kowloon you'll have 40 people and their grandmothers coming over to you offering you custom suits and shirts. They have guys walking the streets just doing marketing. They'll start at $3,000HKD and before you know it you've haggled your way down to $1,500 or even less. I don't know what type of job they do...maybe some of them are good, but with tactics like they have, I'd prefer to stay away. Enter Jantzen Tailor shop. A kind gentleman by the name of Ricky helped me. He told me that their steady stream of happy returning customers keeps them very busy and they don't need to and never needed to resort to street people doing advertising, or flying overseas to get business. This tailor shop does not negotiate...maybe a couple hundred HKD, but not by much. Suits start at $3,200HKD and shirts start at $300HKD ($412USD and $38USD respectively).
Although I was wearing a cap, Ricky immediately noticed I was jewish and asked me if I will be wearing the suit primarily for Shabbos or for work. He also told me that they use no linen in their suits so I need not worry about Shaatnez. He was very helpful in picking out a fabric, although I felt like the selection wasn't broad enough in the darker style most of us would wear on a Shabbos or to a wedding.
With shirts, they have literally hundreds of designs to choose from, even in the white-on-white department, and of course everything is fully custom, from the sleeve type, to whether the collar stays are built in or not. Of course the same is true about the suits. He even measured my blackberry (Bold, a little wide) to make the small coin pocket found in most pants fit my phone. I was able to choose pocket style, pleat style, belt loop style and position, stitching...you name it. He measured and re-measured about 15 positions of my body and wrote everything down.
I admit though that I did something a bit stupid, but I had no choice. Normally you come in there, get measured, and come back a day or two later once the suit is ready for a fitting, and then they make the final minor adjustments. I did not have that luxury since I walked in at 9pm Thursday night and was leaving Hong Kong at 9am the next morning. So he's shipping me the suit and 2 shirts I ordered (shipping cost: $400HKD) and I'll hope for the best. I figure worst case scenario I'll bring it to my local tailor for some minor adjusting.
A word of caution though about Janzhen. Although they seem very professional, they charged me more than they had originally told me once I pulled out my credit card. For example he specifically told me the suit fabrics I was looking at were $3,200HKD each, but then charged me $3,500. When we walked in he said shipping was $200HKD, but my friend and I were both charged $400. When I approached him about this after seeing the bill he said "come on my friend...it's no big deal." If you plan on going, I would recommend making sure he is absolutely clear with the pricing.
Friday morning we woke up early to go to the airport. Instead of taking a cab which would have been about $350-$400HKD, we opted to take the Airport Express; a bullet train which gets you to the airport in under 30 minutes. The cost was $100HKD per person. One advantage is that you check in for your flight at the Airport Express station before you even board the train, instead of at the airport, where lines can be long. Remember that every flight out of Honk Kong airport is considered an international flight, so you will need to go through immigration and exit customs before you go to your gate.
We went to the Cathay Business Class Lounge across from gate 2 which I had heard is supposed to be one of the nicest in the world, but it was far from it. Maybe that article I read was referring to the lounge by gate 63. It's a shame I missed it. I was looking forward.
Business Class seats on the 3 hour Dragon Air flight from HKG to Beijing were decent. They lean back pretty far and there's plenty of legroom, but it's nothing compared to the first Cathay flight we took. The seating arrangement in the A330 Business Class is 2-2-2.
Next up... Beijing.