Sunday, June 17, 2012

Discover Hong Kong, discover hong kong
Last minute change in plans meant that I was looking for a travel vacation during the summer vacations. We zeroed-in on Hong Kong, because we had heard that it was a "children-friendly" destination - lots of things /places that children would enjoy.

Had to book my flight tickets, hotel, decide the itinerary in a very short time. I started to look around on the net. I realized that there are huge number of sites/applications that can help you in planning your trip. Below are some useful sites/links.

Airline + Hotel booking: I checked the sites for agoda and expedia.My observation was that the rates at agoda were marginally lower. Room rates from Monday to Thursday are much lower than the rest of the week. Ditto for flights.

Look for a hotel with proximity to the MTR if you are planning to cover the destinations on your own, instead of joining group tours. We booked our room at L'Hotel Causeway Bay Harbour View. Review of the hotel can be found here. This hotel suited us well as the Tin Hau MTR station was across the road.

Itinerary: We started to look around the net to checkout the popular attractions, locations, travel route, etc. The following sites proved to be very helpful

The first one has an interactive itinerary planner where in you can plan your Hong Kong tour. It also has lists of "Must See" which can be used as a reference. has to be referred to for details. It covers minute details about various places, including ticketing, routes, timings, photos, etc.

Mobile Apps: There are a number of apps related to Hong Kong tourism that can be downloaded from Google Play. 
Hong Kong City Guide by TripAdvisor is a good app to install. It lists the various attractions by categories, allows you to search restaurants based on location, cuisine, etc. It lists the phone numbers of the restaurants and has reviews from various travelers. The phone numbers proved very useful when we were actually searching for the restaurant and were not able to find the way.
Hong Kong AR is an augmented reality application which along with camera and gps helps you when you are moving around in Hong Kong. Like TripAdvior app, it also has the ability to search for restaurants and attractions. Most useful is the information provided for the route to take for each of the attraction. 
Octopus Balance Reader is a NFC compliant application which reads the balance on the Octopus card. Just start the application and flash the card at the back of the mobile and the card balance is read. It also maintains a card-wise history of balances read.

Getting Around: Hong Kong has a good rail network and most of the destinations are well connected. We took Octopus charge cards which can be used for travel in buses and the MTR train network. Minimum charge amount is 50 HKD and an additional 50HKD is taken as deposit. Additionally, we were able to use the Octopus card at Mc Donalds, 7-11 provision stores and at the Sky100 observation deck to buy some potato wafers.

SIM Cards: SIM cards are easily available with no requirement for any documentation. I bought a PCCW pre-paid SIM card with a balance of 50HKD. Read the specs for SIM carefully before buying the same. When I bought my SIM, I realized that, it did not support data/3g. I bought another SIM which did support data, but I never got GPS on that.

Food: There are a number of restaurants which can be researched with the sites/apps mentioned above. Getting good Indian restaurants was never a problem. We thought that the Mc D menu for vegetarians was a bit limited. No veg burger. Salad, french fries and hot corn was what we had to settle for.