AN EXECUTIVE’S ADVICE FOR TRAVELING TO WESTERN-FRIENDLY HONG KONG, CONDUCTING BUSINESS AND SEEING THE SIGHTS
Hong Kong, or “Fragrant Harbor” as it directly translates to from Chinese, offers many exciting business opportunities and jaw dropping sights. A former British colony, it is an interesting blend of Chinese and Western culture. I travel to Hong Kong several times per year, since having an office and staff there makes it a necessity.
Hong Kong is one of world’s most densely populated areas on Earth, it’s home to one of world’s most important financial centers, and has more than 1,200 skyscrapers lining its horizon. It is mild in the winter months, but very hot and humid with frequent typhoons in the summer.
It’s relatively easy to travel to Hong Kong. I usually take the Cathay Pacific flight direct from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Hong Kong International Airport (HKG). Service is excellent, and since most flights leave LAX in late afternoon, you arrive in Hong Kong just before cocktail hour the next day, afforded plenty of rest to prepare for your first formal working day. HKG is regularly ranked one of best airports in the world.
Most Americans won’t encounter any major cultural differences when doing business with locals, although Hong Kong people tend to be a bit more formal and conservative. Locals put a strong emphasis on hard work and success and also subscribe to longer working hours—but hey, what’s wrong with that?
Formal western business attire (suits for men and women) is the norm. From a cultural perspective, it’s good to practice the usual formalities that one would in most other Asian countries, such as giving and receiving business cards with two hands. When receiving a business card, handle it with care and look over it for a few seconds before putting it away.
English and Cantonese are the official languages in Hong Kong. Cantonese is the primary language spoken by locals, but most people, especially the younger generation, speak English. Not all taxi drivers speak English so it’s always a good idea to have hotel or business destination addresses written in Chinese to show them for reference, just in case.
Luxury business hotels abound both in Kowloon and across Victoria Harbour on Hong Kong Island. My favorite is the W Hotel in Kowloon. You can take the Airport Express train as soon as you clear immigration at the airport all the way to Kowloon Station. It takes 24 minutes and runs every 10 minutes. Kowloon Station is right under Elements Mall where the W Hotel is. Simply take the elevator up to the W Hotel and you are there!
Another beautiful and newer hotel is the Ritz Carlton at the top of the ICC Tower in Kowloon. Make sure to go to the very top to the Sky Bar at night and look out over the beautiful city lights of Hong Kong.
When you get hungry, you’ll find a wide array of international food options. Local delicacies include dim sum (bite-size foods typically served in bamboo steamer baskets), hot pot and sushi.
When the sun sets, the fun begins. Lan Kwai Fong is the hottest night life spot in Hong Kong, frequented mostly by white collar workers and expats. Award winning dining with more than 100 bars, restaurants, shops and clubs makes Lan Kwai Fong a favorite for many.
Hong Kong boasts highly developed public transportation along with a clean and efficient subway system. There are many taxis and buses roving throughout the city, but be careful when crossing the street—they all drive on the “wrong side” of the road.
Make sure to save some time for sightseeing. Most popular is Victoria Peak, the predominant mountain in the western part of Hong Kong island. You can take a tram to the top for a stunning view of the city and harbor. While you’re up there, have a bite at The Peak Lookout restaurant and see the panoramic view across Victoria Harbour.
Other popular spots are the Mid-Levels Escalator, located in the Central business district; it is the longest outdoor covered escalator in the world, measuring 2,600 feet long and 443 feet vertically!
Most any spot located on the Victoria Harbour waterfront is a great place to view the “Symphony of Lights,” a 13-minute laser light show beginning every night at 8 that synchronizes 40 buildings affixed with lights on both sides of the harbour with a musical score, creating a fantastic visual experience.
Make sure to leave some time and take a taxi over to the other side of Hong Kong Island on the peninsula to visit Stanley. It’s a small seaside area with an array of small shops and street stalls and two of Hong Kong’s most beautiful beaches.
Last, but not least, if you thrive on chaotic shopping experiences, check out the Ladies Market on Tung Choi Street. You can hone your bartering skills and negotiate with some of the best purveyors of inexpensive clothing, accessories and souvenirs at more than 100 stalls.
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