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Things to Watch Out For

Hong Kong is very safe, in just about any location and at just about any hour. While signs warn of pickpockets on the trains, we never felt threatened in anyway anywhere. In the major tourist areas the police are very visible in two-person foot patrols and were always quite helpful in giving directions. That said, a few parent pointers:

  • Chinese folks joke they eat anything with legs but the table. In the open air markets you can see snakes, turtles, pigeons, chickens and other Disney-esque critters in cages waiting for supper- you supper that is. If your children are sensitive, beware. Chickens are de-feathered in the markets in a pretty aggressive way that really looks like it hurts. We occasionally saw stall workers taunt or tease the animals to make them appear more lively.
  • That said, if you want to see a real market in action, go to Central Market early any weekday, near Queen Victoria Street and Queen's Road Central (and yes lots of stuff is named after one Queen or another).
  • Chinese people love kids, and yours may come upon some (perhaps) unwanted attention in a small family restaurant. It is all harmless, but getting swept up by a stranger can be scary.
  • Crowds are everywhere. Carry your little ones, or otherwise keep an eye that they don't get smushed accidentally.
  • In restaurants very hot bowls of soup, as well as steel plates heated red hot and covered with beef are being carted around fairly willy-nilly. Keep the kids on the inside, away from aisles. The hot tea served automatically as your butt hits the chair is very hot. Careful.
  • Tap water is generally safe to drink (we never got sick) but could in some places upset tummies. Bottled water is sold in most stores, including 7-11's placed about every 100 meters it seems.
  • Traffic moves on the left, the "wrong" side of the road for those from North America. For the first few days you will find yourself looking the wrong way when crossing a street. Be safe and look both ways until you get used to the difference.
  • Nobody knows what "no MSG" means. Assume it is in your food and act accordingly.
  • The power in Hong Kong is 220V (in the US it is 125V). Your hair dryer, shaver and Gameboy from Ohio will not work.
  • Bring along that goopy hand gel sterilizer. Most smaller places do not have clean toilets or a place to wash hands before easting.
  • A chain pharmacy called Watson's is everywhere in Hong Kong. The products they sell are primarily from the UK, so be prepared to do some label reading if you need over-the-counter medicines and are not from the UK. Watson's also has paper diapers in abundance at reasonable prices, as do other stores.

Taxis

While on this subject, a few words about taxis. Taxis are everywhere at all hours in all colors and variations. There are many taxis. Wherever you are, there will be a taxi nearby, even in the fancy his-'n-her double sink bathroom in the hotel. Taxis are plentiful, and they are reasonably priced for short trips.

Just be ready to do the developing world thing with the driver. Here, we'll practice:

You: To the Star Ferry please.
Your Driver: You want a custom suit?
You: No, to the Star Ferry please.
Your Driver: You going to Kowloon? Use my taxi, faster than ferry.
You: No thank you, to the Star Ferry please.
Your Driver: How about a good restaurant? My brother makes excellent dim sum.
You: (With feeling) to the Star Ferry please.
Your Driver: OK, to the Star Ferry.

Just say it politely, decline the other suggestions and the driver will catch on soon enough. We were never cheated on a fare or felt in danger, though it was darn silly to have to go through the drill each time we entered a taxi.

Anyway, enjoy it in the spirit intended.

Touts

The only touts we encountered anywhere in Hong Kong were just after exiting the ferry terminal on the Kowloon side. For reasons known best to themselves, there are armies of sweaty men from India and Pakistan who come up to you and half-whisper “Custom suit sir?” or “Copy watch madame?”. Just keep walking; they won't follow.

If you do want a custom suit or a copy watch (“Twenty dollars US for this Rolex, with genuine Seiko movement inside!”), please don't buy them from these guys, it will only encourage them to keep hassling the rest of us.

The touts do probably have their own web site, but you'll have to find it yourself.

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