Websites for buying Hong Kong flights

There are two Hong Kong travel websites which allow you to buy Hong Kong flights online with instant confirmation. One is www.zuji.com.hk, which I have been using since its debut a few years ago. Most recently, another website joined the ranks, www.webjet.com.hk.  The website’s search results give you a glance of airlines, their ticket prices as well as the flight duration and time. The results are based on a single flight with a handling fee of HK$50.  I have not used its service so I cannot comment.

Zuji is a bit different. The booking is based on return flights. No handling fee is charged. My experience with it has been good. Its flight ticket prices are among the city’s lowest. But it comes with one disadvantage. If you want to change your outbound flight time after the e-ticket is issued, you have to pay a charge, a practice that you won’t encounter if you buy your flight ticket through an “offline” travel agency.

Plenty to see: dragon boat races

Last year marked the first year that Dragon Boat Carnival was held in Hong Kong, sponsored by the government money to promote Hong Kong’s tourism. The Carnival will be held in Tsim Sha Tsui East on 17-19 June this year, with 160 teams, local and overseas, participating in Dragon Boat races in Victoria Harbour, accompanied by activities on the land, featuring a Beer Garden serving beer, food booths and performances.

To see the traditional dragon boat races in the city, however, you must come on the Dragon Boat Festival day, i.e. 6 June (Monday) this year. On that day, across the city, races are held in varied districts, with the one in Stanley most famous and with the longest history. Called Stanley International Dragon Boat Championships, the race has 43 years of history and is reported in the media annually. Local companies, especially those big ones, love to send their corporate teams to the racing, as a way of team building and a part of employee welfare.

Besides the above mentioned dates, the city hosts many other dragon boat races during the summer. Here are some other dates in 2011 on which you can see dragon boat races:

29 May (Sunday)– Cheung Chau (outlying island)
5 June (Sunday) – Mei Wo, Lantau Island (outlying island)
5 June (Sunday) – Chai Wan, Hong Kong Island
5 June (Sunday) – Cheung Chau (outlying island)
26 June (Sunday)– Tai O, Lantau Island (outlying island)
26 June (Sunday) – Stanley, Hong Kong Island
1 July (Friday)– Lama Island (outlying island)
9 July (Saturday) – Shing Mun River, Shatin
10 July (Sunday) – Sai Kung
17 July (Sunday) – Shing Mun River, Shatin
7 August (Sunday) – Cheung Chau (outlying island)
21 August (Sunday) – Shing Mun River, Shatin
4 September (Sunday) – Ap Lei Chau harborfront

Shenzhen visa

(update on 25 Aug 2014: it is reported that passport holders of Philippines and USA are not given Shenzhen Visa at the border.)

If you plan to go to Shenzhen from Hong Kong, just get a Shenzhen visa at Lowu or Huanggang border. No need to apply for a China visa in advance. But this is the case only if you are a passport holder of certain countries, such as most of the EU countries, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. US citizens are not eligible for this Shenzhen visa, so are passport holders of the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Cameroon, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Israel, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Sudan, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The Shenzhen Visa Office at Lowu is immediately upstairs after clearing the Hong Kong immigration and customs. It is open 9AM-10:30PM seven days a week and accepts RMB for payment only. The visa is a five-day visa and costs RMB160. If you are a UK passport holder, you will be charged a much higher fee at about RMB470.

A friend has just got a Shenzhen visa for RMB160 at Lowu border. According to him, the whole process took about half an hour. You will first get your queue number, and when it is your turn, you give your passport to the staff for checking, followed by making payment at another counter. You will then have to wait again for your turn  to collect your passport, this time with the visa.

It was a Sunday when my friend applied for the Shenzhen visa, and the visa office, he said, was surprisingly not crowded with foreign travelers, but with Filipino domestic helpers working in Hong Kong and hoping to spend their only free day in a week in Shenzhen.

Note that the Lok Ma Chau border (the one connected by MTR) has no Shenzhen visa service. You can only apply for a Shenzhen visa at Lowu border or Huanggang border.

Biking in Hong Kong

If you want to bike in Hong Kong, the best place to rent a bike is the Tai Shui Hang bike park near Tai Shui Hang MTR station on the Ma On Shan line. In the park, there are three bike shops, all of them offering a full-day bike rental for HK$20 (US$2.6), from 9:30am to 6:30pm (the official opening hours of the park are 9am to 6pm). For that moderate price, don’t expect the bike to be very a professional one. If you want a better quality bike, pay more.

a bike shop in the park

Before you reach the park, you will also find a bike shop which offers bike rental from 9:30am to 8pm for HK$20, and sometimes HK$15. The opening hours are slightly longer.

Hong Kong’s best bike paths are located in the Tai Wai / Ma On Shan / Shatin /Taipo areas in the New Territories. In all these areas, near the MTR stations, you can probably find bike shops for bike rental. But it is sure that you won’t be able to find the rent as cheap as HK$20 for a whole day.

The bike park in Tai Shui Hang is in the Ma On Shan area, from where you can bike to Tai Mei Tuk in Taipo (a place close to Plover Cover Reservoir), passing through the Hong Kong Science Park. Be assured that the scenery along the route is beautiful. You will find yourself biking along the sea or surrounded by hills at times. Well, you will also find yourself biking in the Taipo Industrial Estate area, where some of Hong Kong’s factories are located, including the fast food chain Fairwood. You can smell curry in the air.

the section of path next to science park

If you don’t know much about Hong Kong, biking is a very pleasant way to experience the city. It is a shame that Hong Kong has a very limited number of bike path – there is none on Hong Kong Island.

How to go to Tai Shui Hang bike park

Take exit B of Tai Shui Hang MTR station. Turn right where you see a cement road leading to trees. The park is 2-minute walk away.

More information

It is about 18km from Tai Shui Hang bike park to Tai Mei Tuk. A return journey would be 36km. For a rent of HK$20, you have to return the bike to the bike shop on the same day. Or you pay a little more, to return the bike at Shatin or Taipo at a designated bike shop.

the thai restaurant I went to

It takes 1-2 hour bike ride to finish one way journey, depending on how strong you are and how good your bike is. In my case, it took me almost 4 hours to bike from the bike park to Tai Mei Duk and return, in sweltering heat.

Tai Mei Tuk is famous for Thai food. It is such a pleasure to sit down for some delicious Thai food after some hard biking.