What's yellow and blue and costs pounds 65? A fish supper

MY ROUGH GUIDE

Best Discovery

It sounds odd, but the best thing first-time visitors to Hong Kong discover is that it's Chinese after all. Despite more than 150 years of British rule, life for the Chinese majority has always followed the mainland pattern: food from teeming markets and street stalls; cramped housing and packed public transport; a polytheistic religion celebrated in the home and in smokey temples; intense, stylistic festivals and deep-rooted cultural entertainment. You need have no fear that a visit is somehow second-best to seeing the rest of China.

Worst Accommodation

A tricky one to call, given what lies in wait in the notorious mansion blocks along Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. To be fair, they've smartened up their act a little in the last few years. But even after the "improvements", too many Hong Kong guest houses are still shoe-boxed sized, with paper- thin walls and a turnover of undesirables that's fast and furious.The best advice is to spend as much as you possibly can afford on your accommodation; look on it as extra health insurance.

Favourite Meal

Dim sum - bamboo baskets of bite-sized morsels - are served in most Cantonese restaurants from breakfast onwards. Negotiating a table is an art ; if you've ever been in a rugby scrum you'll have some idea of the technique. After that, it's a matter of flagging down the trolleys being pushed around the restaurant, peering at the contents and pointing. And hoping. Yes, those are braised chicken feet, that's stuffed tripe, and this is a curried whelk to be going on with. If the waiting staff take pity on you, you'll eventually by channelled the more mainstream stuff, like pork and prawn dumplings, steamed buns, spring rolls and fried beancurd. Drink the tea you'll be brought; someone will keep filling up the pot.

Best Market

Every Hong Kong market challenges the squeamish with the locals' insistence on the freshest food, killed to order and carried off wriggling. At Sheung Shui, nearest town to the old Chinese border, the fetid market alleys were where I did my daily shopping. After fondling the silky, purple aubergines, buying plump tomatoes, and picking up bak choy (Chinese cabbage) and bunches of coriander it was decision, decisions - would it be a visit to frog- lady, who cuts live frogs in two for a living; or to pigeon-lady (wrings their necks and then plucks furiously), or perhaps snake-man (skins them alive). Or maybe just a cup of tea and some toast.

Bargain of the Trip

The public transport system is incredibly good value, costing just a few pence to ride the clackety trams or cross-harbour ferries, not much more to use the sleek MTR rapid-rail network. Not that you'd want to do anything foolish like try to get on during rush hour, or on a public holiday, when the entire six-million strong population decides that a nice tram ride is just the ticket.

Biggest Mistake

At the fishing village of Lei Yue Mun you peruse the line of seafood tanks, point to your chosen swimming dinner, which is promptly bludgeoned and cooked. All a bit brutal perhaps for western sensibilities, but that's not the mistake. Always ask the price of the fish before they clunk it on the head. I rather liked the look of the shiny yellow-and-blue one. It was tasty, too. And the fried rice and beer to go with it was an undeniable bargain, at around pounds 4. But pounds 65 for a fish supper?

Favourite View

From the deck of the Star Ferry, crossing from Tsim Shu Tsui, viewing the futuristic skyline of Hong Kong Island is a thrill every time. First impressions are of an organic mass of concrete and glass, stretching back from the water to the encroaching green hills behind. Closer up, the slabs and towers slowly reveal themselves, slotted into every nook and cranny, each outdoing its neighbour in height and design.

Essential Knowledge

Hong Kong is the spiritual home of esoteric information. Take taxis. You need to know whether you're Hong Kong-side (island) or Kowloon-side (mainland) if you're flagging one down; whether or not it's a race day (so that's why I couldn't get a taxi) or about to pour down (ditto); and preferably the name of your destination in Cantonese (few taxi drivers speak serviceable English). And that's just transport. But most of all, you need to know where the nearest air-conditioned shopping centre is, so you can cool off, go to the loo (generally spotless) and idle away time watching the musical fountains.

8 Jules Brown wrote "The Rough Guide to Hong Kong". For the latest developments in travel, subscribe to the free newsletter "Rough News", published three times yearly. Write to Rough Guides, IoS offer, 1 Mercer Street, London WC2H 9QJ. A free Rough Guide to the first three subscribers each week.

FACT FILE

Accommodation

The Hong Kong Hotel Association (00-552/2383 8380) has a reservations office at the airport and will only book you into registered, mid-range hotels. An Airbus from the airport takes you directly to Nathan Road, where hawkers brandishing cards will do their best to lure into their guest house - treat all names ("Harbour View", "Chungking Hilton", etc) extreme suspicion.

Dim Sum is usually served from around 7am-5pm; get there around noon, before the lunch rush, for the best food.

Getting about

Sheung Shui (and its market) is on the Kowloon - Canton Railway (KCR) line, around 45 minutes from central Kowloon. Buy an MTR Stored Value Ticket, which is valid on the KCR as well as the MTR (Mass Transit Railway). Trams operate only on Hong Kong Island. Best ferry ride is the TSim Shai Tsui - Central Star Ferry ride, a seven-minute crossing.

For up-to-date transport information call the MTR Hotline (00852/2750 0170) or the KCR (00-852/2602 7799).

To reach Lei Yue Mun, take the MTR to Sai Wan Ho, a ferry from there to Sam Ka Tsuen and then a sampan across to the fishing village.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Buddy DeFranco
people
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Day In a Page

    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month