For Noraizah Zainal Abidin, Hong Kong is perfect for halal food, easy transport and great shopping.
Noraizah Zainal Abidin
I have always figured that Hong Kong is to my Singaporean Chinese colleagues what Kuala Lumpur is to me — the getaway for fantastic food, “shiok” shopping and an overall enjoyable experience.
So at the ripe old age of 35, I decided to check the place out not once but twice within a year.
On the first trip I made with my husband in December 2010, we discovered the shopping scene and halal eateries there. The second trip in November last year was a more family-focused trip to Disneyland with much less shopping and not nearly as many gastronomic discoveries.
The direct flight to Hong Kong is just four hours, which is about the same time I would have taken to head north to KL via the North-South Highway. On our first trip, we booked a budget flight on Jetstar.
However, on our second trip, with children in tow, I appreciated the bells and whistles Cathay Pacific Airways offered. The kids’ activity pack helped to keep them occupied on the flight. The inflight entertainment also had a good selection of kids’ programmes.
Finally, the aerobridge which linked the plane directly to the airport certainly helped to ease the burden of lugging our bags and shepherding the restless children.
From the airport, travellers can take the Airport Express train, a clean and comfortable ride that whisks you into the heart of Hong Kong in under 30 minutes. We did that on our first trip. On our second trip, though, we took a cab straight from the airport to our Disneyland Hotel.
Getting around Hong Kong on both trips was a cinch. The city is well connected by the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) and with the help of its smartphone app, we navigated around effortlessly. Cabs are also aplenty and decently priced.
A little-known fact about Hong Kong is that it has over 30 eateries and restaurants that are halal-certified by the Incorporated Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong. This regularly maintained list can be found on the Hong Kong Tourism Board website and it offers a good range of dining experiences from cafés to bistros to five-star restaurants.
On both trips, our halal food trail began and ended at Hong Kong International Airport. Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits, like its Singapore counterpart, serves halal-certified American-style fried chicken and can be found in the departure hall.
But what is a Hong Kong food trail without its famous dim sum?
On our first trip, we made our way to the Islamic Centre Canteen at Oi Kwan Road in Wan Chai. There, we had our fill of halal and delicious dim sum, steaming soft bao and lo mai kai lovingly wrapped in leaves no less (not patted into aluminium foil bowls like those found in Singapore’s coffee shops).
Halal food was a tad trickier on our second trip as we were not near the city centre where a number of the halal eateries are located. So we made do with the halal prepacked selection we found at Taste Supermarket at Citygate Mall on the first day.
On the second day, we made our way to Discovery Bay Plaza to check out Ebeneezer’s Kebab, a café franchise which serves halal pizzas, steaming hot rice served with curries, fish and chips and of course kebabs.
Given that both our trips were rather short, I had to plan my shopping strategically and get the focus right. We zoomed in on two key shopping areas — Citygate Mall and the markets.
Citygate Mall is conveniently located right beside Tung Chung MTR station and Lantau bus terminal. It houses more than 80 international brands of a wide range of products.
On both trips I checked out the Coach, Kate Spade and Crocs outlets for good bargains.
If you had to choose a market to visit in Hong Kong, you cannot go wrong with the Ladies’ Market in Mong Kok. Located near Mong Kok MTR station, the market offers bargains in clothing, bags, accessories, and souvenirs.
Do not be afraid to haggle — that’s part of the fun of shopping at the Ladies’ Market. One tip I picked up from my first trip there is to walk away when your first counter-offer is turned down.
The shopkeeper will then typically call you back and feign disappointment with your offer and negotiations can then start.
Several airlines fly direct from Singapore Changi Airport to Hong Kong International Airport. Cathay Pacific flies 9 times daily from Singapore to Hong Kong.
■ At Disneyland Park, a one-day pass is sufficient to check out most of the rides and performances.
■ Citygate Mall is 10 minutes from Hong Kong International Airport. You can drop by after touchdown or en route to the airport. Store your luggage in lockers while you shop.
■ Drop by at the markets around noon when the markets open. Shopkeepers believe it is good luck to make their first customer happy.