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Holidays in Howland Island

Understanding Howland Island

Or maybe not

In the early 2000s, a writer of "alternate histories" put up a web site which presented itself as the official site of the government of the "Republic of Baker Howland and Jarvis", portraying a bustling tourism destination spurred in part by Earhart's celebrated stop here, including a fake CIA World Factbook article providing statistics for the island nation The web site is no longer online, but puzzled more than a few armchair travelers

Discovered by the US early in the 19th century, the island was officially claimed by the US in 1857 Both US and British companies mined for guano until about 1890 In 1935, a short-lived attempt at colonization was begun on this island, similar to the effort on nearby Baker Island, but was disrupted by World War II and thereafter abandoned The island was established as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1974


Howland is an equatorial island with scant rainfall, constant wind, and burning sun


Low-lying, nearly level, sandy, coral island surrounded by a narrow fringing reef, with a depressed central area It is almost totally covered with grasses, prostrate vines, and low-growing shrubs, with a small area of trees in the center It is primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife

Talking in Howland Island

For most Hong Kong people Cantonese is their mother tongue It is more or less the same as the Cantonese spoken in Guangzhou, but the Hong Kong version tends to incorporate some English words and slang, which may sound strange to other Cantonese speakers Cantonese is the lingua franca in many overseas Chinese communities and Guangdong and Guangxi province Like all the other Chinese "dialects", Cantonese is a tonal language and definitely not easy for foreigners to master, but locals always appreciate any effort by visitors to speak the local lingo, so learning a few simple greetings will get you aquainted with locals much more easily

Unlike Pinyin - standard romanization system for phoneticizing Mandarin, Cantonese so far hasn't developed a well recognized romanization system and local people seldom bother to learn them However, some accurate phonetics system do exist for learners, such as the Yale system or Jyutpin Like Taiwan, Hong Kong continues to use traditional Chinese characters and not simplified characters as used in the mainland, though almost all locals are able to read simplified Chinese All official signs are bilingual in both Chinese traditional and English

唔該 M̀h'gōi! Just one Cantonese word that will go a very long way in Hong Kong Learn this word and you can use it to say please, thank you and excuse me M̀h'gōi rhymes with boy and should be said with a cheery high tone rising at the end Give it a go


As a second language, English is less well spoken compared to the likes of Malaysia, India and the Philippines, although still used much more widely than in Thailand, mainland China, Korea and Japan Education in English begins in kindergarten, and fluency in English is often a pre-requisite for securing a good job As a result, English is spoken fluently by most professionals and business people In contrast, English proficiency tends to be more limited among the average working class person, particularly outside the main tourist areas In addition, while many people are able to understand written English pretty well, they may not necessarily be comfortable speaking it Nevertheless, most adult locals under the age of 40, including many shopkeepers and taxi drivers, know enough English for basic communication To improve your chances of being understood, speak slowly, stick to textbook-esque phrases and avoid using slang

English remains an official language of the SAR and so government offices are required by law to have English-speaking staff on dutyThere are two terrestrial English language TV stations: TVB Pearl and ATV World British English is still widely used in Hong Kong, especially in government documentation and legal documents In the media, the South China Morning Post and both terrestrial TV channels use British English Place names, such as Victoria Harbour not Harbor serve as a record of Hong Kong's colonial heritage However, modern buildings, such as the International Finance Centre not Center maintain the tradition of using British spellings

Most locals are not fluent in Mandarin, but can comprehend it to some degree As written Chinese is more or less the same regardless of the spoken variant, Mandarin speakers who are able to read and write in Chinese characters will be able to make themselves understood very easily Mandarin is compulsory in all government schools, so many younger locals will be able to speak fairly decent, albeit heavily accented Mandarin Mandarin proficiency has been improving rapidly since the handover, and tourists from the mainland are now the biggest spenders in Hong Kong, so almost all shops in the main tourist areas, as well as all government offices will have Mandarin-speaking staff on duty

What to see in Howland Island

Earhart Light, near the middle of the west coat The famed American aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared en route from Lae, Papua New Guinea to Howland Island, which was to be one of the last refueling stops on Earhart's round-the-world flight in 1937 Hawaii and California were next on the itinerary This "day beacon" an unlit landmark built for navigation purposes was named after her It was partially destroyed during World War II, but has since been rebuilt

Fauna and flora

Only six species of plants can be found on the island Lepturus bunchgrass, Boerhaavia herb, and two kinds of purslanen are dominant on the surface There are scattered patches of Tribulus, and a few small clumps of scrubby trees called Kou Trees

The usual species of sea and migratory birds are on Howland A variety of the small, grey Polynesian rat is abundant The presence of this rat, kou trees and a few archaeological sites, such as stone paths and pits in which food plants might have been cultivated, suggest that the island was known and visited by Polynesians There are also the usual hermit crabs and insects, and marine life abounds

What to do in Howland Island


  • Chinese Lunar New Year 農曆新年 Although this may seem like an ideal time to go to Hong Kong, many shops and restaurants close down during the Chinese New Year However, unlike Christmas in Europe where you can hardly find shops open on this big day, you can still get food and daily products easily during the Lunar New Year period The week or two leading up to the Chinese New Year as well as the period just after the third day up to the fifteenth day are good times to soak up the festive mood and listen to Chinese New Year songs being played in the shops
  • Spring Lantern Festival 元宵節 If you go to Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, you will be able to experience this traditional Chinese festival A number of beautiful lanterns can be found in the park at this time
  • Ching Ming Festival 清明節 This festival in Spring is also known as grave sweeping day To show respect to the deceased, family members go to the grave of their ancestors to sweep away leaves and remove weeds around the grave area Paper offerings are also burned, such as fake money
  • Cheung Chau Bun Festival 長洲太平清醮 This is takes place on the tiny island of Cheung Chau In the past the festival has involved competitions with people climbing bun towers to snatch buns After the unfortunate collapse of a bun tower in 1978, due to an overload of people, the competition was abandoned It was resumed again in 2005 with better safety measures
  • Tuen Ng Festival 端午節 This is a festival in memory of a national hero from the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history Dragon boat races are typically held during this festival and glutinous rice dumplings, usually with pork fillings, are eaten by many

  • Hungry Ghost Festival 中元節 This festival runs throughout the seventh month of the Chinese calendar It is believed that the gates of hell open during this period and hungry ghosts are allowed to roam freely into our world Though not a public holiday, this is the time where one can see many people perform various rites to appease the wandering ghosts, such as offering food and burning joss paper One can also see traditional performances such as Chinese opera which are held to appease these ghosts
  • Mid Autumn Festival / Moon Festival 中秋節 This festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month Moon cakes which contain lotus seed paste and duck egg yolks are a popular delicacy Many Western people will find the traditional mooncake hard to appreciate, so you might like to try the ice-cream version as well The festival is also known as the lantern festival and various parts of Hong Kong will be festooned with decorative lanterns which set the night scene ablaze with colour
  • Chung Yeung Festival 重陽節 Is a day also known as Autumn Remembrance, which is similar to Ching Ming in spring, where families visit the graves of their ancestors to perform cleansing rites and pay their respects As the weather cools down during this part of the year, hiking is a good activity to do during this holiday
  • Halloween 萬聖節 Halloween has grown rapidly in popularity and many people dress up to party till late Trick or treat is not common but most restaurants and shopping centres are decorated and have special programmes For young adults and teenagers, Ocean Park is the place to be for Halloween fun It is not a public holiday
  • Christmas 聖誕節 Christmas is celebrated Hong Kong style The city is adorned using traditional Western Christmas decorations Many shopping centres, such as Pacific Place, offer ample opportunities for children to meet Santa Most shops and restaurants remain open throughout Christmas You should expect large crowds out shopping for the Christmas sales
  • New Year's Eve 元旦除夕 New Year's Eve in Hong Kong is something to check out if you are seeking a carnival experience Hundreds of thousands of people out on the streets to celebrate the New Year is truly an unforgettable time There are all-night services on the MTR, night-buses, and of course, many taxis Fireworks go off on the harbour front, which a lot of people attend to watch on both sides of the harbour: Tsim Sha Tsui Kowloon side and Central Hong Kong Island The young adults and older adults decide to party with the rest of Hong Kong at the hot-spots such as Causeway Bay, Lan Kwai Fong and Tsim Sha Tsui Many people dress up and attend private parties and others flock to the streets to enjoy the atmosphere Police patrol around popular areas to make sure the city is a safe party-zone Hong Kong people are not great drinkers and most of them stay dry for the night Drinking alcohol on the street is uncommon So visitors who drink should moderate their behaviour or risk being screened out by the police as the only drunks in the crowd


Ride the tram between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan The journey takes round 80 minutes and costs $2 The Hongkong Tramways run between the West and East of Hong Kong Island Starting from the old district Kennedy Town, you can see the residental areas, followed by the Chinese herbal medicine and dried seafood wholesalers in Sai Ying Pun - Sheung Wan Then the tram goes in the famous Central district with high rise commercial buildings and banks Wan Chai and Causeway Bay are the districts popular with shoppers and are always crowded with people at all times Travelling further east are North Point and Shau Kei Wan areas, which are of completely different styles from that in Central and Causeway Bay


Hong Kong is one of the main centres of Chinese pop culture with a huge and vibrant entertainment industry, and is home to many famous singers and actors such as Jackie Chan, Andy Lau, Wong Ka Kui Beyond and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai just to name a few In addition to the locals, any foreign bands touring Asia are pretty much guaranteed to perform in Hong Kong, and concerts by famous singers are often a sell out affair


You are never far from the sea in Hong Kong and going to a good beach is only a bus-ride away However, if you want a really good beach, then it is worth making the effort to travel, possibly on foot, and seek out the beaches of the New Territories Hong Kong's urban beaches are usually well maintained and have services such as showers and changing rooms Where beaches are managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Dept shark nets and life guards are present Dogs and smoking are not permitted on these beaches

When on Hong Kong Island the best beaches to use include:

Repulse Bay is a large urban beach on the south side of Hong Kong island It has recently had money spent on its facilities and will appeal to those who have young children

Middle Bay is popular with gay people and is a 20 minute walk from the crowds at Repulse Bay Middle Bay has lifeguards, showers, changing rooms, shark nets and a decent cafe serving drinks and snacks

Shek O is a beach popular with many young Hong Kong people It is away from the bustle of the city but is well served by restaurants and has a good bus service from the north side of the island The Thai restaurant close to the beach is worth a try

Big Wave Bay This beach is smaller than others on Hong Kong Island but still has good services which include a number of small cafes close to the beach Big Wave Bay, as the name suggests, has the sort of waves that appeal to surfers From Big Wave Bay it is possible to take the coastal footpath to Chai Wan where you can find the MTR and buses The walk to Chai Wan is about one hour, or more if you are not used to the steep climb up the mountain

Swimming Pools

If your hotel does not have a pool or you have concerns about swimming in the sea, then public swimming baths are a great place to cool off when the heat and the humidity is too much to bear Swimming pools are built and maintained to a very high standard in Hong Kong and cost very little to use $19 for adults and $9 children Swimming pools are great places for young children to play and most pools cater for their needs with shallow pools and fountains All swimming pool complexes offer swimming lanes and swimming clubs for serious swimmers

The Kowloon Park swimming pool complex Tsim Sha Tsui MTR exit A1 is centrally located and offers visitors a wide range of services Indoors is a main pool that is Olympic sized, a slightly smaller training pool, a diving pool and a leisure pool for younger swimmers During the summer months the indoor pools are air-conditioned, whilst in winter the water is heated Outdoors, during the summer season, they have four leisure pools to meet the needs of all ages In summer, the pool is popular with teenagers but all age-groups make good use of the pools A limited number of sun loungers are available

The pools in Kowloon Park open at 6:30AM and close at 10PM There are session breaks when the centre closes for lunch at 12PM until 1PM and then it closes for another hour from 5PM to 6PM Most public pools in Hong Kong have similar opening and closing times

Family changing rooms are available in addition to the regular changing rooms Males and females have separate changing areas but changing rooms do not offer much privacy between users of the same sex Swimmers are expected to provide their own towels and toiletries A $5 coin is needed to operate a locker or you can provide your own padlock An Octopus card or coins are needed for payment to enter the complex

There are six public pools on Hong Kong island and a further 12 are located across the Kowloon peninsula More pools of the same high standard are to be found in the New Territories The pool located in Victoria Park is perhaps the least good because of its ageing facilities and close proximity to a major elevated highway


You can rent out a Junk Boat for a sailing trip with your family and friends A typical junk boat can accommodate more than 30 people and can be rented for the day to take you on a tour of your choice Sai Kung is a popular spot for the trip to start and you can sail to nearby beaches for a more secluded time A cheaper alternative is to hire a much smaller water taxi 水道 to take you to where you want to go

Hiking and Camping

Hiking is the best kept secret in Hong Kong, it is a great way to appreciate Hong Kong's beautiful landscapes that include mountains, beaches and breathtaking cityscapes The starting points for many hiking trails are accessible by bus or taxi Hiking is highly recommended for active travellers who want to escape the modern urban world

Hiking in Hong Kong can be strenuous because of the steep trails, and during the summer months, mosquitos and the hot, humid, weather combine to make even the easiest trek a workout It is highly recommended that you wear suitable clothes, and bring plenty of water and mosquito repellent It is fairly unlikely that you will have a close encounter with venomous snakes, although they are present in most rural areas Most local people choose the winter months to undertake the more demanding hiking trails If you are not especially fit you might plan your route so that you take a bus or taxi to the highest point of the trail and then walk downhill

Campsites in Hong Kong are plentiful and free of charge Most are located within the country parks and range from basic sites serviced with only with a drop-toilet, to those that provide campers with modern toilet blocks with cold showers Some sites have running water and sinks for washing dishes A few campsites have places to buy drinking water and food, whilst many are serenely remote Weekends and public holidays are predictably busy, especially in the more accessible places close to roads Many Hong Kong people like to camp in large groups, talk loudly and stay awake until very late, so if you are noise sensitive try to find a remote campsite or learn to keep your temper

There are four major trails in the Hong Kong SAR:

  • Lantau Trail on Lantau
  • Hong Kong Trail on Hong Kong Island
  • Maclehose Trail through the New Territories Oxfam organizes an annual charity hike of this 100Km trail every November Winning teams finish in around 11-12 hours but average people take 30-36 hours to finish the whole trail, which starts from the eastern end of the New Territories Sai Kung to the western end Tuen Mun
  • Wilson Trail starting on Hong Kong Island and finishing in the New Territories

Hong Kong has some exceptional rural landscapes but visitor impact is an issue Please respect the countryside by taking your litter home with you Avoid using litter bins in remote areas as these are not emptied on a regular basis and your litter may be strewn around by hungry animals

Hong Kong Outdoors 81 is packed with information on hiking and camping, and other great things to do and places to go in the wilderness areas of Hong Kong

List of Locations in Hong Kong where you can hike


Horse racing may get all the media attention, but mahjong 麻雀 ma jeuk also forms an integral part of Hong Kong gambling culture Mahjong also has had a strong influence on Hong Kong pop culture, with a history of songs and films based on a mahjong theme The game played in Hong Kong is the Cantonese version, which differs in rules and scoring from the Japanese version or the versions played in other parts of China Mahjong parlours are ubiquitous in Hong Kong, though they do not advertise their services openly and many require a fair amount of effort to find They also have many unwritten rules that visitors may find hard to understand

Betting on world-wide football matches is also available at the Hong Kong Jockey Club

Buying stuff in Howland Island

There is no economic activity on Howland Island

Food and eating in Howland Island

This guide uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget Under $50
Mid-range $50-$300
Splurge Over $300

Cuisine plays an important part in many peoples lives in Hong Kong Not only is it a showcase of Chinese cuisines with huge regional varieties, but there are also excellent Asian and Western choices Although Western food is often adapted to local tastes, it is a good place for homesick travellers who have had enough of Chinese food If you can afford it, you can also find some Western restaurants that are featured in the Michelin guide to Hong Kong

Magazines for local gourmets are published every week and the Michelin Guide for Hong Kong has been published since 2008 According to Restaurant magazine in 2010, four of the best 100 restaurants in the world are in Hong Kong

A long queue seems to be a local sport in all good restaurants during the peak hours You need to register first, get a ticket and wait for empty seats Reservation is only an option for upmarket restaurants


While dining out, you may meet some local people who haven't cooked at home for a decade, eating in restaurants is not cheap by Asian standards, although it is still cheaper than Europe and North America

To stuff your stomach in a grassroots Chaa Chan Teng 茶餐廳 local tea restaurant, expect to pay $10-20 for milk tea or coffee, $8-10 for a toast and $25-50 for a dish of rice with meats Wonton noodles generally cost $20-30 McDonald's, once the cheapest worldwide a decade ago, sells a Happy Meal set for around $20-25 Other basic restaurants can usually be found in wet markets or outdoor locations, and cost about $100-$150 per person

In midrange and upmarket restaurants, prices are hard to generalise In a hotpot restaurant, $100-150 per head is common, and $200-400 per person is also expected for better choices of food Sushi is popular with many locals and prices usually start at $100-200 in a self-service bar to several hundred dollars for a tiny portion of high quality food

Western restaurants, especially in Soho in Central, where rental payments are skyrocketing, tend to be particularly expensive, and $300-$500 per head is common Fine dining restaurants, usually located at five-star hotels, can cost $500-$1500 per person, more if you are a wine enthusiast Wine choices in these places are on par with any 5-star hotel


Chinese food is generally eaten with chopsticks, but don't expect restaurants serving western food to supply chopsticks; dinners will routinely use a knife fork and spoon Do not stick your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice, as this is reminiscent of incense sticks burning at the temple and has connotations of wishing death on those around you In addition, chopsticks should not be used to move bowls and plates or make any noise Dishes in smaller eateries might not come with a serving spoon, although staff will usually provide one if you request

A few Hong Kong customs to be aware of:

  • To thank the person who pours your tea Cantonese style, tap two or three fingers on the table The legend suggests a story involving a Chinese emperor travelling incognito and his loyal subjects wanting to kowtow bow to him without blowing their cover — hence the "finger kowtow"
  • If you want more tea in the pot, leave the lid open, and it will be refilled
  • It is not unusual for customers to rinse their plates and utensils with hot tea before starting their meal, and a bowl is often provided for this very purpose

See also Chinese table manners for more details While certain etiquette is different, Chinese manners for using chopsticks apply to Hong Kong too

What to eat

Dim sum 點心

Dim sum 點心, literally means 'to touch your heart', is possibly the best known Cantonese dish Served at breakfast and supper, these delicately prepared morsels of Cantonese cuisine are often served with Chinese tea

Dim Sum comes in countless variations with a huge price range from $8 to more than $100 per order Common items include steamed shrimp dumplings 蝦餃 har gau, pork dumplings 燒賣 siu mai, barbecued pork buns 叉燒包 char siu bau, and Hong Kong egg tarts 蛋撻 dan tat Expect more choice in upmarket restaurants One pot of tea with two dishes, called yak chung liang gin is a typical serving for breakfast

Siu Mei 燒味

Siu mei is pork roasted over an open fire or a huge wood burning rotisserie oven With the addition of a slightly crispy honey sauce layer, the final taste is of a unique, deep barbecue flavour Rice with roasted pork 叉燒 char siu, roasted duck, pork with a crisp crackling, or Fragrant Queen's chicken 香妃雞, are common dishes that are enduring favourites for many, including local superstars

Congee 粥

Cantonese congee juk is a thin porridge made with rice boiled in water Served at breakfast, lunch or supper, the best version is as soft as 'floss', it takes up to 10 hours to cook the porridge to reach this quality Congee is usually eaten with savoury Chinese doughnuts 油炸鬼 yau char kway and steamed rice pastry 腸粉 cheong fun which often has a meat or vegetable filling

Hong Kong has several restaurant chains that specialise in congee, but none of them have earned the word-of-mouth respect from local gourmets The best congee places are usually in older districts, often owned by elderly people who are patient enough to spend hours making the best floss congee

Noodles 麵

When asked what food makes Hong Kong people feel home, wonton noodles 雲吞麵 is one of the favourite answers Wonton are dumplings usually made from minced prawn but may contain small amounts of pork

Rice pastry is also a popular dish from southern China Found particularly in Teochew and Hokkien areas in China, it's popularity is widespread throughout east Asia In Hong Kong, it is usually served in soup with beef and fish balls and sometimes with deep-fried crispy fish skins

Tong Sui 糖水

A popular Cantonese dessert is a sweet soup called tong sui 糖水 Popular versions are usually made with black sesame paste, walnuts or sago which are usually sticky in texture Lo ye 撈野 is a similar dish Juice is put into a ultra-cold pan to make an ice paste, it is usually served with fresh fruit and sago

Tea time 下午茶

Hot milk tea Hong Kong style

You might expect that after more than a century of colonial rule tea might be served British style - well, almost Order hot milk tea 熱奶茶 in a traditional cafe and what you will get will be a cup of the strongest brew imaginable With the addition of evaporated milk, this is not a drink for the faint-hearted

Showing signs of British colonial influence, tea time Ha ng cha plays an important role in Hong Kong's stressful office life Usually starting at 2pm to 3pm, a typical tea set goes with a cup of 'silk-stocking' milk tea, egg tarts and sandwiches with either minced beef, egg or ham, but without vegetables and cheese

Similar to Malaysian 'teh tarik', Hong Kong's variation shares a similar taste The key difference is that a sackcloth bag is used to filter the tea leaves and the tea-dyed sackcloth resembles silk stockings, giving the name 'silk-stocking milk tea' Milk tea, to some Hong Kong people, is an important indicator on the quality of a restaurant If a restaurant fails to serve reasonably good milk tea, locals might be very harsh with their criticism Mandarin duck Yuanyang is also a popular drink mixed with milk tea and coffee

A signal to tell you teatime has come is a small queue lining up in bakery to buy egg tarts a teatime snack with outer pastry crust and filled with egg custard Don't attempt to make a fool of yourself by telling Hong Kong people that the egg tart was invented by the British - many locals are assertive in claiming sovereignty over their egg tarts When a long-established egg tart shop in Central was closed due to skyrocketing rental payment, it became the SAR's main news and many people came to help the owners look for a new place

Street food

Street food is thriving in this territory Local specialities include curry fish meat balls 咖喱魚蛋, shark fin soup 碗仔翅, a grassroot version of shark fin soups made of bean vermicelli, fried three filled treasures 煎釀三寶, vegetable filled with fish meat

Sea Food 海鮮

Seafood is plentiful in this seaport Places like Sai Kung, Po Doi O and Lau Fau Shan in the New Territories and Hong Kong's islands, particularly Lamma and Cheung Chau, are abound with seafood restaurants Seafood is not cheap Prices range from $200 per head for a very basic dinner, to $300-500 for better choices and much more for the best on offer

Expect to find a mismatch between the high prices for the food and the quality of the restaurant Sometimes the best food is served in the most basic eateries where tables maybe covered in cheap plastic covers rather than a more formal tablecloth Often, Cantonese people value the food more than the decor If one of your travelling companions does not like seafood, don't panic, many seafood restaurants have extensive menus that cater for all tastes A number of seafood restaurants specialise in high quality roast chicken that is especially flavoursome Many exotic delicacies like abalone, conch and bamboo clam can be found for sale in many seafood restaurants but you might want to avoid endangered species such as shark and juvenile fish

Exotic meats

While Hong Kong has long banned dog meat and has strict rules on importing many meats of wild life animals, snake meat is commonly seen in winter in different restaurants that bear the name "Snake King" Served in a sticky soup, it is believed to warm your body

There's an ongoing debate over the consumption of shark fin in Hong Kong, which is the biggest importer of this exotic cuisine Commonly served at wedding parties and other important dining events, shark fin is served in a carefully prepared stew usually at $80 per bowl to $1000 The consumption of shark fin is a controversial topic and tourists may need to be cautious in expressing their views about the declining shark population

Where to eat

While dining out, it is easy to find places selling mains for well under $80, offering both local and international food Local fast food chains such as Café de Coral 95 and Maxim's MX 96 offer meals in the vicinity of $30, with standardised English menus for easy ordering Mid-range restaurants generally charge in excess of $100 for mains Whilst at the top end, restaurants, such as Felix or Aqua, can easily see you leave with a bill in excess of $1500 including entrées appetizers, mains, desserts and drinks

A uniquely Hong Kong-style eatery starting to make waves elsewhere in Asia is the cha chaan teng 茶餐廳, literally "tea cafe", but offering fusion fast food that happily mixes Western and Eastern fare: innovations include noodles with Spam, stir-fried spaghetti and baked rice with cheese Usually a wide selection of drinks is also available, almost always including the popular tea-and-coffee mix yuenyeung 鴛鴦, and perhaps more oddities to the Western palate like boiled Coke with ginger or iced coffee with lemon Orders are usually recorded on a chit at your table and you pay at the cashier as you leave

Hong Kong also has a staggering range of international restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world These can often be found in, though not restricted to, entertainment districts such as Lan Kwai Fong, Soho or Knutsford Terrace Of these, Soho is probably the best for eating as Lan Kwai Fong is primarily concerned with bars and clubs and on Friday and Saturday nights especially can become crowded with revellers Top chefs are often invited or try to make their way to work in Hong Kong

Barbecue BBQ meals are a popular local pastime Many areas feature free public barbecue pits where everybody roasts their own food, usually with long barbeque forks It's not just sausages and burgers - the locals enjoy cooking a variety of things at BBQ parties, such as fish, beef meatballs, pork meatballs, chicken wings, and so on A good spot is the Southern Hong Kong Island, where almost every beach is equipped with many free BBQ spots Just stop by a supermarket and buy food, drinks and BBQ equipment The best spots are Shek O under the trees at the left hand side of the beach and Big Wave Bay

Wet markets are still prevalent Freshness is a key ingredient to all Chinese food, so frozen meat and vegetables are frowned upon, and most markets display freshly butchered beef and pork with entrails, live fish in markets, and more exotic shellfish, frogs, turtles and snails Local people often go to the market everyday to buy fresh ingredients, just like the restaurants

Cooked food centres 大牌檔 daai6 paai4 dong3 are often found in the same building as some of the indoor wet markets Tables that were once located on the street have been swept into sterile concrete buildings Inside, the atmosphere is like a food court without the frills Cooked food centres provide economic solutions to diners, but you might need to take along a Cantonese speaker, or be brave

Supermarkets include Wellcome, 97, Park N Shop, 98, and CRC Shop 99 Speciality supermarkets catering to Western and Japanese tastes include City Super 100 and Great 101 24 hour convenience stores 7-Eleven and Circle K can be found almost anywhere in urban areas

Drinking in Howland Island

Traditionally, in much of China, people are more likely to drink tea, rather than alcoholic beverages Many east Asian people are genetically predisposed to alcohol intolerance, a condition that often manifests itself as the so-called 'Asian flush' Nevertheless, many Chinese people do drink but don't expect the binge-drinking culture found in some western countries There are many neighbourhoods in Hong Kong without much in the way of a bar or pub

Drinking alcohol with food is acceptable, but there is no expectation to order alcohol with your meal A number of restaurants do not sell alcohol

If drinking alcohol is not your thing, then Hong Kong might be described as a teetotaler's paradise Many eateries offer a good range of non-alcoholic drinks, including extravagant mocktails that might seem more like a dessert Such drinks are often consumed with a thick straw and may contain a variety of exotic sweet ingredients

Lan Kwai Fong Central, Wanchai and Knutsford Terrace Kowloon are the three main drinking areas where locals, expats and tourists mingle together Here you will certainly find a party atmosphere, but don't expect the drunken brawls and rowdiness that you might be used to back home If you come to Hong Kong and get drunk you will certainly risk drawing considerable attention to yourself if you cannot hold your drink

The minimum age for drinking in a bar is 18 years There is usually a requirement for young adults to prove their age, especially when going to a nightclub The accepted ID in clubs is either your passport or a Hong Kong ID card Photocopies are rarely accepted due to minors forging photocopies

Drinking out in Hong Kong can be expensive, especially if you choose imported drinks in fashionable western-style bars However, away from the tourist trail, some Chinese restaurants may have a beer promotion aimed at meeting the needs of groups of diners In cooked food centres, usually found at the wet markets, young women are often employed to promote a particular brand of beer Convenience stores such as Circle-K, and supermarkets all sell a reasonable range of drinks In Lan Kwai Fong, the 7-Eleven there is a very popular 'bar' for party-animals on a budget

Tsing Tao pronounced 'ching dow' is a famous pilsner beer that began life in 1903 in the former German colony of Qingdao Here, German brewers began production to meet the needs and palates of European expats Other brews that are widely available include, San Miguel, Carlsberg and Blue Girl Beers and rice wines produced for the market in mainland China are popular and are sold at competitive prices in supermarkets There is no longer any tax on wine or beer in Hong Kong

Check the district pages of this travel guide for recommended bars

Gay and lesbian Hong Kong

Gay bars and clubs are concentrated in Central, Sheung Wan, Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui TST The quality of these venues varies considerably and will perhaps disappoint those expecting something similar to London, Paris or New York There is certainly no gay area as there are in Japanese and many Western cities Dim Sum magazine, available for free in most cafes, eateries bars and clubs, is Hong Kong bilingual's GLBT magazine which gives a pretty good idea about gay and lesbian parties and events happening in Hong Kong There's also a gay and lesbian section in HK Magazine free, only in English and TimeOut Hong Kong

The GLBT community in Hong Kong is gaining ground now more than ever 2009 was an active year for the community, which saw event after event being led by different people and groups, pushing forward its visibility and tolerance among the general public

The Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival is one of the longest running GLBT events in Hong Kong, and indeed in Asia Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2009, it brings to Hong Kong various international and regional GLBT films The festival is usually held in November

Hong Kong held its second Gay Pride ever on 1 Nov 2009, attracting over 1,800 people, gay and straight, to the event There were participants coming in from mainland China, Taiwan, Malaysia and even Australia and the United States It is held usually at the end of the year late November-early December

For those who like to party in the sea in sexy speedos and bikinis, try to time your visit during Flotilla Flotilla started almost as a gay pride in the sea in 2006, where junk boat party loving Hongkongers rent out junk boats in groups and throw themselves a fabulous party in the sea 2008 saw over 20 boats anchored in the same bay, there were even boats targeted particularly for lesbians and bears Both Flotilla 2006-2008 were held in May, while the one in 2009 was moved to October

Hong Kong Disneyland also saw its first Gay Day in December 2009 Participants were asked to wear red and were given schedule on the particular showing for the event This event, though, was not organised by Disneyland


Smoking Restrictions

A smoking-ban came into effect in 2007 The ban includes a number of outdoor locations such as university campuses, parks, gardens, bus stops, and beaches As from 1 July 2009, the smoking ban has been extended to include places for adult entertainment such as bars, clubs and saunas If you are undercover, you probably should not be smoking Expect to pay a substantial fine of up to $5,000 if caught smoking in the wrong place There is also a penalty of $1,500 for dropping cigarette butts

In a move to discourage smoking, tourists are only allowed to carry no more than 19 duty-free cigarettes or 25g of tobacco products since August 2010 The government has also banned the sales of tobacco products in duty-free shops on arrival gates

Offenders can be charged for smuggling and the penalty can be tough According to one local account, a man was fined $2000 after being found guilty of carrying five packs of cigarettes Illegal duty-free cigarettes can be seen for sale in several locations, such as in night markets, but both the buyer and seller may be charged for smuggling Be aware that the police are known to launch frequent raids at any time Once caught, ignorance is not an accepted defence

Cigarettes in Hong Kong cost around $30-60 for a pack of 20 Most popular brands include Marlboro, Salem and Kent which are sold at $39 There are also some cheaper brands catering for smokers on a budget Hand-rolling tobacco is not common and is only available in specialty shops

Accommodation in Howland Island

There is no accommodation on Howland Island

Working in Howland Island

You will need an employment visa in Hong Kong to take up any paid employment, even if you are from Britain or mainland China This usually involves any potential employer making an application to the Immigration Department on your behalf; crucially you should have skills that are probably not available from the local job market In June 2006 the Immigration Department revived a rule that allows the spouse of anyone currently working legally in Hong Kong to get a "dependent visa" This allows the spouse to take up any employment they wish, without having to seek approval from the Immigration Department Unfortunately, a dependent visa is not available if the spouse is from mainland China, unless they have been living abroad for more than one year In 2006, the Hong Kong government introduced a new program called the Quality Migrant Application Scheme which targets skilled, preferably university educated, labour with good knowledge of languages to come and settle in Hong Kong and seek for employment For more information, visit the Hong Kong Immigration website82

Cities in Howland Island

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