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Hong Kong cruise stop trip report / Kai Tak shuttles, MTR and Hong Kong / Macau tour options

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We returned recently from a Japan / China / Taiwan / Hong Kong cruise on the Celebrity Millennium.  The Millennium as are most cruises to Hong Kong was docked at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. We overnight on the Millennium and then extended our trip in Hong Kong / Macau before flying home closed to midnight on the 5th day. This is a trip report starting with our experience at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and our first day in Hong Kong.  I will point out information that I have gathered which may help anyone planning a similar trip.

 

Prior to arriving to Hong Kong we monitored Hong Kong protests. Luckily it was quiet since the local elections a few weeks before our arrival.  There were no major protest scheduled until Dec 8th (6th month anniversary) the day after our disembarkation.  We had already changed our plans to book our extended stay in Macau instead of Hong Kong.  Even if we had stayed in Hong Kong on December 8th I think that if we stay away from the scheduled protest areas it would have been fine.  For those of you coming to Hong Kong on a cruise you may want to check the long "Is Hong Kong Safe" discussion thread on the Cruise Critic forum https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2687337-is-hong-kong-safe/, and the also long Is HK save to travel? discussion thread on TripAdvisor Hong Kong forum.  Also, for better real time news you can Google "hong kong live map" for a couple of good live updates (HKmap and the liveuamap).  

 

If you are doing a cruise excursion, booked a local tour or have a local guide IMHO it is absolutely safe to visit Hong Kong.  Even on your own, I think if you stay away from any scheduled protest areas it should be fine also. However, it helps to be cautious and keep informed on what's happening so that you can avoid the trouble areas. Beside checking the live links you may want to also install the official MTR App on your smart phone. If there is any problem on the MTR, you will get a live alert.  It helps also if you are touring on your own to have internet access while you are in Hong Kong.  Not only for news alerts but also for online MTR transit assist and online Google map which has excellent GPS / map with great transit information.   I still have the MTR App installed and was informed of the protest problems Christmas Eve.  

 

The Millennium as are most cruises to Hong Kong docked at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Cruise Terminal which was redeveloped from Hong Kong's previous Kai Tak Airport.  The terminal is a beautiful, modern, classy looking. We saw Victoria harbor from afar as we sail in.  Our ship was the only one in port.  Another ship arrived the second day as we disembark. Looking at the kaitakcruiseterminal website Kai Tak is a pretty busy port with lots of cruise traffic!  

 

 

 

We got our passport back from the ship the night before arriving to Hong Kong with a short immigration form for us to fill out. Immigration / custom moved people through quickly keeping a copy of the immigration form and sending people off.  We were directed to the escalator to the lower floor taxi / shuttle area. I didn't see the free shuttle sign at first, the staff at the terminal was very helpful and courteous. Perhaps because we were the only ship in port we didn't experience "long walk" " the terminal is too big issues" that other reviewers mentioned.  I clocked our walk to be ~5 minutes from the gangway to the free shuttle bus. MUCH shorter than most walks from front of airport terminal to check in to security then to airport gates!  

 

We arrived on Friday December 6th 2019. On that day we only have 3 options to get to town 1) take a taxi into town or to the nearest MTR station -  2) Take one of the two free shuttles to the closest shopping malls with MTR Stations 3) Request for an Uber ride from our phone.  The taxi line wasn't that long. There were plenty of taxi's. Uber pickup is in the private tours / private vehicle pickup area not too far from the taxi stand. We found Uber to be very inexpensive in Hong Kong.  The local buses, mini-bus and Ferry serving Kai Tak has limited schedules which are not really suitable for cruise arrival passengers. Google if you are interested in learning more about them.

 

On our arrival date there were 2 free shopping mall / MTR station shuttles offered: 1) Kai Tak to/from Diamond Hill MTR / Plaza Hollywood Mall 2) Kai tak to/from APM Mall.  The last shuttle from Diamond Hill MTR shuttle was 5 PM. The last shuttle from APM Mall was 10 PM.  It didn't make much sense that the Plaza Hollywood shuttle would end at 5 PM since the mall opens later than 5 PM.  However it didn't matter to us which shuttle to take since we just want to get to any MTR station to start our day in Hong Kong.  We plan to take a taxi or an Uber back to Kai Tak at night directly from a Kowloon area which has easy access to taxis and Ubers.  We took the Diamond Hills MTR / Hollywood Plaza shuttle since the APM shuttle bus just took off.  The shuttle waited another 15 minutes for more passengers to get on.  I think the shuttles ran every 1/2 hour.  It only took 15 minutes for the shuttle to get to Diamond Hills.  Google map showed travel time to APM Mall would have been the same ~15 minutes.  

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Once we got off the shuttle it was a short 2 minutes walk for us to get to the MTR service booth.  From the service booth we purchased an Octopus card. The minimum purchase for the on-loan Octopus card is $150 HKD (~$20 USD). $150 purchase includes $50 HKD on loan fee most of which is refundable and $100 worth of travel value. You can get refund for unused portion of the card plus most of the on loan cost (minus small service fee) at a MTR service center before you leave Hong Kong.  On our last day in Hong Kong we added fare at a MTR service booth and took the Airport Express for the 20 minutes ride between the Airport and the Hong Kong Station.  After getting off at the Airport we return the Octopus cards at the MTR service counter and got a refund for most of the on-loan charge and unused value for the cards.

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The advantages of an Octopus Pass is it gives us easy scan and go and discounted access to the Hong Kong transportation system including buses, ferries, trams (The "Ding Ding") and even the Peak Tram.  Without the Octopus card you will need to have a lot of coins or small bills around to get on the bus or ferries and waste a lot of time paying single fare on the MTR.  Note that if you are 65 and above you are eligible for the Elder Octopus Card (green color).  With the Elder card you are eligible for the heavily discounted senior fares for most MTR journeys, buses, trams (including the Peak Tram) and ferries.  The level of discount depends on the route. For example, for most buses and MTR routes the elder fare is $2 (less than 25 cents USD!), for the Peak Tram it is a 50% discount!  Google MTR senior visitor concessions for more details.  You can read more about the MTR and the Octopus card online.  The MTR also has a  MTR Tourist Day Pass for $65 HKD.  Note that this single day pass is NOT as flexible as the Octopus Card since it is only valid for the MTR and MTR buses and not the more popular buses / ferries or the trams. If you are taking a lot of MTR only rides and don't plan to take other forms of transportation the full day Tourist Pass may work out for you.

 

We had a nice full day in Hong Kong on our first day, we decided to go later to The Peak and took advantage of being in Hong Kong early to get to Tim Ho Wan for Dim Sum before there's a queue. We went to the original Tim Ho Wan branch in Sham Shui Po where the restaurant got it's fame being “the world's cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant”. Google map really helped for us to navigate to the restaurant.  We got there at 9:30 AM before it's 10 AM opening. There was a small queue ~30% tourist, ~70% locals.  The local restaurant next to Tim Ho Wan looked pretty good also. It was full of locals getting their breakfast.  Even though there are multiple Tim Ho Wan locations in Hong Kong with one that opens an hour earlier we decided to go to the original. This Tim Ho Wan still has the old Dim Sum tea house feel...no rolling carts but it still has the old restaurant vibe. There is a menu with English for you to check off what you want.  Google for photos and recommendations what's good there.  There are good Dim Sum restaurant everywhere in Hong Kong so if you just want good Dim Sum, Google or check out TripAdvisor, pick one that looks good and with close access to a MTR station, check their opening hour and try to get there before opening. Hong Kong folks loves to go to Dim Sum and with good restaurants there would usually be a queue if you go later after opening, especially on weekends. Although with the recent protest eating out has been dampened.The Dim Sum was good. To our taste may be a little better than what we have had in other great Dim Sum restaurants in SF or Vancouver however what we really like was to have experienced this location. 

 

After brunch we walk a few minutes to the Prince Edward area.  We ended up spending a couple of hours walking through the shops at the Mong Kok Flower Market,  Bird Garden Yuen Po Street, Fa Yuen Street, Cat Street, Goldfish Market, Ladies Market, a bit of Nathan Road before taking the MTR to Admiralty to go to The Peak.  After The Peak we Uber to SOHO, walk down the mid level escalator to Central, have dinner, Star Ferry across to Kowloon, 8 PM Symphony of Lights show at the at the Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) promenade, more walking around and shopping. We took Uber back to the ship from TST.  At around midnight it only took 20 minutes with light traffic to go from TST to Kai Tak.  Uber cost was $65 HKD.  It was a good thing we packed the night before on our sea day since our disembarkation is just after the overnight stay.

 

More later re: our experience with disembarkation at Kai Tak, more details on Hong Kong / Macau sights we went to and our excursion to Macau from Hong Kong.

 

*** First some important information *** The limited transportation option we had at Kai Tak early December 2019 is SOON going to change for the better!!!  There is an upcoming Kai Tak MTR Station opening sometime in 2020 first quarter!  The trains will run every 3-5 minutes.  You can transfer one stop over at the Diamond Hill to get to the central corridor of Kowloon or another quick transfer to get to Tsim Sha Tsui or MTR Stations in Hong Kong island.  It is unknown how long a walk it will be from Kai Tak to the new MTR station.  I expect it to be no more than 10 to 15 minutes.  With the frequency and well connected MTR trains and train lines you will be able to get you to most tourist destinations much quicker and much more inexpensive than taxis!   You can Google "Kai Tak MTR Station" and "MTR Shatin to Central Link" for the latest news. I am sure someone on this board will update everyone when the Kai Tak MTR is opened. 

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A few more side suggestions:
Even though Hong Kong is one of the easiest cruise port for DIY touring, I think there is still very good value in either taking a cruise excursion or hire a well rated local guide. A cruise excursion is good especially if you only have limited hours in port.  A local guide can take you around Hong Kong more efficiently and also give you prospective on Hong Kong sights, people and culture that you will not get from a guide book! 

 

A big advantage taking an Uber vs. taxi is you know ahead of time what your cost is for your ride!  A taxi driver MAY take a longer route with traffic increasing your cost.  From my discussions with Uber drivers Uber is not officially sanctioned by the Hong Kong government but is allowed to operate "with one eye closed".  Per Uber drivers Uber has been very popular especially for the younger passengers in Hong Kong. One of the drivers said that ~80% of his riders are locals vs. tourists.  Most of the drivers we encountered do not own their vehicles, they are provided by Uber!  

 

There are hundreds if not thousands of YouTube videos on Hong Kong that's useful to view preparing for your cruise stop.  I found previewing destinations on YouTube extremely helpful for our cruise excursion planning. These two below are good ones showing Kai Tak and a cruise excursion to The Peak.

 

 

More later... if you need more immediate help please ask.  I will eventually get around to post more information from our trip.

Laurence
 

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We were on this cruise too. We took a taxi from the rank inside the terminal -

inexpensive and quick.  Terminal employees asked each passenger where they wanted to go and then told the driver. They also gave us a card with the terminal address written in Chinese to show to a driver when we wanted to return. 
 

We went to the Macau bus terminal near the airport to experience traveling over the amazingly long  bridge to Macau. We took the ferry back to HK that night, wandered around the night markets and then took a taxi back to the ship.

 

On disembarkation day we took a taxi to the airport express MTR station and checked in early for our flight actually at the station. No need to go to the airport.  The benefit of this was that we could drop off our luggage and had the day free to wander around Lantau. You do need an Octopus card though to enter the check in area of the station. 

 

Tourism has been badly hit. The night markets were extremely quiet. An elderly stall holder started crying when I bought a bunch of Christmas cards from her. We walked straight in to many attractions that we had queued for on previous visits. 
The OP has given good advice about safety. We also never felt unsafe but were careful.

 

Edited by Boatharbour

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Excellent post, following myself and look forward to reading more about it - this is very, very helpful to folks with plans to be there soon.  

 

Thank you !! 👍 👌

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Glad that you are finding this post useful. Next I plan to post about The Peak - one of Hong Kong's top attractions. In case you need information from what we have experienced or information that I have gathered sooner than I can post (some of you have cruises in the next few weeks!) please share any plans you have that you want opinions on. 
 

@Boatharbour 

9 hours ago, Boatharbour said:

We were on this cruise too. We took a taxi from the rank inside the terminal -

inexpensive and quick.  Terminal employees asked each passenger where they wanted to go and then told the driver. They also gave us a card with the terminal address written in Chinese to show to a driver when we wanted to return. 

Sorry we didn't meet. Were you at the Connection meetup?  It's a big ship 🙂 

 

It  is a GOOD idea to write the terminal address down in Chinese to show driver.  Here it is:

啟德郵輪碼頭 (Kai Tak Cruise Terminal)

香港九龍承豐道33號啟德郵輪碼頭 (33 Shing Fung Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong)

 

9 hours ago, Boatharbour said:

We went to the Macau bus terminal near the airport to experience traveling over the amazingly long  bridge to Macau. We took the ferry back to HK that night, wandered around the night markets and then took a taxi back to the ship.

We like the Hong Kong Zhuhai Macau bridge (HZMB) experience, everything moves along pretty quickly, the shuttle was smooth and comfortable. The port terminals are HUGE.  I guess it is also over sized (like Kai Tak) for future growth. My son can get seasick with a choppy ride on the Hong Kong - Macau ferry. It was a good thing that I got help from TA forum experts how to take the HZMB shuttle bus to Macau instead of the ferry. 

 

Going over to Macau for a day is a good option for you to consider if you have an overnight in Hong Kong. ESPECIALLY if there are major protest scheduled for your overnight day!!!  The HZMB shuttle runs 24x7 rides every 15 minutes to half hour so if you want you can stay in Macau late into the night and still be able to get back to your ship from Macau in ~< 3 hours! 

 

Here's an approximate timing:

Taxi -> HZMB Hong Kong port 30 to 45 minutes taxi ride (it took only 30 minutes for us on a Saturday morning)

Address for the taxi: 

港珠澳大橋 (Hong Kong Zhuhai Macao Bridge)

旅檢大樓 (Passenger Clearance Building)

-> Ticket purchase HK Port exit, stretch break, 30 minutes

-> HZMB Shuttle across the bridge, longest bridge in the world, 40 minutes

-> Macau Immigration and Customs, 15 minutes

-> Queue up and ride free shuttle to Macau harbor, transfer to free hotel shuttle (you can get off near the historic center, 30 minutes) or just take a taxi to save ~10 minutes + less walking!

Total time ~3 hours

 

If you have an overnight and want to get back to the ship by 9 PM you can leave Macau around 6 PM with the reverse route. 

 

A direct taxi to the HZMB Macau port is a good idea instead of what maybe a confusing time finding and waiting for a free shuttle to the harbor and then transferring to the HZMB shuttle to the Macau port.  Taxi was quick and only cost ~100 MOP (we paid in HKD), USD $12.50.  If you start from Cotai side it may cost you $10 USD more.

 

The same destination can be given to Taxi to get you to the bridge clearance building on Macau side:

港珠澳大橋 (Hong Kong Zhuhai Macao Bridge)

旅檢大樓 (Passenger Clearance Building)

 

You can use HKD in Macau. Nice merchants will give you change back in HKD, some don't!  Just use smaller bills so you won't be stuck with Macau's currency.

 

If you start your day at 9 AM, you will get to Macau historic center by ~noon. That gives you 6 hours touring Macau if you leave by 6 PM...enough time to see and experience the historic center and sample some fantastic inexpensive Macanese food!  If you want to experience the newer Cotai casino side of Macau just take a taxi over to Venetian and walk around the small Cotai Central strip. The food court in Venetian is fantastic ...so busy and so many yummy name brand restaurants like Tim Ho Wan!  It's like going to a big food station.  There are picture menus often in English also. You can see what others order and do the same.

 

Destination Venetian in Cotai for taxi:

威尼斯人酒店

 

We spent 3 days in Macau. We have gone to Macau before but only day trips. Friends have said "can you really spend more than a day in Macau?"  We don't gamble so we don't spend anytime in the casinos. But we did a lot in the 3 days. I think we could have spend a couple of more days and still wouldn't be bored.

 

9 hours ago, Boatharbour said:

We took the ferry back to HK that night, wandered around the night markets and then took a taxi back to the ship.

 

9 hours ago, Boatharbour said:

Tourism has been badly hit. The night markets were extremely quiet. An elderly stall holder started crying when I bought a bunch of Christmas cards from her. We walked straight in to many attractions that we had queued for on previous visits. 

We went to a Night Market in the HK side on our final day in HK.  It was sad to see many stalls were closed early. I am sure the slump in tourism is hitting these small stall owners very hard 😞!  

 

Laurence

Edited by ebslcc
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9 hours ago, Boatharbour said:

On disembarkation day we took a taxi to the airport express MTR station and checked in early for our flight actually at the station. No need to go to the airport.  The benefit of this was that we could drop off our luggage and had the day free to wander around Lantau. You do need an Octopus card though to enter the check in area of the station. 

GREAT tip re: checking your bag through at the Airport Express MTR Station so you don't need to go to the airport http://www.mtr.com.hk/en/customer/services/complom_checkin.html.  Please note:

  1. FIRST check to make sure your airline participate in Free In-town Check-in Services http://www.mtr.com.hk/archive/en/services/itci.pdf e.g. Singapore Airline doesn't! 
  2. From Kai Tak you should taxi to the Kowloon Airport Express MTR Station - it's closer and quicker than going to the Hong Kong Airport Express Station since you don't need to cross harbor.  Also, there is no cross harbor toll that the taxi will tag on if you went across the harbor.  
  3. At the end of your day when you want to get to the airport you can go to either the Hong Kong Station or the Kowloon Station.  Make sure you still have your passport and boarding pass with you!  You will not be allowed on the Airport Express train without them.

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Thank you so much for this marvelous post!  It is filled with useful and interesting information and is so helpful in preparing for our cruise on January 4th.

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For us, it was very easy to take the ferry from Kowloon (TST) to Macau, where taxis wait for you.

 

We spent the morning with a self tour of the old city of Macau, had lunch there, and then took a taxi to the Venetian, saw the Crique style show House of Dancing Water at City of Dreams (next to the Venetian), had dinner at City of Dreams, and then took a taxi back to the ferry terminal.  It's a great way to spend a day and night.  We booked tickets for the show ahead of time.  Maybe the bus works as well as the ferry.  I wouldn't know.  

 

Macau, despite the casinos and gambling, should never be confused with Las Vegas.  There is no "Strip" and entertainment options of Vegas aren't there.  There is zero buzz, but it's great for a day.  Having seen it, I wouldn't go back a second time, but it is a good take once.  If you like casino gambling, then maybe more time there makes sense.

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Fantastic information, we will be there in Feb. on the QM2.  

 

I have a dumb question about Uber in Hong Kong...do you type in the location you want to go to in English and it gets translated to chinese for the driver?  Or does the app have you select from locations pre programmed?

 

Thanks.

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5 hours ago, lapsedcruiser said:

Fantastic information, we will be there in Feb. on the QM2.  

 

I have a dumb question about Uber in Hong Kong...do you type in the location you want to go to in English and it gets translated to chinese for the driver?  Or does the app have you select from locations pre programmed?

 

Thanks.

Thanks. Yes type your location in English! Although one driver rejected us after I text him in English where we are - in front of McDonald's at Admiralty.  Another driver took our ride immediately.  There are plenty of Ubers around town.  I read that it is more difficult for a Uber ride back from the 'country side' places like Stanley Market or Aberdeen (although it's only a 10 minutes MTR ride from Admiralty to Aberdeen? vs. a much longer drive by car?)

 

Another advantage with Uber: when we had luggage (going to HZM Bridge and going to the Airport from the bridge), we ordered an Uber XL. Both times were nice rather new Honda mini-vans.  I didn't see any big size taxis in the line up they may have to call one in.

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Laurence

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On 12/26/2019 at 10:13 PM, ebslcc said:

We returned recently from a Japan / China / Taiwan / Hong Kong cruise on the Celebrity Millennium.  The Millennium as are most cruises to Hong Kong was docked at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. We overnight on the Millennium and then extended our trip in Hong Kong / Macau before flying home closed to midnight on the 5th day. This is a trip report starting with our experience at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and our first day in Hong Kong.  I will point out information that I have gathered which may help anyone planning a similar trip.

 

Prior to arriving to Hong Kong we monitored Hong Kong protests. Luckily it was quiet since the local elections a few weeks before our arrival.  There were no major protest scheduled until Dec 8th (6th month anniversary) the day after our disembarkation.  We had already changed our plans to book our extended stay in Macau instead of Hong Kong.  Even if we had stayed in Hong Kong on December 8th I think that if we stay away from the scheduled protest areas it would have been fine.  For those of you coming to Hong Kong on a cruise you may want to check the long "Is Hong Kong Safe" discussion thread on the Cruise Critic forum https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2687337-is-hong-kong-safe/, and the also long Is HK save to travel? discussion thread on TripAdvisor Hong Kong forum.  Also, for better real time news you can Google "hong kong live map" for a couple of good live updates (HKmap and the liveuamap).  

 

If you are doing a cruise excursion, booked a local tour or have a local guide IMHO it is absolutely safe to visit Hong Kong.  Even on your own, I think if you stay away from any scheduled protest areas it should be fine also. However, it helps to be cautious and keep informed on what's happening so that you can avoid the trouble areas. Beside checking the live links you may want to also install the official MTR App on your smart phone. If there is any problem on the MTR, you will get a live alert.  It helps also if you are touring on your own to have internet access while you are in Hong Kong.  Not only for news alerts but also for online MTR transit assist and online Google map which has excellent GPS / map with great transit information.   I still have the MTR App installed and was informed of the protest problems Christmas Eve.  

 

The Millennium as are most cruises to Hong Kong docked at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Cruise Terminal which was redeveloped from Hong Kong's previous Kai Tak Airport.  The terminal is a beautiful, modern, classy looking. We saw Victoria harbor from afar as we sail in.  Our ship was the only one in port.  Another ship arrived the second day as we disembark. Looking at the kaitakcruiseterminal website Kai Tak is a pretty busy port with lots of cruise traffic!  

 

 

 

We got our passport back from the ship the night before arriving to Hong Kong with a short immigration form for us to fill out. Immigration / custom moved people through quickly keeping a copy of the immigration form and sending people off.  We were directed to the escalator to the lower floor taxi / shuttle area. I didn't see the free shuttle sign at first, the staff at the terminal was very helpful and courteous. Perhaps because we were the only ship in port we didn't experience "long walk" " the terminal is too big issues" that other reviewers mentioned.  I clocked our walk to be ~5 minutes from the gangway to the free shuttle bus. MUCH shorter than most walks from front of airport terminal to check in to security then to airport gates!  

 

We arrived on Friday December 6th 2019. On that day we only have 3 options to get to town 1) take a taxi into town or to the nearest MTR station -  2) Take one of the two free shuttles to the closest shopping malls with MTR Stations 3) Request for an Uber ride from our phone.  The taxi line wasn't that long. There were plenty of taxi's. Uber pickup is in the private tours / private vehicle pickup area not too far from the taxi stand. We found Uber to be very inexpensive in Hong Kong.  The local buses, mini-bus and Ferry serving Kai Tak has limited schedules which are not really suitable for cruise arrival passengers. Google if you are interested in learning more about them.

 

On our arrival date there were 2 free shopping mall / MTR station shuttles offered: 1) Kai Tak to/from Diamond Hill MTR / Plaza Hollywood Mall 2) Kai tak to/from APM Mall.  The last shuttle from Diamond Hill MTR shuttle was 5 PM. The last shuttle from APM Mall was 10 PM.  It didn't make much sense that the Plaza Hollywood shuttle would end at 5 PM since the mall opens later than 5 PM.  However it didn't matter to us which shuttle to take since we just want to get to any MTR station to start our day in Hong Kong.  We plan to take a taxi or an Uber back to Kai Tak at night directly from a Kowloon area which has easy access to taxis and Ubers.  We took the Diamond Hills MTR / Hollywood Plaza shuttle since the APM shuttle bus just took off.  The shuttle waited another 15 minutes for more passengers to get on.  I think the shuttles ran every 1/2 hour.  It only took 15 minutes for the shuttle to get to Diamond Hills.  Google map showed travel time to APM Mall would have been the same ~15 minutes.  

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Once we got off the shuttle it was a short 2 minutes walk for us to get to the MTR service booth.  From the service booth we purchased an Octopus card. The minimum purchase for the on-loan Octopus card is $150 HKD (~$20 USD). $150 purchase includes $50 HKD on loan fee most of which is refundable and $100 worth of travel value. You can get refund for unused portion of the card plus most of the on loan cost (minus small service fee) at a MTR service center before you leave Hong Kong.  On our last day in Hong Kong we added fare at a MTR service booth and took the Airport Express for the 20 minutes ride between the Airport and the Hong Kong Station.  After getting off at the Airport we return the Octopus cards at the MTR service counter and got a refund for most of the on-loan charge and unused value for the cards.

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The advantages of an Octopus Pass is it gives us easy scan and go and discounted access to the Hong Kong transportation system including buses, ferries, trams (The "Ding Ding") and even the Peak Tram.  Without the Octopus card you will need to have a lot of coins or small bills around to get on the bus or ferries and waste a lot of time paying single fare on the MTR.  Note that if you are 65 and above you are eligible for the Elder Octopus Card (green color).  With the Elder card you are eligible for the heavily discounted senior fares for most MTR journeys, buses, trams (including the Peak Tram) and ferries.  The level of discount depends on the route. For example, for most buses and MTR routes the elder fare is $2 (less than 25 cents USD!), for the Peak Tram it is a 50% discount!  Google MTR senior visitor concessions for more details.  You can read more about the MTR and the Octopus card online.  The MTR also has a  MTR Tourist Day Pass for $65 HKD.  Note that this single day pass is NOT as flexible as the Octopus Card since it is only valid for the MTR and MTR buses and not the more popular buses / ferries or the trams. If you are taking a lot of MTR only rides and don't plan to take other forms of transportation the full day Tourist Pass may work out for you.

 

We had a nice full day in Hong Kong on our first day, we decided to go later to The Peak and took advantage of being in Hong Kong early to get to Tim Ho Wan for Dim Sum before there's a queue. We went to the original Tim Ho Wan branch in Sham Shui Po where the restaurant got it's fame being “the world's cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant”. Google map really helped for us to navigate to the restaurant.  We got there at 9:30 AM before it's 10 AM opening. There was a small queue ~30% tourist, ~70% locals.  The local restaurant next to Tim Ho Wan looked pretty good also. It was full of locals getting their breakfast.  Even though there are multiple Tim Ho Wan locations in Hong Kong with one that opens an hour earlier we decided to go to the original. This Tim Ho Wan still has the old Dim Sum tea house feel...no rolling carts but it still has the old restaurant vibe. There is a menu with English for you to check off what you want.  Google for photos and recommendations what's good there.  There are good Dim Sum restaurant everywhere in Hong Kong so if you just want good Dim Sum, Google or check out TripAdvisor, pick one that looks good and with close access to a MTR station, check their opening hour and try to get there before opening. Hong Kong folks loves to go to Dim Sum and with good restaurants there would usually be a queue if you go later after opening, especially on weekends. Although with the recent protest eating out has been dampened.The Dim Sum was good. To our taste may be a little better than what we have had in other great Dim Sum restaurants in SF or Vancouver however what we really like was to have experienced this location. 

 

After brunch we walk a few minutes to the Prince Edward area.  We ended up spending a couple of hours walking through the shops at the Mong Kok Flower Market,  Bird Garden Yuen Po Street, Fa Yuen Street, Cat Street, Goldfish Market, Ladies Market, a bit of Nathan Road before taking the MTR to Admiralty to go to The Peak.  After The Peak we Uber to SOHO, walk down the mid level escalator to Central, have dinner, Star Ferry across to Kowloon, 8 PM Symphony of Lights show at the at the Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) promenade, more walking around and shopping. We took Uber back to the ship from TST.  At around midnight it only took 20 minutes with light traffic to go from TST to Kai Tak.  Uber cost was $65 HKD.  It was a good thing we packed the night before on our sea day since our disembarkation is just after the overnight stay.

 

More later re: our experience with disembarkation at Kai Tak, more details on Hong Kong / Macau sights we went to and our excursion to Macau from Hong Kong.

 

*** First some important information *** The limited transportation option we had at Kai Tak early December 2019 is SOON going to change for the better!!!  There is an upcoming Kai Tak MTR Station opening sometime in 2020 first quarter!  The trains will run every 3-5 minutes.  You can transfer one stop over at the Diamond Hill to get to the central corridor of Kowloon or another quick transfer to get to Tsim Sha Tsui or MTR Stations in Hong Kong island.  It is unknown how long a walk it will be from Kai Tak to the new MTR station.  I expect it to be no more than 10 to 15 minutes.  With the frequency and well connected MTR trains and train lines you will be able to get you to most tourist destinations much quicker and much more inexpensive than taxis!   You can Google "Kai Tak MTR Station" and "MTR Shatin to Central Link" for the latest news. I am sure someone on this board will update everyone when the Kai Tak MTR is opened. 

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A few more side suggestions:
Even though Hong Kong is one of the easiest cruise port for DIY touring, I think there is still very good value in either taking a cruise excursion or hire a well rated local guide. A cruise excursion is good especially if you only have limited hours in port.  A local guide can take you around Hong Kong more efficiently and also give you prospective on Hong Kong sights, people and culture that you will not get from a guide book! 

 

A big advantage taking an Uber vs. taxi is you know ahead of time what your cost is for your ride!  A taxi driver MAY take a longer route with traffic increasing your cost.  From my discussions with Uber drivers Uber is not officially sanctioned by the Hong Kong government but is allowed to operate "with one eye closed".  Per Uber drivers Uber has been very popular especially for the younger passengers in Hong Kong. One of the drivers said that ~80% of his riders are locals vs. tourists.  Most of the drivers we encountered do not own their vehicles, they are provided by Uber!  

 

There are hundreds if not thousands of YouTube videos on Hong Kong that's useful to view preparing for your cruise stop.  I found previewing destinations on YouTube extremely helpful for our cruise excursion planning. These two below are good ones showing Kai Tak and a cruise excursion to The Peak.

 

 

More later... if you need more immediate help please ask.  I will eventually get around to post more information from our trip.

Laurence
 

Thanks for all this information Laurence. It's been very useful to help with planning ahead.

 

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Re: Money Exchange, ATMs

There is a currency exchange at Kai Tak terminal opposite the stand from the Tourism Board stand.

https://www.kaitakcruiseterminal.com.hk/facilities/money-exchange/

https://www.kaitakcruiseterminal.com.hk/facilities/hong-kong-tourism-board/

 

Per TripAdvisor rates are poor and you are better off getting cash from an ATM. There wasn't any ATMs at Kai Tak.

 

There are ATMs available inside and near the 2 malls with free shuttles (as of Dec 2019). 
There were mall staff helping to direct people how to get to the mall and MTR when we exited the shuttle bus. I am sure you can just ask them where the nearest ATM is.

 

The APM mall sign says that there is a money exchange there.  The Plaza Hollywood sign says only ATM is available at the mall.

image.png.ae45af9964c03c479fe9391cba9d8577.png

 

image.png.6b7f39452483140bdbab9a091abea6c3.png

 

Re: HKD needed for your Hong Kong stop

You will need cash for MOST taxi's and MOST local transportation including buses, ferries as well as the MTR. You need to pay cash to purchase the Octopus Card ($150 HKD to start) or to top up the card. Depending where you eat you may need cash for restaurants and most street food outlets. Some stalls at the street markets actually do take credit cards however it's best to pay in cash.

 

Even if you are planning to just take the MTR to get around it is good to have enough cash around to take a taxi back to the terminal just in case!

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Wow!  Still more great information.

 

I took your suggestion and looked up info on the octopus card.  I see you can use it at restaurants and bake shops and even 7/11.  Did you try that when you were there?  I wonder if they have signs that let you know it's accepted.

 

Thanks again.

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Happy New Year & a safe 2020 for all.

 

Here are some of the HK stores, businesses & shops that accept the Octopus card and will debit it as payment, like a contactless ATM/debit card against stored values in HKD.  These vendors will also add/load more funds into your Octopus card, not just at the MTR station or 7-11 stores (that's practically around the corners, everywhere throughout HK) 

https://www.octopus.com.hk/en/consumer/octopus-cards/reload/cash/index.html

 

Watsons & Mannings are your local retail pharmacy chain stores with OTC meds, toiletry needs & essentials, bottled water & soda, and those thick, absorbent multi-purpose paper napkins ... always have an extra pack or two, while out & about.  Parknshop and Wellcome are your major supermarket chains.  Cafe de Coral is HK's largest comfort/fast food chains of east & western varieties, quick & simple ... kind of like IHOP, Denny's in the USA - don't need to look for a McD for coffee & snacks or KFC/Pizza Hut for fried chicken or pasta.   Maxim is another major group - coffees, pastries, bakery & breakfast items ... more than Dunkins or Starbucks.  

 

Octopus card, in short, is widely accept for most public transportation ... and if you have sufficient stored value, for the Ngong Ping 360 cable car trip ride up/down to see the Big/Giant Budda high up on the Lantau's mountain top.  

https://theculturetrip.com/asia/china/hong-kong/articles/12-places-you-can-use-an-octopus-card-in-hong-kong/

 

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Just to piggy back on this post, we were just in Hong Kong on the Spectrum of the seas.  A few things we did on our own I can recommend

1 - Transport.  Download Uber and use that app, it is solid and works well.  You can book small cars and XL size.  We used this to transport around town, to the cruise terminal.  It was easier to get a taxi from the airport with all the luggage however, so make sure you have local currency with small bills.

2 - Hotel.  Stayed at Sheraton Towers.  Nice location, but small rooms.  Twin beds are TWIN beds, so check and confirm bed size with the hotels directly.  They have adjoining rooms so that can help with larger families.  Excellent food.  They really nailed the creme brulee which is my favorite desert.  Nice band in the lobby after dinner.  Also there is a small mall downstairs for anything you forgot with your packing.


3.  Tours.  

We did 2 tours I found on aggregators.  First was Victoria Harbour Evening Cruise Tour that I booked on Klook.  I have done this 2x and it is excellent.  Beautiful lights of the harbor and very close to Sheraton Towers BTW.

Next tour we did was Big Buddha Walk, Skip the Line N360 cable car (crystal).  It was booked via Get Your Guide.  Excellent all day tour.  But be warned it was a lot of walking.  Beautiful scenery and opportunities for picture taking.  

4.  Disney

Hong Kong Disney had almost perfect weather and almost no waits for any rides in the morning.  Guests seemed to come later in the afternoon and by 6 pm all decent rides at 45+ minute waits.  I would go in the morning and leave around dinner.  Lots of walking and standing so make sure your party can handle it.  However, it has to be the best Disney experience I've had and I grew up 1 hour from Orlando Disney in Florida, and went many times.  

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On 1/2/2020 at 4:01 AM, unrealHeather said:

Just to piggy back on this post, we were just in Hong Kong on the Spectrum of the seas.  A few things we did on our own I can recommend

 

Thanks for sharing your experience!!!

 

On 1/2/2020 at 4:01 AM, unrealHeather said:

1 - Transport.  Download Uber and use that app, it is solid and works well.  You can book small cars and XL size.  We used this to transport around town, to the cruise terminal.  It was easier to get a taxi from the airport with all the luggage however, so make sure you have local currency with small bills.

Uber was great - SO EASY to get an Uber with the App. All the drivers we had were pleasant. Vehicles were all good and clean.  We didn't wait for more than a few minutes to catch a ride even near the Airport (HZM Bridge).  May be we were lucky? If you haven't use Uber before you may want to download it and try using it prior to your stop in Hong Kong.  You can also use the App to figure out approximate pricing for the day of the week and time of the day you need to get around.  

 

On 1/2/2020 at 4:01 AM, unrealHeather said:

2 - Hotel.  Stayed at Sheraton Towers.  Nice location, but small rooms.  Twin beds are TWIN beds, so check and confirm bed size with the hotels directly.  They have adjoining rooms so that can help with larger families.  Excellent food.  They really nailed the creme brulee which is my favorite desert.  Nice band in the lobby after dinner.  Also there is a small mall downstairs for anything you forgot with your packing.  

I would not hesitate to stay at the Sheraton Towers at TST (Tsim Sha Tsui) even though it is right on Nathan Road which was a trouble protest march area. It is in an excellent location to get around touring Hong Kong.  A lot less walking to get to the MTR, to the Star Ferry, to the Kowloon to Macau Ferry.  Recently trouble spots has been more near Mong Kok, Prince Edward and Wan Chai areas.  NYE at TST was peaceful: seeing the live streams people who showed up for the midnight light show at TST were families and not trouble makers.  IMHO it is better to book 4 and 5 star hotels like the Sheraton Towers vs. the lower priced or out of the way hotels.  When we wanted to get back to the ship in Kai Tak we purposely got to TST and walk over to the Peninsula Hotel across the Sheraton for easy Uber pickup.  Hong Kong hotels can be booked at a deep discount right now.  4 and 5 star hotels can be had for what used to be 3 stars hotel prices!  Just book with free cancellation option just in case you need to alter your plans.

 

On 1/2/2020 at 4:01 AM, unrealHeather said:

3.  Tours.  

We did 2 tours I found on aggregators.  First was Victoria Harbour Evening Cruise Tour that I booked on Klook.  I have done this 2x and it is excellent.  Beautiful lights of the harbor and very close to Sheraton Towers BTW.

Next tour we did was Big Buddha Walk, Skip the Line N360 cable car (crystal).  It was booked via Get Your Guide.  Excellent all day tour.  But be warned it was a lot of walking.  Beautiful scenery and opportunities for picture taking.  

Thanks for posting names of other tour aggregators.  I just noticed Klook has many instant confirmation e-tickets. I dislike the discounted tickets that makes you purchase ahead and have to go to a particular location to exchange to usable tickets (e.g. for the Dancing Water show in Macau).  I agree with you the Victoria Harbour Evening tour is worth going to again and again.  

 

On 1/2/2020 at 4:01 AM, unrealHeather said:

 4.  Disney

Hong Kong Disney had almost perfect weather and almost no waits for any rides in the morning.  Guests seemed to come later in the afternoon and by 6 pm all decent rides at 45+ minute waits.  I would go in the morning and leave around dinner.  Lots of walking and standing so make sure your party can handle it.  However, it has to be the best Disney experience I've had and I grew up 1 hour from Orlando Disney in Florida, and went many times.  

Nice tip to go early to Disneyland.  Disneyland Hong Kong would be a good "escape from large scheduled protests" alternate touring plan.  If you happen to be in Hong Kong when there is a big scheduled protest event it's best to execute the alternative tour plan so that you are out of the way and not inconvenienced with traffic interruptions etc.  The 2 large protests with hundreds of thousands of ordinary folks participating in the past months has been Oct 8th (6th months anniversary of protest) and New Year's Day.  BTW, senior ticket price for Disneyland is $100 HKD even for foreign visitors. Just bring your passport as proof that you are 65+.

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Posted (edited)

Nan Lian Garden / Chi lin Nunnery  - an Oasis in the middle of concrete jungle near Kai Tak Cruise Terminal

 

If you have a couple extra hours at Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and want a relaxing DIY excursion, the Nan Lian Garden and adjoining Chi Lin Nunnery is an easy 5 minutes walk from the Diamond Hill MTR station (exit C2).  The place has mini-waterfalls, bonsai trees, lovely ponds, ancient Chinese Tang Dynasty style buildings... The Pavilion of Absolute Perfection in the Garden has been in many tour brochures. It is in the photo used for Celebrity Cruise's "Hong Kong Full Day with Airport Drop Off" $99 excursion.  

 

The Diamond Hill MTR shuttle stop is very close to the C2 MTR exit.  Just follow the signs for Nan Lian Garden or ask the shuttle staff to get you started in the right direction.

 

When the Kai Tak MTR is open just take the MTR 1 stop to Diamond Hill Station. 

 

Here is a good YouTube video:

 

Note in the video the stairs you need to walk up if you want to see the Nunnery.  There is also a vegetarian restaurant if you want to try out their vegetarian food in a very nice setting.  The menus are in Chinese and English. Goggle "Chi Lin Vegetarian" and TripAdvisor for more info and photos.

 

Google "Nan Lian Garden" and/or "Chi Lin Nunnery" and check out TripAdvisor for more details. 
Admission is free.

 

Laurence

Edited by ebslcc

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I booked the Hyatt Centric Victoria Harbor bc of what seemed like an easy ferry ride to the terminal. Do the ferries run on schedule? Also looking up this tour --

On 1/2/2020 at 4:01 AM, unrealHeather said:

We did 2 tours I found on aggregators.  First was Victoria Harbour Evening Cruise Tour that I booked on Klook.  I have done this 2x and it is excellent.  Beautiful lights of the harbor and very close to Sheraton Towers BTW.

 

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1 hour ago, Ombud said:

I booked the Hyatt Centric Victoria Harbor bc of what seemed like an easy ferry ride to the terminal. Do the ferries run on schedule? Also looking up this tour --

 

Nice find. Great location: easy walk to MTR, walk to many good restaurants (Tim Ho Wan for Dim Sum, Tung Po for excellent seafood Da Pai Dong experience), it is right next to North Point Ferries (5 minutes walk https://goo.gl/maps/wy9tfFCs99Km96qq9), away for corridors of protest marches.  It has excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. I hope you don't have much luggage with you to get on the ferry.

 

Ferries should run on schedule posted:

https://www.td.gov.hk/en/transport_in_hong_kong/public_transport/ferries/service_details/index.html#i03

~once every half hour on weekdays and once every hour on weekends from 7 AM to ~7:00/7:30 PM.

 

The big problem is the stop at Kai Tak is ONLY on weekends and holidays!!!  The ferry trip from North Point to Kai Tak goes to Kwun Tong ferry pier first (12 minutes ride) then to Kai Tak arriving ~15 minutes later.  If you are going to Kai Tak on a weekday via ferry you will need to catch a taxi Kwun Tong to Kai Tak.  Uber pick up is NOT available at Kwan Tung!  I don't know about taxi availability at Kwun Tong.

 

You can taxi / Uber from the Hyatt directly to Kai Tak. Travel time is ~20 to 50 minutes https://goo.gl/maps/NYZeQhapwf8WXGKK9 I put in Friday 9 AM on Google Maps to estimate the time of travel.  It's probably the worst day traffic wise.  Taxi cost is unknown.  Uber cost estimate is $182 HKD to $220 HKD assuming Uber XL (better if you have luggage). 

 

IMG_5683.jpg.b2f49965206373c4c042a12fa807155e.jpg

Laurence

 

 

  

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Thanks for letting me know re: location

 

I have a 22" with 4 wheels and embark on a Saturday. I will splurge (maybe) and use the hotel shuttle from airport for 150HK. After an afternoon flight from SF I anticipate being tired. I should be fine the next day

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Very helpful posts - thank you!  We are going in February from Singapore to Hong Kong on Crystal, then spending 5 days in HK.  I can't figure out which is the official MTR app which gives you the alerts you were talking about?  There are several apps on iTunes but none seem to be "official".  Can you tell me which one it is?  Thanks.

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7 hours ago, Ombud said:

Thanks for letting me know re: location

 

I have a 22" with 4 wheels and embark on a Saturday. I will splurge (maybe) and use the hotel shuttle from airport for 150HK. After an afternoon flight from SF I anticipate being tired. I should be fine the next day

You are welcome.  Like I said you have a very good hotel find.  It's good that ferry access should work out for you on your Saturday embarkation.  I think even if you had to taxi / Uber from North Point, the hotel is still a good one to consider pre and post cruise. Your posts here may help others looking for a good hotel.

 

re: Luggage I have not been on the North Point Ferry so I don't know what it is like.  I think 22" should be fine on this ferry. The Star Ferry has pretty rough ramp. I see people whizzing by folks carefully dragging luggage to get on a Star Ferry. It may be the same for the North Point Ferry? May be someone who has experienced it can post / or you can let us all know after your trip how easy it is to travel with luggage on the North Point Ferry to Kai Tak.  When is your cruise?

 

Re: hotel shuttle from airport. $150 HKD is a very reasonable price for direct point to point shuttle. This is per person price? The driver will pick up after you exit or do you have to call them after you are ready for the ride? 

 

Looking at HK eMobility (the HK Transportation's official App for transportation) the A12 Airport Bus will take you 1 1/2 blocks from the Hyatt Centric in 75 minutes. You can get off at Java Road and Kam Hong Street bus stop.  https://goo.gl/maps/6rzZoZ3aUhm4Jk4PA It is the 7th stop from the Airport Ground Transportation Center. Cost: $45 HKD $22.50 HKD for children and elders (65+) using an Elder Octopus Card. 

 

If you have more days pre-cruise or post cruise or in need of an Octopus Card you can pick it up 1 minute walk from exiting HK Airport Customs.

 

IMG_5697.jpg.7c7c08f3709b6e1e1d1533c50f4ab266.jpg

 

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4 hours ago, crimlaw@ecentral.com said:

Very helpful posts - thank you!  We are going in February from Singapore to Hong Kong on Crystal, then spending 5 days in HK.  I can't figure out which is the official MTR app which gives you the alerts you were talking about?  There are several apps on iTunes but none seem to be "official".  Can you tell me which one it is?  Thanks.

YVW.  It's nice to have 5 days in HK!!!  Is this your first time?  Here are most of the Apps I have for our cruise - more than what's needed:

852294304_Screenshot2020-01-04at10_50_25PM.jpg.d1c717d4451b695743407faaf38bbb40.jpg

 

I assume most of these are available for Android phones also.

 

For HK the MTR Mobile, Google Maps, Uber and HKeMobility Apps were most useful for us (we have data access in HK with T-Mobile).  HKeMobility is a must have if you are planning to use buses or trams.  It has real time bus information and alerts also. It's good to hop on a tram in HK island or a bus on Nathan Road in Kowloon even for 1/2 a mile to save some walking. For Macau Rom2Rio was helpful in figuring out bus and taxi options.  For Japan, Google Maps was excellent for figuring out train and walking directions.

 

1800852149_Screenshot2020-01-04at9_22_04PM.thumb.jpg.ac92f35da49ebc06bc2fb802690607b2.jpg

 

Laurence

IMG_5699.jpg

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I'm not going until August but will research the octopus card as the shuttle price is per person. Still seems reasonable but a lot higher than the metro. 

 

I 2nd Rome2Rio.  Use it all over, downloaded MTR in Google play.  

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