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City guide to Hong Kong: Doing business in the party capital of South East Asia

Name: David Freer
Nationality: Australian
Position: VP, Consumer Asia Pacific, Intel Security

 

How often do you travel to Hong Kong and who do you fly with?
I am in Hong Kong once or twice every three months. I take Singapore Airlines whenever possible but will tailor my flights based upon the most convenient carrier.

One thing everyone ought to know about Hong Kong.
There are a lot of people in a small place! Hong Kong Island and Kowloon are only 127 square kilometres in size yet have 3.5 million (48% of the population) living there. Compare that to Singapore’s five million people spread across nearly 700 square kilometres and you get some feel for the density of everyday life.

How quickly can you get a visa? Online, embassy or visa on arrival?
Fortunately, I don’t need a visa. For other destinations, I’m fortunate to have an APEC pass. If you’re a senior executive with an Asia Pacific passport you can apply for this pass which will give you a visa and fast immigration clearance for all member countries.

Fastest way into and around the city?
The Airport Express (train) is both the fastest and cheapest way to get to either Kowloon or Hong Kong Island. It’s very affordable and there are always taxis available at the station to take you to your final destination.

When are the good and bad times to visit Hong Kong?
There’s no particularly bad time to visit; it’s both a commerce and tourist hub and is designed to handle significant inflows of visitors. Hong Kong is in the path of typhoons that come in from the South China Sea so it’s worthwhile checking forward weather projections during the period of highest risk (May to November).

Hotels you recommend.
I usually stay at the Grand Hyatt down by the harbour on Hong Kong Island. The Renaissance next door is also a comfortable hotel.

What’s the dress code for meetings?
Hong Kong is usually warm and humid and therefore most meetings are business casual (i.e., no tie).

Any cultural or business etiquette to be aware of?
Hong Kong is a Chinese city – even more so since the British left in 1997. It’s important to understand Chinese cultural values to be most effective.

You are taking a client to lunch or dinner, where do you go?
I can’t recommend Aqua at 1 Peking Road at Tsim Sha Tsui highly enough. It specialises in both Japanese and Italian food and has the most amazing views over the city skyline. It also has a separate bar area where you can get together for pre-meeting drinks. Grab a window seat and ensure you’re ready to watch the nightly 8pm light and laser show using the tallest towers on the island.

Casual bars to go for a drink with clients where you won’t get hassled?
Hong Kong abounds in a range of good places to drink. Many of the city’s hotels have bars that take advantage of their proximity to the water and are still quiet enough to conclude any serious meeting.

Any unsafe areas to avoid?
There are not really any unsafe areas in Hong Kong. Visitors need to be aware there may be petty crime around the tourist and bar regions of Wan Chai and Lan Kwai Fong, but that is more the exception than the rule.

You’ve got some spare time, what’s the must-see?
There are a range of things any visitor must do when in Hong Kong. A tram ride up to the Peak followed by the walk around the Victoria Peak garden is just spectacular. Even on the hottest day there is a cool breeze, while taking in the most amazing vistas of Hong Kong, Kowloon and beyond. A bus ride to Stanley on the far side of the island is also a great trip when combined with a visit to the local markets. Any of the local ferry rides are also a great way to see the city from the water and if you have a day or more to spare, the fast hydrofoil across to Macau is a must.

Gifts for family and friends?
Hong Kong is a shopper’s city. Everything from local fashion brands such as Shanghai Tang through to the eponymous Indian tailors in Kowloon will ensure you leave well dressed. The prices for electronics is also good, especially for cameras – just make certain it comes with an international warranty. There’s also an amazing range of local paintings and handicrafts available.

How long before your flight do you really need to be at the airport?
The Airport Express stations in Hong Kong and Kowloon allow you to check-in before you board the train and travel out to the airport. I have to say that it’s probably the most time-effective airport I have travelled to in the world.

Give our readers a personal feel for staying in Hong Kong or doing business there.
I have held a number of international meetings in Hong Kong, flying colleagues in from both Europe and America. For first-time visitors, Hong Kong is definitely one of the best introductions you can get to Asia. It is Asian yet still strongly Western due to its British heritage. Coupling that with being spectacularly beautiful due to the interplay of harbour and mountains, Hong Kong leaves an indelible memory.

 

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