Planning to go for a 1-2 week #adfriendture with your bestie? In Asia, this route has been popular for quite some time: Hong Kong – Shenzhen – Macau, for its easy access and choices of things to do and see.
I actually have been there back in 2013, with my it-bro: Andre*. However, I haven’t blogged about it ever since! So I guess this time I’m gonna share our experience while at the same time giving you some ideas if you might want to visit these areas as well soon. There will be more posts about our trip after this one, and in this particular blog post I would like to first introduce you to 5 important things (you might need) to know before traveling there!
*He’s been my best friend since high school, and I proudly tell you here that he’s also an aspiring Food Stylist & Photographer now. Check his Instagram account: @andrebinarto for amazing #foodphotography.
To start off, it’s better for you to know that the 3 areas are all parts of People’s Republic of China (PRC). However, since Hong Kong and Macau are special administrative regions, they are also countries, considering the fact that the citizens have their own distinctive passports (with different benefits when it comes to traveling to other countries) and governments.
In this case, people from Hong Kong and Macau somehow are not very happy when a visitor refers their countries as China, cause this term is normally used for areas within mainland China only. Therefore, in this trip, let’s say that the only city in China that we have visited was Shenzhen.
For Indonesians, visa is not required to enter Hong Kong and Macau, while we only needed to apply for a Visa on Arrival (VoA) in Shenzhen. Yes, even though Shenzhen is part of mainland China, we didn’t have to apply for a Chinese Tourist Visa in advance. However, holding a VoA for Shenzhen does not mean that you can go to other cities in the country. So, if you also wish to go to other parts of mainland China such as Beijing, Shanghai, Harbin, Chongqing, etc., you will need to have a full Chinese Tourist Visa. Please remember that. For more information regarding Shenzhen VoA and other special economic zones in PRC where you can enter without Chinese Tourist Visa, check this article.
PRC also claims sovereignty over Republic of China (RoC) a.k.a. Taiwan. For this country, Indonesians need a whole different other visa and it has to be granted in advance, so that’s why Andre and I decided to skip this one for our 10-day backpacking trip back then. We kind of wanted the trip to be visa (read: hassle) free!
If you are a non-Indonesian, you can check all visa requirements here.
It can get pretty chilly in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Macau between November to March. Of course, how “chilly” it is depends on what you think is the norm when it comes to daily weather. Since Andre and I are Indonesians living in Indonesia, we would consider 12-18°C to be cold. At least it is lower than how our aircon’s temperature is normally set up, haha.
In my opinion, it would be wise to wear sweaters, coats, shawls, jeans/stockings, and keds/boots in this kind of weather. You won’t need ear puffs or extreme winter jackets, of course, that would be silly. But if you’re from Scandinavian countries, for instance, and you consider that range of temperature to be actually quite warm, then you decide how you will dress up during your trip!
Between April and October, the weather will be warm (and hot during July/August), so you can hang around wearing light clothes such as T-shirts, shorts, sandals, etc. Check this website where you can get accurate weather forecast!
However, during summer (especially between July and September), the south east part of PRC is prone to getting typhoons. You surely don’t want it to happen during your trip, so please make sure you do sufficient research about it and plan your vacation carefully. You don’t wanna end up staying in your hotel the whole day just because of unexpected typhoon attack. This article might be helpful for you to learn more about this natural occurring.
Although Hong Kong itself is divided into several islands, getting around the city (or country) was very convenient as the area has various transportation options: Mass Transit Railway (MTR), buses, trams, etc. You won’t find it hard at all to get to one point to another, and without further explanation, just click here for full information!
In Shenzhen, it was also more or less the same like Hong Kong, except they did not have trams. Check this article for further information. However, there’s one thing I didn’t really like about using public transportation in Shenzhen: the people did not know how to queue, especially when getting in and out of the subway! It was always a total mess. Instead of waiting on the side to let the people in the train getting out first, they just stood right in front of the door and there you can imagine what happens when the doors open… The trick to avoid getting crazy in this situation is to stand aside from the chaos until everything is set, then you can get in or out of the train comfortably. Well, make sure you do it quickly before the doors close!
The best part of the public transportation in Macau was definitely the free hotel shuttle buses! You don’t even have to stay in the hotels or play in their in-house casinos to be able to use the service. You can just hop on the bus and go! Check here to see the list of free hotel shuttle buses and their routes. Their stops are normally located at hotels, ferry terminals, and airport. So if you need to go to other parts of the city (which you must, by the way), you can go for other transportation options like public buses, taxi, or even bicycle. Find more information here.
For transportation between Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Macau, Andre and I used these following means of travel:
Hong Kong to Shenzhen: MTR + Subway (more info)
Shenzhen to Macau: TurboJET Ferry (more info)
Another thing which will convince you that you are traveling to 3 different countries is the currency! Each of them has their own!
If you start the trip from Hong Kong, it is best to just prepare all the funds in Hong Kong Dollar (HKD / HK$).
When you get to Shenzhen, you can exchange some amount in HKD to Chinese Yuan (CNY / ¥) – or more known as Renminbi (RMB) to locals.
In Macau, you can actually choose to just stick to HKD or exchange to Macanese Pataca (MOP / MOP$). According to this article in TripAdvisor, the exchange rate between the two currencies is more or less fixed at MOP 1.03 to HKD 1.00. This means that HKD 1 is more valuable than MOP 1 by approximately 3%. If purchases are priced in MOP and you choose to pay with HKD, it is important to note that you will be charged a 1:1 rate, meaning you will pay that extra 3% more by using HKD, and don’t expect any form of change. You decide!
To check how much 1 HKD / CNY / MOP in your currency, use this website.
Last but not least, it is very very important for you to know that among these 3 areas, only Shenzhen uses Mandarin as their local language!
Yup, in Hong Kong and Macau, the people speak another language called Cantonese.
Alright, let me break it down for you.
The official language of China is based on the Beijing dialect, which is normally known as Standard Chinese or Mandarin. This language is used in mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore (for its Chinese-descendant citizens).
As you know, Mandarin also has their own writing (read: not using Latin alphabets), which, as the time went by, has developed from traditional characters to simplified characters. Unlike the spoken Mandarin language, the simplified Chinese characters are used in mainland China only (and can be found used by Singaporeans as well if they grow up learning how to “write” the language). In Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, people are currently still using the traditional Chinese characters.
The interesting thing is, people in mainland China and Taiwan speak the same Mandarin language, but use different characters for the writings. On the other side, people in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau all use the same traditional characters for the writings, but in Hong Kong and Macau, the spoken language somehow has been developed differently, and it is called Cantonese. So it’s like, they can use the same writing characters for 2 different languages!
Not sure if you get my explanation perfectly, but just let me know if you are still confused!
So, if you speak Mandarin (which is more common for foreigners outside PRC to learn, compared to Cantonese), please use this language only when you’re in Shenzhen. People in Hong Kong and Macau normally do not speak this language, or can even get offended if being approached by a foreigner who’s trying to speak Mandarin. Well, you will feel this more in Hong Kong, though, as now the number of mainlanders in Macau is growing. Still, if you do not speak Cantonese, it’s better for you to just speak English. Most people in Hong Kong and Macau, especially the young generation, normally speak English fluently, not to mention the number of expats based there for work purposes.
While in Shenzhen, it’s better if you bring some mini or online dictionary to help you getting around or making purchases if you do not speak Mandarin at all. People here normally do not speak English and can literally run away if you approach them using foreign languages. Showing that you have the intention to communicate with them in their local language can make them more helpful in addressing your inquiries!
One more thing you need to know regarding the languages used in Macau, is that Portuguese is also their official language! Surprised? Don’t be. Macau was administered by the Portuguese Empire and its inheritor states from the mid-16th century until late 1999, when it was the last remaining European colony in Asia. This is why you can still find a significant number of Portuguese people living in Macau. The culture and architecture in this area is also one of a kind, as you can totally see and feel the mix of Chinese and Portuguese “personalities”.
Feeling more ready to explore Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Macau after reading this post? I hope you are! Subscribe my blog now so you won’t miss my next posts about our #adfriendture trip!