5 Tips to Remember While Exploring Hong Kong

Know the basic overview of Hong Kong's culture, language, currency, water safety, food, and even politics.

After Versace recently managed to offend Hong Kong, mainland China, and white T-shirts everywhere with a political and fashion faux pas that listed Hong Kong as an independent country, travelers to the Far East would do well to familiarize themselves with the unique city's fraught history. Currently, the semi-autonomous region follows a "one country, two systems" agreement with mainland China. But as a former British colony that was only released in 1997, Hong Kong's developed into its own sphere of culture distinct from the rest of Far East Asia. Here are 5 main tips to keep in mind while traveling as a foreigner in Hong Kong:

1. You Can Speak English—Mostly

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Unlike China, where the official language is Modern Standard Mandarin, the dual official languages of Hong Kong are Chinese and English (in this case, "Chinese" refers to Cantonese, which is mutually unintelligible with Mandarin). About 46 percent of Hong Kong residents speak English, although not all are fluent. In tourist-friendly areas, street signs, restaurant menus, websites, and official documents will be bilingual. Due to over 100 years of colonial rule, most use British spelling; and the Hong Kong accent is thick and distinct, so it's normal to need an adjustment period to understand it. However, travelers note that the importance of English has been declining since the city reverted to Chinese sovereignty, so taxi drivers, shopkeepers, and restaurant employees in areas less trodden by tourists are less likely to speak English.

Tip: Hong Kong residents are colloquially referred to as "Hongkongers," not "Chinese."

2. Exchange Currency

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Instead of the Chinese yuan (or renminbi), most Hong Kong businesses will only accept the Hong Kong dollar (HKD). If necessary, online payment systems like AliPay or WeChat Pay can convert Chinese currency into HKD. For Americans, as of August 2019, the value of both the Chinese yuan and HKD are about equal, with one unit of each worth about .13 and .14 the United States dollar.

Tip: As with all international travel, be wary of where you exchange your currency. Avoid service providers that charge fees, and be sure to compare rates between the many providers that fill tourist areas.

3. Pack Toilet Paper

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While China still mostly has squat toilets (with exceptions growing in large metropolitan areas and airports), Hong Kong has a large number of free western-style restrooms, particularly in malls, markets, parks, and public transportation stations. There's even a mobile app called Toilet Rush that will show you where the nearest public bathroom is in relation to your location. However, it's widely noted by travelers that not all bathrooms offer toilet paper (and few offer sanitary napkin dispensers).

4. You Can Drink the Tap Water

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Water treatment in Hong Kong matches the U.S. and Western Europe in terms of the standards set by the World Health Organization. 80 to 90 percent of the city's water is imported from the Dongjiang River in Guangdong; in the last 10 years, the Guangdong government has made great efforts to advance water treatment technology. The only caveat applies if you're staying in a particularly old building (older than 20 years) with pipes that may carry contaminants, in which case it's suggested that you use a water filter or defer to bottled water. But overall, the tap water in Hong Kong is said to be safer than bottled water.

5. Never Stop Eating

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Since Hong Kong is known as the "World's Food Fair," dining out is one of the most popular tourist attractions. Hong Kong has its own style of Cantonese cuisine; it's usually served with noodles, rice, rice noodles, or a soft rice porridge dish called congee, and Hong Kong cuisine is noted for being extremely spicy. From sweet and sour pork and "phoenix talons" (chicken feet) to har gow dim sum and fish balls, Hong Kong's history as a colony and hub of trade makes it a "culinary capital of Asia."

Bonus: Avoid/Join the Protesters

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In summer 2019, thousands of Hong Kong residents have taken to the streets to protest an unjust bill that would allow residents suspected of a crime in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China, where human rights abuses and harsh penalties (including execution) have long plagued the judicial system. Despite being brutalized by government police, protesters persist in fighting the unlawful bill, guarding their sovereignty and independence as an enclave of democratic justice within China's communist borders.

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Do Non-Melatonin Sleep Aids Really Work?

Objective makes a chocolate square.

I Can't Sleep.

I truly cannot remember the last time I had a good night's rest. Even before the stay-at-home orders, I was just a little ball of nerves.

But lately, it's been awful. I toss and turn, it's always too hot or even too cold, sometimes I make myself tea and read for a bit, but when I'm still up at 1 a.m., I reach for my phone and then I'm up until 3. My sister and I have a weekly call, and our small talk about our exhaustion turned into an hour long conversation about sleep.

I Thought I'd Tried Everything. Even Melatonin.

My sister asked why I hadn't gone for the old staple, melatonin and I reminded her about the time we traveled abroad, and it gave me the weirdest nightmares (the horrible kind where you wake up in your dream and you're still in a dream). Chamomile tea didn't work, nothing worked.

She said she had a friend who swore by something I definitely hadn't heard of.

They Were NOT Pills, Teas or Anything I'd Seen Before.

A company called Objective makes Fast Asleep, a sleep solution delivered as chocolatey treats. They're created with saffron and GABA. If going to sleep was as easy as eating a piece of these chocolatey, minty delights every night, I'd be sold.

What Exactly Was In It?

Cocoa contains caffeine, so I didn't know how this would help me sleep. After talking with my sister, I went online and saw that the calming, sleep-supporting ingredients cancel out any of the very little caffeine content.

Saffron, the spice, is apparently known to help with staying asleep, and their GABA is a fermented version of the neurotransmitter that's known to help you relax and fall asleep faster. In a study, 100% of customers saw improvement in their sleep quality thanks to saffron. One hundred percent!

Do I Try It?

A bag of 30 pieces was only $40, and they had a money-back guarantee.

They're keto-friendly and only 30 calories a piece, so not too decadent before bedtime.

They were chocolatey-minty, which is my favorite flavor, so I was sold. I ordered a bag to try.

The First Night, I Wasn't Impressed.

I took one piece (super yummy!) - 30-60 minutes before bedtime is recommended - but when I climbed in, I didn't notice a difference. I was worried I'd wasted my money.

However, once I fell asleep, I stayed asleep until my alarm went off, which hasn't always been the case for me.

I checked the site again, and noticed that many people didn't notice a real difference until the third or fourth night - it builds up in your system over time, so I decided to keep an open mind the rest of the week.

The Second Night Was Completely Different

Without doing anything differently from the first night, my second night was amazing. I felt calm and sleepy as I was getting ready for bed, and once I hit the pillow, I was out the whole night.

It had to be these sweet treats. The next day, I even felt more balanced and relaxed - Fast Asleep helps boost serotonin levels and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), and I definitely noticed a difference in my overall mood and alertness.

I Already Ordered More.

Just In Case! There's nothing habit-forming about this product, so it's completely safe to take every night, and I honestly always want to keep it in the house. I'd also love to offer it to anyone staying over in the guest room, whenever we have guests again.

Now that I'm getting a healthy 8 hours of sleep every night, I feel more equipped during the day to tackle the things I need to do and deal with some of my daytime stressors. I finally had the energy to clean the kitchen, which had been bothering me so much for the past few weeks.

With Objective's Fast Asleep, I get real sleep and balance my levels, so I don't have to feel tired during my waking hours. Sleep in the form of chocolate squares sounds so weird, but oh my goodness, do they work.

Our partners at Objective Wellness are currently offering a 25% discount if you use the coupon code STAYHOME. Check them out here!

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The Best Apps for Craft Beer Delivery

Try beers from all over the world–from your phone.

With breweries and distilleries out of business for the foreseeable future, your favorite beer may feel particularly out of reach this time of year, especially with the weather changing. But don't let quarantine suck all the fun out of summer. Luckily, thanks to technology, a lot of craft beer is now deliverable straight to your door step. Here are a few of the best apps to help make sure you stay up to date on the latest trendy brews.

Tavour

Tavour

Simplistic and elegant, Tavour allows users to easily fill up a box of beer over a period of time before shipping. The app offers more than 650 different breweries both local and national and is perfect for those who like to experiment. It's easy to use, and their menu rotates regularly so you and your beer never grow stale.

TapRM

TapRM

TapRM offers a wide range of both craft beers and hard seltzers. While based almost exclusively in New York City, the app offers fast, same day delivery from some of the best beer brands in the world. They also provide a unique selection of beers to help you find your new favorite. All you need to do is download the app and place your order!

Drizly

Offering a stark variety of craft beer, Drizly allows its users to mix and match 12-packs, sixers or by the bottle. Their guarantee is that they can have whatever you order delivered to your house in less than an hour. You can even schedule your delivery for a specific time, with each delivery taking around 20-40 minutes.

Saucey

Saucey takes delivery very seriously. When you order with them they guarantee that they'll deliver in 30-minutes or less, or they guarantee two day shipping. Also, beer aside, their entire liquor cabinet is also up for grabs. From tequila and whiksey, to vodka and wine, nothing is off the table for Saucey.

Beer Menus

BeerMenus

For those who enjoy strictly local beers, BeerMenus features a tap list from local bars and a broader stock list from your neighborhood beer store. With that, you can make sure to create a list of your favorite beers in your neighborhood, so that when they're in stock you can be ready to go.