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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There are several things about wine that can confuse the average person. If you haven't spent the last few years of your life learning everything there is to know about wine, you can be forgiven for picking up a box of the good stuff every now and then. However, if you want to know a little bit more about how to choose a good bottle, we can help you out. We've created a beginner's guide to picking a bottle of wine so you can enjoy yourself a little more.

Know What Type of Wine To Choose

First things first, you're going to need to decide the type of wine that you're looking for in order to narrow your search. Are you looking for a red, white, sparkling, or rosé? The choices may seem overwhelming, but try to focus on what foods you'll be pairing the wine with. Reds go great with heavier meals like red meat, while whites tend to lend themselves towards lighter dishes like fish and cheeses. If you'll be drinking the wine on its own, consider what you've tried in the past and what type you tend to gravitate toward.

Know How Much You're Willing To Spend

It's no secret that a penchant for wine can become an expensive hobby. If you're just getting into the idea, don't waste your time or money with the extremely pricey bottles. A good place to start looking for decent bottles of wine is somewhere between the $10 and $30 price range. This will keep you from buying something too low quality without breaking your bank in the process.

Read the Labels Closely

A good bottle of wine will often give tasting notes right on the bottle. Because everyone's palette is different, you may not get the same notes when you try the wine, but it's a good place to start. Choose something with tasting notes that you already enjoy like berries or cocoa and try to see if you get any hints of that as you drink. The labels may also tell you about the wine's acidity, or how tart it is, and the wine's body, or the way it feels in your mouth.

A beginner's guide to picking a bottle of wine can only go so far without being overwhelming. The next part of your wine journey will need to be undertaken on your own. Try various types of wine and see what tastes best to you—that's what wine is really all about.

Distillery tours went on hiatus in 2020, but there are high hopes for 2021. While bourbon leaps immediately to mind when thoughts turn to distillery tours, interest in other spirits and how they're made is increasing. Here are a few of the best tours to thrill tequila lovers.

Tequila Herradura

Ride in style on the Herradura Express, a distillery sponsored train ride that runs from Guadalajara to the town of Amatitán for a distillery tour and tastings, followed by lunch featuring live entertainment. The train then takes visitors back to Guadalajara by evening. Herradura is housed in the last tequila-producing Hacienda in the world, Hacienda San Jose del Refugio. Casa Herradura will be closed for visits and tours until Mexican health officials declare the coronavirus emergency over.

La Rojeña

Producer of Jose Cuervo, La Rojeña has a train of its own called the Jose Cuervo Express (currently on hiatus due to COVID-19) to bring visitors to the oldest distillery in the town of Tequila. Jose Cuervo offers distillery tours, tastings, and tours of the agave fields. Mundo Cuervo (Cuervo world) also has its own hotel, Solar de las Animas. Check for COVID-19 hours and restrictions before booking.

Casa Sauza

Founded in 1873, Casa Sauza offers four levels of tours including a visit to the La Perseverancia distillery, a visit to the Quinta Sauza estate, and for those willing to spend more, barrel tastings and a barbeque or a three-course meal. Casa Sauza is on hiatus until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, but should go on the distillery tour bucket list.

La Cofradia

The only tequila distillery with a hotel inside, La Cofradia offers many experiences in addition to distillery tours. Choose a hike through natural trails, biking, or horseback riding through the agave fields. Rooms made of giant tequila barrels sit among the agave plants for a unique stay. Visiting La Cofradia is sure to be a tour that thrills tequila lovers. Contact the hotel directly for information about lockdown closures.

A distillery tour offers education about tequila's history and manufacture. Bone up on your tequila terms and tips for choosing quality tequila before you go, so you'll understand what you're tasting.

We don't know how to feel about winter this year. Sure, nobody likes the cold and dreary months, but there's something special about the Holiday season that just seems to be missing. Maybe the thought of staying inside and cozying up to a nice book isn't very enticing given the last few months. The joyful winter wonderland that we usually associate with winter seems to be missing.

That's why our editors decided to take it upon themselves and spread some delight with seasonal meals, courtesy of HelloFresh. For those who don't know what HelloFresh is, it's a meal-kit delivery service with dozens of easy-to-prepare recipes to choose from. Simply select which meals you want as well as how many servings and a neatly organized cardboard box will arrive at your doorstep within the week. Nobody wants to go out in the Winter anyway, and with HelloFresh, you don't have to!

To celebrate the arrival of the coldest season, we decided to highlight some of our favorite (and heartiest) recipes from HelloFresh that are perfect for the Holiday season. Here are five wholesome and balanced meals that will warm you up in no time.

Veggie Loaded Kale & Risoni Soup

A hearty and warm soup is a Winter staple and this veggie loaded kale and risoni soup from HelloFresh absolutely hits it out of the park. All anybody wants during the colder months is to feel cozy and nurtured--just like the flavorful bowl of nutrients. Warm and creamy risoni compliments the seasonal veggies perfectly and the side of garlic bread is a sure-fire cure for any winter blues. With 22 meals to pick from each week, this one is sure to be a household favorite.

Cheesy Red Pesto Chicken Melts

Everyone is familiar with classic green pesto, but have you ever tried red pesto? Red pesto offers way more complexity and oomph than its green counterpart. It is incredibly bright with rich notes of umami, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh basil and garlic. This rendition also features hits of chargrilled capsicum for a little extra zest. You get the exact amount of each ingredient and seasoning, as well as super detailed recipe cards, that make meal prep a breeze. Spread it over a glistening chicken bread and sprinkle with cheese for delectable chicken melts.

Winter Risotto

Risotto is a great winter warmer. It's packed full of veggies so your body will light up like fire, but it's also silky, sumptuous and a real crowd pleaser. HelloFresh's Winter Risotto features a heart helping of kale that pairs perfectly with nutty Parmesan and crunchy walnuts for a robust taste. Did we mention that it also comes with fennel seeds sprinkled throughout? This unique seasoning adds a distinctive, yet delicious flavor to this classic winter staple. We know these meals are pretty hardy, which is why we love having the option to pause our subscription or cancel a week when need be.

Cheat's Italian Pork & Veggie Bolognese

A bolognese that only takes 30 minutes to make? Sign us up! This one is chock full of all the rich flavors of a classic Italian sauce. In fact, we're getting some serious Italian grandmother vibes with this recipe. Silky baby Spanish and grated carrots melt into a hearty meat sauce, offering a mouth-watering meal for anyone looking for a little zest. It's delivery quality, but much more affordable, plus you get to cook it yourself!

Smokey Mild Chorizo & Bean Chilli

Yet another clever twist on a weekday favorite! The paprika and garlic flavored cured sausage is a staple in our chopping baskets since it goes well with practically anything. Not only is Chorizo loved for its taste, but also for its ability to infuse sauces with its tantalizing flavor. This time around, HelloFresh has decided to spice up a classic bowl of bean chili with Spanish styling of a smokey mild chorizo. The end result? A mix of chorizo, red kidney beans, corn and avocado, and an irresistible flavor that everyone will love. This is just one of dozens of unique HelloFresh recipes you won't find anywhere else!

Gone are the days of trekking through the frigid cold just for a few groceries. Sign-up for HelloFresh today and get your ingredients delivered right to your doorstep. Time to start cozying up the right way, with a delicious meal and a nice cup of hot cocoa.

Update: Our friends at HelloFresh are extending a special Black Friday offer to our readers. Follow this link to get $90 off across 4 boxes including free shipping!