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DISPATCHES

Is Hong Kong Turning Red?

Hong-Kong-Four-Seasons-lobby
The lobby at the Four Seasons
in Hong Kong.

Photo courtesy of the Four Seasons

by Dinda Elliott

Is Hong Kong turning Communist? Or are the Communists turning capitalist? I was staying at the city's ultra-chic Four Seasons hotel recently, at $500 a night, and the lobby was filled with mainland Chinese flashing Rolexes as they spoke Mandarin into their expensive cell phones. (Cantonese, totally different from Mandarin, is the local dialect in Hong Kong.) Once upon a time, some ten years ago, mainlanders were relatively rare in the former British colony, which China reclaimed in 1997. Hong Kong people both feared and looked down on the Communist country bumpkins from the north and cracked jokes about how they spit and blow snot on the street instead of blowing their nose into Kleenex.

But those times are long gone. These days, Hong Kong friends tell me, the mainlanders are the big spenders. They flock to Hong Kong to buy bags at Louis Vuitton and Chanel boutiques. (Those stores exist in Shanghai and Beijing, but there are so many fakes in China that people don't trust that the stores themselves carry real merchandise.) Thanks to China's decade-long economic boom, mainlanders these days have money--lots of it--and they want to prove it with flashy brand-name goods. "If you speak Mandarin, you get much better service in Hong Kong," says Laura Cha, a member of Hong Kong's cabinet, who recently helped select a mainlander, Charles Li, to be the new head of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The Hong Kong government no doubt hopes Li will have the kinds of connections that will help persuade Beijing to let more mainland Chinese companies list their shares in Hong Kong. Will the real capitalists please stand up?

Further reading:
* The U.S. economy may still be in a slump, but Hong Kong was partying last Wednesday night.
* Dinda's Dispatches from Malaysia: "Sexual Politics, Malaysia Style," Penang's Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Obama-mania, bargaining at markets, and an interview with Anwar Ibrahim.
* Hong Kong Reloaded(CNT, October 2005).
* Dispatches: On the road.

In This Issue

The Tipping Guide: Egypt

Tipping-guide-egypt
Illustration by Brown Bird Design

Tipping rules vary by country, by region, and by scenario. In Condé Nast Traveler's August issue, Tim Murphy spells out guidelines for the most common tipping situations in more than 25 countries, from Switzerland to Syria to Singapore.

Going to Egypt and want to express appreciation for the service you received? Here's how:
At Restaurants: The tip is included in the bill; add 5-10 percent above that.
At Hotels: One to two dollars a day for the housekeeper (pay throughout your stay to ensure great cleaning); $1 per bag for the porter; concierges are powerful and very helpful, so $10-$20 at the beginning of your stay will go far.
Guides and Drivers: Cabdrivers, 10-15 percent; guides (who almost never drive you), $20 per person per day; drivers a little less.
Dollars Accepted?: Everything is accepted, and often preferable to local currency.
P.S. Guides are often well-trained Egyptologists whose function is not only to educate but also to divert the many locals who will have their hands out for baksheesh, whether they've earned it or not. James Berkeley, president of Destinations and Adventures, which arranges trips to Egypt and the Middle East, likes to tell "the biggest joke in tourism": A camel driver tells you, "No charge to get on my camel--but five-dollar tip." You pay, you lumber up onto the camel. Then he says, "Twenty-dollar tip to get off."

For more on whom to tip, how much to give, and how to give it, check out the tipping guide in Condé Nast Traveler's August issue.

Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Washington State Olympic National Park

Washington-Olympic-National-Park

It was so much fun while it lasted! Alas, our 2009 Dream Trip Contest ended on Friday. We'll announce who will win a $25,000 vacation to anywhere he or she chooses in our November issue. In the meantime, feast your eyes on this image--one of more than 19,000 contest entries:

This melancholy shot matches our mood at the end of the 2009 Dream Trip Contest, and reminds us that even the best-laid travel plans can go awry, often because of the weather.

"We were disappointed by the rain in Olympic National Park," writes Dream Trip entrant desertbill in the Dream Trip entry "Make the Most of a Rainy Day." "We made the most of it by using our rainbow umbrella and its brilliant cheerful colors in contrast with the almost black-and-white scene. Since this day, we take a bright cheerful umbrella to places where rain is likely. It makes for a nice photo prop."

Video

Vancouver: The Most Livable City?

Vancouver has been called one of North America's most livable cities. What is it? The food? The views? The fact that everyone owns expensive bikes? Condé Nast Traveler investigates.

WORD OF MOUTH

Flight Patterns: A Century of Stories about Flying

Flight-Patterns-Dorothy-Spears
Tom Wolfe and Joan Didion are
among the writers whose
stories make up
Flight Patterns.

Photo courtesy of Open City

by Ondine Cohane

Flying provokes myriad emotions for many of us: excitement, fear, the thrill of adventure, discomfort, a sense of escape and claustrophobia among them. A newly released anthology, Flight Patterns: A Century of Stories about Flying, edited by Dorothy Spears, features writings from aviation pioneers like Orville Wright, Charles A. Lindbergh, and Amelia Earhart to more contemporary musings on this mode of transport from authors like Thomas Beller, Walter Kirn, and David Sedaris. It's a good read, from tragic military tales to a teenager's awkward introduction to the mile high club to the final chapter of Beryl Markham's memoir, West with the Night, where she writes, "I could ask, 'Why risk it?' as I have been asked since, and I could answer, 'Each to his element.' By his nature a sailor must sail, by his nature a flyer must fly."

This particular correspondent has a real fear of flying. I dislike the lack of control; at each bout of turbulence, I worry that my future plans will be lost in an instant. I muscle through, though, because I love traveling too much. Reading the anthology was a good exercise: I realized how psychologically loaded flying is for most of us, and also how it provokes great writing. Available from Open City Books, $15.95.

Further reading:
* Ondine on the importance of a good GM
* Word of Mouth: The buzz worldwide

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