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Featuring the Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin
8 Days, 7 Nights (including one en route)
DECEMBER 4 to DECEMBER 11, 2017
6 nights in Hong Kong
2 days/evenings of racing at Sha Tin and Happy Valley
Special sightseeing on land and water
Mon Dec 4
Depart the U.S., if not joining the trip from Hong Kong or elsewhere in Asia.
Depending on your departure point, your departure time, and your routing, you will lose either one or two calendar days in transit as you cross the International Date Line. One of these days will be made up on your return to the U.S. Please make sure to arrange your air travel so that you arrive in Hong Kong no later than Tuesday, December 5.
Tue Dec 5
|Arrive in Hong Kong. We'll meet you at the airport and deliver you to to The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, our lodging in Hong Kong Island's "Central" district.
The airport transfer will take about 40 minutes.
The remainder of the day is free for adjustment and your own interests. We always advise staying active on your first day if you can. If you arrive in the morning or afternoon, you should get out and have a first experience of Hong Kong. The buzz level is intense, and the city can be a bit intimidating for the first thirty minutes or so. But you'll find you'll meld into the swing of things much more quickly than you'd think. Some good ideas to start with: a harbour hop on the famous Star Ferry or a ride on the City Tram.
A quintessential element of the Hong Kong scene is the Star Ferry, which plies the harbour between the Island and the mainland side, with frequent "sailings" and a 20-minute transit time. The service was initiated in the 1870s, and for over a hundred years before the auto tunnels and rapid transit came on line, it was the only public means of getting back and forth. For next to nothing -- about thirty cents -- you're treated to views of the spectacular high-rise skylines on either side of the water. The Island-side terminal is very conveniently located to our hotel.
Loosely analogous to San Francisco's cable cars, the Hong Kong Tram has been serving commuters and tourists alike since 1904. The electric-powered, rail-running tram cars (the signature double-deckers were introduced in 1925) go back and forth from the west end of the Island to the east, and you can ride to your heart's content for a bit over a quarter. It's the ideal way to get around if you're not in a huge hurry and there's probably not a better method for a first sightseeing survey of the city. Try to get a seat on the upper deck, either at the very front or very back, for the best sightlines and be sure to bring the proper coin fare -- they don't take paper money or make change.
One more thing you should consider doing on your own is making your way up to "The Peak". It's not quite the breath-taking experience it once was -- the facilities at the top have been overdeveloped to a fault -- but the views of the city and harbour from the Island's highest point are expansive and one-of-a-kind. The dedicated tram (separate from the City Tram) that goes to the top is unfortunately very crowded with tourists most of the day; the best strategy is to taxi up in the morning, then take the tram down before the throngs build up.
There are also a number of hiking trails leading away from the tourist center at The Peak if you want to allocate more time; one of the most surprising things about Hong Kong is the large amount of open and undeveloped land that's suitable for hiking, both on the Island, the surrounding 230 outer islands, and the mainland portion of the territory.
International flights from the U.S. and elsewhere get into Hong Kong at all times of the day. If the arrivals work out properly we'll gather up the group and have a "welcome" cocktail hour in the late-afternoon or early evening. We'll then make a group booking at a nearby restaurant for those that want to join in on a no-host basis. If this is not feasible due to guest arrival times, we'll get acquainted during a "second coffee" prior to embarking on our first excursion tomorrow.
THE MANDARIN ORIENTAL: Hong Kong has so many first-rate hotels that the choice is a difficult one. The Mandarin Oriental's combination of hub location, room comfort, views of the harbour, and level of service makes it the one that ticks the most boxes. Established as its flagship property in 1963, the hotel has led the way in establishing Mandarin Oriental as one of the world's most highly regarded hospitality brands. The stated mission: "To delight our guests each and every day".
The Mandarin has six restaurants in situ, three bars -- each with its own special ambiance -- a 24-hour fitness center with a lap pool, and full spa facilities. Our double-occupancy rooms offer views of the endlessly fascinating Hong Kong harbour scene. Please see the hotel website at www.mandarinoriental.com/hongkong for more detailed information on the hotel. A buffet breakfast is included each morning of our stay.
Wed Dec 6
|We begin our exploration of Hong Kong with an experience built around food. During this multi-hour adventure you'll get a good first exposure to the atmospheric neighborhoods of Sheung Wan and Wan Chai (along with some time in our home-base area of Central). In addition to helping you get your bearings around the city, the intent is to provide both a variety of immediate culinary pleasures and a background knowledge of Hong Kong dining that will stand you in good stead throughout the rest of the week.
Hong Kong cuisine is fundamentally what we call "Cantonese", with a basis in traditional urban cooking from the adjacent Chinese provonce of Guangdong. During the 156-year British colonial period, minor but key differences gradually worked their way into the mix. Beginning in the late 1950s there was another wave of "crossover" presentations that grew out of the attempts by Chinese chefs to produce more affordable versions of some of the favorite Western dishes.
On our outing, which will be primarily on foot with some tram travel, we'll taste dim sum, wonton noodles, siu mei (roast meat) and sweets. Our eating environments will include some of Hong Kong's oldest and most venerated establishments. You might want to have a light breakfast at the hotel this morning.
We'll have a multi-hour break back at the hotel before setting off in the evening for our first racing of the week at Happy Valley, certainly one of the world's most famous race tracks. The iconic images of the brightly-lit green course sitting below the long high-rise stands and surrounded by even taller apartment blocks are well-known to most fans and professionals. The British introduced horse racing everywhere they went and Hong Kong was no exception -- Happy Valley was laid out in 1845 during the earliest years of the Colony. The land was a swamp prior to this but it was the only parcel on the island big enough and flat enough for racing. Until 1978 it was the only venue for the sport in Hong Kong.
Now that almost all of the major races have been moved to Sha Tin on the mainland part of Hong Kong, Happy Valley contents itself for the most part with hosting raucous mid-week evening meets, usually on Wednesday nights. Our visit takes in one of the track's principal events of the year -- the International Jockeys' Challenge. Riders from around the world, in town for the big races Sunday, take on the local jocks in a four-race competition in the middle of the card. Australian Hugh Bowman nosed out Europe's Ryan Moore in last year's go, with such luminaries as Florent Geroux, Pat Smullen, Mikael Barzelona, and local favorites Joe Moreira and Douglas Whyte among the also-rans.
First post is at 6:30PM and the action goes on to after eleven. We'll try to get there early to settle in and then leave before it's over to beat the rush. The Hong Kong Jockey Club has an interesting Racing Museum located inside the Stands and we'll work that into the evening as we can. Dinner is included tonight and depending on the ultimate size of our group we may be located in our own private parlour or at tables in the main third floor restaurant. The viewing is excellent from an outside terrace and we'll have credentials that allow us into the best parts of the grounds.
Thur Dec 7
|An early AM at the track following on to a night of racing is perhaps not the ideal way to lay out the week, but that's how things are set up so we go with the flow. Thursday morning is the customary slot for the "Barrier Draw" event out at Sha Tin, where the post positions are pulled for the four big international races on Sunday. It's a festive affair, well -attended by the press and of course all of the runners' connections. And it can be a good chance to see some of the candidates have one of their final pre-race leg-and-lung stretches.
We'll schedule our wake-up and hotel departure time based on the night-before mood of the group and what we can learn about which horses might be exercising and at what hour. It may be that we can arrange for more than one transit. Breakfast is included at the track.
We'll be back home in the early afternoon where a nap may be called for. Further on, if the demand is there, we might organize a late afternoon or early evening activity. One idea could be an after-dark cocktail cruise on one of the harbour "junks" to see the so-called "Symphony of Lights", during which all the major buildings on both sides of the harbour light themselves up in a variety of dazzling ways. You should get out on the harbour at night sometime during the week in any case.
Fri Dec 8
|Today's activity may leave you with your most lasting memory of the trip. Mid-morning we'll motor over to the Causeway Bay Marina and embark on a water-borne exploration of Hong Kong's harbour, its container port, and its western and southern coasts. You'll get an expanded perspective of the "Pearl of the Orient" that's impossible to obtain by staying on land.
Cruising slowly westward through the harbour and past the remarkable skylines on either side, our guide will educate us as to their development over the last 200 years. Then we'll tack over to the mainland side for a meander through the bustling container port, which is the world's fifth busiest. We'll get a close-up look at some of the largest freight carrying ships anywhere, some of which will be unloading their cargo as we go by. After this our craft will take us down and around the western tip of Hong Kong island and into the Lamma Channel. We'll look in at Aberdeen, with its famous floating restaurants and where the Tanka people still live on their junk boats. The cruise will continue on to the southern shore past Deep Water Bay and Repulse Bay -- once sleepy outposts but now lively high-rise bedroom communities for the center city.
We end in Stanley, a south shore town that still retains something of a village atmosphere, albeit a bit of a touristy one. We'll have lunch in a waterfront restaurant and then have time for a foray through the Stanley Market, where you may or may not find something interesting to take home.
We'll be back to Central and our hotel by mid to late afternoon. For those interested, we'll make a diiner reservation for the group tonight, open to participation on a no-host basis.
Sat Dec 9
|This is an OPEN DAY for you to use as you please. There is so much to do here that you may be overwhelmed with the choices. You could use the excellent rapid transit trains to power through as many neighborhoods as you can fit in. You could take an excursion to one of the scores of minor islands that are nearby Hong Kong Island; (Lantau comes highly recommended). You could spend all or part the day on the mainland side of the harbour -- there are street markets and temples, and you could fit in the traditional tea at the Peninsula Hotel. And of course, shopping is what Hong Kong is all about for some people; today could be your day to get out and do it.
There are many public or privately-arranged tours available covering all these and other areas of interest. Let us know yours and we'll do our best to point you in the right direction.
Sun Dec 10
|Today is the main attraction -- the Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin, and the number one reason we and and horse people from all over the world are here.
This huge event had its comparatively humble beginnings in 1988 as the Hong Kong Invitation Cup, a single race valued at less than US$200,000 and restricted to runners from Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. In 1990 the race was opened to all overseas competitiors and in 1991 additional international races were added.
The Cup hit the big time in 1999 when it achieved International Group 1 status, and this was followed over the next three years by more Group 1 designations. Today the four contests headlining the card -- the ten-furlong Cup, the eight-furlong Mile, the six-furlong Sprint, and the twelve-furlong Vase -- offer a combined purse of almost US$11 million and all are officially ranked in the Top 100 worldwide in terms of field quality. In 2016 a crowd of just over 100,000 bet US$195 million on the card and runners came from the U.S., England, France, Ireland, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore, in addition to the strong home team contingent.
There's no question that the International Races, with its uncontested December calendar spot, has become one of the most important racing occasions of the year in the world.
We'll head out to the course late morning in order to get situated and oriented before the crowd builds up. We'll have reserved table seats in a special space set aside for foreign visitors and lunch will be part of our arrangements. Terraces outside will give us good viewing of the racing and the paddock.
Back home in Central, this evening will likely be the last that the entire group will be together. We'll arrange a special dinner on a no-host basis, and we hope everyone will want to join in.
Mon Dec 11
|The organized itinerary ends this morning following breakfast and checkout from the hotel. We'll provide transportation to Hong Kong Airport and your flight home or other onward destination. If you're extending at the Mandarin Oriental, you'll get your transfer on your departure day. Thanks for coming and Yat louh seuhn fung.
The Hong Kong racing season runs from September to July. All fixture dates are subject to final approval of the Government and are generally not made 100% official until the immediately preceding summer. The International Races have been held on the second Sunday of December for the last fifteen years, and there is no reason to expect that they will not be in 2017. However we have been cautioned by the Hong Kong Jockey Club to make this fact known to our potential travelers. We're in regular contact with the Jockey Club and will be informed as early as possible in the extremely unlikely event that the dates are changed.
This trip will close on August 4, 2017. Payment in full and all necessary completed paperwork must be received by us no later than this date to insure that you will be able to join the trip. The unusually early Closing Date for this trip is due to the heavy pressure on premium arrangements at Sha Tin and Happy Valley, and also on hotel space in Hong Kong during the period of the trip. We must book and pay far in advance to obtain the arrangements suitable for our trip.
Air fares from the U.S. to Hong Kong are surprisingly affordable, generally running considerably less than those to Europe from the same place, including even the East Coast. Non-stop service is available from a number of American gateways including Newark, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. One-stop routing through Tokyo can be obtained from several other U.S. airports.
COME EARLY, STAY LATE:
This itinerary is designed to be full and busy. We understand some people have a limited amount of time available, and that's why we've made the basic trip as short as we could and still include the major racing events and a representative sample of Hong Kong experiences. Many of you may also be combining Hong Kong with other Asian travel.
For those preferring a more leisurely or extensive time in Hong Kong, we invite you to consider coming earlier or staying later.
We can provide transportation for you from Hong Kong airport to the Mandarin Oriental and back on whichever days you choose to arrive and leave. Additional nights at the hotel can be booked, either before or after our scheduled stay. We've reserved rooms at the Mandarin Oriental for two nights prior (December 3 & 4) and two nights after (December 11 & 12) the basic trip dates, and you should let us know as soon as possible if you wish to extend your stay at either end.
ITINERARY & PRICES:
The basic itinerary includes:
The itinerary does not include:
- Six(6) nights lodging at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
- Breakfast each morning as indicated.
- Welcome cocktails in Hong Kong, provided guest arrivals are appropriately timed to gather most of the group.
- Two(2) escorted days/evenings of racing at Sha Tin and Happy Valley, including transportation to and from the racecourse, course admission, reserved seating, and race card. Dinner at Happy Valley (December 6). Lunch at Sha Tin (December 10).
- Multi-hour food excursion in Sheung Wan, Central, and Wan Chai (December 6).
- Morning training and the Barrier Draw (December 7).
- Harbour and Around-the-Island Boat excursion with visit to Stanley (December 8).
- Lunch on three(3) days: in Hong Kong (December 6) in Stanley (December 8), and at Sha Tin Racecourse (December 10).
- Dinner on one(1) night: at Happy Valley Racecourse (December 6).
- Inbound transfer from Hong Kong Airport to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
- Outbound transfer from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel to Hong Kong Airport.
- Complimentary racing information in English each racing day.
- Accompaniment throughout by a knowledgeable American escort.
The Cost of the Trip does not include:
- Airfare to and from the U.S.A.
- The cost of dinner or lunch except on days indicated.
The Cost of the Trip Is:
- Any charges incurred at hotels other than the basic cost of the room, including but not limited to room service, mini-bar, television or video, restaurant or bar service, laundry or dry-cleaning, business services, golf or other activities, and activities arranged through hotel concierge. (All group members will be required to provide a credit card imprint upon check-in at each hotel to guarantee payment for any individual charges.)
- Excess baggage charges. Please check all airline baggage limitations.
- Costs related to obtaining passports or visas.
- Travel insurance.
- Alcoholic beverages, except at the "Welcome" event.
- Charges incurred for anything other than what is specified in the "Itinerary Includes" summary above.
- Personal gratuities. As part of our arrangements we will tip our drivers, farm and barn personnel, and the hotel staff on behalf of the group. Group members should appropriately tip their incoming and outgoing transfer drivers and anyone who provides them with personal assistance, including special assistance by hotel staff. Please note your principal tour escort does not expect and will not accept a gratuity.
$3,875 per person, based on double occupancy (thirteen or more travelers).
$3,975 per person, based on double occupancy (ten or eleven travelers).
$4,075 per person, based on double occupancy (eight or nine travelers).
$975 single supplement, regardless of group size
Please note we have not received final costing for some minor elements of the itinerary, and therefore the final price of the trip is subject to minor adjustment until we do.
We will attempt to match single travelers wishing to double up and thereby avoid the Single Supplement, however it will always be the single travelerís decision whether or not to accept a roommate. Our double-occupancy rooms at the Mandarin Oriental have a harbour view; the rooms designated for single occupancy are substantially the same size but have city-facing views to help keep the single supplement cost as low as possible.
All trip prices are subject to change up to thirty(30) days prior to trip departure to reflect fluctuations in currency exchange rates between the United States and Hong Kong. U.S. Dollar prices quoted here are based on the following exchange rate:
1 US $ = 7.75 Hong Kong Dollars // 1 Hong Kong Dollar = 0.129 US $
- Additional nights at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel: Please inquire with us.
*This trip is designed for eight(8) to sixteen(16) people. We will make every effort to operate the trip, however we reserve the right to cancel the trip if it has less than eight(8) subscribers. Should we need to do this, all payments made to Racing-Europe toward the cost of the trip will be fully and promptly refunded.
*You must have a valid passport to enter Hong Kong and it must be valid for six(6) months following your departure date.
Photos courtesy of Jamie Lloyd (via Hello Hong Kong), and the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Photo of Happy Valley Racecourse in the 1840s is from An Illustrated History of Hong Kong (Oxford University Press).
View the Itineraries for our other 2017 trips:
For September (Ireland), click here
For October (England), click here
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