Subject: Hong Kong/Japan
My first suggestion is to pick up the book Travelers' Tales Guides -- Hong Kong: true stories of life on the road. This is a collection of short stories from travelers/authors that gives a wonderfully vibrant sense of place.

Check the Hong Kong Tourist association website (http://www.hkta.org, now apparently changed to discoverhongkong.com) which covers a plethora of options for visitors. The offices in Hong Kong are also quite helpful.

I like to stay at the YMCA Salisbury on Kowloon near the Star Ferry - very convenient and cheap to get to Hong Kong and more reasonable prices. Do splurge on the harbor view, though!

If you do stay there, very close by is a great and inexpensive restaurant Super Star Seafood, perhaps 2-3 blocks up Nathan Road. Be forewarned, very little English is spoken. Try it for great dimsum (breakfast is easy to just point) but for dinner I'd recommend taking a good menu guide, or better yet, a local to help -- fantastic roast pork and *real* sweet and sour whole fish (no orange glop, the bane of Chinese restaurants in the US!). I was there in February 1999, hopefully it's still the same!

The usual haunts are good advice - for example, the tram to Victoria Peak, lunch/dinner or just drinks at the Victoria Peak cafe - an oasis of calm in this often frantic city. And Stanley Park for clothing and souvenir shopping on the south side of the island.

Lan Kuai Fong is a little haven of 2 story buildings amidst the 30 story ones, hidden just makau (mountain) side of the Central Hong Kong district. We ate lunch at China, with braised goose and fish fillets wrapped in Yunnan ham, surrounded by those infamous caged birds of Hong Kong and a mostly Chinese clientele.

Just a couple of thoughts on Japan - my first visit was last November, and I had excellent help from some travelzine members. In Tokyo, in the Asakusa neighborhood, visit the Senso-ji Temple: interesting history and sculptures, the famous Thunder Gate, plus fortune-telling, plus good shopping. Highly recommended.

Do try to visit one of the main department stores at opening time. Be there a few minutes early, and see what happens. The food sections in these department stores are enormous, and good bets for train picnic supplies if you're traveling around. We were staying in Ikebukuro neighborhood and hit the Tobu department store before traveling to Kyoto.

In Kyoto, it's difficult to choose: we visited the Gold Pavilion, Ryoan-ji zen stone garden, the Silver Pavilion, and Kiyomizu Temple. All of them were wonderful visits.

Bon voyage! Ann