Streetwise tips for Hong Kong

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• You might want to practice your chopstick skills at home, although restaurants will supply a fork if noodle slippage is giving you fits.

• Always look left when crossing the street (they drive on the "wrong side" here).

• Check the smog level before you set out for a run. It does make a difference in your comfort.

• When you venture from home base, always take your hotel's business card or your family's address and phone number in your wallet. If you get lost while exploring, you can easily hop into a taxi and get home. Most cabbies speak some English, but don't count on being understood.

• Go to local shops. I went to a dispensary (drugstore) tucked away on a busy side street. When I described my cough with animated faux hacks and wheezes, the Chinese-speaking pharmacist nodded and gave me a mystery bottle of elixir, its label covered in Chinese characters. He pointed to his watch to indicate a nighttime dose. I swallowed some, which tasted vaguely of thyme, before bedtime, and it did the job. Could have been anything.

• Sooner or later, you might want an American fix. Whether you approve or not, there's a Starbucks just about every other block. And the familiar aroma and flavor of coffee is mighty good.

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