CITY: Hong Kong
YEAR OF TRAVEL: 2013
HOW WE GOT THERE: Flew Cathay Pacific, eased into flight with some bubbly in the airline lounge beforehand.
FLIGHT HIGHLIGHTS: Cathay is a great airline and one we recommend highly. Just know CX’s service-with-a-smile and attention-to-detail lessens with each cabin class . . . First Class, pajamas and beaming smiles from staff; Business Class, cheeses and easy grins from attendants; Premium Economy, chocolates and half smiles from stewardesses; Economy, bathrooms and the occasional eye roll or smirk from air crew.
CITY BRIEFING: Hong Kong is more than skyscrapers and shopping malls, though it has both in spades. The city itself is small and can be seen in just a few days, but if you have time, get out of the city center to the countryside, to the beach or to a surrounding island.
A good first day’s itinerary would be to eat, shop, then eat once more. A foot massage at one of the specialist parlors, such as Happy Foot, is a winner after a long flight. Ask the hotel concierge for a recommendation.
Eating spans from high-end French cuisine through dim sum and dumplings, to thick toast and strong tea at a local fast food joint.
The three main shopping malls on Hong Kong Island are Pacific Place, IFC and Times Square. These house such brands as Chanel, Prada, Cartier and department store Lane Crawford. There are also high-end boutique malls like Prince’s Building (10 Chater Rd., Central, HK) or the Armani Building (11 Chater Rd., Central, HK) – a whole mall full of Armani stores. In Kowloon, check the giant Elements Mall and Ocean Terminal/Harbour City.
If shopping’s not your thing, get on the tram for a super-cheap way to view the city, but avoid rush hour. Walk around Sheung Wan for a flavor of local shops.
On day two, take a cab or the number 260 bus to Stanley, if the weather is fine, for a stroll along the seafront. Lunch at the beach or a restaurant along the strip. Alternatively walk the Dragon’s Back, a gentle 2-hour hike that ends in the beach town of Shek-O, where there are some local restaurants, a main beach, and a secondary secluded beach with a tiny bar (Ask locals how to get to “Ben’s”). Return by taxi.
For day three, take the ferry to Lamma to a seafood restaurant, or the even try out the smaller island of Peng Chau, which has an array of restaurants off the pier.
* Tourists can get a 3-day subway pass that includes a return train trip from the airport. You can buy it on the plane.
* Take the MTR outside rush hour. It’s cheap, clean, and easy to navigate.
* Taxis are beginning to get expensive and drivers are talking less English these days. But do not fret, drivers can be friendly and will call their dispatcher if there’s a communication breakdown. Just motion to a phone, which drivers typically have in plain sight. Some drivers have several of them on their dashboard, an easy way to arrange multiple pick-ups and drop-offs for taxi drivers that work for them.
* Get out of the city of you can. Sai Kung Country Park is a mission to get to, but well worth it.
* Take enough water everywhere you go, especially in the summer.
* Get a foot massage.
* July and August if possible. It’s way too hot and humidity is more than 90%.
* Establishments with velvet curtains in the red light districts. These girlie bars will set you back a lot of money. Cheaper entertainment can be found elsewhere.
* Streets selling stinky tofu. One of the worst smells on the planet is fermented tofu being fried. While it doesn’t taste so bad, the vapors are near deadly. Remember, we warned ya.
Tin Hau, Wan Chai, Jordan, Stanley
On the high end . . . The old Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong Island – One of our favorite hotels in the world, and the most human, meaning while the hotel will do everything to bend over backwards for you something will eventually fail. The bellhop doesn’t show, the air conditioning was turned off, the barber snips one extra snip. But no matter what goes wrong everything will be better in no time. Have a sip of ice coffee, enjoy the cigar room, luxuriate in the Captain’s Bar, etc. We can’t get enough of this place.
In the budget category . . . The YMCA Salisbury Hotel, Kowloon. Some of the harbor view rooms have the same vista as the neighboring Peninsula Hotel.
When it comes to accommodations there are limitless possibilities in Hong Kong. Here are just a few places that come to mind. . .
High-Flyin’ – Ritz-Carlton, Kowloon; Four Seasons, Hong Kong Island; Conrad, Hong Kong Island; The Upper House, Hong Kong Island; Peninsula Hotel, Kowloon
Smooth-Sailin’ – Langham Place, Kowloon; Crowne Plaza, Hong Kong Island; The Luxe Manor, Hong Kong Island; East, Hong Kong Island
Easy-Goin’ – Metropark, Hong Kong Island; Ibis, Hong Kong Island; Bishop Lei International House, Hong Kong Island
L’ATELIER de Joël Robuchon -With a name like that and three Michelin stars, how can you go wrong?
Lung Hing Keen – Four Seasons, where the restaurant is held, claims it’s the first Chinese restaurant to receive three Michelin stars. Who are we to argue?
Yung Kee – Get the roast goose, and then go elsewhere. Unless you’re a VIP, this place is a rip-off. But the goose is damn good and worth the average service and extra bucks.
Gaia – Italian, with al fresco dining.
Tsui Wah – Fast food canto style at all hours. Beats McDonald’s hands down — and Mickey D’s is pretty good in HK.
People always ask us where to get good Chinese food in Hong Kong. Some of our other suggestions:
For really good Peking duck go to Quan Ju De — B/F South Seas Centre, 75 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Phone: 2316-7218; or Spring Deer, 42 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.
For tasty Shanghai soup dumplings visit 18 Matheson Street, or right around there. It’s around the corner from Times Square in Causeway Bay, has bodega lights outside and sliding glass front doors. Very casual, with communal seating.
For snake soup, there’s Ser Wong Fun, 30 Cochrane Street, Central.
Also, this website is helpful for whatever you crave . . .
Intercontinental Hotel Lobby Lounge, Kowloon, for the view.
KEE Club, if you know a member — or if you’re staying at a hotel that has an arrangement with this luxe private members club. We’re big fans of this spot – having worked for them and gotten to know their wonderful staff. Perfect place to hold court, sip a cocktail or see a terrific DJ in action.
Le Jardin – Tucked away in Lan Kwai Fong alleyway. Great jukebox.
There’s also tons of dance clubs in town. We’re partial to Volar and XXX Gallery, but pick-up a free copies of Boom, a DJ mag, and HK Magazine, a city weekly, to find out who’s spinning what and where.
Star Ferry – Cross the harbour for little money and take in the city’s skylines. The upper seating is a little more expensive but worth it because you can avoid the hot oil fumes coming off the engine.
Temple Street Market (Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon) – A busy night market filled with trinkets, knick-knacks, and other tchotchkes.
Stanley Plaza – – Another bustling market with a strip of bars and restaurants nearby.
Peak Tram – Ride the funicular railway to the top of Hong Kong Island. Splendid views, tons of refreshments and some entertainment up top.
Happy Valley Race Track on Wednesdays – A horse racing track in the middle of the city? You betcha. One of the best nights out in the city – whether you’re playing the ponies or not. Staff can guide you through the betting process if you’re a newbie. There’s also a weekend track in Sha Tin, Kowloon. As always, please bet responsibly. And check times at both tracks as racing is seasonal.
Beaches – South Bay, Shek-O, and Deep Water Bay (which is becoming a hipster beach of choice).
Custom Shoes at LIII LIII (Admiralty Centre, Admiralty, Hong Kong, +852-2865-3989) – We personally feel they do better with women’s shoes, but one of our guy friends tells us we’re wrong. Us, wrong?
Custom Suits and Shirts at Express Custom Tailors (Kowloon, +852-2199-7965) – Men and women alike, bring your favorite suit and shirt along so Andy, the owner, and his tailor can copy it. And when making custom clothes, be very specific and don’t ever let a clerk tell you something fits fine, when in fact something feels off. Never settle. This is your outfit — and your dream town — after all.
Other Entries In Our “Stopover” Series:
Feature Photo Courtesy of JENG_NIAMWHAN/Shutterstock.com
Beach Photo Courtesy of KY CHO/Shutterstock.com
Street Restaurant Photo Courtesy of claudio zaccherini / Shutterstock.com
Ferry Photo Courtesy of think4photop/Shutterstock.com
Peak Skyline Photo Courtesy of leungchopan/Shutterstock.com