Hong Kong Destination Guide

Filed under Destination Guides, travel

by Penny Watson

Hong Kong, on the southern border of China, is above all else a city of contrasts. Its East-meets-West sensibilities, its capitalism amid great poverty and its rabid development versus tradition are part of its personality.
Intriguingly, this moshpit of culture, economics and progression is what makes the city hum. In Central, wet markets sit in the shadow of some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. Buddhist shrines are as common as Catholic churches. Colonial buildings, aged by the tropical climes, appear ancient next to the newness of less-than-aesthetic residential towers. Lunchtime queues are as likely to be found outside cheap dumpling and congee shops as they are at Michelin-starred restaurants. Flat whites –with decent crema – aren’t hard to find. The locals, only seven per cent of whom are expats, are as happy about a dragon boat festival as they are about an art gallery. The further removed from Central, the more the city’s Eastern roots take hold. Across Victoria Harbour, Kowloon is the most densely populated place on the planet. The New Territories’ seven million people live in same-same high-rise apartments. But with 40 per cent of Hong Kong marked natural reserve and parkland, mountain peaks and far-flung beaches are closer than you think.

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Must Do
Covering a relatively small area, Hong Kong is the perfect stopover destination where the ambitious traveller can conquer the sights and activities in a long weekend. But the streets and laneways provide some of the best Cantonese immersions, so consider sidestepping public transport, slipping on your trainers and walking the walk.

Happy Valley Races
The skyscraper-crammed steep peaks surrounding Happy Valley racecourse add to the inner-city atmosphere at this historic track. Locals, expats and tourists gather here on Wednesday nights (September ‘til June) to drink at beer tents and place a bet. Entry is free with a foreign passport.

Temple Street Night Market
Stretching from Jordan to Yau Ma Tei (with a temple in the middle), this outdoor eatery, also known as a dai pai dong, is a nightly festival of Cantonese market food (whole steamed fish and clams sautéed in garlic) and cheap factor good including souvenirs, cheap handbags and electronics.

Chinese Medicine and Dried Seafood streets
Traditional Chinese medicine is alive and well in Wing Lok Street where open-fronted stores stock intriguing ingredients such as deer antlers, skeletal seahorses and dried mushrooms. On nearby Des Voeux Road West, salted fish, Chinese sausage and abalone are a culinary adventure.

Tai Ping Shan
Galleries, start-ups, cafes and bars have found a home along this pedestrianised street in Sheung Wan, an old neighbourhood complete with cobbled streets and shrines. The result is an edgy mix of old and new – perfect strolling territory. Most shops open after 3pm.

Creative types swarm on this heritage-listed building, formerly the Police Married Headquarters. It has 100 or so studios which double as artisan shops selling jewellery, art, leather goods etc. Homegrown design shops include Kapok, which stocks HK brands including Native Union and Teddyfish.

Wet Markets
Fish have been flapping around in this open-air food market since 1841. It has more than 100 hawker stalls spread along narrow Graham Street (fruit and veg and homemade noodles), neighbouring Gage Street (crustaceans and fish), and steep Peel Street (rice and traditional medicine).

Star Ferry
Not everything needs to be brash and flash. The antique fleet of Star Ferries run between TST and Central, and TST and Wan Chai. They’re for commuters, but tourists enjoy the reversible wooden slat bench seats and open windows with skyline views. Oh, and it’s cheap.

Island East Market
Running from September to May, Island East market is the epicentre of the HK foodie scene despite being in a concrete jungle. Farmers sell fresh organic veg alongside stalls offering artisan food, espresso coffee, bread and pastries. Other local offerings include clothes, quilts, shoes and jeweller.

The Peninsula Hotel
Exclusive shops, decadent restaurants, great bars and five-star accommodation bring visitors to this historical colonial hotel, but the star attraction is high tea served by white-suited waiters in the grand old lobby with a string quartet playing in one corner. Bookings essential or expect to queue.

The Peak Tram
Opened in 1888, the old-school Peak Tram was a means for colonials to get from Admiralty to the cooler climes of The Peak. Today, the giddy seven-minute ascent through residential towers at an almost impossible angle is a cool way to get to HK’s best viewpoint.

As expected, Hong Kong has plenty of mid-to-high end accommodation, and less of the lower-end variety. Happily, the star-players are dotted throughout the city so visitors can choose a neighbourhood to get local in. Want high-end shopping? Go Admiralty. A market immersion? Go Kowloon. Foodie? Go Wan Chai.

Marco Polo Hong Kong Hotel
You don’t get much closer to Victoria Harbour than the Marco Polo, a 665-room hotel with a pool, gym, restaurants and bars including Cucuina Italian on the water’s edge, and Lobby Lounge, which set a record for the largest rum selection. Extras include a pillow menu.

Cosmopolitan Hotel
This four-star hotel has 11 room styles, all of them adorned with flashy furniture, carpets and fabrics. It is equi-distant to Happy Valley Racecourse, Causeway Bay and Wan Chai, putting race nights, wet markets and Times Square within reach. Each room has a guest smartphone.

Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel
If a Disney-by-day isn’t enough, check into this spectacularly lavish six-storey hotel overlooking the South China Sea. It’s next door to the park and has kid-tastic attractions include a Mickey Mouse maze, waterslides, playful themed rooms and a 24-hour playground. The rooms have Victorian elegance.

Harbour Grand Hong Kong
Perish the thought of a rear view; all Harbour Grand’s rooms have spectacular views across Victoria Harbour to Kowloon. There’re specialty long stay rooms and a luxury 27-metre rooftop pool (one of the longest in HK). Five high-end restaurants include Le 188, which has 188-degree views.

JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong
In exclusive Admiralty, this luxury hotel has a grand lobby with floor-to-ceiling windows, and 602 rooms with harbour, city and green views. Its popular al fresco Fish Bar restaurant sits pretty next to the open-air swimming pool, complete with fluffy towels. Pacific Place is minutes away.

Kowloon Shangri La
In hustling bustling Tsim Sha Tsui, this grand hotel known for its generous room sizes, is an oasis of calm. The lobby features glistening chandeliers and fountains, and the rooms have marble bathrooms, quality linen and views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island.

The Mira Hong Kong
Plonked in the heart of Kowloon’s best shopping, this design hotel has sleek modern furniture, artwork and elaborate contemporary lighting. Its upscale Chinese restaurant Cuisine Cuisine has a decadent deluxe dim sum menu. And don’t miss the award-winning day spa. This is one for the girls!

Four Seasons Hotel
With an infinity pool that spills into Victoria Harbour and – uniquely – two three-Michelin star restaurants, it’s hard to beat Four Seasons for luxury. Experiences include a culinary-themed tour put together by the hotel’s executive chef or go your own way on walkways to LKF and IFC. http://www.fourseasons.com/

The Upper House
Distinguished, but utterly contemporary, this intimate hotel features Japanese design influences and contemporary artwork. Differentiations from the usual include a paperless check-in, hybrid hotel cars, ‘invisible’ cleaners and decadently large corner rooms with views. Its Café Gray Deluxe is the place for a cocktail with a view.

Harbour Plaza North Point
Conveniently located near Quarry Bay Metro station, this towering hotel has a choice of water, King’s Road and country park views. Its Hoi Yat Heen restaurant is a popular dim sum choice for local families, and there’s an outdoor swimming pool.

Hong Kong has long had a reputation for excellent Cantonese and Chinese food, but only recently has the city has become known for its global cuisine. Slurping on cheap dumplings, fine dining at a French restaurant, eating at a Japanese bar and chowing down at a market, are just some of the options.

Ho Lee Fook
Meaning “good fortune for your the mouth”, Ho Lee Fook on hip little Elgin Street, encapsulates Chinese cool. This basement eatery dishes out Chinese ‘cha chaan teng’, or street food, but it tweaks it with esoteric ingredients – roast wagyu Chinese short ribs with jalapeno puree for example.

Manchurian Candidate
Private kitchens are legendary in Hong Kong and this homely Sichuan place, in a dinghy building in Lan Kwai Fong, deserves the reputation. The owners have turned their lounge into a restaurant. The chilli hit cuisine keeps coming until you’re full, and it’s cheap.

Mrs Pound
Disguised as an old-school stamp shop, this cool-as-fork restaurant with neon lights and a secret green door entry does a twist on Southeast Asian street food favourites and some – tuna larb, rendang bao, avocado fries and Alaskan king crab mac ‘n’ cheese.

Dumpling Yuan
Platefuls of juicy soy-splashed dumplings are the highlight at this unassuming speakeasy. It’s cheap and cheerful inside and the owner makes dumplings on the spot. Northern Chinese inspired specialities include pork and leek and mutton and spring onion dumplings. Eat them either fried, steamed or in broth.

Bo Innovation
Alvin Leung, a Canadian Master Chef star among other things, was one of the first to revolutionise traditional Chinese cooking by incorporating foreign ingredients into century-old recipes. Leung’s chef’s table degustacion, exploring the history of local food, is a culinary experience. Think: molecular xia long bao.

Din Tai Fung
This deceivingly conventional dumpling joint actually sells some of the best xia long bao – soup dumpling – in Asia, including the speciality black truffle and pork variety. Watch the chefs make dumplings through the front counter window while you wait in a line that moves quickly.

Hiding behind an unsigned door, this Japanese bar, with only 14 leather bar seats, is a rare find. The masculine décor works well with the line up of Nippon whisky, sake and beer, but the presentation of the playful Japanese cuisine has a feminine touch.

Mott 32
Industrial New York meets traditional Chinese in this Cantonese restaurant located in an extravagantly decorated old bank vault. This was one of the first to do modern dim sum dining. Must eats include quail egg and black truffle siu mai and barbeque char sui pork.

Sheung Kee
In the municipal council building on Sing Wood Road, Happy Valley, this restaurant, above the wet market, is a local favourite. Enjoy the atmosphere as you wait for the English menu listing Cantonese favourites including garlic-encrusted roasted chicken and eggplant and mince pork hot pot.

Yardbird is five years old but it still packs a punch when it comes to cool. Upstairs, the bar does crafted cocktails and downstairs the Japanese-Korean menu stands alone with chicken-dominated yakitori dishes and left field faves such as the KFC – Korean Fried Cauliflower – and Yardbird Caesar.

Like the food scene, Hong Kong’s drinking culture has come of age in the past five. English-style pubs, lavish hotel lounges and European wine bars go hand-in-hand with secret bars and dance clubs. Al fresco trends have given rise to lofty rooftop venues, and of course boutique spirits have helped spurn the cocktail craze.

Ping Pong Gintoneria
This was the first hip joint in the tres cool suburb of Sai Ying Pun and it still takes the lead. It’s set in an old table tennis hall, which has been beautified with retro neon signs. Gin, with a Spanish tweak, is the top tipple.

Fu Lu Shou
Street art, Chinese chic decor and bamboo plants set the scene at this rooftop bar and eatery on Hollywood Road in Central. Entry is via a doorcode (found on its FB site) giving it the edge on HK’s love affair with secret bars.

Prepare for razzle and dazzle but not as we known it. This exclusive bar has extravagant spiral chandeliers and copper embellishments that reference its days as a British army explosives compound. It is favoured by HK’s legal set and shares a locale with the Asia Society.

Café Gray Deluxe
The restaurant and bar at the very top of HK’s beautiful Upper House hotel, has unforgettable views and the kind of highfalutin crowd that makes you splurge on say, Champagne or cocktails. The mixologist’s choice is a vodka-topped Hong Kong Highball. Why ever not?

La Cabane Wine Bistro
Step from the hustle of Hollywood Road into this slice of French serenity. The rough-hewed wood and exposed bricks coupled with wine barrel tables and a swing chair are reminiscent of cellar doors in the mother country, so too the organic vineyard wines and simple fromage platters.

Don your glammest outfit for a sunset drink at this rooftop bar, combining pomp and money with exquisite taste. Cushions and couches keep company with amber glowing lights outdoors or enjoy floor-to-ceiling windows inside. Bar food here runs along the lines of sushi and sashimi

The Globe
The colonials taught HK how to successfully put an English pub in the tropics. HK’s best example has stools around a central bar, ‘living room’ couches, games and a TV for live sport. It stocks more than 100 craft bottled beers and nine tap beers.

Dada Lounge & Bar
Part of the unique Luxe Manor hotel, this 20th-century Dadaist-inspired music lounge in Kowloon is as surreal as it is special. Sit in lush gold and velvet furnishings, below lavish chandeliers and sip outlandish beverages, all the while listening to Jazz quartets, soul or classic rock.

Ozone Bar
Sitting in the clouds (sometimes) at a lofty 484 meters, the world’s highest bar, atop ICC, is exuberantly decked out with Phillipe Starke chairs, a kaleidoscope of cushions, a marble bar, and abstract neon lighting. A cocktail in the outdoor area is a bucket list ticker.

Fuel Espresso
When Fuel opened years back, the heavens opened and previously deprived lovers of decent coffee rejoiced. While nowadays there are a plenty of caffeine outlets in HK, this New Zealand mob has upheld the quality – the crema is perfect and the carrot cake is a must.

There are plenty of high-end labels – Gucci, Hermes and LV, but increasingly cottage industry has become cool adding gravitas to artisan brands ‘Made in HK’. Markets with cheap wares from mainland factories will satiate budget shoppers, as will bespoke shoes and shirts, tailor made in a matter of days. Something in between? Shopping malls.

If you’ve a penchant for the kind of souvenirs you’ll keep forever, you’ll Loveramics. The playful designer bowls, cup, plates etc. lovingly combine practicality with an East-West twist – rice bowls featuring iconic English landscapes, and a modern take on the old Willow Love Story blue and white porcelain.

Paterson, Kingston and Cleveland streets
This (relatively) quiet cluster of Causeway Bay streets is a surprising escape from the suburb’s mega-mall focus. It has a mix of well-known fashion brands (Vivienne Westwood, Max Mara, Diesel) and those you might not find at home (Mercibeaucoup, Tsumari Chisato and Lusso Birllante). Shops open at midday.

Casa Capriz
Few have an eye for vintage design like Irene Capriz whose Hong Kong shops could deck out 1950s movie sets. She collects big things – armchairs and sofas – and Chinese treasure small enough for your suitcase such as glass medicine jars and colonial fans.

Horizon Plaza
This 28-storey industrial building with clothing and furniture outlets is a travel experience as much as a shopping expedition. Local department stores Lane Crawford and Joyce have outsized and off-season outlets as do Max Mara, Diesel and Juicy Couture. On the top floor, gorgeous Tree can ship furniture home.

Lapel Tailor
Want to take home copies of your favourite work shirt in a variety of different colours and materials? Need a hand-stitched suit? This no-nonsense reliable tailor, with pinstripes and checks lining the walls, has a speedy turnaround and will keep your measurements on file for re-ordering.

Shanghai Tang Mansion
Sir David Tang’s Chinese inspired luxury store was born in Hong Kong and has since gone global, but the flagship store with grand staircases and signature ginger lily scent cannot be replicated. Buy a contemporary cheong sam dress and pair it with an exquisite handbag.

The 9th Muse
Getting here is half the fun. On the 12th floor of an obscure office block, this natty little accessories boutique stocks eclectic jewellery, handbags, sunglasses, scarves and stationery from global designers. It’s mostly one-off pieces like a gold wishbone cuff, for example.

Vickie shoes
Vickie’s is famous for shoes. This innocuous shop, down a market lane, does made-to-order peds at amazing prices and, like Cinderella’s, they fit even the biggest foot (up to size 44). Designer styles line the walls or look through swatch books for colour, style, etc.

Kowloon Markets
Kowloon’s market streets are charismatic eye candy, as good for exploring (Goldfish Market, Yuen Po Street Bird Market and Flower Market) as they are for shopping (Fa Yuen Street market for bargain clothing and Ladies Market for accessories and beauty products). The Jade Market is a standout.

G.O.D has put Hong Kong’s retro icons, such as red taxis, tenement houses and ‘amah’ bags, back in vogue by lending them to modern design. It sells homewares, clothes and quirky gifts that make good souvenirs including double happiness umbrellas and neon light tote bags.

Nature isn’t ordinarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Hong Kong. But, surprising to most, a huge proportion of this island nation is actually designated country park and nature reserve. In amongst it are tropical rainforests, craggy mountains and isolated beaches waiting to be explored.

Peak Circuit
Metres from the Peak Tower, the Peak Circuit is a neat little paved meander through rainforest and past impressive residences. It follows the curve of the hill taking in the Pearl River Delta and skyscrapers reaching similar heights. It ends where it began.

Dragon’s Back
The undulating path connecting two hilltops in Shek O country Park resembles a dragon’s back and gives this eight-kilometre trail its name. It is popular with local sport clubs and locals who team the energetic walk with recuperation at nearby Shek O Beach and Big Wave Bay.

Shek O Beach
Laid-back Shek O is as close as you’ll get to a seaside village on Hong Kong Island. Its long flat beach with surf lifesaver lookouts and shady trees attracts sun-seeking locals and anyone keen on a wave-less swim and a bowl of noodles beach-style.

Big Wave Bay
This small beach has a rep for good water quality and surfable swell (sometimes). The road to the beach is lined with shops selling tacky buckets and spades, surfboards and equipment. There’s also a beachfront café and an ancient Bronze Age rock carvings.

Ngong Ping 360 scenic cable car
This modern cable car departs from above Tung Chung MTR station and travels 57km over undulating tropical greenery to Po Lin Monastery and Tian Tan Buddha whose massive (34 metres) bronze frame seated on a lofty hilltop looms regally as you get closer. It’s picture perfect.

Hong Kong Wetland Park
A breath of fresh air for a densely populated city, this half-day outing is a lesson in wetland conservation. Walking trails and boardwalks take visitors on a flora and fauna route out over the swampy marshlands and through recreated bird habitats. There’s plenty of interactive entertainment.

Bowen Road
Starting from Mid-Levels, Bowen Road trail is a paved hill-hugging 4km walk to Happy Valley. It’s a favourite of pedestrian commuters and bike riders who swap heavy traffic for a canopy of tropical rainforest. There are shrines and city viewpoints to stop at along the way.

Cheung Chau Island
Home to HK’s only Olympian (a windsurfer), Cheung Chau Island has just the right bay wind conditions to make it a windsurfing hub. Tung Wan Beach, a picturesque white sandy bay, has a Windsurfing Club for hiring equipment or book a lesson. There’s also a café.

Take the windy hillside road to the south of HK Island, to this fishing village with a modern-day makeover. Stanley Market has cheap clothes and souvenirs etc, but the promenade and adjoining piazza are lined with outdoor restaurants that overlook colonial Murray House and historic Blake Pier.

Mui Wo to Pui O Beach
This 9km hike begins at the Lantau Island village of Mui Wo and ends on palm-studded Pui O with its tropical white sand, clear water inlet, water buffalo and beach-shack shabby Mavericks restaurants, which has a decent men (burgers, f&c’s), cold beers and a DJ.

HK’s contemporary art is undergoing a renaissance with the popularity of Chinese art and the creative industries boom giving it a big nudge. Stalwarts Broadway Cinematheque and the Fringe Club hint at a decent dance, theatre and comedy scene but visitors need to look for it. Pending West Kowloon Cultural District bodes well for art as a whole.

In the walkway that connects corporate big-timers One Island East and Taikoo Place in Taikoo, this white walled contemporary gallery, with permanent sculptures and installations, is a refreshingly creative hub in a very urban area. It attracts global exhibitions. Check Time Out for details.

Broadway Cinematheque
Cinephiles applaud. Broadway Cinematheque and adjoining Kubrik’s Café is a culture club (in an built-up area) w four screens showing arthouse, classic and film festival flicks. The café has a bookshop with books devoted to (mostly Western) films and you can buy DVDs of your favourites.

Fringe Club
If there’s theatre, dance, photography and music to be had in Hong Kong, you’ll find it The Fringe Club. This endearing institution in a stucco-and-brick heritage building hosts Canto and English drama, comedy, exhibitions and philosophy nights. There’s a couch-clad café and rooftop beer garden.

Hong Kong History Museum
The Museum’s permanent Hong Kong Story exhibition is a worthwhile romp through time with dioramas, multi-media and special audio-visual and lighting effects helping tell the story. Recent history starts on level two with the Opium Wars, colonisation and reunification with China. This is HK 101.

Comix Home Base
Hong Kong is the world’s third largest comics market. This huddle of ten beautifully restore pre-war historic buildings has been handed over to the comics and animation industries to inject artistic energy into the community. Pop in for exhibitions and screenings or merely to see the buildings.

Asia Society Hong Kong Centre
Housed in a group of four mid-19th century British Military Buildings on a jungle-green 1.364 hectares, this high-minded centre, little-known to tourists, has an intellectual, cultural and historical bent. Catch exhibitions, film screenings, lectures and meet-the-author events, often with Asian themes. There’s also a great bookstore.

The Empty Gallery
Some of Aberdeen’s industrial warehouses have been reinvented as shops, restaurants and galleries giving the area a renewed buzz. This massive black space, with an underground vibe and a single window, sheds light on established and emerging artists in multi-media, performance and music.

Cattle Depot Artists Village
This early 20th Century harbour-side slaughterhouse has been converted into art studios and exhibition space. It’s pleasantly low-rise and a tranquil place for a stroll around a cross-section of art; from fine arts student’s sculpture and ceramics, to exhibitions from established companies such as Videotage.

West Kowloon Cultural District
WKCD, Hong Kong’s billion-dollar work-in-progress art project at the harbour-front base of ICC, is set to be one of the world’s biggest art precincts. In the meantime, its affiliated M+ program warm up the crowd with exhibitions, dance, forums etc at the unfinished site and elsewhere.

Hong Kong Cultural Centre
Sitting harbourside in Tsim Sha Tsui, this architecturally imposing building is the epicentre of the city’s classic arts – orchestra, opera and ballet –and contemporary film, drama and theatre. Buy tickets for visiting Chinese Opera performances, or just walk through the free exhibition space showing local art.

When you combine Western festivals and Eastern festivities, there’s always plenty to do in Hong Kong. Watch locals climb a bun tower on a tiny island, see the world’s biggest fireworks display, feast on French food or cruise around dozens of art and culture venues. The choice is yours.

January/February: Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is a major celebration with extended holidays, family time and feasting all part of the deal. The city puts on an expensive and spectacular 30-minute fireworks display at 8pm on the second day of the weekend. They are launched from pontoons on Victoria Harbour.

February-March: HK Arts Festival
More than 1400 performing artists and ensembles from around the world converge on the city to stage 120 opera, music, theatre, dance and circus acts. Many are new works or world premieres and have previously starred Philip Glass, Royal Shakespeare Company and New York City Ballet.

March-April: HK International Film Festival
This 40-year-old festival has, in the past, played a major role putting Hong Kong, Chinese language and Asian cinema and filmmakers on a global stage. It’s held across 10 venues, including Broadway Cinematheque, and screens approximately 280 titles from more than 50 countries.

April/May/June: Cheung Chau Bun Festival
Lion dances, marshal arts demos and colourful parades are part of this unique folklore festival held on Cheung Chau island on Buddha’s Birthday. The highlight, near the Pak Tai Temple, sees a dozen contestants climbing a 60ft bun tower to grab as many lucky buns as possible.

May: La French May
The city has one of the world’s largest French ex-pat populations and this 24-year-old annual festival celebrates everything red, white and blue with performances, film, art and gastronomy celebrated in venues – including cultural centres, shopping malls and public spaces – throughout the city

May: Affordable Art Fair
This newish event is a coup for a city otherwise focused on ‘priceless’. Showcasing contemporary works by emerging local artists, the fair is an opportunity to buy works (priced between HK $1,000 and HK $100,000) by Hong Kong, Chinese and Asian artists. It is held at HKCEC.

June: Art Basel
The international contemporary art world gathers in Hong Kong annually for Art Basel, which includes artists such as Tracey Emin, Michael Landy and Robin Rhode and distinguished collectors including the Art Institute of Chicago and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exhibits are held throughout the city.

June: Dragon Boat Festival
Also known as Tueng Ng Festival, this annual event sees teams of rowers going head to head in the long narrow wooden boats as drums beat time to the finish line. The best place to see this colourful spectacle is at Stanley on Hong Kong Island south.

November: Clockenflap Music Festival
This awesome offbeat three-day music and art festival started off as a hippie fest and has grown to be one of the coolest gigs in town. The spectacular harbourfront skyline is the backdrop for international and local bands, arts and craft, film tents, food and family attractions.

November: Beertopia
From a few peeps standing around drinking beer, to 13000 attendees on the harbourfront, this six-year-old festival has grown alongside the craft beer trend. Sip on more than 500 suds varieties and sup from food tents as musos and DJs set the scene.

Hong Kong’s proximity to China makes side-tripping to the Chinese mainland and Macau all part of the experience. With such good transport, it can often be a last-minute addition to the itinerary. Locally, Hong Kong’s island geography means visitors need only get on a boat to visit what feels like far-off places in no time at all.

1 Macau
Just 60 kilometres southwest of Hong Kong, or an hour by fast ferry, Macau is an essential side-trip. The city’s hybrid nature means you can be gambling at the extravagant Las Vegas-style Venetian casino one minute and be dining in an authentic Portuguese restaurant or walking the cobbled streets of the old town the next. This blend of Portuguese and Cantonese influences the architecture, cuisine and people making it unique in Asia. Tickets cost approximately HK$300 one-way and can be bought at the Macau Ferry terminal in Central.

For die-hard bargain hunters there’s no beating a credit-card maxing trip to Shenzhen. This is the first city across the border in China and goods are cheaper here because they’re made in nearby factories. It’s basically a massive mall full of small outlets selling everything from underwear, jewellery and clothes to handbags, shoes and DVDs. Smart shoppers will either take a guide or do their homework. Otherwise expect to be overwhelmed by shops touts selling you the latest Gucci. Some are obvious fakes, some it’s hard to tell, but they’re certainly cheaper.

Tai O
At the mouth of the Pearl River Delta, on the island of Lantau, relatively remote Tai O is Hong Kong’s last remaining stilt fishing village. Half a century ago thousands lived here, but the industry was soon overfished. Today, the old streets, residents and remnants of the fishing trade have become a means to explore the old ways. The only accommodation is luxury Tai O Heritage Hotel in the former marine police station, established by an organisation that has put local history, culture, people and jobs first.

Lamma Island
Lamma Island is a half-hour ferry ride from Central but it can feel a lot further. This car-free place with a hippy reputation is a breath of fresh air compared with the city. The main Yung Shue Wan village has fresh seafood and traditional dim sum restaurants on the waterfront or make a day of it by walking the paved Family Trail to Sok Kwu. You’ll pass by Wan Hung Shing Yeh beach and through rural plots surrounded by jungle greenery. At Sok Kwu Wan you can board the ferry back to Central.

Sai Kung
In the eastern part of the New Territories, Sai Kung Peninsula is home to many long-term expats opting for space, low-rise residences, clear water and beautiful views. It’s got all this and more. Ferries leaving from piers along the water front shunt day-trippers to pretty little beaches such as Hap Mun Bay, Hebe Haven and Trio Beach or further to Tai Long Wan, an isolated camping spot with white beaches and swell. Landlubbers can keep to the promenade in the main village for a fish feast at the outdoor restaurants.

24 hours
Given the excellent transport options, the relative proximity of main attractions and the cross-section of East-meets-West at every turn you can see a lot of Hong Kong in just one day. Of course, on day two and day three you’ll see even more. It’s what makes it a great stopover city.

Enjoy one of the city’s best views walking around the Peak Circuit trail as the sun come up. It will be just you, the birds and a few joggers.

Take an iconic red taxi down the sloping roads of The Peak to Admiralty taking in the lofty skyscraping peaks and jungle scenery as you go.

Continue on a high at Café Gray Deluxe bar for the city’s best breakfast and views without fear of a hangover.

Take one of the city’s dinky antique double decker trams to Central, taking note of the famed architecture as you go.

Jump off at Fuel Espresso for a decent coffee before heading into Shanghai Tang Mansion for that perfect HK souvenir or little black cheongsam.

Stroll around the city streets, making your way to Graham, Gage and Peel streets where wet market stalls spill onto the cobbled footpath.

You have earned it – go and get yourself a cheap bowl of steaming pork and chive noodles from Dumpling Yuan.

Close to Dumpling Yuan, the mid-level escalator traverses the uphill gradient through Soho. Enjoy the ride until you get to Hollywood Road. Take a right.

Hollywood Road is dotted with antique shops and old shrines and temples. Stop along the way at PMQ for a look at HK’s creatives in action.

Continue on Hollywood Road to Sheung Wan’s Chinese Medicine and Dried Seafood Streets for intriguing ingredients such as deer antlers.

You have possibly wandered into the hip little suburb of Sai Ying Pun. Try Ping Pong Gintoneria for a tipple of your favourite g&t with a twist.

Tai Ping Shan is starting to come to life. Head back into Central via this pedestrianised street lined with galleries, boutiques, cafes and bars.

Take another taxi (they’re cheap) down to Star Ferry terminal to board one of the antique vessels taking commuters across the harbour.

From the ferry terminal, walk to The Peninsula, where three-tiered afternoon tea is served in the grand lobby.

Jump on the MTR train to Yau Ma Tei station and follows signs to Broadway Cinematheque and Kubrik’s café. Indulge yourself with books and a toes-up.

Make your way to nearby Temple Street Night Market for casual street food or a Chinese feast. Walk among the stalls for cheap electronics and gadgetry.

If it’s a clear night, take a short cab ride to ICC building, and head to the very top where Ozone serves cocktails at a high altitude.

If you’ve still got more in the tank, Dada Lounge and Bar, also on this side of the Harbour will have tunes ‘til home-time.

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