Look beyond the city's obvious draws and see something new in Hong Kong
Honorary Hong Konger Hfu Reisenhofer takes a look beyond the city’s obvious draws with an itinerary for second-time and even regular visitors to the famous city-state.
It’s amazing just how much has changed and how much has stayed the same in this Asian powerhouse of a city. I grew up here in the 1980s, left in the early 1990s and have been back on numerous occasions since. Hong Kong’s skyline has grown considerably, each new skyscraper seemingly in a competition to dwarf the last, Victoria Harbour has shrunk dramatically thanks to extensive land reclamation (if they carry on at the same rate, there’ll soon be no harbour left), and the mainland Chinese have replaced the British. Yet the feel and energy of the place endures.
For first-timers, Hong Kong offers a host of unique sightseeing activities and tick-off-the-list experiences, but what about the repeat visitor? Is there enough to justify a second, third or even fourth visit? Judging by my last trip, the answer is, definitely. And with the summer’s high temperatures and humidity on the decline, now is a great time to go.
Shopping has consistently been one of Hong Kong’s favourite pastimes, and that’s pretty much still the case. A far cry from Hong Kong Island’s high-end malls along Queen’s Road and the high-street shops of Causeway Bay, a stroll through the steep and narrow streets around Hollywood Road and the Midlevels escalator is always a pleasure. The various retailers here range from quirky design shops to second-hand bargain stalls and are great for picking up knicknacks, antiques and more unusual souvenirs – I recommend Goods of Desire (www.god.com.hk) on Hollywood Road.
Coming from the Gulf, a region filled with bargain tailors and dressmakers, it may seem odd to recommend getting a suit made in Hong Kong, but for superior quality, skill and styling, you’d be foolish not to make the most of the opportunities. There are many to choose from, but my pick is British Tailors (www.peter-so.com) on Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, where jovial proprietor Peter So offers a first-class, made-to-measure, speedy service.
Hong Kong’s dining scene never stands still, and Cantonese fare, specifically dim sum, is the obvious draw. A firm favourite is Pure Veggie House on MacDonnell Road in Midlevels, serving up 100 percent vegetarian versions of these delights. Its enduring popularity speaks for itself. Sticking with Chinese cuisine, if you’re after genuine wow-factor and a dining experience you won’t forget in a hurry, head across the harbour to Peking Road on Kowloon side. Here you’ll find Hutong (www.aqua.com.hk), an exquisitely designed restaurant modelled and named after the traditional alleyways dividing the old-style courtyard homes of Beijing. Thankfully, just as much attention goes into the dishes as the interior, which can’t always be said for other themed establishments. They will charge you considerably for the pleasure, but if you’re entertaining or just looking to treat yourself, Hutong will impress.
Back on Hong Kong Island, Sevva (www.sevva.hk), at the top of Prince’s Building in Central, also deserves a mention. The high-end fine dining on offer here is exceptional, but I’d recommend it even just for drinks, particularly if you can get a spot on the terrace, where panoramic views of the city await. It’s a current hotspot among Hong Kong residents, so book.
Victoria Peak, Hong Kong Island’s famous green mountain that provides a backdrop to the city, should need little introduction. Tourists flock to its observation tower to snap pictures of the iconic skyline and harbour – yet the Peak is also treasured by residents. The buzz of people quickly ceases with a short climb further up the hill from the popular Lookout Café, first leading to the picturesque Mount Austin Road playground and Chinese-style Victoria Peak Garden. Come here in the early hours of a weekday, and you’ll have the place to yourself, save for a handful of locals practising tai chi. A few deep breaths while taking in the more peaceful views to the south, and you’ll be re-energised and ready to once more take on the magnificent city below.
Need to know
Getting there Emirates flies to Hong Kong direct from Dubai from BD400 return. www.emirates.com