A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to visit Hong Kong for a wonderful week of exploring the city and I can easily say it is a place that has captured my imagination…
The treacle-like air envelopes me, comforting in its heaviness. The lush green sub-tropical trees and mountains contrast against the overcast skies, and driving past the multitude of overwhelmingly high-rise buildings of the city, straining my neck to look up, it reminds me of scene from the 2012 Judge Dredd movie (unusual reference I know!) There are things which stand out for me, in the slow stillness of the air, and the contrast of green and grey and bright lights: balmy evenings on the terrace, the sound of tropical birds in the background as I hit balls at the driving range, emerald green waters, colourful dragon boats, unusual fruit and fish in the markets…
What is it about Hong Kong that is so alluring? Buildings versus nature; dare I say the cliche of East meets West was made with Hong Kong in mind?; shopping and finance versus poor high density living; the ex-pat communities from around the world; the history; the heat…
If you ever have the chance to visit this city (I definitely want to go back!), here are some of my recommendations:
History - The Peak and The Tram
A trip to Hong Kong would be remiss without a visit to The Peak as it is known locally (Victoria Peak), the highest mountain on Hong Kong island. It has beautiful views over the city and harbour. Historically, it was a prominent suburb for wealthy ex-pats, and they reached their summer houses on the Peak by sedan chairs (carried by some poor souls). Thankfully, now there is a tram which takes you to the top, almost vertically I might add!
Market - Floating Seafood Market in Sai Kung
If you’d like to see the famous water markets of Hong Kong, head to Sai Kung. The colourful fishermen’s boats line the dock with their daily catches and you can order and pay for your fish by leaning over the side.
Bar - On Dining
Hong Kong has many fabulous rooftop bars, and as it was my birthday we went to On in Central, which is an exceptionally cool rooftop bar with a balcony nestled amongst the Hong Kong skyline, the city lights casting a glow across the terrace. I had to have my usual Negroni of course, and the house speciality, ONegroni by master mixologist Giancarlo Mancino, did not disappoint!
Restaurant: Lucy’s in Stanley
For a spot of the oldy-worldy (reminiscent of Casablanca), Lucy’s offers an intimate 1940s style restaurant with a blackboard menu and delicious food. We didn’t make it to Ku Tong (Traditional Chinese), but I believe the food is incredible. We ate some great food at many restaurants, and I highly recommend Koh Thai for Thai food - a beautiful location in the trendy Central too. And definitely indulge in some Tsingtao beer and dim sum!
Views - Aqua Spirit
Begin your evening at Aqua Spirit if you’d like spectacular views of the harbour and the traditional junks (type of boat). Every evening at 8pm Hong Kong puts on its light show, The Symphony of Lights, synchronising the lighting on some of its famous buildings (HSBC, Central Plaza, Hong Kong Convention Centre to name but a few). The light show provides a hypnotic background to the harbour and just looking out at the island of buildings and colourful boats is mesmerising.
Nature - Dragon’s Back
Though Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated metropolises in the world well known for its high rise skyline, about 40% of the land is reserved for country parks and nature reserves. It has many popular hikes, and we went on the hike around Dragon’s Back. I would also recommend a ferry trip to Lama island, for the beer and seafood!
I wanted to know more about Hong Kong and if you’re like me, a novel can capture the feeling and imagination of a place. The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee is a slightly uncomfortable yet interesting read, which flicks between the 1940s and the Japanese invasion during WW2 and 10 years later in the 1950s. The novel captures some of the history, colours and contrasts of Hong Kong, and some things seemed to have remained the same!