I have just returned from a very quick 7 day Hong Kong – Foshan – Ningbo – Hong Kong work trip and need to set the record straight.
You see, I have been to HK many times. I have partied in Central til the wee hours, shopped the Temple Market, ate dim sum on the street and viewed the 8pm Harbour lights show from the Sheraton Sky Lounge many times over. Hong Kong, to me, was just another international city on a beautiful harbour. The harbour had me sold with the magnificent mountains behind, but the city did not.
I was traveling with a colleague, who was visiting HK for the first time, and the first thing she told me, over a congee breakfast on our first day, was that everyone she knows says HK is their favorite Asian city. I think I must have wrinkled my nose because she asked, “you don’t?” No, I replied. I don’t. I still don’t. However, I suddenly felt at that moment, that perhaps I had not given HK a fair review. I decided to erase what I knew and try to see it again, for the first time.
So, I now need to set the record straight. HK is still not my favorite Asian city. However, I found and saw things on this trip, with my new set of eyes. A city that once seemed “interesting” is now vibrant to me. Where I once thought that history had been drained out of the harbour, given the washed out Peninsula Hotel and a Starbucks or 7-11 on every corner, I now found those English & Chinese relics I had been missing so many times before.
I offer Hong Kong my apologies and to you, I offer the following “not to be missed” sites, sleeps, scents or streets in Hong Kong.
I. Ozone Lounge/Bar
118th Floor of the International Commerce Center; 1 Austin Road, Kownloon
Now the highest bar in the world in the highest hotel (Ritz Carlton) in the world. A breathtaking view is a gross understatement. The open air bar allows the cool breezes to blow through the lounge, whispering the deepest secrets of the sprawling city below. You can see it all from here. Forget the Bund in Shanghai. Forget the Standard in NYC. This is the place to be for sunset in a cosmopolitan city. For heavens sake (literally) you are 1/2 km high. *Not recommended for anyone with vertigo or fear of heights. Goes without saying, but I did anyway. P.S. Everything is really sexy that high up and I definitely felt taller.
2. Upper Lascar Row, Central HK
From the highest to the most hidden! Upper Lascar Row (Road, aka Cat Street) is where you need to head for antiques, trinkets, relics, knick knacks, bric a brac. Its all here. Mao posters, antique jade beads, Communist propoganda items, tea sets, old mah jong boxes, clothes, clocks, porcelain and much more. Its a flea market shoppers paradise. Located parallel to Hollyroad at the Sheung Wan Man Mo Temple its easy to reach, as long as you are into stairmaster. My new jade turtle longevity bracelet is tied around my wrist as I write these words. Something Old exists in every culture and is just as exciting as my local Brooklyn Flea. (Maybe more so since I have to bargain in Chinese).
3. Star Ferry
Its cliche. Its a short ride. Its only $2.50 HKD. Its the most amazing way to “stand” between Tsim Sha Tsui (Kownloon) and Central. It smells of salty seas. It rocks gently as the harbour winds sing a lullaby of a time when only a junk could get you across. Its addictive.
4. Man Mo Temple
The heady incense is your first indication that you are close to Man Mo temple on Hollywood Road, Central. Built in 1847 this is one of the most beautiful and preserved Man Mo temples. They are civil temples, open and free to the public. Its a bit of a free for all inside. Worshippers (and /or visitors) bring their gifts to their choice of idols. Fresh fruit, chewing gum, cakes, candies, notes, money, soap, rice, clothes…nothing seems to be off limits in the giving department. There is a person selling temple incense while other baskets around the temple say FREE INCENSE. There might be music. However there is ALWAYS massive amount of coiled basket shaped incense burning. Its an incense baptism. Its magical and strange. Its a must do.
5. Hullet House
This is a case of never judge a hotel by its shopping arcade. I have walked by this place dozens of times. The giant, pretentious shopping arcade out front has always diverted me away. It made sure that I never saw the treasure on the hill. The Hullet House. A bespoke hotel nodding to the past yet embracing modern design and modern Hong Kong. It tells stories of the days when English bums filled the veranda chairs. Its embraces modern Chinese cuisine. It’s suites, each uniquely designed with a different era of Chinese history, will make you want to stay in the hotel all day. Start saving the pennies. Put it on the bucket list. Do not let the shopping arcade turn you off. Who needs another Cartier watch anyway?
Wondering why I didn’t mention the haute places to eat in Hong Kong? Don’t worry…its coming soon.
Been to Hong Kong? What do you love about it?