The perfect Asian holiday: Hong Kong

Hong Kong, the ultimate cosmopolitan destination with sublime food in East Asia, writes Mike Dolan, in this tale of two cities.

Let’s face it. Hong Kong is edgier than Singapore, cleaner than Bangkok, cheaper than Tokyo and more sophisticated than both Beijing and Shanghai. It’s the ultimate cosmopolitan destination wtih sublime food in East Asia, writes Mike Dolan, in this tale of two cities.
The idea struck like a lightning bolt. Why not have two holidays in one by simply staying in two radically different parts of Hong Kong. First, stay in the bustling, colour-filled streets of Kowloon, the traditional Cantonese heartland, before retreating to original colonial district of Central, overlooking Victoria Habour on Hong Kong Island.
Kowloon & Mongkok
You have a choice of two hotels, either the more traditional Langham hotel, in ritzy downtown Kowloon, or its sister hotel, Langham Place, a glass and steel tower of edgy design, surrounded by market stalls. Essentially, both are perfectly located to explore Kowloon and Mongkok.
This lovely old hotel with its gilt domes and chandeliers pays homage to the luxury and tradition of colonial days. It’s surrounded by chic shopping centres, where the logos of Dior, Chanel and Miu Miu are the size of gift-wrapped cadillacs. And yet, it’s a short walk away from some of Kong Hong’s best markets. 8 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Shu, Kowloon, tel: (852) 2375 1133; http://hongkong.langhamhotels.com
This hotel is a shrine to 21st century architecture and yet it’s in the pulsating heart of old Hong Kong, where you’ll find the locals beating drums and lighting firecrackers to scare away evil spirits. On the alleys and avenues around the hotel there are also coffins shops, leather merchants, old men playing mah-jong, medicinal tonics bubbling away in earthenware pots and flashing red and yellow neon signage in giant Chinese characters – the original domain of Fu Manchu. 555 Shanghai Street, Mongkok, Kowloon, tel: (852) 3552 3388; http://hongkong.langhamhotels.com
Central, Hong Kong Island
The newly opened Upper House boutique hotel is a tranquil temple of sophisticated design overlooking the rainforest-clad upper reaches of the Hong Kong’s Peak and spectacular Victoria Habour.
Here, you are a few minutes away from the grand old colonial buildings and parks, the celebrated antique shops of Hollywood Road, the sophisticated nightlife of SoHo, the markets west of Central and the spectacular views from the Peak, the summit of Hong Kong Island. On floors 43 to 49 at 1 Pacific Place, the Upper House hotel is a tranquil haven above the bustling central business district. Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Central, Hong Kong Island, tel: 1800 143 762; www.upperhouse.com
Pick the places you want to visit when you’re staying either on Hong Kong Island or in Kowloon.
Dishing up a global selection of fine food, Hong Kong offers some of Asia’s finest dan dan noodles and dim sum in market-style emporiums to international a la carte menus in 22 Michelin-starred restaurants.
28th Floor, 1 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong Island, tel: 3428 8342; www.hutong.com.hk Step back in time ancestral Chinese interiors – wooden screen partitions, ancestral portraits, bric-a-brac and delightful touches such as models of rickshaws as table centrepieces. Piquant Peking and Sichuan food is reinterpreted with light and imaginative twists.
Ye Shanghai
3rd Floor, 332 Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong Island, tel 2918 9833 Chic, silver and gold, Louis Vuitton-meets-Shanghai-lil interiors with tables and booths with highly recommended seafood degustation menu – brilliant introduction of Shanghai cusisine.
Upper House restaurant
Upper House hotel, 49 floor, 1 Pacific Place, Central, www.upperhouse.com Across the sky bridge on the 49th floor from the Upper House is its signature restaurant, Café Gray Deluxe, where chef Gray Kunz serves a menu of European classics in edgy designer surrounds with spectacular views across Victoria Hotel to Kowloon in what is currently the new hot place to eat on the island.
T’ang Court
Langham hotel, 8 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Shu, Kowloon, tel: (852) 2375 1133; http://hongkong.langhamhotels.com This 2-star Michelin Cantonese restaurant serves the type of food developed during the Tang Dynasty, China’s golden age. The Ming Court is another beautiful Michelin-star rated restaurant at sister hotel Langham Court.
Man Wah
Level 25, Mandarin Oriental, 3 Connaught Rd, Central, Hong Kong Island, tel: 2825 4003 One of the highest dim sum spots in town, this stylishly decked-out parlour has particularly fine prawn dumplings, pork buns and exquisite abalone, Yunnan ham and asparagus rolls, plus outrageous views over the bright lights.
Whampoa Gourmet Place
Site 8, Whampoa Garden, Hunghom, Kowloon Some of the city’s finest food vendors can be found under one roof serving a startling array of dishes, including dan dan noodles, dumplings, congees, broths, pickled eggs, duck, pork and chicken dishes. You name it, it’s here.
Water Margin
12th floor, Times Square, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island, tel: 3102 0088 Atmospheric Crouching-Tiger-meets-Hidden-Dragon interior festooned with lanterns, with excellent Northern Chinese and Sichuan fare. Try the spiced chicken in Sichuan peppers, if you dare.
Lung King Heen
Four Seasons Hotel, Level 4, 8 Finance St, Central, Hong Kong Island, tel: 3196 8880. Hong Kong’s only Michelin three-star restaurant has polished interiors, spectacular bay views and Cantonese cooking of exceptional quality with chef Chan Yan Tak working wonders with a combination dish of steamed softened foie gras on a firm white fish fillet.
Rainbow Restaurant
16-20 First Street, Sok Kwu Wan, Lamma Island, tel: 2982 8100 Catch a ferry to the enchanted emerald green Lamma Island and feast on the freshest, most succulent seafood imaginable. The Rainbow provided diners with a free ferry service.
Lao Ching Hing
238 Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island, tel: 2598 6080 In business since 1955 and still claiming to serve the best Shanghainese food in town, this is a must for diners who like more piquant northern Chinese dishes.
Restaurant Petrus
Island Shangri-La hotel, Hong Kong Island, www.shangri-la.com This is like walking into a grand Belle Epoque restaurant with its drapes and domed ceiling painted with clouds and galloping celestial horses. On the 56th floor with views over Victorian Harbour, this Michelin one-star recipient serves outstanding French cuisine and offers 12,000 bottles on the wine list.
Aqua Spirit
Floor 29-30, 1 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, www.aqua.com.hk High above Kowloon, the views of this hot spot on the 30th floor gives a buzz as strong as its famous cocktails. Stools next to glass walls overlooking the water or intimate lounge settings, this attract ex-pats, fashionistas, bankers, media moguls and well-heeled visitors.
The Centrium, 60 Wyndham Street, Central, , Hong Kong Island, www.dragon-i.com.hk Potent cocktails and addictive DJ beats in a funky east-meets-west interior provides the perfect backdrop to a night of eating (bite-sized dim sum), drinking and dancing. Somewhere under the giant birdcages, you may catch sight of Kate Moss or Vivienne Westwood or a young Canto-pop idol or two.
Salon de Ning
The Peninsula hotel, Salisbury Road, Kowloon, www.salondening.com One of the salons within this subterranean bar is decked out like a high-end African lodge with tented ceiling, leopard-print wallpaper, zebra-design cushions and a stuffed lion’s head. Another recreates an Art Deco interior in 1930s Shanghai, where one expects to meet Madame Ning herself. You won’t, she’s fictional, but every other cocktail is named after her.
Prestige Crafts
Shop A, Elegance Court, 184 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong Island, tel 2541 8840; www.orientalcraftsco.com The ivory trade was banned to prevent elephants from extinction, but the Woolly mammoth is extinct already and this shop specialises in exquisite carvings of mammoth tusks unearthed in Siberia. Check out the basketball tableaux – 12 team members – all articulated skeletons – in action with “ivory” ball and hoops!
True Arts and Curios
89-91 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong Island, tel: 2559 1485 One of the antique emporiums of Hollywood Road, seek out the Qing-era silver jewellery among the shambolic interior.
Shanghai Tang
12 Pedder Street, Central, Hong Kong Island, tel: 2525 7333 Brave the building’s cranky old lifts to browse around David Tang’s China-chic emporium. It may be almost 15 years old, but it’s still a Hong Kong icon with its 1930s vibe, divine fashions, antique-style wares and bric-a-brac.
Milan Station
26 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong Island, tel: 2736 3388 There are a number of these stores around town, but this is the most central. The sell “discarded” (read second- hand) luxury-brand bags still in pristine condition.
Sam’s Taylor
Burlington Arcade, 94 Nathan Road, Kowloon, tel: 2367 9423 One of the best tailors in town, where Manu Melwani has stitched suits for the likes of Prince Charles, Presidents Bush and Clinton and David Bowie.
Bird Market/Garden
Yuen Po St, Prince Edward Road West, Mongkok, Kowloon Enter under the Moon Gate and you’ll find 70 stalls where thousands of song birds in traditional bamboo cages put on a dawn chorus all day. In the early morning (after 7am), hundreds of elderly men come to buy a bird or two for their retirement – former roadsweepers and CEOs included. A tiny silver eye in good voice will fetch around HK$120 (AUD$20), but there are exotic thrushes, parrots, canaries, warblers and much more.
Goldfish Market
Tung Choi Street/Mongkok Road, Mongkok, Kowloon Around the corner from the Bird and Flower markets are hundreds of shops and stalls selling tropical fish. Inside the fish are kept in ventilated aquariums; outside there are racks of water-filled plastic bags with fish of every colour and shape, magnified and distorted, in what looks like 3D wallpaper.
Flower Market
Flower Market Road, Prince Edward Road West, Mongkok, Kowloon Step out of the Bird Market and you’re surrounded by flowers, many you’ll recognise, others, so exotic, you probably won’t.
Wet Market
Around Nelson Street, Mongkok, Kowloon This is the locals shop for their woks. Chooks squawk, fish flap, crabs wave their claws, vegetables glisten, tofu glows and fruit, nuts and fungi exude aromas that make the senses reel.
Jade Market
Kansu/Battery Sts junction, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon More than 400 stalls selling jade, jade jewellery and ornaments. You may find some bargains among the modern trinkets, but don’t bet on finding any old jade treasures.
Temple Street Night Market
Temple/Saigon Sts, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon Starting at 4pm, this is one of the world’s great free night’s out – it’s the Madison Avenue of designer fakes and the Yellow Brick Road of extreme eye wear, jewellery and accessories, Mao memorabilia and CDs and DVDS from every continent. There are always fortune tellers and sometimes impromptu Chinese opera performances.
Dried Seafood and Medicine Market
Des Voeux Road West, Western District, Hong Kong Island The streets north west of SoHo around Des Voeux Road West and Ko Shing Street are home to dozens of colourful Chinese medicine tonic/food shops. You can smell their products blocks away – anything that swims in the sea can be found here, dried whole or diced, including scallops, sea snakes, sea cucumbers, stingrays, jellyfish, shark fin and some unmentionables. There’re also streets that specialise in Ginseng and bird nests for the infamous soup.
Stanley Markets
Stanley, Hong Kong Island Visit the south of the Island and lose yourself in this massive emporium that sells virtually everything from clothes accessories, DVDs to framed examples of Chinese calligraphy. After the shopping therapy, take in some history at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum in the splendidly restored Victorian Murray House and Blake Pier relocated from Central.
Man Mo Temple
Hollywood Road, SoHo, Hong Kong Island Close to the antique shop strip, this temple has four incense-filled shrines with red and gold laquer panels and pillars and is dedicated to the god of literature (Man) and the god of war (Mo).
Tin Hau Temple
Public Square Street/Shanghai St, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon Across the road from the Jade Market, this temple has a shady forecourt with ancient fig trees and is a great place for a rest after bargaining in the local markets.
Giant Buddha and Po Lin Monastery
Lantau Island The world’s tallest outdoor seated Buddha sits serenely on top of the Ngong Ping Plateau and together with the monastery if a sacred spot for devout Buddhists.
Wong Tai Sin Temple
Wong Tai Sin MTR station, East Kowloon Popular with the locals, all three main religions of China– Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism - are represented here. Go for the gardens and lotus ponds and visit one of the fortune tellers.
Jia hotel
1-5 Irving Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island, tel: 3196 9000 This inexpensive bouqitue hotel with just 57 rooms and a funky location, Jia has the feel of neighbourhood apartments and an affordable rate.
Cathay Pacific (www.cathaypacific.com.au)has almost 80 flights per week between Australian mainland capitals and Hong Kong. Special fares are often available on the website. For further details, visit the website or visit your travel agent.
Essential experience
1. The tram ride from Central to Causeway Bay.Take a seat on the upper deck and enjoy the scenery and a great way to get a handle on the harbour and Hong Kong Island for just HK$2. The tram has six overlapping routes east and west and also drops into Happy Valley Racecourse.
2. The Star Ferry ride across the harbour,one of the world’s great urban excursions that passes floating suburbs and green island sanctuaries.
3. The Peak Tram for the ultimate view of Hong Kong.It clatters up the mountain of Hong Kong Island past the lower-slope surburbs of high-rise apartments, before scaling the heights to the rainforest-clad upper reaches.
4. Afternoon tea at The Peninsula Hotelin a grand tradition that surpasses anything you’ll experience in Britain. You won’t need to eat anything else until breakfast.
5. Sail back to the futureon a harbour cruise aboard the Duk Ling, Hong Kong’s last remaining sailing junk.
6. Brave the cranky old lifts of the Pedder Buildingto browse around David Tang’s China-chic Shanghai Tang (12 Pedder Street, tel: 2525 7333). It may be almost 15 years old, but it’s still a Hong Kong icon with its 1930s vibe, divine fashions, antique-style wares and bric-a-brac.
7. Visit Lantau Islandeither to pay homage to world’s largest statue of Buddha (34-metre high) or for a day at Hong Kong Disneyland – the kids will be bowled over.
8. Take a ferry to Yung Shwe Wan on Lamma Island,disembark and walk over the hills of the green interior, past rural villages, sheltered bays to the far shores to Sok Kwu Wan, where you’ll find a string of seafood restaurants on an inlet. Dine at the Rainbow and they’ll ferry you back to Hong Kong Island. Either visit for lunch or dinner, either way, you’ll get plenty of exercise and eat like an emperor.
9. Go back in timeand enter the incense-filled interior of the Man Mo Temple, Sheung Wan District on Hong Kong Island, before browsing around the antiques shops of Hollywood Road.
10. Get up early and join the Tai Chimorning exercises in Hong Kong Park and get back to your hotel feeling relaxed, refreshed and hungry for breakfast.

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