The Hong Kong Stopover Guide
A harbour city known for its densely packed streets and soaring skyline, Hong Kong offers an abundance of significant landmarks and exciting experiences in the shadow of its iconic skyscrapers.
There is a theory that nobody ever willingly lingers at a crossroads. These are the locations where you are involuntarily waylaid waiting for a connection to make you go one way or another, but never stay long enough to admire what is in front of you…
Hong Kong is a glittering rebuttal of this idea. True, it has long been a place where cultures and peoples meet. Founded as a British colony in 1842, and ‘returned’ to Chinese hands in 1997, it is a port where trade and commerce have always thrived. But it is so much more than a stopover. Alive with art, food and sophistication, this is a city that rewards your curiosity.
Taking in the sights
A visit to the city will usually be confined to two areas: Hong Kong Island, where life is lived at a frenetic pace in the Central district and ships pull into the iconic Victoria Harbour, and lively Kowloon, across Kowloon Bay on the Chinese mainland.
Dating back to 1849, St John’s Cathedral is one of the jewels of Central – the oldest western religious building in town and a reminder of Hong Kong’s British heritage. It shares its district with Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre, which showcases local artists. In Kowloon, The Hong Kong Museum of History dissects the story of the city with ancient artefacts and interactive exhibits.
Hong Kong is a city of water, and a mini-voyage through the harbour is one of the great travel experiences. The Star Ferry service offers tours and crossings from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon. The view in both cases, swirling lights and epic buildings, is astonishing, but matched by the panorama from Victoria Peak in the west of Hong Kong Island.
Raise a glass
Among the near-endless choices in Central – everything from chic hotel bars to hole-in-the-wall dives – is Chachawan, which combines Thai food with a laid-back vibe. Similarly, Sohofama mixes Chinese morsels with cocktails such as a Plum Sour – made with plum-infused rice wine. In Kowloon meanwhile, the Mong Kok area is alive with unfussy hotspots, including the Sky Bar on the 13th floor of the Langham Place mall.
Glorious aromas waft around most corners of this dashing metropolis. Street food – satay pork and chicken, fried squid, curried fishballs, dim sum – is everywhere, but particularly authentic on Dundas Street in Mong Kok and Wellington Street in Central. The latter is also home to one of Hong Kong’s cheap-dining institutions in the form of Wang Fu, renowned for its meat and seafood dumplings. At the other end of the culinary scale, Hong Kong has plenty of restaurants that push their menus to extravagant heights. Pinned to the InterContinental Hotel in Kowloon, Yan Toh Heen serves Cantonese food by chef Lau Yiu Fai. On the far side of the bay, in Central, Lai Bun Fu deals in exquisite Cantonese recipes under the eye of kitchen wizard Chung Kin Leung.
Walk on buy
If food in Hong Kong cuts across the financial spectrum, so do retail opportunities. Large malls filled with designer goods and the latest electronics are not hard to locate, including IFC Mall and Harbour City. Of course, if you prefer the buzz of the street market and are ready to haggle, you’ve got plenty of options. Ladies Market in Mong Kok and Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon are busy enclaves for a battle of wills with traders, from which you will emerge with bargain souvenirs and happy memories.