A BRILLIANT meeting of East and West, it offers an unforgettable introduction to the Orient, and is the perfect place to explore a different culture while taking in the rugby at the Hong Kong Sevens (and, for the sports-mad, the golf at the Hong Kong Open Championship and the horse-racing at Happy Valley). Or just partying hard in the city’s array of top-notch bars and clubs and dining in its first-rate restaurants.
This is a city that works hard – and plays even harder – and the pace of this former colonial outpost is so frantic that it’s impossible not to get caught up in its infectious buzz. Here are some suggestions of how to dip your toe in.
TAKE IN THE CITY
One of the best things about Hong Kong is that once the action on the pitch comes to a close, you can continue the party in Hong Kong’s wide array of bars and clubs. If you want to drink and dance from dusk till dawn, head to Lan Kwai Fong, Wan Chai or Soho where the streets are lined with bars and cafes – and seemingly every culinary experience imaginable. Or, for something a little more sedate, head to the waterfront to watch the nightly Symphony of Lights in Victoria Harbour. For more devoted partying, see www.hkclubbing.com.
By day there is a lot to see and do too, and for spectacular views, the key is to head upwards. A trip on the funicular tram up to Victoria Peak is not to be missed. The tram takes you steeply up the mountain in the centre of Hong Kong Island and deposits you at the top where you can gaze out over the city and its skyscrapers – one of the greatest urban vistas in the world. Victoria Peak is also the start of a nature trail that winds its way into the lush, green woodland above the city. The tube, known as the MTR, is easy to navigate, and the best way to reach Lantau Island from where you can catch the Ngong Ping cable car up over Tung Chung Bay, past the airport and across steep hills to the Po Lin Monastery and giant Tian Tan Budda statue.
While Hong Kong oozes wealth and glamour, you can hop between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon on the iconic green and white Star Ferry for a less than £1, and soak up the great views of the soaring skylines that border both sides of the waterway. Once you’ve disembarked, spend some time – and money – in Kowloon’s shopping mecca of stalls, markets and labyrinthine arcades, before heading to the top of a skyscraper for dinner. Indulge in a 10-dish feast at the 28th floor Hutong restaurant on Peking Road, and sup on scallops, spicy soft-shell crab and de-boned lamb ribs before washing it all down with a cup of Chinese tea.
AROUND THE CITY
A 45-minute bus-ride will take you out past Deep Water and Repulse Bays to Stanley on the south side of Hong Kong Island, where you can browse the riot of clothes and cheap jewellery on sale at Stanley Market and pick up a few souvenirs to remind you of the time spent in this spectacular sub-tropical city which doesn’t stand still for a moment.
NEED TO KNOW: GETTING THERE AND STAYING THERE
Virgin Atlantic (www.virginatlantic.com) flies from London Heathrow to Hong Kong daily. Fares start from £529 in economy, £1,096 in premium economy, and £3,400 in upper class.
Hotel: I stayed at The Excelsior Hotel (www. excelsiorhongkong.com), a large skyscraper hotel in the central Causeway Bay which is a great staging post for forays around the city. Talk of The Town, the Excelsior's 34th floor restaurant and roof terrace, has incredible views over Victoria Park, Victoria Harbour and the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, and it's well worth booking in for the Saturday or Sunday lunch buffet offering a wide range of cuisine including all-you-can-eat dim sum, and champagne.
There are a whole host of events taking place throughout Festive Hong Kong 2010, the Lantern Festival in September, and the Wine and Dine Festival in October. For more information go to www.discoverhongkong.com