I’m sticking with Hong Kong this week, not only because I LOVE it but also because the 1st of July 2012 sees the fifteenth anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule. To mark the occasion, I’m giving you 15 reasons to visit one of the world’s most exciting destinations.
The Chinese invented fireworks and they still know how to do it best. Every year, tens of millions of Hong Kong dollars are spent on elaborate exhibitions, usually lasting over 20 minutes with laser lights and music thrown in for added effect. Time your trip right and you can join the half a million people oohing and “waaah-ing “on the waterfront. Four big events include New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year, the 1st of July anniversary of the handover and 1st of October National Day celebrations.
This should always be at the top of everyone’s HK visit list. Affectionately know as The Peak, it is the island’s most famous tourist attraction and one that is loved as much by the locals as it is by the millions of visitors it receives each year. Yes, the Peak Tram will be crammed, the cafes will be packed and you’ll have to politely line-up to get that postcard-perfect picture but my goodness, it’s worth it.
Hong Kong’s much-loved old theme park has recently undergone a massive refurbishment and is now firmly back where it should be as one if the island’s top visitor attractions. Cascading across the Aberdeen hillside, Ocean Park is split into two levels; the “lowland” with animal attractions like aviaries, animal enclosures, an aquarium and, the stars of the show, two pairs of adorable Pandas and the “headland” which takes in a marine show and a series of high-octane thrill rides. Both sections are connected by a cable car that bobs up and around the rocky shore and affords amazing views of the south side of the island. Don’t miss it!
Most visitors to Hong Kong take a trip on the Star Ferry, and that’s great, you should definitely do that, but there are some other options for a fun float about Victoria Harbour. One of my favourites is the 45 minute glide on the glamorous Chinese junk Aqua Luna. With its three traditional red sails lit up in the evening and a chic bar installed for dispensing cocktails, there can’t be many better ways to soak up that exquisite skyline.
People are always surprised when I tell them that more than 70% of Hong Kong is undeveloped and not only that, it’s actually quite beautiful. There are large areas of rolling mountains, wildlife-packed wetlands and miles of unspoiled coastline. Not to mention the gentle little outlying islands like Lamma, Cheung Chau and Peng Chau, which offer a more traditional slant on this shiny big city.
Hong Kong has a long and strong reputation for being at the forefront of new developments in design, architecture and technology so it’s no surprise that this applies to its hotels too. In the last couple of years, new arrivals like The Upper House and it’s hip business-orientated baby sister, East, with their apparently effortlessly cool ethos, sublime service and achingly chic decor, have thoroughly shaken-up Hong Kong’s hotel scene. While Hong Kong’s latest design darling, the Hotel Icon, has shot to the top spot on TripAdvisor’s highly-competitive Hong Kong hotel listings.
THE WORLD’S HIGHEST HOTEL
The Ritz-Carlton, at the top of the International Commerce Centre, claimed the title of world’s highest hotel when it opened last year. As you might expect from a hotel slotted between floors 102nd – 118th floors, the views are spectacular but it’s a dazzler in every sense; the design is opulent and up-to-the-minute, the bars and restaurants are stellar and the service outstanding. If you can’t stretch to a stay, you should at least stop by for a visit to the ESPA spa or rooftop bar, Ozone.
There’s no doubt about it, some of the world’s best spas can be found in Hong Kong. The city’s denizens are quite simply obsessed with health and beauty which means the standards are incredibly high and the choice mind-boggling. The most luxurious spas, however, are generally to be found at Hong Kong’s most luxurious hotels. My most memorable experiences have included the Oriental Essence massage at the Mandarin Oriental, a Bamboo massage at the Angasana, an age-defying Carita facial at the Plateau Spa, the Chakra Balancing experience at The Peninsula and a 90-minute Thai massage in the Crystal suite at the Four Seasons which reduced me to a Nirvana-like state of bliss (My, I’m spoiled!).
COOL HOTEL SWIMMING POOLS
So, I’ve already mentioned the pretty amazing rooftop pool at the Ritz-Carlton but Hong Kong has plenty more cool hotel pools to choose from. Making the biggest splash in the city is the lagoon-like offering with waterfalls and split-level sun decks at the Grand Hyatt. While on the other side of the harbour, many a memory card (mine included) has been empty with shots of the Intercontinental’s trinity of infinity pools. The Hotel Icon scores major points with its space-age-y outdoor swimming space. The Peninsula boasts a supremely decadent Roman-inspired pool, the Four Seasons a chic, ultra-exclusive harbour-side swimming deck and for a Vegas-style pool party check out “WET”, the 76th floor pool at the W.
SUNDAY BRUNCH BUFFETS
In a city that likes to eat, and eat well, hotel buffets are big business. As far as Hong Kongers are concerned there are few better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than ploughing through course after course of exquisitely prepared food. Most hotels offer buffets in one form or another, take a waterside seat at the Harbourside at the Intercontinental, pull up at the poolside for a barbecue buffet at The Grill at the Grand Hyatt or pop on your best frock for lunch amid the palm trees at the Verandah at The Peninsula.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog or follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you’ve probably cottoned on to the fact that I like the occasional rainbow-coloured cocktail (or two) and where better to kick-back and enjoy than on a rooftop terrace with some killer city views. Hong Kong stand-outs include Sevva, Armani Prive, La Terrazza at Lupa, Sugar at the East Hotel, The Lawn at the Upper House, Wooloomooloo and Ozone – one for every night of the week.
There are few things in life that make me happier than tucking into some really good dim sum. I love to try new places when I’m in town and this trip’s finds include some seriously good Har Gau (prawn dumplings) at the off-the-tourist-radar Chung’s at Cityplaza in Taikoo Shing, the tastiest, juiciest, most delicious Char Sui (barbecue pork) at Tin Lung Heen on the 102nd floor of the Ritz-Carlton, delicate turnip pastries at Man Wah and succulent Shui Mai (pork and prawn dumplings) at Yan Toh Heen. And a long-time favourite that’s always worth a visit is the aptly-named Dim Sum in Happy Valley – home of the best crispy pork belly in town.
I tried lots of great new restaurants while I was out in Hong Kong but one that really stood out was the bodacious little Linguini Fini.
There are so many things to like about this place it’s hard to know where to begin. First off, this New York-Italian-style eatery has got a cracking location at the top of Central – an ideal jumping off point for a night on the town. The decor is utilitarian-chic with street art covering the walls, the staff are friendly and stay on the right side of cool and, surprisingly for Hong Kong, there’s no annoying service charge added. Billed as an “authentic” Italian restaurant, it really does live up to this title (where so many else fail) with specialities that include “nose-to-tail” cuisine (using the whole of the animal) and just-like-mama-makes home-made pastas. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
TEMPLE STREET NIGHT MARKET
I never miss a trip to Temple Street when I’m in Hong Kong. Cutting its way through central Kowloon, it has the colourful, crazy, ghetto-tastic Chinatown feel so often portrayed in the movies. Under the strings of bear lightbulbs, hawkers sell everything from Mao Clocks to counterfeit handbags to oil paintings and underpants. Dai Pai Dongs (outdoor food stalls) rustle up tasty street food, off-duty Opera troupes occasionally wander by, while fortune tellers tout to tell you your future. The best bargains are to be had early in the evening when the market opens (it’s considered good luck to make that first sale) and when it raining (for obvious reasons).
Every time I’m in Hong Kong I take it trip to Pedder Street for some aspirational window shopping at Shanghai Tang. However, this year I was dismayed to find that the flagship store had been ousted from its most-glamorous of locations by a (yawn) Abercrombie and Fitch. Thankfully though Shanghai Tang has found a gorgeous new three-storey home just a stone’s throw away on Duddel Street. As before, you can smell the heady scent of its signature ginger lily fragrance long before you arrive, while inside it’s a design-lovers dream brimming with beautiful ready-to-wear pieces and sino-chic homewares.
Finnair flies daily from Manchester and London Heathrow to Hong Kong.
The below fares are ‘starting from’ return fares and include taxes and service fees:
Manchester-Hong Kong: Business class: £2326.00 Business class Campaign for Mid Week travel: £2076.00 Economy class: £667.00
London LHR-Hong Kong: Business class: £2321.00 Business class Campaign for Mid Week travel: £2067.00 Economy class: £658.00
For more information call 0870 2414411 or visit www.finnair.com . For up to date offers and news please follow us on twitter @finnairuk. Finnair also have daily flights to Beijing and Shanghai in China. Finnair began flights to new destination Chongqing, China in May 2012. Finnair also fly to 7 other Asian cities too in Singapore, Japan, Korea, India and Thailand.