- Celestial sleek
- Admiralty eyrie
- Sleek boutique, Starck-style
- Hong Kong shopping hub
- Home-grown Hong Kong
- Colourful Kowloon
- Futuristic city slicker
- In-the-thick-of-it Central
- Sleek urban retreat
- Central's shopping strip
Hong Kong Overview
- Chinois-chic megapolis
- City life
- Well fed, well dressed and well busy
Full of colour and teeming with life, Hong Kong is a modern Asian metropolis known for its incredible efficiency, its vibrant shopping and its world-beating cuisine. While it does deserve the reputation, dig a little deeper and you find there’s much more going on beneath the surface.
Hong Kong is now fully recovered from its handover hangover. When China took over the territory in 1997, some fickle-hearted souls fled for greener pastures. But, over the past few years, Hong Kong has been busy reaffirming its position as Asia’s most cosmopolitan city. Business is booming, and the bankers are still blowing their bonuses on elaborate cocktails in ever-sexier establishments. Rich local ladies, competing to see whose get-up boasts the most bling, are togged to the nines by couturier to the stars, Barney Cheng, while their husbands cut a dash in bespoke Berluti boots. The restaurant scene is buzzing like never before: Gagnaire, Robuchon, and Nobu have all opened here. Visitors can still do the traditional touristy things, like getting a suit tailor-made, suffering through the bad service at Luk Yu Tea House, or browsing crafts and antiques on Cat Street, but those in the know now go to Hong Kong for a slice of the high life, China-style.
Highly Hong Kong
For just a few cents, riding the lower deck of the 100-year-old Star Ferry that regularly crosses back and forth between Kowloon and Hong Kong, is probably the very best way to immerse oneself in the city: great views, real atmosphere – and virtually no expense. Of course, once you’ve done it, you can take the very comfortable and clean subway – as much a symbol of Hong Kong’s efficiency as the ferry is of the city’s beauty.
- Taxis are cheap and plentiful in Hong Kong. Be warned: while in certain neighbourhoods, such as Central, civilized folk patiently queue for their cabs, in others, you have to fight like Tyson to get through the door. Unless you have a huge life insurance policy, avoid the cute but crazy minibuses. While routes are defined, there are no regular stops except a few designated start and end points. Passengers flag down the buses, which are usually careering down roads at bewildering speeds, and yell out to the driver to stop when they want to get off.
- Tipping culture
- Tipping is not standard practice, but most establishments add a 10 per cent service charge to your bill.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Most shops start the day at 10am and close at 7pm. In Kowloon, they tend to open a tad later and close at around 9pm or 10pm.
- Packing tips
- Bring your finest designer togs and look fabulous wherever you go. Sadly, many here do believe that clothing maketh the man and you’ll simply get better treatment if you make an effort.
- Recommended reads
- Read Richard Mason’s classic The World of Suzy Wong for a taste of Fifties Hong Kong. Also have a flick through James O’Reilly and Larry Habegger’s Traveler’s Tales Hong Kong. This fun volume packs some great stories by famous nomadic scribes like Jan Morris, Suzy Gershman, and Paul Theroux. For a more heavyweight cultural crib-sheet, Steve Tsang’s A Modern History of Hong Kong covers the period between 1841 to 1997, roughly the age of British colonial rule.
- Like the islands’ colonial history, Hong Kong cuisine combines Western dishes with Chinese culinary tradition. Most of its Chinese food is of a Cantonese foundation, characterised by roast meats, subtle flavours, soups and mild spices. Dim sum is the local breakfast and lunch mainstay, and noodle shops offering soups filled with yummy ingredients, like fishcake, dumplings or braised beef.
- Hong Kong dollar (HK$). The exchange rate is roughly HK$16 to £1.
- Time zone
- GMT +8 hours
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Hong Kong: +852
- Do go/don't go
- Hong Kong is a year-round destination, but the best time to visit climate-wise is during the cooler period between September and March. Go in late January to mid-February to catch the Chinese New Year celebrations.