- Cityscape 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.
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.
Planes Hong Kong is one of Asia’s busiest hubs. Most of the world’s top international airlines fly to Hong Kong International Airport weekly, if not daily, and it regularly tops the charts in the ‘world’s best airport’ awards (www.hongkongairport.com). Once you have landed, zoom into the city on the Airport Express train service – it takes about half an hour (www.mtr.com.hk).
Trains Arrive by train from the mainland and capture some of the romance of bygone travel. The Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) runs regular trains into and out of Hong Kong, as well as around the New Territories (www.kcrc.com). Excellent in both value and efficiency, the MTR subway system is a great way to zip back and forth between Kowloon, Central and Causeway Bay (www.mtr.com.hk).
Automobiles Renting a car is largely unnecessary thanks to efficient public transport and a glut of affordable taxis. Moreover, roads are frequently clogged with traffic and the one-way systems can be intimidatingly labyrinthine to the uninitiated.
- Taxis 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.