Hong Kong is a truly global city. As a result of its unique history it is both Chinese and yet different from everywhere else in China. It is connected culturally and economically to everywhere. Its people are serious about work and education and the arts. It is high density, high energy, high ambition, determined to succeed.
For a visitor, there are the usual tourist experiences, shopping, the Star Ferry and the Peak Tram. For those with more time, there are day trips to Macau, Lamma Island and the Stanley Market.
But here’s a suggested day in Hong Kong, if you just want to relax a soak up the vibe, including a few drinks and some amazing food.
First tip, don’t start too early. If you are Australian, like me, chances are your body clock is set to a 6am wake up. Reset, because nothing is open in Hong Kong that early so there is no coffee or breakfast to be found. This is a late night town and nobody emerges before at least 9am. If you are staying in Soho (as you should), plenty of good coffee and breakfast can be had by that time.
A wander around the mid-levels of Soho in the morning allows you to see all the boutique businesses, including alley stalls, setting up for the day. And you can scope out your choice of restaurant or bar to return to later that night. But note the mid-level escalator which helps navigate Soho still runs downhill until 10am because, well, nobody is walking up the hill at that time. So, with its myriad steps and sloping lanes, a walk around the mid-levels is good exercise.
Pop into PMQ, the re-vamped Police Married Quarters, now an arty design hub with more than a hundred or so fascinating little shopfronts and pop-ups ideal for unique present shopping.
Now you may not yet be hungry but you will need to queue for the best combination of dim sum with a view, so head down to the harbourside to Maxim’s in City Hall. In a spectacular ballroom atmosphere, gaze out the windows at the water and check each trolley as it passes with all the classic dim sum varieties you know and love.
Time to go up market for a bird’s eye perspective. There are several great places to have a drink. For a great outlook across the heart of the city and over the harbour to Kowloon, go to Sevva’s on top of Prince’s Building in downtown Central. But the all-time best panorama is from the top of the ICC, above Kowloon MTR (metro) station. The Lounge & Bar, on the 101st floor and just below the lobby of the Ritz Carlton, is the ideal spot to sit over a martini or two and watch the sunset.
For dinner, there are so many great places but here are a few international restaurants back in Soho where you won’t go wrong:
Pastis in Wyndham St is one of my favourites, a little piece of Paris in the East. If you have never tried pastis the staff will introduce it to you, a fabulous summer drink. And the food is consistently wonderful.
Both Le Fils à Maman, in Hollywood Road, and La Postre, in Wing Lok Street, are also fabulous European food joints.
Shugetsu in Gough St is a michelin star ramen bar and well worth queueing for.
Further east in Wanchai, you will be amazed by the tapas at Ham and Sherry and the cocktails at The Optimist. And I could go on, but I did say I would sketch out a suggested day.
So many people come through Hong Kong and only see the tourist traps so I hope this can be of some inspiration to dig a little deeper. Hong Kong people are always on the lookout for something new, so bear in mind this list will be out of date in a minute!