Shop till you drop, eat till you pop, then see the light – there’s nowhere quite like Hong Kong for indulging your senses, says Anisah Ahmad
1. Staunton Street
When you’re spending time in a place that houses the world’s longest escalator system (800m), it seems an intriguing place to start your tour. So walk down Queen’s Road Central until you reach the 100 QRC building and you’ll be swiftly carried from the Central Business District to the Mid-levels residential area. At the top, enjoy a shopping experience on Staunton Street that no glitzy mall could provide. Following tips from retail expert Ellen McNally, author of Shop in Hong Kong – An Insider’s Guide, explore the cheek-by-jowl shophouses (some with refurbished exteriors) selling antiquities and trendy accessories; peek into minute boutiques carrying chiefly Italian-made totes and garments; and browse various art galleries and design showrooms. Hing Cheung Fu Kee is particularly well worth a visit for its unusual chinaware and price range – an item can cost from as little as HK$25 (£1.50) to as much as HK$3,000 (£190), depending on the intricacy of the work. Neighbouring streets such as Peel and Elgin also yield irresistible finds such as cheongsams with a modern twist at Crochet; old-fashioned radios and phones at Amours Antiques; and Asian-influenced, but stylish, furnishings at TREE. Remember to wear comfortable shoes and bring a bottle of mineral water,especially during Hong Kong’s muggy period from June to August. Shops usually open during lunch and close around 9pm or later. Visit ilovesoho.hk for more details.
2. Lin Heung Tea House
This is a true Hong Kong treasure – one of the fast-shrinking list of heritage sites in the city and famous for providing the definitive yum cha experience, which involves eating small servings of different foods while sipping Chinese tea. From Cochrane Street, walk down to Wellington Street until you spot the striking red facade of this charming and quaint restaurant. Climbing the flight of wooden stairs will lead you to the large and very noisy dining hall. At around 40 years old, and looking it, this venerable tea house still features the big round marble tables and wooden chairs of yesteryear. The menu features delicacies such as braised fish maw and goose paws (HK$68) – not for the faint-hearted – and bean curd hotpot Tung Kong style (HK$45), all in large portions. It is open daily from 6am to 11.30pm, but by 3pm the dim sum usually runs out. Tel +852 2544 4556.
3. Hang Fa Lau Dessert Shop
This renowned dessert shop is well worth the backtrack to Cochrane Street. All 11 branches throughout Hong Kong offer a variety of traditional temptation, served hot or cold and teeming with natural ingredients such as fruits, seeds, herbs, milk and eggs. Specialities include steamed egg white with milk (HK$18) and the sago sweet ball with sesame (HK$16), although possibly the best end to a satisfying meal is the coconut milk with black glutinous rice (HK$18), which is mildly sweet, adequately rich and not too heavy. Find it at 32-34 Cochrane Street.
4. Aqua Luna
After filling yourself up with dim sum and desserts, hop on a taxi to Central Pier 9 where the Aqua Luna can be found. This double-deck junk, with its distinctive red sails, is one of only two batwinged vessels left plying the Hong Kong harbour. Aqua Luna’s Cantonese name, “Cheung Po Tsai”, harks back to the legendary pirate from the island of Cheung Chau, who is said to have terrorised the South China Sea in the 19th century. The cruise around Victoria Harbour takes 45 minutes – enhance the views with a glass of fizz or an exotic cocktail from the bar (snacks also available). The Aqua Luna sails hourly from 1.30pm (Cultural Centre) or 1.45pm (Central Pier 9), with the last sailing leaving at 10.30pm. Afternoon sailings are priced at HK$150 (£9.50) and evening at HK$180, both with a drink. While reservations are not required, it’s best to check on departures due to weather conditions and prior bookings by event planners. Tel +852 2116 8821 or log on to aqua.com.hk for more details.
5. Kowloon Park
This is a surprising bit of serenity – with only the hiss of crickets in the background – in the heart of frenetic Tsim Sha Tsui. In 1970, this former military base opened as a 13.4-hectare park, which includes a swimming pool, aviary, bird lake, sculpture walk (featuring Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s Concept of Newton) and the Heritage Discovery Centre, a complex of colonial and contemporary buildings with outdoor seating. The park can be accessed from several areas: Austin Road, Haiphong Road, Canton Road and Nathan Road. It is open daily from 5am to midnight, although some facilities may have a different set of operating hours.
6. Symphony of Lights
What better way to end the day than on a light note. Head for the Avenue of Stars, near the Cultural Centre, where you can dine alfresco while enjoying A Symphony of Lights. According to the Guinness Book of Records, this is the world’s “largest permanent light and sound show”, using an incredible 43 buildings on both sides of the Victoria Harbour, fancifully illuminated, to signify the vibrancy and diversity of Hong Kong. With a 360-degree display, any corner of this promenade is a front-row seat. And since you’re here, don’t miss the chance to snap a photo of yourself with Bruce Lee – his statue that is – friends back home will certainly be impressed. The show is staged every night at 8pm and lasts for around 14 minutes.