Start your trail at Western District for a slice of historic Hongkong, according to He Ruiming
TAKE THE TRAM
Think of it as the terrestrial Star Ferry. First introduced to Hongkong in 1904 as a means of public transport, there are 163 tramcars carrying a daily average of 240,000 passengers. Most of the metal beasts still operating today are fourth-generation tramcars produced during the 1950s.
Taking a total of two hours to scoot across Hongkong Island (virtually crawling by the standards of the MTR), the man-operated tram is an antithesis to the rest of Hongkong’s blistering rat-paced lifestyle.
For only HK$2 (26 cents), enjoy a cool breezy ride on the upper levels of the tram – undoubtedly one
of the cheapest and most relaxing ways to explore Hongkong and rub shoulders with the friendly (and not-so-friendly) locals.
And what better place to take the tram than where it all began? Cadogan Street, Kennedy Town. Tram service starts daily from 6am to midnight.
WORK IT OUT
The somewhat colonial-looking King George V Memorial Park – encircled by Hospital Road, High Street and Eastern Street – is a good place to start the day. Begin the morning with a lap around the perimeter and admire the trees that have seemed to successfully integrated themselves with the stone walls; most of these have been around even before World War II and are a prominent feature of the urban landscape.
The park is also an excellent place to catch the locals, both young and old, going about their activities as well as experience some everyday life in Hongkong. On Sundays, it buzzes with activities, ranging from tai chi practice to rollerblading and the much less strenuous chess playing.
HAVE A DUMPLING
Looking at the restaurant’s humble, nondescript exterior, you will never guess that Hometown Dumplings is actually the subject of several magazine features. It is only after one takes a closer look at the three-year-old restaurant that its popularity becomes apparent – newspaper and magazine cuttings (raving about its handmade dumplings) adorn its otherwise dull interior.
The little bundles of joy go for between HK$27 (US$3.50) and HK$35 (US$4.50) for 10, depending on their fillings. We ordered 20 xiaolongbao (little dragon buns) which added up to a total of HK$88 (US$11), as well as Beijing-style roasted mutton for HK$52 (US$7).
Open daily from 10am to 11pm. 120 Caine Road, Mid-Levels, tel 852 2517 0969.
ADOPT A BUG
If it seems like you will be staying in Hongkong for quite a while and wish to get a quirky pet to be your companion, perhaps you would consider visiting The Beetle Station, a rather out-of-place store that sells these cute, lovable bugs. Shopowner Peter runs a printing business while promoting his hobby to others at the same time.
The cheapest species, the Kabutomushi (Japanese rhinoceros beetle), can be bought for just HK$250 (US$32). If you are seeking creatures with wicked-looking horns, however, there is no doubt that the pricier stag beetles (at HK$4,800/US$619) will catch your eye. They don’t live very long (those sold had a maximum lifespan of about a year), so don’t grow too attached to them.
Open Monday to Friday from 10am to 10pm, Saturday from 10am to 8pm and Sunday from 12pm to 6pm. G/F, The Centre Mark, Sheung Wan, tel 852 2544 0282.
GET A BITE OF SINGAPORE
If you are a Singaporean living in Hongkong (missing the food?) or have heard much about Singaporean food, you’re in luck. Located near Sheung Wan MTR Station, Katong Laksa, Prawn Mee serves some of the best delicacies from the city-state. Expect to find favourites such as rendang (a meat dish cooked in coconut milk and spices), Singapore-style satay, chin-chow (grass jelly drink) and the famous Hainanese chicken rice.
That said, we ordered the store’s signature coconut-gravy dish, laksa, which tasted pretty authentic. Admittedly, for HK$41 (US$5), it was a bit pricey considering a bowl in Singapore costs around S$4 (US$2.70).
G/F, 8 Mercer Street, Sheung Wan, tel 852 2543 4008. Open from Monday to Saturday, 11.30am to 9pm; Sunday from 11.30am to 8pm; and public holidays from 11.30am to 5pm.