Destinations

Eclectic shock in Hong Kong

Kerre McIvor returns to a thriving Hong Kong.
Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of my favourite places in the world to visit. When I first travelled there, nearly twenty years ago, I was intoxicated by the sights and sounds and smells of the place.  Imagine seven million people crammed into a space the size of Hamilton and you can get an appreciation of what a collision of sensations there are to experience.

It’s a very safe place to visit, despite the high ratio of people to space. Perhaps it’s because of the crowded living conditions that people are so respectful of one another. It lacks the sterile order of Singapore, but in my opinion, that’s no bad thing.

Star ferries have been operating since 1880 and are a great way for newcomers to get a feel for the city.

While it’s the perfect stop-off point on your way to Europe, it’s still a destination in its own right. Whatever your interests – art, culture, sports, entertainment – there will be an event going on that will appeal to you. If you’re new to Hong Kong, it’s a good idea to get an overall feel for the city, and it’s easy and relatively inexpensive to do so.

Take the tram to the top of Victoria Peak, the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island. As you travel upwards, spare a thought for the poor men who laboured for the British expats – before the tram, they had to transport the toffs up in sedan chairs.

Hong Kong is a colourful destination with so much to offer travellers.

After you’ve taken in the panorama, head back down to earth and join a foodie tour. You’ll be guided around six of the city’s best eateries and learn about the extraordinary transformations that are taking place in the metropolis. The food is absolutely superb and you’ll get a chance to see places you’ll want to come back to later – the Police Married Quarters, for instance, which is now a hub for up-and-coming designers and artists. You’ll also wander through the street markets which may soon be consigned to history – big barn-like places are currently under construction to house the hawkers.

Spectacular views of the city can be seen by taking a ride on the Peak Tram.

You’ll have to prepare to be on your feet for three to four hours and come with an open mind – you won’t enjoy the experience if you start asking for meat-free, gluten-free or soy alternatives. We promised our guide at the start of the tour that we wouldn’t disclose the names of the restaurants – they are, after all, the company’s bread and butter, so to speak – but for the best dim sum, pork buns, dried fruits and egg tarts, join up with Hong Kong Foodie Tours.

After your appetite has been sated, sit back, relax and take a ride on one of the Star ferries.  The Star Ferry Company has been plying its trade between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central since 1880 and is known as one of the best value-for-money sightseeing tours in the world. Book a ticket on the Star Ferry’s A Symphony of Lights Harbour Cruise or head over to Tsim Sha Tsui and jostle for a position on the waterfront between the Avenue of Stars and the Cultural Centre – the symphony involves more than forty buildings on both sides of the harbour and features a truly awesome light display set to music.

Catch Hong Kong’s myriad street markets while you can – they’ll soon be replaced by a modern alternative.

If you still have some energy left, stroll along to 1881 Heritage, the former Hong Kong Marine Police Headquarters, which is now a swanky boutique hotel with great bars and a reasonably priced restaurant. This incredible island has so much to offer travellers and, although I’ve visited it a number of times, I feel I’ve only really scratched the surface.

Insider’s guide to… Hong Kong

Getting there: Cathay Pacific flies direct to Hong Kong with several flights daily. Visit cathaypacific.com

Eat at: Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong Station – the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant you’ll ever visit. The pork buns and dim sum are to die for!

  • Shop at:* Shoppers of all budgets are spoilt for choice here. Times Square Shopping Mall features well-known international brands, while designer mall The Landmark is for those with cash to splurge.

Best photo op: A Symphony of Lights and the panoramic view from The Peak are both musts. Or simply stroll the maze-like backstreets.

Don’t miss: The Foodie Tour of Hong Kong – history, culture and the very best delicacies Hong Kong has to offer. Visit hongkongfoodietours.com

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