AN EXPATS GUIDE TO HONG KONG
Hong Kong is a weird and wonderful place. My first thought when I arrived was it was more like a Brazilian favela, with all these little side streets and hills. From bird markets to karaoke bars Hong Kong has it all. Having lived in Hong Kong for two years and having eaten and drunk my way around most of the city, I hope I have quite a good handle on what are the key things to do in Hong Kong. The main thing about Hong Kong is its fairly safe, packed with people, skyscrapers and life. It makes for an interesting and exciting stay. Here are some of my top tips. This is mainly for my friend Annabel who is visiting soon! Where do you like to hang out in Hong Kong?
Foot spa or footie. This is number one on my list. These things are amazing. I used to get so many foot massages when I lived here. There are so many places in Hong Kong which you can dive into and get an amazing foot rub, and they can even take off any excess dead skin. You can have one where you and friends can sit together, or there are huge rooms filled with people all enjoying a moments downtime and peace.
Infinite Pools. There are some amazing infinite pools that make you feel as ridiculous and ostentatious as Hong Kong can. Look for good ones such as at the Intercontinental Hotel to really soak in some of the views. Also google outdoor natural infinite pools and there are some amazing gems out there. If you are a keen hiker check out Man Cheung Po pool on Lantau Island for a spectacular experience.
Junk Boats. How did I early forget this favourite past time of Hong Kongers. If you go to Hong Kong then you have to go on a Junk boat. This happens most weekends with 10-60 people getting together on a boat and often partying hard. Please see some photos and videos below to get an idea for the mischief that’s on offer every weekend.
Brunch at the W. This is a non-negotiable if you are visiting Hong Kong. Champagne brunches are put on by many hotels. The W hotel takes it to the next level. The amount of food and drink you can eat is unreal.
Dragon Fly Dim Sum. When you are hungover on a Saturday or Sunday, Dim Sum at Dragon Fly is the best place for you. You have oodles of Oolong tea followed by stacks and stacks of dumplings. They have amazing Xiao Long Bao, spinach dumplings and many, many more.
Lang Kwai Fung Jelly Shots. You haven’t visited Hong Kong until you have walked up the hill of Lang Kwai Fung and done a jelly shot at Als Dinner. Across the road you can get one’s in the form of a massive injection that you squirt in your mouth. This is essentially where you start or finish any night, and at some point it is likely you will venture here for a shot. I developed a great technique for dropping mine on the floor when no one was looking to avoid the ever intense alcohol consumption that comes with living in Hong Kong.
Shek-O Beach for public BBQ’s, Thai food and general beach times. One of my favourite places in Hong Kong was Shek-O beach, we used to go with friends and use the outdoor public BBQs and it was always so much fun and interesting eating the BBQ balls of fish and other such foods.
Carousel Bar. Tucked away just behind LKF this little bar was the local’s favourites to hang out and meet for beers and cocktails. You are always guaranteed to bump into a friendly face up for a beer or two.
Shenzhen. If you have an extra day, take the train and go to China for the day especially if you are female it will not disappoint. The fakes in HK tend not to be that great and the range isn’t exciting either. In fact as a fairly decent shopper I never really found that many good places in Hong Kong. Shenzhen however, is another world. It is essentially a city over the border in China that is centrered around serveral giant shopping malls. It has everything you can ever imagine from handbags to shoes, to tailoring and jewellery. Pretty much anything you can think of or want that is a fake, you can get it here. I still use my fake Prada handbag most days that I got here and was one of the best purchases I ever made, and I have quite a few other bags and bits of pieces that I still use on a regular basis years later. Don't forget to barter.
Escalators through the mid-levels. It is a novelty that a city can have so many escalators. This is a great way to get a picture of the expat area of Hong Kong, you can jump on and off the escalator and experience all the great little bars, restaurants, massage parlours and more that are lined up the streets. Don’t forget to look up at all the signs, there is always a lot more packed into every building than first meets the eye.
Walk to the top of the peak. This is cliche and everyone will tell you to-do it and it really is worth it. Hiking is a common place interest of most Hong Kongers, and many people walk up this hill on a regular basis, some run and some bike. As ever there are always those crazy exercise kids doing weird and wonderful things as they quickly pass you. The view at the top of the peak is incredible any time of the day and it’s really worthwhile. I have to say I have also been up in the train and I way prefer walking.
Twin Peaks Hike. This is literally one of the hardest hikes I have ever done. I think I did it twice when I was out there. You literally spend your life going up a massive hill, and then killing your calves going down. That being said its beautiful and well worth it.
Millionaires Bay. Hike, swim, camp, eat. This is again another one of my favourite places in Hong Kong. Firstly you can’t believe that these incredible beaches are so close to Hong Kong. Secondly, this area has some greatlittle food places and is set up for camping on the beach.
Captains Bar Mandarin Oriental. An old classic and a great meeting point for the start of a night.
Eating out. There are so many amazing restaurants in Hong Kong. You could eat in a different restaurant every day for three years there are so many options. From local to high end Chinese to Mexican, pop-up, Japanese there will be tonnes of options. I use the blog http://thedimsumdiaries.com/ for all the best recommendations and write ups.
Cocktail’s on Sevva rooftop bar. This is pretty much a given for anyone young or old will enjoy a cocktail or two overlooking the immense skyline of Hong Kong. This bar is one of the highest and flashy bars around and so provides an excellent setting for people watching, mingling and chats over nibbles.
Ocean Park. I am not normally a fan of theme parks however, this one is not too bad, and they manage to cram in quite a few rides in the space and none are too scary. It makes for a fun day trip.
Stanley Markets. This is a great way to see the other side of Hong Kong island. There is a great little beach and some food places in Stanley, as well as their market's.
Tea at Repulse Bay Hotel and then walk back along the Seaview promenade towards Aberdeen. This was my favourite walk in Hong Kong island, and one of the most beautiful and special things you can do in Hong Kong. It’s great to take in this beautiful part of Hong Kong and walk by the sea.
Hong Kong 7s. Everyone should do this once in their life. I know nothing about rugby, I do enjoy dressing up and drinking, so I ticked two of the three essential components of this calendar highlight.
Pearl shopping. There are some really fantastic markets in Hong Kong. The pearl markets are beautiful and there are of course plenty of pearls in all sorts of colours and other little trinkets. I think this is one of the nicer markets and it’s easy to get to. It makes a great half day excursion and great for buying presents.
Tailor’s. People have said to me they have had great tailoring done in Vietnam and Thailad among other places, and I have tried out a few in these countries before. I must say in Hong Kong they genuinely understand tailoring and it is partly the Chinese community and partly the Indian community doing a fantastic job. I got copies of dresses made that many years later I am still wearing all the time. For business attire they are great, winter coats, copying clothes, there are so many fantastic places to go too. Go early on in your trip, and a few days later you can go and pick everything up. I went to one in Kowloon as it was quite reasonably priced.
Cycle around Cheung Chau Island. This is one of the most joy day’s out I had in Hong Kong. You get the ferry to Cheung Chau, rent bicycles, explore the island and visit the amazing fish restaurants for dinner. This is a highly recommended day trip.
Horse Racing in Happy Valley. Every other Wednesday people go to Happy Valley to watch the races and generally get together. Its super cheap and a really fun evening out.
Places to avoid:
Chung King Mansions. I can’t believe I lived here when I moved to Hong Kong before I found somewhere to live. These are sprawling buildings which are fairly squalid and filled with all kinds of bits and pieces. I read quite a good crime book based in this part of town, it was known as a ghetto previously and there is plenty of dirt to be found here.
Macau. It is interesting and the Portuguese area is beautiful and there is the famous restaurant Fernando’s. All in all it is no Las Vegas. There is three times as much money betted here than Vegas, and it really is what people do, gamble. It’s full on, and although there are some fun things to do, in my mind it’s not an essential stop.
The Drop Nightclub. If you ever end up here, you know it's time to go home. It's waaaaay past your bed time and your best looking time.
Drinking in LFK also means wearing glowing headgear at all times.
Little side streets everywhere, bursting with life.
Chaos. If only you could hear the noise.
Right in the centre of the business district.
When you think you can't eat any more, there is always dessert.
How we unwind.
Me enjoying yet another jelly shot.