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5 reasons we heart Hong Kong

Published February 10th, 2014

Call it Honkers, the Big Smog, Hong Kongcrete or the 852, Hong Kong has a special place in our hearts. With 99 years of British Rule and 15 years as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, Asia’s global city is a mix of old and new, East and West and the traditional and ultra modern. Big Buddha gazes serenely over Lantau Island, while skyscrapers jostle for position in the Central district. There’s the view from The Peak, and the sea of knockoffs at the Ladies Market in Mong Kok. Junk boats on Victoria Harbour and the world’s longest outdoor escalator from Central through Soho to the Mid-Levels. Hot steaming pot stickers or the Prosperity Burger at McDonald’s Hong Kong. This 24/7 metropolis is all about split personalities – that’s why we’re bonkers for Honkers. Here’s the top 5 reasons we heart Hong Kong.

 

 

1. Octopus card

It may seem strange to get all excited about a travel card, but the Octopus is not your average public transport ticket. This Hong Kong-specific smartcard not only allows you to use the services of the MTR, buses, ferries, taxis, Peak Tram, trains and double-decker trams, you can also use the credit of this nifty piece of plastic to buy stuff in shops, vending machines and online and tap-on at sporting facilities and other services.  Who needs a wallet?

 

 

2. Dim sum

Can we talk about food for a minute? Hong Kong is one of the world’s great gastronomic centres with everything from high-end experimental European chef wizardry to comforting Cantonese food and Western fast food chains with Asian-influenced additions. While you’re here, get friendly with dim sum. These bite-size morsels that we know as yum cha (meaning ‘drink tea’) edibles are served in steamer baskets from carts all day long as a rolling banquet. Dim sum means ‘touch the heart’ and we can’t think of a better translation for this Cantonese comfort food. We recommend the char siu bao (barbecue pork bun), har gow (shrimp dumplings) and congee (rice porridge).

 

 

3. Hong Kong Disneyland

Sure there’s 5 Disney theme parks around the world (not including the proposed Shanghai Disney Resort and the Disney Cruise Line), but can you get Mickey Mouse-shaped dim sum and feng shui landscape design in Anaheim?  At the Hong Kong Disneyland on Lantau Island, there’s also Duffy the Disney Bear (a product-only character that’s popular in Asia) who pops up in red bean buns, plush toys and more. Get here via the spesh MTR Disneyland Resort Line – complete with Mickey Mouse ears as handrails!

 

 

4. Secret bars and clubs

Honkers has a notoriously pumping nightlife with plenty of bars, clubs and lounges for expats, locals and tourists, most notably in Lan Kwai Fong in Central and Wanchai and Knutsford Terrace in Kowloon.  But for those in the know, HK also has a variety of hidden drinking dens for savvy kids like you to scout out.  From hole-in-the-wall German bars (Beer Quote) to friendly pubs lurking in shopping centres (Pam Pub) and secret minimalist Japanese spaces (Nocturne), who knows what you’ll discover behind innocuous doors in Hong Kong?

 

 

5. Cheap kicks

Some of the best things in life are free, so the song goes, and while most of Hong Kong’s pleasures are of the commercial kind, there’s bargains to be had here. Like free museum admission on Wednesdays, tai chi in the parks in the am, and the nightly ‘A Symphony of Lights’ audio-visual spectacular as seen from the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. For cheap kicks in Honkers, you also can’t go past the 7-minute journey across Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon for just $HK2.50, and happy hour drinks at the British pubs in Central, Wanchai and Tsim Sha Tsui.

 

Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.