Daniel Neilson runs through an itinerary of unmissables.
1. Taste Typhoon Shelter crab. Probably the best eating experience in Hong Kong is in Under Bridge Spicy Crab, modestly situated between strip clubs and sports bars along Lockhart Road. Order “typhoon shelter-style” crab and a large beer. A live crab will then be hauled out of a pot and returned to your table dismembered and covered in crunchy garlicky piquant deliciousness. Address: 405 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai. Tel (+852)2573 7698. www.underspicycrab.com
2. Peak tramway. Touristy, yes, but the vertiginous funicular offers an insight into Hong Kong’s colonial past. It was completed in 1888, when residents decided it would be more comfortable to climb the mile long route to the posh Victoria Peak in a train rather than in a sedan chair. The peak has the best views over Hong Kong Island. www.thepeak.com.hk
3. Chungking Mansions, in Tsim Sha Tsui, are the true microcosm of Hong Kong, if not the world. Within its 17 storeys are restaurants, electronic stores, brothels, guesthouses and the cheapest residential apartments. The diversity of cultures co-existing in the tower block is astonishing. It is a seedy and frenetic hive, and essential for understanding Hong Kong in the 21st century. Address 36-44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui.
4. Causeway Bay wet market. Hong Kong has dozens of markets, each usually specializing in certain food. Around the corner of Bowrington Road and Tin Lok Lane in Causeway Bay you will find a positive shoal of fishmongers. There is a bewildering selection of sea creatures that are kept in water-filled bowls and only killed, usually with a club, when bought. The butchers and grocers hawk equality bizarre goods.
5. Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden. Surrounded by the high rises of Kowloon, this tranquill Buddhist public garden and tea rooms is a sanctuary from modern Hong Kong. Still the site of nunnery, this 3.5 hectare, studiously landscape park is designed with the Zen aesthetic of the Tang Dynasty. There is also a restaurant, tea room and shop. 60 Fung tak road, Diamond Hill.
6. HSBC Main building. Sir Norman Foster designed the HSBC headquarters to be taken down and moved to the UK if handover to the Chinese went haywire. It didn’t and today the remarkable “exoskeleton” construction symbolizes, more than the world Trade Center, Hong Kong’s financial might. It juxtaposes with the neo-classical Legislative Council Building, opened in 1912.
7. Lantau trail. Although most visitors remain on Hong Kong Island, there are 1,104 square kilometers of the mainland and other islands to explore. Despite being home to Hong Kong International Airport and Disneyland, Lantau Island has a remote but well maintained 70-kilometer trail over the spine of the island that transcends time, through the traditional village of Tai O and past monasteries.
8. Lan Kwai Fong. Hong Kong’s nightlife is focused on Lan Kwai Fong. Bars and restaurants fill up with a healthy mix of expats and locals for after hours drinks. The most refined bar is Feather Boa, a low –lit place with a decadent, fin de siécle speakeasy vibe. Antique furniture, heavy velvet curtains, candles and dry martinis complete the atmosphere. Address 38 Staunton street. Tel (+852) 2857 2586.
9. Tram Tours. The best tour in town costs on only HK$ (25c). Buy a ticket and hop on a tram heading in any direction. Little changed from the colonial days of the early 1900s when they were introduced, these clunking relics offer an atmospheric tour through the financial downtown, Shau Kei Wan and Kennedy town.
10. Happy Valley Horse Racing Track. Elicits the same sort of passion football does in Argentina, or baseball in the US – it could almost be Hong Kong‘s official sport. The Happy Valley racecourse, run by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, is an immensely impressive stadium and best visited when floodlit.
Hong Kong Top 10