Hong Kong Fooey

By on March 30, 2009

Steaming dim sum, dazzling harbour views and peaceful island retreats. Hong Kong is the perfect city break.

It’s been over a decade since Hong Kong was handed back to China, the confusion has passed and the “one country two systems’ policy” is running smoothly. Normal service has been resumed and unique mix of the orient and the west is more enticing than ever.

Hong Kong is still multi-story mall heaven, wall to wall brand stores, cut price electronics and tacky tailoring. In one afternoon all the essential back to school shopping can be done. Restock the medicine cabinet at Watson’s, the omnipresent pharmacy, get your fix of mango pudding and Tiger balm and pick up some Marks & Spencers goodies.


The districts, Central, Happy Valley, Wanchai and Tsim Sha Tsui quickly seem like old friends. Lockhart Road, Nathan Road, Mongkok and Admiralty soon roll off the tongue as you head off for the bevy of markets selling everything from gold fish and jade to Prada and ancient Chinese spells.

Plush malls give you your bearings, with familiar names like Pacific Place, Times Square, The Landmark and Harbour City all packed to the hilt with duty free goodies. Activities for all ages range from ice rinks and Jumpin’ Gyms to flight simulators and Imax screens, to tide the less enthusiastic shoppers over.

Over on Kowloon side, the Space museum and Science museum are great places to pop into for a breather with lots of hands on exhibits. The Ocean Park on Hong Kong side, with its pandas, amazing views and thrilling water rides make for a great afternoon. While on Lantau island, Mickey Mouse has taken up residence and there is  everything you’d expect from a Disneyland infused with an oriental flavor. Despite its small scale, it does the biz, like most things in Hong Kong.

The shimmering skyscrapers are stunning, Norman Fosters HSBC Tower and the beautiful Bank of China shine out. Batman chose to jump off the International Finance Centre in the Dark Knight but the city is not all concrete and glass. Kowloon Park has great playgrounds, lots of ponds and fabulous swimming pools; while over at Admiralty, Hong Kong Park has an aviary, greenhouse and plenty of room to run around. The Zoological and Botanical Gardens on Albany Road, might be a little jaded but the orangutan enclosure always makes a welcome diversion.

Up on Victoria Peak, the vernacular takes you high above the city and provides the awesome sight of the harbour in all its splendor. If pollution is blocking the view and the little ones aren’t satisfied then Madame Tussuads and its wax stars will fill the gap.

8pm and you aren’t finished yet. The nightly laser display, “Festival of Light” illuminates the waterfront. Stroll along the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, jump aboard the Star Ferry or take a night tram for the best value in town. For the high flyers, bored of the rooftop pool at the Mandarin Oriental? The helicopter tour works wonders.


All shopped out and ready for adventure, the new Hong Kong is keen to promote its wilder side; not the nightclubs and bars of Lang Kwai Fong or Wanchai but the spectacular peaks, idyllic beaches and coral reefs. Vast areas of beautiful greenery offer amazing hiking opportunities; only 30% of the territory is built on, leaving an untouched countryside of immense beauty. Walk the Dragon’s Back trail for a taster of what’s available.

Over 200 islands make up the territories and island hopping from Central pier gives you access to small fishing villages, laid back seafood restaurants and rural getaways. The dumbbell-shaped island Cheung Chau is perfect to explore by bike. Check out the hidden beaches of Coral beach and Italian beach. Lantau is the site of the Giant Buddha and the cable car ride at Ngong Ping 360. Don’t miss Lamma Island, home to hippy chic, healing massages, great seafood, and scenic trails for all the family to enjoy. Only 30 minutes from one of the world’s biggest financial centers and you could be forgiven for thinking you were a million miles away from anywhere.

Whether it’s the malls or the beaches, Louis Vuitton or lush vegetation, Hong Kong is one of the best city breaks in the world. So bang the gong and scream Hong Kong Fooey!


Official Languages: Mandarin, Cantonese and English

Access: Approx 5 hours from Tokyo

Time difference: 1 hour  

Currency: A happy Hong Kong dollar

Climate: Humid subtropical. Summer is  devastatingly hot and humid. Average temperature of  28 degrees Celsius. Best seasons are  spring and  autumn.

Airfare: Flights from around ¥30,000

About Carl Williams