Hong Kong Day 1:
Hong Kong is Asia’s answer to New York. It’s a playground full of colours, lights, and speed. A perfect mélange of tradition and modernity. A hub for finance, fashion and food and one of the most exciting cities in the world. We’ve had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time living in Hong Kong over the years and always look forward to going back to visit.
We find ourselves in this “concrete jungle where dreams are made” in early June – the start of summer, which means long hot and steamy days best spent in air conditioning or by the water. It is a reminder why so many Hong Kong expats have to virtually buy a whole new wardrobe of suits and shirts when they arrive on the Island, because the climate certainly tests even the strongest of anti-perspirants.
When staying in Hong Kong, it certainly pays to have a little sanctuary where you can relax, recharge and re-calibrate and the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel in Central is our favourite, for both comfort and proximity to everything . But you can’t go wrong with the The Mandarin Oriental or The Upper House either. Both are pretty special – the M bar in the Mandarin Oriental and Café Grey in The Upper House are worthy of visiting, even if you’re not staying at the hotel.
After hours spent either shopping, eating, drinking or partying (or all combined), a good shower and a comfortable bed make it that much easier to wake up ready to do it all again the next day. The magnificent infinity pool at the Four Seasons, which overlooks Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour towards Kowloon is an oasis in the midst of the heat and humidity. It’s quite a contradiction to be lounging by the pool, cocktail in hand, to look up and see numerous imposing skyscrapers.
As eating really is a serious business in Hong Kong, we thought it’d be rude not to start the trip with brunch at one of our favourite restaurants; Zuma, located in the glamourous Landmark Building. Boozy Champagne brunches on the weekends are an institution in Hong Kong and a real must if you can fit it in to your schedule. Chances are you will love Zuma like we do, be it because of the free flowing Champagne or the delicious buffet of sushi that melts in your mouth and the dessert platter presented like a work of art on a block of ice, which almost looks too pretty to demolish. Although Zuma have recently switched from serving Perrier Jouet to Veuve, the food remains impeccable. If Japanese isn’t for you, there is an abundance of other options in Hong Kong with pretty much every luxury hotel offering buffet style brunches and a number of other restaurants doing their version of the boozy brunch.
After we’ve been “Zuma-ed” we head for Pier 7 to take the famous Star Ferry across to Tsim Sha Tsui on the Kowloon side. This is still one of the best touristy things you can do in Hong Kong and also one of the cheapest. A one way crossing will cost you no more than a couple of Hong Kong Dollars and is the best way to take in Victoria Harbour, the Hong Kong skyline and all the junks, steam boats, cruise liners and cargo ships which also share one of the oldest and busiest working harbours in the world. The short trip seems shorter every time we go back to Hong Kong and that’s not because our minds are playing tricks on us – bit by bit, Hong Kong harbour has been filled in with sand – or ‘reclaimed’ as it were. This is a shame, but in a growing metropolis like Hong Kong, space is at a premium. From Tsim Sha Tsui, you can choose to do one of several things – shop, shop or shop. This time, we choose to first take in the formidable sight of the giant yellow inflatable duck that has called Hong Kong home for the last month. We had heard that recently it had suffered a puncture – either due to heavy ‘black’ rain or perhaps some debris floating in the harbour. The rubber ducky’s effect on the Hong Kong Chinese was profound, with reports that many elderly women were brought to tears when the duck was deflated for repairs; apparently the duck had conjured up childhood memories…or something like that. On this occasion however, we are glad to see the duck floating proudly. The large crowd gathered to take photos ensures that we only stop briefly before heading into the mega-mall, Ocean Terminal.
Harbour City (it is like a mini-city) and the adjoining malls are a labyrinth of beautifully presented designer shops and restaurants stacked over multiple levels, stretching the length of the Ocean Terminal finger wharf and up Canton Road. This is either a shopaholic’s dream or a bag mule’s nightmare. You can walk kilometers and really get lost in this place and for that reason, this mega-mall breaks up the complex into zones, so you can attempt to orientate yourself. Honestly, even if shopping isn’t your thing, its worthwhile taking a look at this huge mall. On weekends however, it’s best to avoid Ocean Terminal and Tsim Sha Tsui in general, due to the crowds of locals and increasingly, Mainland Chinese literally shopping till they drop. It’s not uncommon to see long queues outside the designer shops.
Outside of Harbour City, there’s plenty of other shops around Tsim Sha Tsui, but we’d advise you to give a wide berth to the Indian touts – engage them at your peril – you’ll find them spruiking their “imitation Rolexes…looks very real” and “suits very good price for you.”
Hong Kong is a city where old meets new. On the Kowloon side, the historic Peninsula Hotel has consistently been voted one of the best hotels in the world and has been around since 1928. If you can’t stay here, taking afternoon tea in the lobby, accompanied by a string quartet can buy you a little piece of the 5-star experience. In stark contrast, the tallest and one of the most modern buildings in Hong Kong, The International Commerce Centre (ICC) Tower in West Kowloon rises 486m straight up into the sky. This phallic skyscraper opened officially in 2011 and currently houses investment banks, The Ritz-Carlton hotel, an observatory deck – Sky 100 and Ozone Bar– the highest bar in the world on 118th floor. Although not necessarily one of our ‘favourite’ bars in Hong Kong, the novelty of actually looking down on the skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island is worth the ear-popping experience.
Hong Kong might be a concrete jungle of skyscrapers, but they are put to good use every evening during the Symphony of Lights show. With the very rare exception of a tropical cyclone, every night at 8pm, all the buildings on the Kowloon and Hong Kong Island foreshore are lit up in brilliant colours accompanied by music. A kaleidoscope of lasers and searchlights sweep across the harbour and the buildings, making it hard to know where to look! The best thing is, this experience is free and it never gets old. Some of our favourite vantage points are from Aqua Spirit or Hutong Restaurants on Peking Road, the Star Ferry or the infinity pool at The Four Seasons – but it really doesn’t matter too much where you base yourself for this incredible show, as even if you only see a small portion of the lights and lasers, it’s impressive none the less.
Hong Kong is a city that never sleeps and things start to get really pumping after dark around Lan Kwai Fong and Wyndham Street – Ground zero for Hong Kong’s legendary nightlife. It’s no wonder Philippe Perzi Vienna named two of our dress shirts from our latest shirt collection after these areas (Lan Kwai Fun, Wyndham Stripe), because some very fond memories have been had whilst out at night in this district. Hong Kong works hard and when the sun goes down, plays even harder with numerous bars and nightclubs filled to the brim and overflowing into the streets. Nightclubs such as Dragon-i, Privé and the private members club, Bougis (yes, like the one in South Kensington) attract bottle-popping suits and their accompanying posse. Hong Kong enjoys the kind of opulence and excess that London or New York hasn’t seen for some years now and this is reflective of Hong Kong’s status as the economic capital of the East.
We decide to call it a night after Bougis. A large, egg-shaped ice sculpture filled with a potent cocktail and topped with Champage – known as the Fabougi’s Egg, has left some of us teetering on the steep sloping Pottinger Street and we decide to leave the still reveling club, for the sanctuary of the hotel. Hong Kong – 1, Philippe Perzi Vienna – 0