An exchange with Nicole Koo of Hong Kong based (more than marketing) firm Catch On on the paucity of Asian restaurants from Asia offering Asian food in World's 50 Best Restaurants list for 2011 leads to the return of 10 Do's and Don'ts with Hong Kong in the limelight courtesy of Paul Calder, an Australian transplant (Expat).
10 Hong Kong Do’s & Don’ts
1) Do zip up to the top of the Peak on the gravity-defying tram (Peak Tram/ 33 Garden Road). Once at the top, stroll up to Victoria Peak or, for a less challenging trek, take path along Lugard Road. The vertigo-inducing city views are a true treasure.
Don’t bother if it’s smoggy or if the Peak is smothered in cloud (it often happens). On those days, you’re lucky to see two feet in front of you, let alone any spectacular view. And don’t leave your Peak visit to the weekend. During those times, the only view you’ll see is hordes of camera-toting tourists.
2) Do cross Victoria Harbour on the iconic Star Ferry. The lolling, leisurely pace offers a nice respite from Hong Kong’s fast-and-frantic lifestyle. And aside from the old-world charm it evokes, the journey from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui lets you soak in Hong Kong’s photo-worthy skyline.
Don’t bother venturing too far into Tsim Sha Tsui or along the always-congested Nathan Road. Once you dock at Tsim Sha Tsui, you’ll find every store you need at Harbour City, Hong Kong’s biggest mall.
3) Do take a hike and tap into your wild side (and, no, this is not about a night in Wan Chai!). Contrary to popular belief, Hong Kong isn’t only about neon lights. Hong Kong’s national parks are dotted with hiking trails. For the novice walker, start with the Dragon's Back trail. About a 20-minute cab ride from Central, this gentle walk offers some spectacular natural scenery. There’s a reason why Time magazine named it “the best urban hike in the world.”
Don’t believe the hype about Stanley Market. Yes, it’s out of the throbbing metropolis. Yes the journey aboard the double-decker bus from Exchange Bus terminus in Central is fun (take 6, 6A, 6X or 260 and snag the upper deck front seat). Yes, admittedly some of the waterside eateries are worth a visit. But the market is wall-to-wall kitsch. If cheap factory overruns and chintzy Chinese souvenirs are your thing, then you’ve found your Mecca.
4) Do drop by Aqua restaurant (30F, One Peking Road, Kowloon) and head upstairs to the bar to enjoy the spectacular panoramic view.
Don’t bother to eat there. The food isn’t nearly as delicious as the view.
5) Do get stitched up at Roger Concept Tailor (Room 504, 5F Takshing House 20 Des Voeux Road, Central). The father-son duo offer expert workmanship, quality fabrics and speedy service.
Don’t bother crossing the border into Shenzhen (China) for a cheaper deal. You may save a few dollars, but the shoddy work, ill-fitting outfits and cut-rate fabrics will cost you in the end.
6) Do dine at the Pawn. Widely considered one of Hong Kong’s most successful conversions of a heritage site, The Pawn was once the site of the infamous Woo Cheong Pawn shop. While retaining the building’s rustic charm, The Pawn is now home to one of Hong Kong’s best restaurants.
Don’t ignore the other great eateries in out-of-the-way neighborhoods. The guys behind The Pawn are also responsible for a number of boutique wine and cheese shops dotted throughout Hong Kong. Classified also serves what is arguably Hong Kong’s best coffee.
7) Do stay at Eaton Smart, Hong Kong. Ideally located in downtown Kowloon, Eaton Smart, Hong Kong is surrounded by a buzzing shopping district, heritage-rich buildings and sites of historical importance. The streets are dotted with fortunetellers, Chinese opera singers, snake shops and Chinese Medicine practitioners selling authentic herbal teas. Best of all, the hotel hosts complimentary nightly tours of the nearby markets, neon-lit neighborhoods and cultural enclaves. Eaton Smart guests can also take part in the free Tai Chi classes led by a certified, award-winning Tai Chi Master.
Don’t be taken in by the cheap hotel offers in nearby Mongkok. When a hotel charges by the hour, you know you’re in the wrong place.
8) Do find a decent Dim Sum restaurant. Tourists flock to Maxim’s Palace, City Hall, but get there early or the long wait will test your patience. For a more authentic experience, try Dim Sum (63 Sing Woo Road, Happy Valley) or the sprawling, noisy Metropol Restaurant, 4/F United Centre, 95 Queensway, Admiralty.
Don’t fool yourself: Often the best, most authentic Chinese food is found in less-than-swanky street cafes and hawker stalls. If it’s crowded with locals, take your chances.
9) Do take a step back in time. Local history buff Jason Wordie hosts educational walks though some of Hong Kong’s infamous districts. Fascinating and fun, book through the Jason Walks site
Don’t miss out on Hong Kong’s regular cultural festivals. To stay in the loop, pick up a free copy of the weekly HK Magazine in restaurants and bars.
10) Do visit the bars along Wyndham Street, Central. Cool, cosmopolitan crowd.
Don’t bother with Lan Kwai Fong. Once considered the go-to place to party, the glory days are well and truly over. Sweaty, slobbery crowd.
Based in Hong Kong, Paul Calder has lived and worked in Asia for 15 years. Originally from Australia, his ramblings, rumblings and random thoughts have appeared in a number of prestigious publications (that should have known better).
Find out more about what Nicole, Paul and the rest of the team at Catch On are up to and taking a liking to via Catch of the Day, the Catch On blog.
Previously: Bach Themed Music Garden, Vaughan Mills Outlets, Scheffler Deli, Toronto 10 Do's and Don'ts