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If you’re planning a visit to Hong Kong – the home of Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon – get ready for an exhilarating adventure. Comprising 70% pristine countryside and mountains, and with an intense metropolitan epicenter featuring the world’s largest number of skyscrapers, Hong Kong’s communion of city and natural landscape has the kind of visual appeal that hooks you from the get-go. While best encapsulated by the sight of a shimmering Victoria Harbour skyline, the spread of nature’s fingers is never far from view even in urban pockets. Stroll around bustling neighbourhoods and you may stumble across century-old Chinese banyans growing out of stone walls, offering shade and shelter to passers-by.
From shopping to bar-hopping, Hong Kong’s urban pleasures are world-class and plentiful – not least for the famous breadth of cuisine, ranging from local classics like dim sum, wonton noodles and pineapple buns, to chefy Michelin-star offerings. But this is not all. Hong Kong also offers abundant opportunities for hiking, cycling, surfing, camping, and dragon boat racing, often not more than an hour away from busy downtown areas. Trips to beaches, mountains, and outlying islands are rendered seamless by efficient transport links, from an excellent metro system to buses, ferries, minibuses, and a 110-year-old tram service nicknamed ‘Ding Ding’.
One of the world’s culinary capitals, Hong Kong has bagged an extraordinary number of Michelin stars. It’s not only big-name Cantonese or French chefs thus honoured, but also noodle shops and barbecue joints. The city’s Chinese heritage, international character, and the locals’ passion for food make for some of the most memorable and varied eating experiences in the entire world. The dominant cuisine here is Cantonese and you’ll find tantalizing examples all over the city. Dim sum and seafood, in particular, are exceptional. Other regional Chinese and non-Chinese cooking styles are also well represented. Broadly speaking, Central and Sheung Wan offer authentic European and Asian fusion of the upmarket variety. Wan Chai is foodie heaven for mid-range dining while Causeway Bay is known for its Japanese establishments. In Kowloon, Tsim Sha Tsui lays claim to the peninsula’s most competent and versatile kitchen. While neighbourhoods further north are home to cheap but delectable local fare. New Territories is the home of hearty walled village cuisine.
Hong Kong’s trendiest party zone is centred around Hollywood Road, which is connected to Central’s financial heart by the Mid-Levels Escalator, the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator system. Watering-holes here run the gamut from British-style pubs through wine and whisky bars to hipster cocktail lounges. Increasingly, fashionable bars and cafes are sprouting further west, in Sheung Wan and Kennedy Town. Wan Chai has an eclectic assortment of drinking venues that include Irish pubs, hidden dives, even hostess bars from a bygone era. Tsim Sha Tsui is where to go for a more local drinking experience.
Hong Kong presents a thousand ways to relax and invigorate. Luxury spas at five-star hotels offer an array of relaxation and beauty treatments in elegant environs. At the city’s massage parlours, you can opt for a ‘feel-good’ kneading session, or indulge in something intense like deep-tissue or acupuncture-point massage. Foot reflexology is very popular here. The regimen works under the theory that there are various reflex zones on the soles of our feet, each corresponding to an organ in the body, and that rhythmically pushing and prodding the zones correctly restores energy flow to the organ. Lesser known therapies like cupping, acupuncture and skin scraping are also available, should you wish to try.
Some say there’s nothing like nature to restore one’s inner balance or qi. Opportunities to do so abound in Hong Kong, from fine beaches and parks where you can read, swim, meditate or simply go for a nice long walk, to nature reserves where you can see indigenous flora and fauna on full display and migratory birds in action. If wellness for you means being engaged, you can hone your yoga practice at a studio, or take lessons in martial arts, for its mind-balancing benefits if nothing else, from a real master.