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Traveling to Hong Kong

Hong Kong - Exotic Elegance
November 2, 2011
By , Galavante Contributor

The highbrow elegance of England plus the exoticism of Asia equals a setting for seduction in Hong Kong. An international city, Hong Kong is the highlight of any Asian journey, with a killer restaurant scene, wild nightlife, and a glam crowd of locals – and expats. There’s also adventure around every corner – this is Jackie Chan’s hometown, after all.

Hong Kong Hospitality

If you’re lucky, all roads upon arriving in Hong Kong will lead to the luxurious Mandarin Oriental, where the pampering (and the views) reach dizzying heights. This is the kind of place that reminds you what it’s like to be treated as a VIP. Both the original and Landmark MO – which is attached to a shopping mall and can be very, very, dangerous for your wallet – are equally luxe. If you’re flying in, a delegate will meet you at your plane, whisk you through security and get you on the train to the hotel. They’ll also offer a car, but the train is fully connected for your mobile and will drop you at the IFC (International Finance Center) for the quick five-minute cab ride to the Mandarin.

Rooms are sumptuously appointed with beds that feel like sleeping on a cloud, and showers that can fit six (and probably have at some point). You’ll kick your jet lag in no time. Hotels are the center of social life in Hong Kong, whether for a post-work cocktail, a closing dinner or just civilized discourse among friends. For those who don’t have a local hookup (or even if you do), hotels are your entrée into society. Like a fairy godmother or father, the concierge will get you on the list of the hottest restaurants and clubs. You could get used to this.

This is Asia, baby

While Hong Kong is British in feel – they still drive on the “wrong” side of the road – there’s no question that you’re in exotic Asia, with the blazing neon signs, throngs of people in the street, and colorful city markets. While some cities (like some people) look their best at night, Hong Kong is a city that’s beautiful both when the lights are on and when the lights are off. Hong Kong’s great appeal is its enticing mix of old and new – formidable skyscrapers loom next to charming old Chinatown neighborhoods.

Taking a ferry has never been as glamorous as the Star Ferry, which travels from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon, with views of the skyline and Hong Kong Harbor. This is not your Coney Island Ferry. For a bird’s eye view of the city, take the tram up, and up, to Victoria Peak. From this lofty perch, you’ll feel like king of the world. 

Hong Kong is all about exploring. Like the British once did, it’s a city to make your own. Crank up the Jackie Chan factor by discovering dim alleyways, which open onto a maze of shops and fruit markets – a secret city lurking amid the modern skyscrapers. The Central Markets are a frenzy for all the senses, with pyramids of exotic fruits, fish vendors slicing open still-flopping fish, and locals bargaining impressively (listen in – these guys know how to close a deal.) Afterwards, explore Kowloon’s Nathan Road and Bird and Flower Markets. There’s no doubt you’re in a foreign land. This is Asia, baby. 

Thanks to the influence of Eastern medicine, the spa here is a cultural ritual. Luckily for you, Hong Kong has some of the best in the world. The finest is at the original Mandarin, where the treatments are transformative and the facilities, from sauna to steam room, are top-notch. If your guy breaks out in hives at the thought of a couples’ massage, this place will probably change his mind.

Shop ’Til You Drop Some Coin

Unless it’s the height of the sales, Hong Kong shopping is more for the guys and for the home, with gorgeous furniture and interior décor stores. Custom-made threads for him should be your first stop, as even the best tailors will need at least two days. Prices are a lot less expensive than high-end brands like Armani and Zegna, but the quality is comparable – these are not your cheap Canal Street suits. Mr. Au of August Tailors in the IFC dresses the big hitters who work in the building. If you’re looking for high-quality attire, Mr. Au is your man. He’ll even keep your measurements on file, which is good, because made-to-order threads are addictive. Once you go custom, you never go back.

You’ll find some treasures for her, but if your shoe size is larger than an eight or if you’re athletically built, you’ll be shut out by petite Hong Kong fashions. Even Christian Dior, YSL, and the other heavies cater to lithe locals, so plan on picking up accessories, handbags, and jewelry. If you’re lucky enough to have a slender frame, head over to Lu Lu Cheung for feminine pieces that’ll make you look and feel like a lady; and Joyce, a chic accessories store. For good measure, stop by Harvey Nichols and Lane Crawford, yet more positive influence by the Brits. Besides pearls, Hong Kong is one of the best places to acquire a killer sapphire ring. Ronald Abram jewelers will help you do some major damage – or wish you could do some major damage.

To get your fill of British culture, spend a day mining the antique shops on Hollywood Road in the Western District. These are serious antiques, and our favorite shop is Honeychurch Antiques, which is owned by a married couple who have been together for over 50 years. Not only will you fall in love with their unique pieces – but you’ll fall in love with them. Check out delicate glass pinch bottles that have been outfitted in handspun silver, and crystal decanters with silver tags that tell the tales of whiskey and ginFor one-of-a-kind baby gifts, buy a custom-made jade teething ring, which is much better than a silver spoon. Some shops are just special; Honeychurch Antiques is one of them. 

The Cuisine Scene

The Hong Kong cuisine scene offers the best of both worlds: local Chinese dishes with a high-class British touch.

Hong Kong also likes its private clubs and restaurants. The inside scoop is that you can sail through any velvet rope with the help of a good concierge (yet another reason that it’s imperative to stay at the Mandarin or Four Seasons). And, some of Hong Kong’s finest art collections reside in these elite and private clubs.

The dim sum in Hong Kong is legendary. Our favorite is at Luk Yu Tea House, a locals’ lair which is the Chinese equivalent of a brasserie. The har gau (shrimp dumplings) are off the hook, as are the veggie dumplings. Get here early: After midday, they’re prone to run out of certain dishes because of the throngs of locals who press in for lunch. For higher-end dim sum, head to China Club, which has an exceptional menu, and the atmosphere to match, with an impressive modern art collection. It’s members-only, but nothing your hotel concierge can’t handle. 

Instead of ladies who lunch, in Hong Kong it’s about the chic who brunch at the trendy Press Room, where the beautiful people recuperate from a night out. The appropriately named café Fuel will also jump-start your day with the best coffee to take down Juan Valdez. On the trendy side, hit up Sevva, an emporium of high-end eats, from Asian tapas to formal cuisine. Sevva is one of the new popular girls of the moment, with a trendy crowd dressed to kill. Also not lacking in good lookers is Lily & Bloom, which has a cocktail lounge up top and an electic restaurant below. Potent cocktails are inspired by the probhition era, which will get you nicely juiced before grazing on oyster shooters, tangy ceviche, and their signature Iberico pork chop and smoked ribs. This is definitely not on the approved list of Weight Watchers. If you want a change from exotic meals, head to Isola for gorgeous Italian cuisine and views, or Café Gray for better-than-the-real-thing Western grub. 

If you want to take in the young local scene, head toDa Ping Huo Sichuan Private Kitchen, where the owner serenades the guests with some Chinese opera at the end.  For Yakatori, Yardbird just landed in Hong Kong, where the chef hails from New York and recently worked at Nobu in NYC.  And of course at some point in your culinary tour, you’ll want to see how the other half eats. Stop by The Peninsula for a refined spot of tea. And, for the best of the best Chinese food in town, go to Lung King Heen in the Four Seasons, which has an impressive three Michelin stars. The biggest downside is that your local Chinese takeout will probably never taste the same again.

Bottles and Models

Party like it’s 2005: Bottles and models are still the rage in Hong Kong’s raucous after-dark clubs, like Dragon-i. For a more sedate lounge scene, head to Kee Club. Make sure to have your entry arranged by your concierge, as this is yet another private abode. For devilish delights, groove at the Tasmanian Ballroom. For civilized cocktails, the Ozone Bar recently opened at the Ritz and claims the distinction of the highest bar in the world, with its location in the in the ICC. Trendy as can be, it offers an incredible view of the Hong Kong skyline. 

Like a Jackie Chan thriller, Hong Kong is a city of intrigue – and it seduces all who pass

through. By the end of your trip, you won’t just be planning what to do next, but rather how you too can join the cricket-playing, cocktail-swilling expat crowd.