TRAVELS WITH NINA

is the online portfolio and journal of Australian travel writer Nina Karnikowski.

HONG KONG: SMH TRAVELLER

Hong Kong is a city in constant transition. A financial juggernaut and one of the most densely packed cities on earth, it’s a future-metropolis with a desperate desire to move forward. Constantly sprouting up between the stark metal and glass buildings and furious traffic jams are fresh things to see, do and experience. Whether it’s new shopping spots, art galleries, attractions or trendy places to eat and drink, we’ve selected some of the best of what’s hot right now in Honkers.


STAY

Hong Kong’s hotel scene is booming. At latest count, the city has more than 72,000 hotel rooms to cater for visitors lured by the city’s non-stop dining, shopping and cultural events, like the annual Art Basel, International Film Festival, WinterFest and Wine & Dine Festival.

The OZO Wesley, just a few minutes’ walk from Star Street, focuses on getting guests a good night’s sleep in a city always on the move. There are snug pillow-top mattresses in the 251 rooms, specially crafted relaxation teas in the lobby, and a sleep kit on offer with an eye mask, sleep balm and some sleep-inducing tea bags.

Five minutes’ drive away is Mira Moon, the sister property to Kowloon’s The Mira. Open for just over a year, the 91-room hotel’s interiors are inspired by the fairytale of the Chinese Moon Goddess and her jade rabbit, which translates to whimsical, eye-popping interiors (think red winged rabbit lamps over the check-in desk and graphic floral motifs on walls and carpets). The inhouse restaurant, Super Giant, also serves up delicious Cantonese-Spanish tapas.

Mira Moon and The Mira were Hong Kong’s only two Design Hotels properties until the slick Ovolo Southside, Hong Kong’s first proper warehouse-to-hotel conversion, opened in late 2014 in Wong Chuk Hang. This industrial district is full of creative spaces, trendy shops and boutique art galleries, and will likely become even more popular when an MTR station opens there this year.


EAT
Gordon Ramsay’s new Bread Street Kitchen and Bar features chic industrialist decor, well-executed cocktails and a menu featuring old favourites with a twist (lobster macaroni and cheese, drool).

Ten minutes down the road is Michelin-star British chef Jason Atherton’s Aberdeen Street Social. The upstairs dining space, above the new PMQ shopping precinct, is filled with indoor plants and floor-to-ceiling windows that make it feel as though you’re dining in a conservatory, making it an ideal lunch spot. Expect modern British share plates, desserts so pretty you won’t want to eat them and an inventive cocktail list (their version of a Bloody Mary comes with an egg on toast).

Perched on top of the Shanghai Tang flagship store on Central’s Duddell Street, Duddell’s is Cantonese fine dining at its best. Think delicate, simple flavours in a customised tasting menu that includes posh versions of dim sum and fried rice. The decor is similarly restrained yet tasteful, with rotating artworks and tableware so gorgeous you will likely spend much of your night planning how to snaffle some. The palm-filled outdoor terrace is the place to be, if it’s not too hot or rainy.

Australia’s Shane Osborn has just opened his first solo venture in Hong Kong, Arcane (18 On Lan Street, Central). As the name suggests, it’s said to be private and discreet with a quiet, calm environment (there’s another verdant alfresco dining situation available here), with food that’s rumoured to be as good as you’d expect from the first Australian chef to win one, and then two, Michelin stars.


DRINK

Competition is ferocious in Hong Kong’s bar scene, and as such the city plays host to a revolving door of them.

SoHo’s Little L.A.B. (50 Staunton St, Central) has a chilled-out, understated vibe, and uses Chinese ingredients to create authentic Hong Kong flavors in their classic cocktails. The HK Tea Time, for example, is inspired by the city’s much-loved milk tea.

Ham & Sherry in Wan Chai does, well, what it says on the box. Clad in Catalonian blue and white tiles with cured hams dangling from the ceiling, it’s home to Asia’s largest sherry list, with more than 50 varieties available. Atherton takes care of the food that, quelle surprise, focuses heavily on their selection of aged Spanish ham.

Tucked between the auto repair shops in the hip Tai Hang neighbourhood, Guay, Spanish slang for “cool”, offers a laid-back Latin American vibe. Expect industrial chic interiors, Spanish-influenced cocktails and international craft beers, plus a tasty snack menu offering the likes of papitas bravas.

If you’re disappointed with the lack of “western” Chinese food in Hong Kong, head to Fu Lu Shou, a quirky rooftop retro-Chinese-Western bar and restaurant in SoHo whose name translates to “happiness, prosperity and longevity”. Call ahead to get the door code (it changes every Tuesday) and brave the creaky elevator to reach the seventh floor. You can stuff yourself silly with honey prawns, kung pao chicken, and refreshingly spicy cocktails.


LOOK
Hong Kong’s art scene is stronger than ever. It’s been the Asian outpost for the Olympics of the art world, Art Basel, for the past two years, which has made the city a destination for international collectors, curators and artists.

The historic Pedder Building in Central is home to a cluster of boutique galleries, a few of which are arms of international galleries, including White Cube, Gagosian and Simon Lee, as well as Pearl Lam, one of the most established contemporary art galleries to be launched out of China.

Some of the hottest new contemporary art destinations are in the South Island Cultural District, comprising Wong Chuk Hang, Ap Lei Chau, Tin Wan and Aberdeen. Many of the workshops and warehouses in these industrial areas have been converted into dynamic industrial art spaces. Don’t miss Gallery EXIT, which exhibits upcoming artists in the enormous Blue-Box Factory Building, and 3812 Contemporary Art Projects, one of the largest contemporary art spaces in the city.

Spring Workshop (springworkshop.org), an airy, elegant non-profit space where artists can take residencies and where regular art events and exhibitions are hosted, is definitely worth a visit.

2014 also saw the vast former Police Married Quarters in Central transformed into Hong Kong’s new creative hub, PMQ. It houses dozens of small shops across two buildings where local designers spruik everything from wacky fashion and furniture, to terrariums, stationery and accessories.


EXPERIENCE

Some quirky new additions have been made to one of the city’s old favourites, Lantau Island. Visitors can now take a glass-bottomed Crystal Cabin cable car over to Lantau, getting a bird’s-eye view of the hikers taking the hard road up the grasslands below. Up top, there’s the new Motion 360 film that attacks all five senses (be prepared to have your legs whipped by foliage and your face sprayed with water) as it takes you on a 10-minute virtual spaceship ride over the island. Also at Lantau is the new Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas, at the Po Lin Monastery, which was founded in 1906 and is home to about 100 monks and nuns. The new hall is filled with 10,000 gold Buddha statues and an elaborately decorated ceiling, as well as a scripture library and exhibition hall for Chinese and Buddhist artefacts.


The writer travelled as a guest of Wendy Wu Tours and the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

TRIP NOTES

More Information

wendywutours.com.au discoverhongkong.com
GETTING THERE

Cathay Pacific flies four times a day from Sydney and three times a day from Melbourne to Hong Kong. From $991 per person return. See cathaypacific.com.au.

NEED TO KNOW

To make getting around easy, buy a Discover Hong Kong tourist SIM card for about $11 for five days, or $18 for eight days. It’s also worth downloading the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s free My Hong Kong Guide app, which covers loads of attractions, restaurants and shops.

FIVE OLD FAVOURITES

1 PEAK VIEWING

Take the tram that travels at an almost 90-degree angle to The Peak viewing platform. At 554 metres above sea level, it’s the ideal way to get the lay of the land in Honkers.

2 LIGHT FANTASTIC

See the Symphony of Lights show over Victoria Harbor at 8pm every night, a psychedelic spectacular that was dubbed the “world’s largest permanent light and sound show” by the Guinness Book of records.

3 GRAB A BARGAIN

Do as passengers have been doing since 1888 and take the Star Ferry from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon to check out the Temple Street Night Market, where you can pick up Chinese chim (fortune telling) sticks, silk pyjamas and antique teapots. At the end of the market you’ll find a street lined with fortune tellers.

4 HIT THE BEACH

Head to the south side of Hong Kong Island for a day on the beaches at Stanley or Repulse Bay. Lamma Island beach draws crowds, while remote Long Ke, tucked into an inlet off High Island Reservoir in Sai Kung East Country Park, is the place to get away from it all.

5 TEMPLE VISIT

Visit Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, named after a Taoist monk said to punish evil, heal the wounded and rescue the dying. Amongst colourful pillars, latticework, flowers and incense, locals pray and divine their future with chim sticks. Below is an arcade bursting with fortune telling booths.

Leave a Reply