Hong Kong: How To #DiscoverHongKong in 24 Hours

May 19, 2017
How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong

I wandered aimlessly in and out of the glossy boutiques - paying special attention to local designers like Shanghai Tang - rolling my Tumi cabin bag across the polished marble floors of upscale shopping centre Elements where the Airport Express had deposited me: right in the belly of the beast, so to speak. Despite having to wait the better part of 6 hours for Luxy to arrive I was in an unusually chipper mood - I wasn’t even offended that whenever I spoke Cantonese I was replied to in English, but just how ‘white’ is my accent?! - until I was hit with the realisation we would have only one full day in Hong Kong but we had a to-do list to rival the Labours of Hercules. And yet; despite having time, distance, and a serious shortage of *ahem* honest taxi drivers against us, Luxy and I took on the Fragrant Harbour and WON. Behold our victory, that it may someday pave your hurried but not harried way: this is how you do HONG KONG IN 24 HOURS.


EXTRA SAUCE: 21


How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong
OUR 'LOCAL' - THE WOO BAR IS SLEEK, CHIC, YET FEELS DISCREET.

08:00 AM

I do love waking up in a W Hotel, whether I'm in St Petersburg or in Amsterdam. I couldn't think of a better one for Luxy to pop her W-cherry with: the Hong Kong hotel has all of the brand's famous style and substance, plus it's insanely accessible - an entirely indoor, step-free, and cheap (HK$160 for a round trip) journey with the Airport Express to Kowloon station. Even waiting 6 hours for my travel buddy was painless thanks to the time spent freshening up at the Bliss spa and then throwing myself into the local Happy Hour culture at Woo Bar (left) with one too many champagne cocktails.

The W brand has always been aspirational and design-led with an emphasis on lifestyle. It's a common sight to see a constant stream of beautiful, fashionable people flowing in and out of the hotel including your quintessential Hong Kong couple in matching Gucci trainers here for the Moschino-themed afternoon tea

The rooms at W Hong Kong are modern and well-proportioned - Luxy and I enjoyed our own twin beds with enough room for a reading nook and our (well, her) considerable belongings. Like my stay at the W Amsterdam, our bathroom was somewhat open-plan (oh hello) but a sliding door provided privacy. Additional amenities - like Bliss toiletries and a free-to-use mobile phone with data (which later saved our skin) - added nice little touches of indulgence and convenience, the likes of which rank the W brand among my favourite "hotels that get it".πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ
OUR ROOM'S READING NOOK, COMPLETE WITH (UNTOUCHED) MINI BAR.

FLUFFY YET FIRM; THE COMFY, MINIMAL BEDS AT W HONG KONG.
How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong

10:00AM
TIAN TAN BUDDHA (BIG BUDDHA) 
AT PO LIN MONASTERY
NGONG PING, LANTAU ISLAND

Rather intrepidly, Luxy and I began the day with an ambitious trek to Lantau Island. Ambitious because the journey to this famous religious site, already congested with tourists and pilgrims alike, was made even more difficult thanks to the main mode of transport - the Ngong Ping 360 cable car - being suspended. Which left us either braving a bus (a non-starter) or competing for one of the only 20 special 'blue taxis' licensed to take passengers to Lantau Island

We could've queued at the rank for the 'blue taxis' but I did the math: 1 hour for a return journey only 20 cars we were number 40-something in line = we would be waiting at least 2 hours before it was our turn to catch a ride. It was all very Hunger Games, and you know Luxy and I don't do hunger - some would say we have serious hanger management issuesThis is when the handy smartphone provided to us by the hotel saved us: Luxy had the brilliant idea of calling the local taxi company and having them send one of their blue cars. Five minutes later and we stepped out of the huge queue into our blue taxi, whizzing off and leaving several dozen wondering "Why didn't we think of that?!" Don't work hard, work smart. 😏


How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong
How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong
How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong

I like big Buddhas and I cannot lie...

Dramatics aside, a trip to Lantau Island to see Po Lin Monastery - one of Hong Kong’s most important Buddhist sanctums, dubbed ‘the Buddhist World in the South’ and home to the Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha) - was well worth the trek. It's a 30 minute drive from Tung Chung MTR (Mass Transit Railway) station, through undulating mountain roads that dangle precariously over the ocean. The further we drove, the more winding the roads become and the less we felt like we were in Hong Kong: large sea-facing villas and little villages seem a world apart from the high-rised chaos of the city. Then there was the destination itself - Po Lin Monastery and its main draw: the Big Buddha. 
The Big Buddha - which can be seen as far away as Macau on a clear day - emerged from the lush mountains, its formidable 112-foot figure sitting enthroned on a lotus atop a three-platform altar, surrounded by 6 other Buddhistic statues giving praise and making "The Offering of the Six Devas". Worshippers and visitors climb the 268 steps to approach the Buddha. The more devout stop to kowtow at every single step, the stamina-challenged (umm, me) stop to catch their breath - turning around ever so often to appreciate the elevated view of Lantau Island. At the top, joss sticks and singing conga lines of worshippers reminded us of the sanctity of the place. We duly stayed out of their way, maintaing a discreet and respectful presence.


How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong
How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong
How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong

...back in central, we were greeted by the cacophony and chaos the city is famous for.

How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong
POSSIBLY THE ONLY NEON SIGN LEFT IN HONG KONG...
How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong
*HEAVY BREATHING INTENSIFIES*


01:00PM
LEE LO MEI
8 LYNDHURST TERRACE, CENTRAL

Evading the jaws of the serpent that is the city centre's nefarious uphill and uneven roads which threaten to swallow a misstepped ankle is tiring work. Yet for every near-death encounter with a taxi there is a culinary and cultural gem to be discovered. We stumbled upon Lee Lo Mei, which for all intents and purposes looked like one of those trendy places that serves up tourist-friendly fare, but the food was actually authentic while being imaginative. I loathe the hackneyed phrase "traditional with a twist" but in this case - Exhibits A, B, C, & D being: Hong Kong fries with truffle mayo, charcoal squid, taro dumplings with foam, and crispy wanton that you injected with sweet and sour sauceLee Lo Mei is guiltily delicious as charged. πŸ˜‹  



MORE MUST-TRY EATERIES IN CENTRAL:

LUK YU
Casual traditional teahouse for the classic dim sum/yam cha experience.

LITTLE BAO 
A modern take on the Chinese diner and bao (bun).

ODDIES FOODIES
The place to go for quirky, elaborate, #foodporn ice-creams.


How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong

It's official, I've Peak-ed.

03:00PM
VICTORIA PEAK


The novelty of cramming into a rickety tram with the masses had long since been lost on me and besides with time against us there was no way Luxy and I would even begin to make a dent in the snaking queue. So we gave the Peak Tram a miss and waved away the unscrupulous cabbies who wanted HK$400 for the pleasure before finally hopping into a taxi manned by the one honest driver on the island (I don't remember the fare, but he used the meter).
Victoria Peak, the highest mountain of Hong Kong, standing at 552 metres over sea level should be a breath of fresh air. It would be if not for the hordes of rude Mainlanders waving their selfie sticks and shoving their elbows into your personal space. Certainly a world apart from the peak's idyllic origins as an exclusive residential retreat for the city's more privileged expats. Still, Victoria Peak is a must-visit for every first timer, if not for the better air than for the 'bigger picture': put in perspective at that height and distance, it's even more amazing how densely packed this tiny island is. Tip: If you don't like bumping uglies with hordes of strangers, go as early as you can - take the first Peak tram at 7am from the Garden Road Lower Terminus.

How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong


How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong

07:00PM
AQUA HONG KONG
29+30F, 1 PEKING ROAD, TSIM SHA TSUI


I've dined at both Hutong and Aqua in London before, back in 2013, and found both experiences somewhat lacklustre probably due to teething problems. But if the restaurant in Hong Kong is any indication, then Aqua is back in a big way (and I'm not just saying that because we ate for free. Ahem). The already-excellent Japanese and Italian offerings are no doubt amplified by the elegant surroundings, attentive service, and stunning views of the Bay. Now imagine dining on a traditional junk - yeah, Aqua does that too. Totes amaze. Keep an eye out on Luxy's blog for a review of our meal at Aqua Hong Kong, and for now, can we just appreciate that she and I look like Caroline and Max from 2 Broke Girl$? RIPπŸ˜‚
10:00PM
STAR FERRY
TSIM SHA TSUI FERRY PIER


There are some cheap thrills that will never yield to yuppification. One of these is the Star Ferry. Ol' faithful's been chugging passengers back and forth between Hong Kong Island to Kowloon since 1888, and with a one-way ticket (in the form of a round plastic token) costing 39p it seems like the prices have remained in the 19th century! That's not even the greatest draw for the millions who ride the crossing that National Geographic rates as one of 50 ‘places of a lifetime' it's the up-close look at one of the world’s most photographed harbours and perhaps even a harken back to simpler time. We strapped our selves in for the choppy ride as we headed back to Central for some post-dinner debauchery...

How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong

The view of the harbour from Aqua restaurant, which we would soon get up close and personal with from the Star Ferry.

How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong

How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong
11:00PM
M BAR AT MANDARIN ORIENTAL
&
CΓ‰ LA VI

Luxy and I linked up with K, her friend and fellow Londoner who I immediately gelled with over our shared linguistic ability to tease Luxy in Malay, Mandarin, and Cantonese - cue lots of "Tengok budak ni...dia tak faham Bahasa Melayu" (don't worry, neither do half of my Malaysian friends😝 ). For this well-lubricated course of conversation and gentle hazing we can thank the Hong Kong Legend (no, not me) - this tall glass of libation on the left that is a signature cocktail of Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong's M Bar.

The cozy atmosphere of the sensual M Bar was immediately missed when we joined the writhing sea of flesh that is Hong Kong on a Saturday night. Judging from the shocking line we walked past, the whole city was trying to get into CΓ© La Vi, which I can report does boast an amazing panoramic view of the nightclub district, although I didn't care much for the scene or music as it was way past my bedtime. 

Still, this old lady managed 4 bars in 24 hours, the other two being Woo Bar (felt truly intimate and inviting) in our hotel and Ozone in adjacent Ritz-Carlton (stunk of cigarette smoke, terrible service from the door girl, and filthy ladies' bathroom - nothing to write home about).


08:00 AM
W HONG KONG

What a view to wake up to. Watching the sun rise and the set over the harbour certainly made getting out of bed easier, but that much harder to pack up, leave, and bid farewell to The W Hong Kong. Our stay was short but sweet and in the lap of luxury, while the most elusive of metaphorical luxuries - time - was afforded to us thanks to good planning and taking taxis everywhere.
How & What To See, Eat, and Do in Hong Kong in 24 Hours. #DiscoverHongKong



12:50PM
CATHAY DRAGON KA 725
HONG KONG TO KUALA LUMPUR

I flew from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (left) to Hong Kong via Cathay Dragon, the newly-rebranded (formerly Dragonair) 'baby sister' airline of legendary 'hostess with the mostess' Cathay Pacific. I mean, it would've been rude for me not to, given its wealth of direct flights from my home city to my destination. 

Cathay Pacific is currently offering a London to Hong Kong Premium Economy Return from only £1,369. 

First-timers to Hong Kong, if you can spare the time I'd suggest at least 5 days to properly the other attractions and landmarks I didn't get to cover, for example: the world's cheapest Michelin star restaurant Tim Ho Wan, riding the Mid Levels escalator, Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery, afternoon tea at The Peninsula (an institution), Shek O and Repulse Bay, Yue Kee for roast goose, Hong Kong Disneyland, but to name a few. It's a city of contradictions; rugged and refined, modern yet filled with Old-world charm, all while being overwhelmingly, dizzyingly chaotic - definitely a must-visit, at least once, for the curious and the intrepid.

πŸ‡­πŸ‡° πŸ‡­πŸ‡° πŸ‡­πŸ‡° πŸ‡­πŸ‡° πŸ‡­πŸ‡°




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