HONG KONG is a glorious fusion of the foreign and familiar, western and eastern, bargains and splurges, fine dining with starched linens and street food served on plastic tables. It’s a gleaming metropolis with a lush tropical backdrop, with something for everyone
Getting around is easy: There's a ferry between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, and cabs and public transit are cheap and efficient. Here's how to make the best use of 48 hours.
8 a.m. You'll find any number of coffee shops and Chinese bakeries in the Tsim Sha Tsui neighbourhood. Kee Wah Bakery (Shop A1, 25-29 Hankow Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui; 852-2199-7606) is just a few blocks from the Intercontinental, where I stayed, and they offer traditional sweet and savoury buns for cheap. I didn't have the nerve to try the Cream of Chicken with Mushroom bun (HK$5.50), but maybe you will.
9 a.m. The Peak Tram (33 Garden Rd., Central; 852-2522-0922), a slow crawl to the best viewing platform of Hong Kong's glistening skyscrapers, bustling harbours and forested hills, is a must-do on a nice day. At the top, you'll have your pick of western vendors such as Starbucks.
11 a.m. Man Mo Temple (Hollywood Road and Ladder Street, Western District; 852-2803-2916) reveres the gods of war and literature. Duck inside to catch a glimpse of fruit- and flower-laden shrines and giant incense coils bringing luck to local families. There are also several rituals involving luck or prognostication, such as fortune telling and the writing of a letter to your birth god, that are fun. Continue down Hollywood Road to browse the mix of high and low antiques and tchotchkes. (Chairman Mao bookends, anyone?)
1 p.m. On your way to the Soho neighbourhood, stop at Kung Lee Sugar Cane (60 Hollywood Rd., Central; 852-2544-3571) for fresh sugarcane juice, then wander through the Graham Street wet market for eels thrashing in buckets and plenty of unrecognizable produce. Lunch at one of the small streetside establishments that serve up cheap Cantonese fare to locals. Have a herbal tea at Good Spring Co. Chinese Pharmacy (8 Cochrane St., Central; 852-2544-3518.
2 p.m. Soho's streets are lined with quirky boutiques, and you'll find plenty of unusual styles. (I came away with a pair of high-heeled brown shearling boots for HK$650 ($84). Hard to picture? That's because they're completely ridiculous.) Fang Fong Projects (Shop 1, 69 Peel St., Central; 852-3105-5557) has fun leather purses and asymmetrical dresses. Message Fashion Shop (Shop A, 34 Staunton St., Central; 852-3101-8123) has girlish tops and lovely boots and shoes. To satisfy more conventional tastes, head down the world's largest outdoor escalator for shiny malls, expensive brand-name boutiques and old favourites like Marks & Spencers (28 Queens Rd., Central; 852-2921-8059). And then head back to Soho to join expats with generous expense accounts as they spill out of bars for happy hour.
8 p.m. Enoteca (47 Elgin St., Central; 852-2525-9944) for a round of tapas. The flash-fried lemon squid with harissa aioli, Moroccan spiced-lamb cutlets with coriander humus, and marinated goat cheese are delicious. Another great option for dinner is Branto (9-11 Lock Rd., Tsim Tsa Sui; 852-2366-8171), which serves no frills but delicious vegetarian Indian fare.
10:30 p.m. Finish off the night with drinks at the colonial Foreign Correspondents Club (2 Lower Albert Rd., Central; 852-2521-1511, call ahead if you're not a member) or hit Dragon-I (The Centrium, 60 Wyndham St., Central; 852-3110-1222), one of HK's hottest clubs, for a night of dancing, fancy cocktails and (probably) feeling unhip.
9 a.m. Head to the Mongkok Markets (Nathan Road and Argyle Street, Mongkok) and wander through the flower market, wet market, goldfish market, bird garden and surrounding shops. Check out the Jade Market (Kansu Street and Battery Street, Yau Ma Tei) for more than 400 stalls of affordable jewelry and good luck charms. (Tip: barter gently.)
11 a.m. Dim sum is to Hong Kong what fondue is to Switzerland. Causeway Bay West Villa Restaurant (Shop 101-102, 1/F, Lee Gardens Two, 28 Yun Ping Rd., Causeway Bay; 852-2882-2110) has a tasty selection; the sugared BBQ pork buns and whole roasted pigeon (eating the head is optional) are outstanding. If you're looking for dessert (or just a laugh), drop by Modern Toilet (Shop 4E, 4th Floor, Capitol Centre, 5-19 Jardine's Bazaar, Causeway Bay; 852-2895-6288), where diners sit on toilets, eat over wash basins and stare at shower heads adorning the walls. It's not cheap, but how do you put a price on watching teenage girls eat an ice cream sundae out of a small bidet?
1 p.m. Spend your afternoon wandering around Wan Chai, a mix of local boutiques and a mishmash of architectural styles, or head back to Tsim Sha Sui to check out the Hong Kong Museum of Art (10 Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui; 852-2721-0116), Hong Kong History Museum (100 Chatham Rd. S., Kowloon; 852-2724-9042) and wander through the sculpture garden and aviary at Kowloon Park (22 Austin Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui). Or have high tea at the Peninsula Hotel (Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui; 852-2920-2888).
5 p.m. If you've stayed in Wan Chai, drop by The Pawn (62 Johnston Rd., Wan Chai; 852-2866-3444), a hip second-storey space carved out of a the remains of a pawnshop, for drinks. Or, if you're back in Tsim Sha Tsui, embrace that pirate spirit with a harbour cruise on the Aqua Luna (Pier 1 in TST; 852-2116-8821), one of the last junk boats in HK.
8 p.m. Dine at Hullett House (2A Canton Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui; 852-3988-0000), a hotel and top-shelf entertainment complex lovingly converted from the Marine Police Headquarters 1881 heritage building. Red lanterns in the courtyard take you back in time, and five restaurants offer everything from steak to elegant Cantonese cuisine.
10:30 p.m. Finish the night with fancy cocktails on the outdoor patio at nearby Busy Suzie (Shop 209, 2A Canton Rd., Kowloon; 852-2369-0077). The muddled ginger Champagne is sharp and delicious, and it will help keep you on your toes for late-night foot reflexology. Tai Pan Reflexology and Foot Spa (Basement, 83 Nathan Rd., Kowloon; 852-2301-1990) isn't fancy, but it's comfortable and cheap and you might even find yourself nodding off as the knots are worked out of your feet.
Sarah Treleaven was a guest of Cathay Pacific, the Intercontinental hotel and the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
-- Canwest News Service
HOW TO GET THERE
Cathay Pacific has 10 non-stop weekly flights to Hong Kong from Toronto. Splurge for a business class pod (return for around $6,000 in business and $1,200 in economy). As soon as I settled into my seat, a Taiwanese businessman offered to put me on television, which never happens when I fly economy.
WHERE TO STAY
The Intercontinental Hong Kong (18 Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui; 852-2721-1211) on Kowloon overlooks the dramatic Hong Kong skyline. The hotel is sleek, modern and mostly glass and extremely comfortable. Celebrity chef restaurants include Nobu (Japanese) and Alain Ducasse's Spoon (French), plus a Michelin-star Cantonese restaurant, Yan Toh Heen. The spa is connected to hot and cold terrace pools. (I recommend the fresh ginger, honey and lemon Detox Tea.) Club Intercontinental rates start at HK$3,199 for a Superior Plazaview Room, and includes buffet breakfast, afternoon tea, evening cocktails and complimentary Internet access.