48 Hours: Hong Kong

The night skies are lighting up all over the Chinese city-state as residents welcome the dawn of the Year of the Dragon. Matthew Bell reports.

Click here for the 48 Hours In...Hong Kong map

Travel essentials

Why go now?

Hong Kong explodes into life on Monday, with the eve of the Year of the Dragon. Chinese New Year celebrations started last week and continue until 6 February with flower markets, a night parade and a firework display in Victoria Harbour on Tuesday (00 852 2591 1340; discoverhongkong.com), followed by the traditional day's racing on Wednesday (Sha Tin Racecourse, HK$100/£8.30 for a Tourist Badge; hkjc.com).

Even if you aren't there to celebrate, Hong Kong enjoys a temperate climate, with temperatures far warmer than the UK at the moment.

Touch down

I travelled with Hong Kong's flag carrier, Cathay Pacific (020-8834 8888; cathaypacific.co.uk), which flies four times a day from Heathrow; returns from £559. The other non-stop options from Heathrow are BA (0844 493 0787; ba.com), Qantas (08457 747767; qantas.co.uk), Air New Zealand (0800 028 4149; airnz.co.uk) and Virgin Atlantic (0844 874 7747; virgin-atlantic.com).

Hong Kong airport is located at Chep Lap Kok, 35km north-west of the centre. Catch the Airport Express train into town – it takes 24 minutes to Hong Kong Island Station (1) for a fare of HK$100 (£8.30) single, HK$180 (£15 return).

Otherwise, metered taxis wait outside the terminals, and are colour coded: red for downtown, blue for the Lantau Island airport region, and green for the New Territories, the suburban region in the north. The fare to Hong Kong Island is about HK$300 (£25).

Get your bearings

Although most of Hong Kong's seven million inhabitants live in skyscrapers in the centre of Hong Kong Island, the "Special Administrative Region" is spread over an area of 1,130 square kilometres. Much of this is the New Territories to the north, a peninsula attached to the south of China surrounded by 265 islands, many wild and unpopulated.

At the heart of this former British colony is Hong Kong Island, whose northern rim is lined with skyscrapers in the district called Central.

Just across Victoria Harbour is Kowloon, the southernmost part of the New Territories.

The main branch of the Hong Kong Tourism Board (2) is located at Kowloon Star Ferry Concourse, Tsim Sha Tsui, open 8am-8pm daily (00 852 2508 1234; discoverhongkong.com).

Check in

For superb views, the InterContinental (3) at 18 Salisbury Road (00 852 2721 1211; hongkong-ic.intercontinental.com) stands in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Kowloon, with most of its 495 rooms facing the harbour. Doubles start at HK$2,882 (£236), room only.

The Peninsula Hotel (4), also on Salisbury Road (00 852 2920 2888; peninsula.com) is known for its fleet of monogrammed Rolls Royces, which are liveried in a special "Peninsula green". Doubles from HK$5,000 (£419), room only.

Similarly lofty are the views and rates at the Ritz-Carlton (5), 1 Austin Road West (00 852 2263 2263; ritzcarlton.com), which starts on the 102nd floor of the International Commerce Centre tower and is the world's highest hotel. Doubles from HK$6,000 (£503), room only.

On Hong Kong island, the JJ Hotel (6) (00 852 2904 7300; jjhotel.com.hk) at 165-171 Wan Chai Rd has doubles from HK$1,200 (£100), room only.

Day one

Take a view...

... from the deck of the Star Ferry, one of Hong Kong's simplest (and cheapest) thrills. Buy a HK$2 (16p) token from the machine at either terminal (7 and 8) (exact change required) to be shuttled across Victoria Harbour on a route that has operated since 1888, linking Central to Tsim Sha Tsui. Though there are now underground train and road connections, the ferry is still the most exciting option, especially at night. (It runs until midnight.)

Take a hike

Start at the Taoist Man Mo Temple (9) on Hollywood Road, built in 1848, where you have your fortune read through the ancient tradition of chim. You shake a box of numbered sticks, and when one falls to the ground, you look up the number it bears in a book of forecasts. Mine wasn't good. Cheer yourself up by wandering along the leafy Hollywood Road, which boasts antique shops and galleries of both ancient and contemporary art: go upstairs at Wattis Fine Art (10) (00 852 2524 5302; wattis.com.hk) to see black-and-white photos of the city 100 years ago in its colonial prime. Pass Shelley Street, where the world's longest escalator (11), opened in 1993, runs up the middle of the street.

Lunch on the run

Try one of the chaotic open-air food stalls, known as dai pai dongs, at the Graham Street end of Stanley Street (12) in Central. Share your Formica table with strangers as you slurp your way through a giant bowl of noodles for HK$30-40 (£2.50-£3).

Window shopping

Hong Kong's first Apple store (13) at the International Finance Center, 8 Finance St (00 852 3972 1500; apple.com) opened in September. It is a two-storey cathedral to designer technology; iPads start at $3,888 (£326), £73 cheaper than the UK list price.

An aperitif

The idea of a fashion-branded bar may appal, but Hong Kong is unashamedly commercial. Dress up, or you won't be let in to the sleek black Armani bar (14) in the Chater House Mall, 11 Chater Road (00 852 2805 0028), which has a constantly changing light display, and head out on to the terrace. Drink a luminous Fire Opal – orange and mango and a fair amount of alcohol (HK$100/£8.40).

Dining with the locals

You can find almost every cuisine in Hong Kong, but for quality northern Chinese food, head to Hutong (15) at 28/F, One Peking Road (00 852 3428 8342; aqua.com.hk), which, like all the best things in Hong Kong, comes with an astounding view, thanks to its position on the 28th floor. Book a window seat, and arrive before 8pm, when the city's nightly light display begins: 40 buildings now contribute to this 10-minute spectacular, which has grown to become the world's largest permanent light-and-sound show.

Particularly good are the "Ma La" chilli prawns, fried with lots of whole Sichuan chillies. It comes with so many you think they must be of the not-too-hot variety. Trust me, they're not.

Day two

Sunday morning: take a ride

Double-deckered and ludicrously narrow, with open windows and a smart green livery, Hong Kong's trams are anachronisms. They look all the more antiquated as they ding-ding their way through Hong Kong's slickest and tallest towers. The six routes also provide the cheapest city transportation: the flat fare is HK$2.30 (19p). You need the exact coins to drop into the machine – as you dismount, not when you board. Get on where Wan Chai Road meets Johnston Road (16); get off at Admiralty station (17).

Go to church

Take the underground from Admiralty (17) to the Chi Lin Nunnery (18), a sprawling reconstruction of a Tang dynasty (618-907) temple built entirely of wood (not even a metal nail was used) – you'd never know it was built in 1998. Surrounded by high rises in the Diamond Hill district, this complex of shrines and Chinese gardens is worth the half-hour train ride (fare HK$12/£1).

A walk in the park

For an inner-city park, Kowloon Park (19) (00 852 2724 3344; lcsd.gov.hk/parks; admission free) has more than most: turtles in the pond, plumed parakeets in the aviary, a flamingo lake, sculpture park and a vast swimming pool complex. The pool is open 6.30am- 6pm, November to May (HK$19/£1.60).

Sunday brunch

Dim sum is the ultimate fast food – bite-size portions of dumpling, spare ribs or spring roll that can be eaten at any time of day, for as little as HK$10 (80p). There are good dim sum canteens all over the city, but if you can be bothered to queue for up to three hours, Tim Ho Wan (20) at Shop 8 Kwong Wa Street, Kowloon (00 852 2332 2896; open 10am–10pm), has been awarded a Michelin star, making it the world's cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant.

Cultural afternoon

Three important cultural sites are conveniently located in a row along Salisbury Road in Tsim Sha Tsui: take your pick from the domed Space Museum (21) (10 Salisbury Road, 00 852 2721 0226; lcsd.gov.hk/ce/Museum; open 10am-9pm at weekends; 1-9pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; closed Tuesdays, HK$10/80p); the Museum of Art (22), home to some gorgeous Ming and Tang dynasty pottery (10 Salisbury Road, 00 852 2721 0116; 10am-6pm Sunday-Friday, to 8pm Saturdays, closed Thursdays; HK$10/80p); and the Cultural Centre (23), a carbuncle on the water that hosts concerts and exhibitions (00 852 2734 9009).

The icing on the cake

Bespoke tailoring is ludicrously cheap, though quality varies. Founded in 1957, Sam's Tailor (24) at Ground Floor K&L, Burlington Arcade, 90-94C Nathan Rd (00 852 2367 9423; samstailor.com), is a Hong Kong institution. Leave plenty of time for fittings: I got three beautiful suits for about £300, but one chest measurement was out, so I now look like a pigeon.

 

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform