Looking at the airline schedules in 2007, it seems absurd that, 25 years ago, only British Airways was permitted to fly between the UK and Hong Kong. The solitary Jumbo from Heathrow took a variety of routes, with refuelling stops in airports such as Rome, Abu Dhabi and Bombay.
Liberalisation has done wonders for air links between the UK and Hong Kong. The main airport remains Heathrow, with competition from five top-grade airlines offering non-stop flights: Air New Zealand (0800 028 4149; www.airnz.co.nz), British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com), Cathay Pacific (020-8834 8888; www.cathay pacific.com), Qantas (0845 7 747 767; www.qantas.com.au) and Virgin Atlantic (0870 380 2007; www.virgin-atlantic.com).
Thanks to this extraordinary level of competition, fares are regularly available for around £400 return. But besides checking the best price, the schedules are also worth studying to choose your optimum flight. This winter, Cathay Pacific and Qantas offer outbound flights departing at around noon, arriving in Hong Kong early the next morning. But most services leave Heathrow in the evening, arriving during the following afternoon. This is the timing preferred by Oasis Hong Kong Airlines (0844 482 2323; www.oasishongkong.com), flying from Gatwick.
Coming back, the main wave of departures from Hong Kong is around midnight, arriving at Heathrow first thing in the morning soon after the airport opens for the day. If you prefer to take the long (13-hour) flight during daytime hours, Qantas and Cathay Pacific have breakfast-time departures that arrive in Britain around lunchtime, with Air New Zealand arriving mid-afternoon.
Cathay Pacific also has a midafternoon link, arriving mid-evening, which some aficionados of the route say is the most civilised timing: you doze, read or watch movies all the way home, and arrive in time to sleep properly in your own bed.
From airports outside London, the main connection point is Dubai; Emirates (0870 243 2222; www.emirates.com) has links from Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow via Dubai, as well as from Gatwick and Heathrow. Etihad and Qatar Airways are moving in on this territory, with flights from Manchester via their respective hubs in Abu Dhabi and Doha.
The leading European airlines, Lufthansa and Air France/KLM, offer good connections from a wide range of UK airports; the Air France/KLM combination is particularly useful, because you can, for example, fly outbound from Bristol via Amsterdam on KLM and back via Paris on Air France at what are often very attractive fares.
Finally, while the Scandinavian fast-track option of SAS via Copenhagen or Finnair via Helsinki no longer exists, a couple of “exotic” alternatives remain; these may offer lower fares, especially at busy times. Aeroflot (020-7355 2233; www.aeroflot.co.uk) flies from Heathrow to Hong Kong via Moscow, with China Eastern (0870 760 6232; www.chinaeastern.co.uk ) offering three flights each week from Heathrow to Shanghai with links to Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board offers visitors free harbour tours on Duk Ling junk on Thursday afternoons and Saturday. The hour long trips leave from Kowloon Public Pier and Central Pier 9 on Hong Kong Island. Booking is essential in person on arrival in Hong Kong at the Tourism Board information centre by the Star Ferry Pier in Kowloon and take along you passport. For more information, visit www.discoverhongkong.com and look under “Cultural Kaleidoscope”.
Tea shop, MingCha, 7 Star Street, Wan Chai (00 852 2520 2116; www.mingcha.com.hk). You can buy tea here to drink or take home with you.
Club Qing is located on the 10th floor of Cosmos Building, 8-11 Lan Kwai Fong, “Central” (00 852 2536 9773; www.ClubQing.com). Menus per person range from HK$400 (£25.65) to HK$1,500 (£97) for deluxe meals, including recherché fish dishes.
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