HONG KONG (Reuters) - Gleaming skyscrapers, Michelin-starred noodle stalls, secluded beaches and a buzzing night life all make Hong Kong, a former British colony, the perfect place to soak up some Asian festive fun.
Chinese New Year, which starts on February 10 and ushers in the Year of the Snake, is a time when Hong Kong’s frenetic pace slows down and even the hardest working executives take time to enjoy traditional dishes such as “nian gao” sticky rice cakes.
Home to 7 million people, the city’s densely packed districts weave around the island’s lush greenery and the iconic harbour. Visitors can indulge in air-conditioned shopping malls, sample some of the world’s best Cantonese cuisine and get fit on breathtaking mountain hikes.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors make the most out of a 48-hour visit.
6 p.m - Drinks at The Pawn Wan Chai (www.thepawn.com.hk/). Housed in a Chinese heritage building, The Pawn is a favourite with both expatriates and locals. Relax on the outdoor balcony where you can take in the sights and smells of one of Hong Kong’s most storied neighbourhoods, Wan Chai, or settle inside on one of the burgundy leather arm chairs.
8 p.m. - Get the tram or “ding ding” from outside The Pawn towards Central for dinner. If you have been fortunate enough to wangle an invitation at the opulent China Club (or your hotel has been able to reserve a table), you will find yourself transported back to 1930s Shanghai. Enjoy top-notch Chinese dishes surrounded by vintage art and ornate lanterns.
If that’s not an option, try Island Tang or the award-winning Yung Kee, famous for roast goose and thousand-year eggs.
11 p.m. - Stroll up to Lan Kwai Fong, a strip of pulsating bars and clubs in the city’s Central District. Tazmania Ballroom is a good place to people watch while Azure, in the same building on the 29th floor, has a spacious outdoor terrace. If you are in search of a quiet drink, head to Wyndham the 4th, an elegant lounge bar known for its creative cocktails (www.wyndham4th.hk/), or the Quinary (www.quinary.hk/).
7.30 a.m. - Take a morning stroll through Hong Kong Park to the Peak tram terminus where you alight for a steep and historic journey to view the city’s spectacular skyline. Built in 1888, the Peak tram was the first cable funicular in Asia.
After alighting at the highest terminus, take in expansive views of teeming high-rises, an abundance of green landscape and traditional ferries crossing the city’s Victoria Harbour.
8.30 a.m. - Grab breakfast at homegrown chain Pacific Coffee Company where you can enjoy ceiling to wall views of the skyline along with great bagels. For a more formal venue, head to The Peak Lookout, where you can enjoy a full brunch or Chinese congee in a serene outdoor garden.
10.30 a.m. - If you are feeling energetic, stroll back down towards Hong Kong’s mid levels district along Lugard Road. Easy sloping paths, frequented by dog walkers and joggers, take you past remnants of an old fort and stunning views of the water as you descend towards the city’s covered escalators.
12 p.m. - After walking up an appetite, head to Luk Yu Teahouse for a dim sum feast. Stained glass windows, wooden panelling and dark ceiling fans evoke old Hong Kong. Try their steamed barbeque pork buns and shrimp dumplings.
3 p.m. - Check out Hong Kong’s burgeoning art scene by visiting some of the galleries dotted along nearby Hollywood Road. Stop for coffee at gourmet café Classified or in the up and coming neighbourhood ‘PoHo’ in Sheung Wan district, which has quirky coffee places including Austrian café Loisl.
6 p.m. - Take the “ding ding” tram or the spotless underground mass transit railway MTR.L towards the Star Ferry pier. Enjoy a short ride on the trademark green and white vessel as you head towards the Kowloon peninsula.
Alighting at bustling Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, walk down the Avenue of Stars, modelled on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, where you can take a picture with a bronze statue of Bruce Lee.
8 p.m. - Dinner at Hutong where northern Chinese food is served in a minimalist setting designed to resemble Beijing’s ancient courtyards and narrow alleys. Food is a tad on the spicy side, so be warned, but floor to ceiling window views of Hong Kong’s neon skyline make it a must see even for the chili-shy.
11 p.m. - Have a drink at Ozone, the highest bar in the world, on the 118th floor of the swanky Ritz Carlton. For a more informal atmosphere, head back to Wan Chai, where bars like Carnegies and the Wanch keep revellers happy until the early hours of the morning. Once an infamous red light district that was the backdrop for the fictional “Suzy Wong”, Wan Chai still retains a seedy undertone that fuses comfortably with flashy new clubs and restaurants popping up along Lockhart road.
8 a.m. - Take a taxi to residential complex Parkview, where you can buy a pineapple bun and some fruit from the supermarket before starting on a two and a half hour walk to the island’s south side, finishing near Stanley. A challenging climb where you pass deep blue and green hued reservoirs on your left and sandy beach stretches on your right, this is one of Hong Kong’s prettiest hikes, also known as ‘twin peaks’.
If feeling a little tender in the morning and not up for a big climb, you can get a double decker bus to Stanley or opt for the flat walk, which snakes around the hills rather than going up and down. Dragon’s Back hike in Shek O is another great alternative and better for those travelling with children.
11. a.m. - Opt for some brunch at one of the many restaurants along Stanley’s waterside promenade or in the colonial restored Murray House, where you can sit outside and enjoy a cool ocean breeze. Options range from Wildfire, where you can eat thin crust pizzas, to Indian and Chinese fare.
3 p.m. - If you need to stock up on electronics or gadgets head to Wan Chai Computer Centre, where you can get the latest laptop, speaker or mouse pad at a fraction of the price they usually are overseas. If that doesn’t interest you, head to one of Hong Kong’s many luxurious malls such as IFC or Pacific Place for some retail therapy.
5 p.m. - Take a well deserved tea break at SEVVA’s outdoor terrace. Created by well known socialite Bonnie Gokson, SEVVA has a 360-degree balcony making it a great spot for sunset drinks and light snacks.
7.30 p.m. - Check your luggage at the downtown check in, buying last minute gifts and Chinese tea from the IFC shopping mall above. Try and snag a window seat on the high speed train that gets you to Hong Kong’s international airport in 20 minutes. It may be a while before you again experience such efficiency, so enjoy it until your next trip to the city renowned as the “Pearl of the Orient.” (Reporting by Farah Master, editing by Elaine Lies)