Hong Kong: Taking it Slow in a Fast City
“The trick is to chew it a little bit,” a tall blonde woman encouraged me, unperturbed by the blinking devil horns on my head. “If you just swallow it, you might get sick.”
I nodded, my eyes fixed determinedly on the massive plastic syringe in my hand. I glanced at my friend, we tapped our syringes together in a toast, then I squirted a giant mouthful of bright red jello into my mouth.
I tried to swallow the quivering mass of gelatin in my mouth, but nausea closed my throat. Our new friend shouted, “Chew! Chew!” when she saw my eyes widen in horror. I followed her advice and somehow got through it without losing my dinner.
We were in Lan Kwai Fong (a.k.a. LKF) in Hong Kong, and the night was just getting started, but it was already weird.
Slowing Down in a Fast City
So far, my travels had been one mad stream-of-consciousness adventure with little punctuation. I dashed from famous place to famous place, trying to squeeze as much experience as I could out of each day. Because I was alone, I made all the decisions. I was pretty damn tired, I’ll be honest.
But Hong Kong was having none of my exhaustion. It’s a town that moves moves moves, pirouetting between the East and West as gracefully as a ballet master. It stops for no one, and it threw its arms around me and pulled me directly into its rhythm.
Somehow, that mad dance was restorative.
Local Days, Crazy Nights
It wasn’t all a hectic dash from one place to the next. At the time, I felt like I had slowed down immensely. Or perhaps the city sped up around me, and I managed to maintain my pace. In retrospect, I covered all the major points over the course of my five days in town. By the time I was leaving, I already longed to go back.
Here’s a rundown of my favorite things about Hong Kong, along with some recommendations of where to go.
Agnes B Cafe
I practically lived at this adorable little cafe down a narrow street in Central. Everything about it made me happy: the caramel vanilla cappuccino, the croque madam, the homey-yet-classy decor. I camped out here at least three different days to catch up on some writing and revel in the quiet set among this crazy city. You absolutely MUST try that cappuccino — it will change your life.
Like your food spicy? Then Chilli Fagara is a must-try. This Szechuan restaurant does not shy away from the chili, and the food sings because of it. Their pork dumplings are to die for, and the dungeness crab and sizzling chicken will make you smile (even if your eyes are tearing up from the spice). It’s a tight space and books out regularly, so book ahead.
Have a hangover? It’s hard to spend any amount of time in Hong Kong without getting one, because this town knows how to party. The best thing to fix you up is this American-style diner with Instagram-worthy food. Don’t come if you’re looking for a diet experience, because everything on the menu is full-blown comfort food. Deep fried macaroni & cheese balls? Bacon grilled cheese? Bacon-cheese fries? S’mores milkshake? Check, check, check, and check. Greasy spoon heaven.
The Peak Lookout
The Peak is a must-do if you visit Hong Kong. It looms up behind the city, offering stunning views of the skyline set against the backdrop of Victoria Harbour. While you’re up there, you might as well treat yourself to a nice dinner out, correct? The Peak Lookout is a great spot to dine alfresco, with twinkling lights and friendly service. The best part? A full oyster bar with selections from all over the world.
Cucina @ Marco Polo Hotel
At some point, you’ll need to head over to Kowloon at night. Why? Because it offers the best view of the Hong Kong, skyline! The Symphony of Lights, a light show that dances across the skyscrapers and into the sky, starts every night at 8 p.m. and the bar at the Marco Polo Hotel in Kowloon is one of the classiest spots to watch it while you sip on a drink.
Link: Cucina at Marco Polo
Ozone Bar @ ICC
Ozone is billed the highest bar in the world at over 1600 ft high. It also offers great views of the Hong Kong skyline, and it’s in the swanky Ritz Carlton hotel. So get dressed up and take the (surprisingly quick) elevator ride all the way to the top of the International Commerce Center. You can sip on a classic Old Fashioned or a clever Dragontini (a vodka-based martini where raspberry, lime and herbs create a delightful contrast of flavor) and gaze at the lights. Or you can head over for their Dom Perignon Sunday Brunch and revel in the luxury.
Dusk Till Dawn
This bar is aptly named — I didn’t leave until the sun was breaking over the city! Located in Wan Chai, it has an amazing cover band who will make you forget the time. It doesn’t get swinging until after midnight, and it will go until the sun is up and the only people on the street are the garbage men collecting the detritus of the night before. My memory of the drinks menu is fuzzy, but you probably won’t really care by the time you get here, anyway.
Wan Chai is the infamous red light district in Hong Kong, and it’s such an ingrained part of the culture that it’s worth a visit at night. If you go into Escape, you’ll see lots of young, pretty ladies who are overly interested in old, white men. But the girls are all friendly, and I got into a great conversation with a stunning Indonesian woman. I also shamed a man who was unabashedly flirting with a pretty (and young) Chinese girl, but with a wedding ring on full display! The music keeps rocking, the drinks keep flowing, and the girls keep doing what they do.
Link: http://www.escape.com.hk/ (Warning, autoplay music)
Photo Scavenger Hunt in LKF
This brings me back to the introduction to this post. LKF is a row of bars, ripe for crawling. Why not make it a little more interesting? My friend and I decided to spice up our night out by creating a list of photos we needed to take by the end of the night, then slowly ticked them off our list. It ended up being one of the best nights out I’ve ever had! Our list included things like “Do the YMCA with strangers,” and “Karaoke to Lady Gaga,” and “Down A Syringe Jello Shot” (something that’s a mainstay at LKF). Hence my near-vomiting experience. We ended up tagging along to a bachelorette party for an hour, taking shots with a British family, and got lots of photos that can’t be published to the web! I recommend this for anywhere you go, but it’s especially fun in Hong Kong.
Jumping on a ferry and checking out the nearby islands is a fun way to get out the craziness of the city and see a quieter side to Hong Kong. You can’t go wrong with any of the nearby islands, but Lummi Island is a cute, quiet village with a bohemian vibe. There are plenty of dining and shopping options, and the view back to the Hong Kong landing is top-notch.
Hong Kong Island starts at sea level and soars to over 3,000 ft at it’s highest point. Draped across this scaffolding are the neighborhoods that house the 7 million residents of this city. How to get from one neighborhood to the next, which could be several hundred feet higher in elevation? The escalators! It’s a way of getting around that is so specific to Hong Kong, and it’s likely that you’ll end up using them even without meaning to. Just be wary, Google Maps doesn’t always include them in their walking directions, so don’t rely on that app too much!
Most people don’t picture a golden sandy beach when they picture Hong Kong. But a 25-minute taxi will deposit you on one all the same. It can get crowded on clear, hot days, when the city pours over the Peak and onto the sandy shoreline, but midweek it’s a relaxing way to pass a day. Plenty of cafes and bars line the shoreline, so you can grab lunch or a drink when you’ve had enough of the Hong Kong sun.
Man Mo Temple
Tucked between multi-story buildings on bustling Hollywood Road, you would miss this unassuming temple if you weren’t looking for it. But step inside and you enter a world of incense and smoke, a place of quiet reverence that stands in stark contrast to the bustle and noise outside. It’s one of those beautiful contrasts that makes Hong Kong such an amazing blend of Eastern and Western culture.
Have you been to Hong Kong? What was your favorite part? Tell me in the comments!