Canadian travel writer and online editor of Traveler’s Digest, Dakota Smith, has lived in Hong Kong since 2006. Though his travels take him around the world, Hong Kong will always hold a special place in his heart, and he offers Hg2 his suggestions on the city’s hedonistic best.
In a city where Ferraris stalk the streets, subway stations have Wi-Fi and stars only exist in the context of Michelin ratings, one doesn’t have to look too far for hedonistic pleasures. But while Hong Kong has a virtually endless array of hotels, restaurants and bars, all of them are not created equally. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best the city has to offer.
Inspired Rooms at Hotel ICON
Hotel ICON (17 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East; +852 3400 1000) is a design hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui that only recently opened in late 2011. It’s part of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the hotel serves as a canvas of sorts for the school’s design students and alumni. One notable Polytechnic alumni to leave her mark on the hotel is New York-based designer Vivienne Tam. She designed a luxury suite in the hotel that is said to have been inspired by her apartment in New York. The result is the city’s most stylish and unique hotel room.
Though the rest of the hotel’s guest rooms don’t have the star power of Vivienne Tam, they are still inspired in their own way. Technological amenities in the rooms like free Wi-Fi, iPod docks and interactive mirrors has led to Travel + Leisure declaring Hotel ICON to be one of the “world’s top geek hotels.”
The hotel’s common areas are similarly amazing. There’s a vertical-wall garden in the lobby, an Angsana Spa, a 24-hour fitness centre and an outdoor swimming pool overlooking Hong Kong Harbour. The hotel’s restaurant Above and Beyond is on the 28th floor and its ambiance and stunning views have made it one of the top restaurants in the city for romantic dinners.
Afternoon Tea at the Peninsula
The tradition of afternoon tea in Hong Kong dates back to the days of the British Empire in Asia. Back then, it was a tradition in which only members of high society would take a break from their leisurely schedules and relax over tea and snacks. Today, the tradition remains and there’s no better place to experience it than at the Peninsula Hotel (Salisbury Road, Kowloon; +852 2920 2888) – the oldest and most storied hotel in Hong Kong.
Afternoon tea is served every afternoon in the Peninsula’s palatial lobby from 2-6 pm and the hotel does not skimp on its offerings. A string quartet sets the ambiance, as patrons feast on the scrumptious sweets, finger sandwiches and exotic teas. Each tea set (HK$528) is designed for two people and comes with a generous amount of food. No reservations are accepted, so expect to arrive around 1:30pm or wait in the lengthy queue.
Insatiable Appetites at Ming Court
Ming Court (555 Shanghai Street, Mong Kok; +852 3552 3300) is a two-star Michelin rated restaurant that is known for its contemporary take on traditional Cantonese cuisine. Instead of dim sum and push carts, think fine wines and braised duck with truffle sauce.
The restaurant is located in the Langham Place Hotel in Mong Kok – the world’s busiest neighbourhood! But while the area is a hectic and crazy assault on the senses, Ming Court is one of the most refined Chinese dining experiences that one can find in Hong Kong.
Flowing Drinks and Flowing Bets at the Happy Valley Racecourse
Horse betting at the track usually conjures up images of either degenerate gamblers or royalty in extravagant hats. In Hong Kong, however, the sport takes on a very different form. Every Wednesday, the Hong Kong Jockey Club turns a night at the horse races at Happy Valley Racecourse into Hong Kong’s social event of the midweek. Expatriates tend to flock to the track-side beer garden where tents sell cheap alcohol and various fast food assortments. The atmosphere is jovial and the races themselves take a backseat to the drinking and live music.
Serious gamblers, on the other hand, usually give the beer garden a pass and instead gather in the various bars, restaurants and luxury boxes of the club building. And trust that Hong Kong has no shortage of serious gamblers, as each season more than HK$90 billion is wagered at the track!
The first race of the night is at 7 pm and the last one is around 11 pm. But that doesn’t mean the party stops with the races. Instead it usually migrates over to Wan Chai and continues well into the night.
Colonial Cocktails at the Pawn
Before its return to China in 1997, Hong Kong was part of the British Empire for over 150 years. The Pawn (62, Johnston Road, Wan Chai; +852 2866 3444), with its colonial-style decor, dated staff outfits and abundance of British expatriates, makes it possible to relive this bygone era.
The bar is located in a renovated 19th century building (formerly a pawn shop) in the prime nightlife district of Wan Chai. Crowds come almost every night to enjoy the bar’s large balcony, inventive cocktails and extensive draught beer offerings. Those who just can’t get enough of the place can even spend the day lounging in the bar’s comfy leather couches and beating Hong Kong’s epic heat by way of ceiling fan.