by Sardar Ahmed Durrani ,
Accidental ibanker and adventure buff.
My love affair with Hong Kong:
Honkers is the sort of place that you have a love hate relationship with. Just like a New Yorker, you hate it while you’re there but as soon as you move anywhere else you start missing every annoying little thing about it!
If you had to choose four of the worlds most cosmopolitan cities with a melting pot of cultures, you can only think of NYC, London, Sydney and Hong Kong… the rest are all posers!
We moved here almost 8 years ago as a young couple for “just one year”, and the love affair is still going strong. This place (as recently discovered) has something for everyone; from the dizzying heights of Midlevels and Soho (for the young and the young hearted), to the suburban resortesque islands (for parents with young kids, or even people who like life to slowlycruise by) . Imagine uber futuristic sky scrapers, preppy and hip uptown brunch spots, rustic beaches comber dens and white sand surf spots all within a 20 minute taxi ride!
The place serves every taste in the book. Once solely the domain of bankers, head hunters and China traders, now the economy boasts upcoming international fashion designers, tech entrepreneurs, service industry gurus and even the token extreme sport professionals. All of whom now base themselves in HK and call this mega-city their east Asian home.
For the well travelled who yet haven’t explored this great city let me put a picture in your mind… imagine if Vancouver and San Francisco had a bastard child and that child married the tropical beaches of Thailand on steroids… they would have a child called Hong Kong which would encompass the high mountains and beautiful harbors and bridges of the grandparents and the tropical weather and beautiful waters (and low taxes) of the Asian domain. The place is a sensory kaleidoscope!
Where do I start!
For the city slicker: Soho Brunches and Central district night prowling
For the outdoorsies: Sai Kung trek and Tai Long wan beach over night trek (winter offers massive breaks for surfing. Plus no sharks as they’ve all been eaten in the shark fin soups). Lantau peak moon trekking ( midnight trek that ends with a sunrise display).
For the arty farties: Hollywood road art galleries and Shueng Wan district hipster cafes and boutiques. Tin Hau art streets.
For the culture buffs: Temple of the 1000 Buddhas, Lantau Island Big Buddha trek (take the cable car), Lamma Island bun festival (check for dates).
For the foodies: The place will blow your mind (or your taste buds). Cheung Chau Island seafood, Lamma Island seafood, soho Michelin starred restaurants, local delicacies on every street corner, hairy crab under the bridge, famous Hong Kong hot pot, Korean BBQ joints, egg tarts, dim sum. Entrecote style meat places! …somebody stop me!
For parents and kids: Hong Kong Disneyland is fantastic. Don’t let anyone tell you parents don’t have fun. Its fun for both kids and parents. For older kids (and parents) there is also Ocean Park with its fantastic roller coaster right on the cliff face with a 300 foot drop below into churning waters. Park Island also has Noah’s Ark kids theme park, though it’s a bit under whelming. Plus there are mini parks and courtyards in Hong Kong park, Kowloon park, Stanley beach/market, Queen Victoria Park, the Peak Park, Shek O beach, Strawberry picking farms with horse riding and petting zoos in the New territories.
For extreme sports: HK offers every one of these with multiple options if you google it: Paint balling, Surfing, Wind Surfing, Kite surfing, cliff jumping, extreme hiking, rock climbing, Airsoft warzones (jungle and urban), roller blade hockey, Wake boarding, Paddle boarding, scuba diving (though the waters are mrkier than Thailand), Para Gliding, Jet Skiing, Dragon boating, Open sea kayaking… to name a few. Oh and almost forgot, as recently discovered, open water sailing is massive in HK.
Mornings in Hong Kong are… Brunches and the beach!!!
The one thing you love about Hong Kong… The summer JUNK BOATS (All day luxury all inclusive private yacht cruises for less than 100 USD per head).
Your fondest memory of Hong Kong… The memory of not remembering how each and every junk boat trip ended! The wild days of early settling down in Central with my lovely wife Sumaya. Oh plus the birth of my two boys. The handsome and crazy little gremlins Zarak and Ghazan, who are showing me a new HK these days!
Don’t forget to take… A full suitcase with wardrobe for every possible scenario! Trust me.
Don’t forget to bring back… An additional few suitcases full of everything ranging from Chinese manufactured gadgets to faux luxury good for the price of a coke can! Paintings from Stanley market are a must for the tourist too!
What is your favorite place for:
A dinner with friends: Ole , The butchers club , Oolah (for brunch), La Vache (entrecot meat place), Mama San.Brickhouse , Chom Chom , Chilli Fagara , Dragon-i (for brunch, because at night it becomes a high end club). Zuma , Grand Hayat, Mandarin Oriental and the Aberdeen Jumbo boat for champagne brunches! Do not forget the peninsula Hotel high tea! The Stoep for a South African beach BBQ with the kids and friends.
Working: Any one of the non franchise private cafes in Soho. If I had to choose one I would base myself in the window of Yorkshire Pudding to watch people and some sports along with work. Or If I wanted more quiet I would move inside Portobello across the street.
People watching: Nothing beats Stauntons bar on the escalator (soho), though FAB and Chom Chom just down the slope and round the corner respectively are ramping up competition!
Dancing the night away: Lan Kwai Fong (no question about it). Top marks for finding where the secret bar Feather Boa is! Their chocolate coated strawberry daiquiries are devastating and for their virgin fruit punch is the best I have ever had! Other late night spots worth visiting are Boqueria , Salon #10 , Brickhouse , Origin , Dragon-i (club), Fly (club), Drop (late club), etc.
Shopping: Causeway Bay (Times Square and Sogo and the surrounding areas) for local brands and cool new stuff. For classical luxury brands nothing beats IFC mall, ICC mall, Pacific place mall, and the T-Gallerias (that have all brands under one roof). Additionally Mong Kok (ladies market) for the faux shopping I mentioned! Stanley market for the paintings, the rest of the stuff there is cheaper in Mong Kok .
Doing nothing: Take the star ferry from IFC to Tsim Sha Tsui . the most relaxing ride ever with a breathtaking view, only for 2 HK dollars. Or the slow ferry with the open top deck to Mui Wo (Lantau Island), from where you can rent a bicycle and slowly ride through the small villages to the waterfall below the old silver mine! Or take a taxi or minibus to Big Wave beach, rent a paddle board from the surf shop and explore the coast line for hours beyond the swimming nets….nothing better than that!