I recently found myself once again in the middle of the vibrant and always active city of Hong Kong. I was there with Cathay Pacific, following the delivery of their newest 777-300ER aircraft and since this was my second trip to the city, I was curious how best to experience it aside from the normal tourist spots. My trip was a short one – longer than 24 hours, but not much – but it was an active one, experiencing everything from the best hotel in town to traditional Chinese culture. Since many people find themselves transiting in and out of the city, I thought I’d offer my experiences and recommendations about how best to enjoy this always exciting city in just a day.
Of course not only is the most convenient way to reach Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific, but it’s the most comfortable as well. I’ve flown with this acclaimed airline a few times now and I’m always impressed not only by the comfort of the flight, whether you’re in economy, premium economy or business, but by the high level of service. No request seems too odd and everyone on board really seems to care about my well being. This time I once again flew in Cathay’s business class, which is one of the best in the world, but I’ve also flown in their premium economy section which has a lot of the perks found in business class, from a separate section of the cabin to enhanced meals and even an amenity kit. Add to that the amazing business class lounges in Hong Kong Airport, and I can’t imagine traveling to Hong Kong with any other carrier. Of course many people fly with Cathay but then transfer to another destination, from Myanmar to China and even Australia. But be sure to add in a day or two in Hong Kong instead of just passing through. It’s a great city with a lot to do and see.
Where To Stay
This time I was privileged enough to stay in what is routinely called the best hotel in Hong Kong, the Upper House. This luxury hotel may be small and a little unassuming, but that’s why it has the dedicated fan base that it enjoys. If service defines an excellent luxury hotel, then the Upper House is clearly at the top of its game. From personalized, in-room check in to a staff that are as good as I’ve ever seen, the Upper House Hong Kong standard of service is shockingly high.
Of course the rooms themselves are important, and that is where the hotel shines. Designed in modern Asian elegance, the clean lines and low profiles of the spacious rooms make them seem more like a home than a hotel room. Even in the smaller rooms, which aren’t small at all, space is ample and everything you need is just a push of the button away. Guests also enjoy amenity kits, an open mini-bar and other special touches that you’ll just have to experience for yourself. I think I’ve found my new home in Hong Kong – I just can’t imagine staying anywhere else.
What To Eat
Hong Kong is a foodie town, that much is for sure. It seems like every time you turn around a new Michelin-starred restaurant pops up, specializing in everything from classic Chinese to ultra-new wave. Of course there’s also a wonderful culture of more homey, street food classics. This time I was able to try a few different restaurants, all of them good if not dramatically different from each other.
Duddell’s – This 2-Michelin star restaurant is located in the Shanghai Tang Mansion in Hong Kong’s central district. It’s a traditional Cantonese restaurant and among the many small dishes I enjoyed were deep fried eggplant, salted chicken and a mango dessert that was almost too good to be true.
Ho Lee Fook – Quirky and little too hipster for its own good, the food luckily rescues this restaurant from being too cool for school. Meant to evoke old school Hong Kong hang outs with the funky vibe of 1960s Chinatown New York, rock music and dim lights set the stage for a rock-inspired meal. The food itself though is pretty traditional, just good Chinese classics served up family style so that everyone can enjoy them.
What To Do
I’ve written about what to do and see in Hong Kong if it’s your first visit, so I’m just going to ignore that for now. Instead I want to share what I did on my second visit, experiences that were a little odd, but a fun way to see the city in an entirely different light.
Last time I missed out on taking a cruise on one of the traditional Chinese junks found in Victoria Harbour, so that was my first order of business. Boarding the ‘Aqua Luna’ I enjoyed a two-hour cruise around the harbor, enjoying the scenery and just relaxing on the boat. I think it’s important to see cities in as many different ways as possible, and from the water is my personal favorite.
Hong Kong has a number of interesting neighborhoods, and a few have been evolving lately, featuring new shops, cafes and restaurants. Walking around PoHo, Tai Ping Shan and Gough Streets is a fun way to see a different side of Hong Kong, as well as get some photos of city life and even street art. These are quirky and definitely non-traditional neighborhoods, but really fun places to explore.
I decided that I wanted to learn more about traditional Chinese culture, so I made an early morning stop at Lui Seng Chun. Housed in an old Chinese shophouse, this is the modern home of the Hong Kong Baptist University School of Chinese Medicine where anyone can book an appointment with the doctors who specialize in traditional Chinese medicine. I’ll devote an entire post to this slightly unusual activity, but it was a great cultural experience and I walked away with my own personalized herbal tea, meant to aid with my own particular issues.
So there you have it, how to spend a very quick 24 hours in Hong Kong. Aside from these experiences and restaurants, what I enjoyed most was just walking around, getting a little lost and soaking with the frenetic pace of life in the streets of Hong Kong itself. Aside from Chinese junks or great food, it’s that fast paced lifestyle that defines this global city more than anything else.