In late June Hong Kong launched a worldwide marketing campaign,
"Wonders Never Cease." Stephen Wong, assistant manager corporate communications
department, Hong Kong Tourist Association described the advertising project
as "East (Chinese lifestyle and culture) meets West (modern comforts) tourism."
In the spectacular new H.K.T.A. logo the words Hong Kong include images of some
of those wonders. The logo is surrounded by a vivid collage of photos filled
with a vast jumble of the territory's stimulating images– people, food, buildings,
statues, boats, crafts and more. Labelled the "Web of Wonders," it
is a kaleidoscope of the endless excitement that the city holds for visitors.
One goes to Hong Kong to shop, to eat, to stay at one of the spectacular hotels
and to sightsee, too. Though the territory is small, its tourist association has
managed to produce more guides and material for the visitor than most major countries
in the world. Want a compendium of outlet shopping? How about information on temples,
outlying islands, vegetarian dining, tea traditions, fortune-telling, architecture,
Chinese medicine, festivals, museums and outdoor markets? The bureau has it.
|Hong Kong, Wonders Never Cease (credit: Edwin Fancher)
There's so much happening in Hong Kong that you can never have enough data
about where to go and what to do even on an extended visit. Stephen Wong said
nothing would change when that fateful moment, midnight on June 30, 1997, arrived
and Heung Gong, the Chinese name for the Fragrant Harbor
or Perfumed Port, which became Hong Kong to the British tongue,
reverted to China.
An excursion to one of Hong Kong's outer islands presents a new face, a less
crowded one, on a visit to the territory. The largest outdoor bronze buddha
in the world is on the grounds of the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau, the
biggest island. Several travel agencies sell all-day tours, including lunch,
to Lantau. We suggest organizing your own to the avoid the
greasy vegetarian meal served at the monastery. Eat at the Silvermine
Bay Hotel instead. The H.K.T.A. publishes the "The Lantau Explorers'
Guide." Hoverferries operate weekdays from near the Star Ferry,
Central. Take a taxi from the terminal in Mui Wo to
the other side of the island to see the monks in ceremony. Then visit Tai
O, a fishing village built on stilts, whose main street is filled with acupuncturists,
Mah Jong players and shops offering a range of dried fish products.
|Lantau Island, Hong Kong (credit: Edwin Fancher)
Board the number 6 bus from the Exchange Square terminal in
Central. Get off at the open-air Stanley Market, a colorful
place to shop for inexpensive hats, clothing, bags, luggage, tablecloths and
for the experience of Hong Kong haggling. Then take the bus back to Repulse
Bay, one of the island's most beautiful beaches. Eat lunch at Hei
Fung Terrace, The Repulse Bay. Reboard the bus for
Aberdeen. Go on a sampan ride to watch the houseboats.
(Because of the polluted waters we were advised to avoid the floating restaurants.)
A trip to the top of Victoria Peak on a clear day when you can see as far as China
is a must. Take the tram from the Lower Peak Terminus and spend some time in Victoria
Pick up the H.K.T.A.'s booklets and follow the Central and Western District
Heritage Trail and the Yau Ma Tei District Walk.
Shopping in Hong Kong can be daunting; there's so much of it. Every clothing manufacturer
from all over the world has at least one retail outlet here. Our suggestion is to
stick to one mall like the Ocean Terminal or Prince's Building and
you will find what you are looking for. Bargains, no! Variety and quality, yes! For
art and antiques visit Hollywood Road. To shop like the locals try the stores
on Carnarvon Road or consult the H.K.T.A. outlet guide.
Tea Zen, house for tea connoisseurs, stocks a wide variety
of tea and pots. Buyers are offered the opportunity to taste before making a
purchase. Just enter and wait your turn for a private tea drinking ceremony.
Ngan Ki Heung Tea Co., Ltd., 290 Queens's Road C., G/F. Tel. 544-1375, 545-9132.
Monday to Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m. to 7 p. m.
Mandarin Oriental has consistently been rated one of the top
hotels in the world. Its trademark is exceptional service and it has carved
out a niche attracting guests who wish inconspicuous, but personal and attentive
service. We found the personnel very pleasant and helpful. An assistant concierge
escorted us to our room for check-in, served us hot tea and showed us how everything
worked. A young employee left her post to accompany us to a nearby shopping
arcade because she thought we might not find it on our own.
Decorated in the best of taste, the Mandarin Oriental is very up-to-date, but
has antique accents. The ambiance is calming, particularly after time spent
on the crowded, bustling streets. The large health club has
an attractive Roman-style swimming pool. We especially liked
the unusual touch of in-room binoculars.
Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Road, Central. Tel. +852 2522 0111. Rates start at $355. www.mandarin-oriental.com The Regent, Salisbury Road, Kowloon. Tel. 721-1211. Rates start at $285.
A stay in a harbourview room at the Regent is a great hotel
experience. It's not easy to pull the drapes or walk away from the windows.
Boats of every size, shape and kind ply the harbor like a ballet on water. At
night neon lights blink and the whole colony glows. The sight is mesmorizing
24 hours a day.
Bathrooms at the Regent are unusually large with oversized sunken tubs and separate
showers. Every amenity is in place. Business travelers will find office staples in
the desk drawers.
One lone employee constantly runs a brush across the polished granite lobby floor
to keep it immaculate. A freestanding square reception area is in the middle of the
lobby so that those who work at the front desk are always accessible. Perfection?
Without a doubt! We topped it off with a ride to the airport in a Daimler from the
hotel's fleet of 21 chauffeur-driven limousines.
The Regent, Salisbury Road, Kowloon. Tel. 721-1211
Since Hong Kong, like Paris, is a renowned restaurant city with more than 6,000
places to eat, we can only offer a few suggestions as to where to dine and sadly
where not to.
Reservations at the Furama Kempinski, one of Hong Kong's two top-of-the-tower
revolving restaurants, were impossible to come by. We ate instead at Revolving
66, the town's other dinner spot offering a spectacular rotating panorama
of Hong Kong lit up at night. The American meal was pleasant enough, though
hardly anything special. The view more than made up for it.
We had two different experiences at this 10-restaurant chain. Lunch in the
Star House branch in Kowloon was disappointing
with small portions, poor- quality food and slow service. However, a dinner
in their Alexandra House branch was faultless. We ordered a melt-in-your-mouth
beggar's chicken (24-hour notice required), which is a bird that has been stuffed
with Chinese vegetables, wrapped in lotus leaves, covered with clay and baked
slowly. It was brought to the table with a mallet to crack the hardened clay.
The Peking duck looked delicious, too.
Owned by the Peninsula Group and located in the reconstructed Repulse
Bay Hotel, this dramatic restaurant is vintage 1920s and is embellished
with traditional Chinese decor–wooden scroll work, stained-glass windows and
an Oriental garden. A large and beautifully-prepared variety of dim sum is served
at lunchtime, as well as many delicious entrees such as drunken pigeon and lobster
in lotus leaves. Cantonese at its best!
Luk Yu is well-known in the city for its unofficial status
as an historical monument and as a remnant of Colonial Hong Kong. The six-decade
old tea house features brass spittoons, black fans, marble-backed chairs, carved
doors and paneling. Elderly women hawk trays of dim sum that were dreadful.
Nevertheless, Luk Yu is a popular breakfast spot for Chinese businesspeople.
Peek in and eat elsewhere.
It's been around for over 40 years and large Chinese families favor it. Perhaps
we chose wrong, but we've had better Peking-style cuisine in New York. Soups, dumplings
and noodle dishes are mainstays here.
Man Wah serves outstanding Cantonese food. Situated on top
of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the views look out on Victoria
Harbour. The platters, dishes and exquisitely-carved silver and ivory
cutlery are fit for an imperial banquet. And the food could be fed to the emperor,
too. Service was impeccable. There wasn't a morsel that passed our lips that
wasn't ambrosial. Presentations were works of art. A whole sliced fish (a signature
dish) was served on a crispy skin with carved carrots forming a head and tail
to resemble a dragon boat. Luscious fruits were brought to the table on a bed
Like tea at the Peninsula, a drink in the lobby fronting the harbor at the
Regent Hotel is a Hong Kong must. Now you have a choice. Watch the view of the
harbor from either the story-high windows or upstairs from the spectacular four-year
old Yü. This seafood restaurant is water-themed with an
entire wall built like an aquarium and filled with exotic species. Order from
the extensive menu–it comes with pictures of fish–and the chef will dip into
his kitchen tank where all the live seafood swim. The sautéed Boston lobster
with black beans and fine noodles and the seagrass pasta with tiger prawns got
Revolving 66, 62 Floor, Hopewell Centre, 183 Queen's Road East, Wanchai. Tel.
862-6166, 862-6168. Open noon to midnight. Expensive.
Peking Garden Restaurant, 1st & 2nd Basements, Alexandra House, 6 Ice House Street,
Central. Tel. 526-6456. Open for lunch and dinner. Moderate.
Hei Fung Terrace Chinese Restaurant, The Repulse Bay, 109 Repulse Bay, Repulse Bay.
Tel. 812-2622. Open for lunch and dinner. Moderate.
Luk Yu Tea House, 24-26 Stanley Street, Central. Tel. 523-5464. Open 7 a.m. - 10
American Restaurant, 20 Lockhart Road, Wanchai. Tel. 527-7277, 527-7770. Open for
lunch and dinner. Reserve for upstairs or downstairs. Inexpensive.
Man Wah, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 5 Connaught Road, Central. Tel. 522-0111. Open
for lunch and dinner. Expensive. The seven-course tasting menu for two is a terrific
value and includes shark's fin, a notable delicacy, and lobster.
Yü, The Regent, Salisbury Road, Kowloon. Tel. 721-1211. Open for lunch and dinner.