By Claire Gilbertsen
It’s hard to find a more diverse or cosmopolitan city than bustling Hong Kong. The gleaming skyscrapers and swanky shops have the feel of Manhattan, but the South Asian atmosphere is unmistakable. Long considered a vital global hub for commerce, the city has become a destination in it’s own right for unique and chic cultural experiences. Though it’s hard to keep up with the ever-evolving culture in Hong Kong, here are a few things to try to catch while there.
While many visitors are attracted by the almost overwhelming opportunities to shop, the allure of Hong Kong lies in finding excellence across the categories—luxury hotels with a sustainable edge, Michelin-rated restaurants and dining experiences, and it’s even becoming a destination in the art world, with Art Basel opening their latest outpost in Hong Kong in 2016.
In a town well known for its towering skyscrapers and majestic skyline, there is no better place to stay than the luxurious Hotel ICON in Kowloon, with it’s impressive views of the city and the harbor. This sophisticated hotel fuses modern extravagance with sustainable design, boasting one of the largest indoor gardens in the world, in addition to other eco-initiatives. You will feel right at home in the modern and elegant rooms, and if you have a chance to stay in their top suite, curated by Vivienne Tam in the style of “China Chic,” there’s a chance you may never want to leave. Between the in-room smartphone, the Angsana spa, and the state of the art fitness center with the heated pool, you may never have to.
Their signature bar on the top floor, the aptly named Above & Beyond, offers delicious cocktails and dizzying panoramic views of the city, below which makes for a very happy hour. Dinner is also available at the Above & Beyond restaurant, which offers private dining rooms for parties and even a kitchen in which to bring a personal chef.
Hotel ICON exudes excellence, not only because it is so perfectly run and flawlessly designed, but also because it is part of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s school for aspiring hoteliers. As a result, expect superior customer service. The staff is known for attention to detail and going above and beyond for guests. The hotel and amenities were built and designed with the comfort of the guests in mind. The Timeless room exists solely for guests who need to arrive early or late who may not have access to their room yet. Travelers who’ve been fortunate enough to experience the Icon’s superb hospitality have been more than a little impressed; the hotel was recently given TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice award in 2015.
Hong Kong is not just a shopper’s paradise—although the retail experiences here would soon make a shopper out of anyone. No matter what you are looking for, if you can’t find it or have it made in Hong Kong, it probably doesn’t exist. In SoHo, the luxury boutiques and high-end shops offer products exclusive to Hong Kong. Unique vintage shops and top-notch clothing stores line the neighborhood’s hip streets.
For a more traditional cultural experience, head to Temple Street in central Kowloon, where a thriving night market begins just as the sun goes down. During the day, the Stanley Market is a classic open-air market, where bargaining with vendors is not just welcome, it’s an art. This market has everything from designer clothing and bags to antiques for the home and jade jewelry. It’s the perfect place to find a thoughtful souvenir, and chances are there will be at least one interesting story to go along with it.
Another must-see district is Lan Kwai Fong, the party district. With over 100 bars, clubs, and restaurants, it is a true nightlife-lover’s paradise. For classic Cantonese Chinese food at its best, the Spring Moon restaurant in the classically decorated Peninsula hotel offers a premium dim sum experience. The restaurant is known for their XO sauce, made from a secret recipe, their crystal shrimp dumplings, and minced Wagyu beef as part of the dim sum offerings. Each dish is architecturally-presented, purely Cantonese, and almost too beautiful to eat. In early July, they will be offering a Culinary Masters Dinner, featuring six chefs from five different Peninsula properties who will create an eight-course tasting menu together.
In the Mandarin Oriental’s Café Causette, the chefs work in a show-kitchen so diners get a glimpse into what goes on while they are making their food. This relaxing and light café is open all day and makes a great spot for lunch or for tea. After a day of shopping and sightseeing, or a night on the town, The Mandarin Burger or a classic croque monsieur, followed by a decadent passion fruit éclair, more than hit the spot.
To feel on top of the world, literally, head to the Ozone Bar at the Ritz Carlton; located on the 118th floor of the highest building in Hong Kong, this must-see masterpiece is actually the highest known bar on the globe. The cocktails won’t dampen the feeling either. The bar was designed to feel like an extension of the sky with an otherworldly feel—more like a chic futuristic club. The Tin Lung Heen restaurant, also in the Ritz Carlton, boasts two Michelin stars and grand, impressive dining rooms—all with gorgeous views.
For a dash of historical culture, visit the oldest temple in Hong Kong, the Man Mo temple. Built in the 1800s in dedication to Taoist and Buddhist Inside, large coils of incense hang from the ceiling and as they burn, the smoke adds to the exotic but peaceful atmosphere. The temple is still used by many residents who pray to the god of literature and the god of war, for whom the temple was built.
A leisurely day trip to Lantau Island is worth taking to see a completely different side of Hong Kong. Between the lush mountains and the sapphire ocean, the scenery is breathtaking, and on top of the island sits a large bronze Buddha statue. For those not inclined to hike, a cable car system is also available.
Finally, for something you can only find in Hong Kong, two words: Pink dolphins. Full day or half day boat trips are available to seek out the rare pink dolphins in Hong Kong’s western waters, and make for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
With so much to see and do, Hong Kong is a top luxury destination not to be missed, and it just keeps getting better.
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