Relax in fast-paced Hong Kong

FARAH MASTER
Last updated 16:58 21/02/2014

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Gleaming skyscrapers, Michelin-starred noodle stalls, secluded beaches and a buzzing party scene all make Hong Kong the perfect place to experience the best of East meets West.

Here are tips about getting the most out of a trip to Hong Kong.

Home to 7 million people, the former British colony's densely packed districts weave around lush greenery and the iconic harbor of the fast-paced financial and trading centre.

Now a Chinese territory, Hong Kong has everything from luxury boutiques and some of the world's best Cantonese cuisine to traditional markets, delicious hawker food and breathtaking hikes in the hills.

Transportation around the main island and the much larger peninsula, including bustling Kowloon, is a seamless affair by subway, bus and the famous "ding ding" tram. Taxis are plentiful and outlying islands are short ferry rides away.

BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER

Hong Kong offers non-stop gastronomic delights, with local and international fare available from before dawn until after partygoers leave the clubs in the early hours of the morning.

At roadside eateries, you can choose from dim sum, congee rice porridge, wonton noodle soups and claypot rice dishes.

For a more refined meal you can't go wrong at Luk Yu Tea House at 24-26 Stanley Street in the Central district.

The decades-old restaurant - with stained glass windows, wooden panelling and ceiling fans - is evocative of old Hong Kong. Go for the steamed barbecue pork buns and shrimp dumplings.

For top-notch cuisine in elegant surroundings, try to wangle an invitation to the China Club on the top floors of the old Bank of China building in Central, where you will be transported back to 1930s Shanghai.

Enjoy traditional and modern dishes surrounded by vintage art and ornate lanterns.

Island Tang in The Galleria at 9 Queen's Road and award-winning Yung Kee at 32-40 Wellington Street, famous for roast goose and thousand-year eggs, are other favourites in Central.

Hutong, at 1 Peking Road in the Tsim Sha Tsui district, is designed to resemble Beijing's ancient narrow alleys and courtyards. It serves northern Chinese food with spectacular views of Hong Kong's neon skyline.

For a relaxed brunch or casual dinner, head to the seaside promenade in Stanley, on the south side of the main island.

At the colonial Murray House, eating options include Wildfire for thin crust pizza and the Mijas Spanish Restaurant. On Stanley's main street, there is a wide variety of cafes and eateries.

The Peak Lookout at 121 Peak Road, with its leafy outdoor patio, is lovely for a picturesque meal.

For more buzz, head to the Soho area in Central. Restaurants range from small mom-and-pop places to hip joints like Brickhouse at 20A D'Aguilar Street for Mexican food and Yardbird at 33-35 Bridges Street for yakitori and other Japanese delights.

Many new restaurants in Soho have a no reservation policy, so get there early to avoid the crowds.

NIGHTLIFE

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For a quiet drink with atmosphere, go to The Pawn gastropub in a heritage building at 62 Johnston Road in the Wan Chai district.

Relax on the outdoor balcony and take in the sights and smells of one of Hong Kong's most storied neighbourhoods or settle inside on one of the burgundy leather armchairs.

Lan Kwai Fong, a strip of bars and clubs in Central, and teeming Wyndham Street are good ways to experience how Hong Kong works hard and plays hard.

Bars range from Stormy Weather, where revelers stand on the street dancing, to trendy spots like Sociolito and Dragon I, popular with models and visiting celebrities.

Tazmania Ballroom in the Lan Kwai Fong hotel is a good place to people watch, while Azure, on the 29th floor of the hotel, has a spacious outdoor roof terrace.

To escape the crowds, Wyndham the 4th or the Quinary are elegant lounge bars with creative cocktails.

Salon No 10 at 10 Arbuthnot Road just above Wyndham Street is another hidden gem. An eclectic space with quirky interiors, quilted upholstery and a stuffed peacock, it also offers a dining menu.

On Kowloon side is Ozone, the highest bar in Asia, located on the 118th floor of the swanky Ritz Carlton hotel.

If you want to drink until daybreak, head to Carnegie's and Dusk till Dawn in Wan Chai. Once an infamous red-light district that was the backdrop for the fictional "Suzy Wong" book and film, Wan Chai retains a seedy undertone that fuses comfortably with flashy new clubs and restaurants along Lockhart Road.

ARTS & CULTURE

Known as a shopper's paradise, Hong Kong is actively trying to position itself as the major arts hub in Asia.

International names such as Gagosian, Ben Brown and White Cube launched their first Asian outposts in the city last year and there is a great deal of anticipation about the multi-billion-dollar M+ museum set to open in 2017.

The grassroots scene is also expanding rapidly. While soaring rents have pushed many galleries to the Chai Wan and Aberdeen districts, you can see the burgeoning local scene on Hollywood Road in Central and in the trendy "PoHo" area in nearby Sheung Wan, where independent galleries are cropping up.

The Hong Kong Fringe Club at 2 Lower Albert Road in Central hosts daily events ranging from live music to exhibitions. Relax on the tranquil roof garden, just a stone's throw from chaotic Lan Kwai Fong.

The Hong Kong Ballet, Hong Kong Philharmonic and Academy of Performing Arts also hold regular shows.

For film buffs, take the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour to the teeming Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. Here you can walk down the Avenue of Stars, modelled on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, and take a photo with a bronze statue of Bruce Lee.

At the venerable Wan Chai and Graham Street markets you can see vendors selling everything from meat and dried seafood to Chinese medicine and incense.

Ride the Peak tram for a steep and historic journey to view the city's spectacular skyline. Built in 1888, the tram was the first cable funicular in Asia. Take in expansive views of the city's soaring high rises and abundance of green landscape.

If you are feeling energetic, stroll back down towards Hong Kong's Mid-Levels district along Lugard Road.

Easy sloping paths, frequented by dog walkers and joggers, take you past remnants of an old fort and stunning views of the water as you descend towards the city's covered escalators.

NATURE TRAILS

Take a hike along one of Hong Kong's many scenic trails. The Dragon's Back in Shek O Country Park on the eastern side of the main island is a leisurely three-hour walk with breathtaking beach views and is a good choice for families.

There are also good hikes at Tai Lam Country Park on the southwestern side of the peninsula and at Ma On Shan and the two Sai Kung country parks to the northeast. Sai Kung town, on a sheltered harbour, has a variety of restaurants and cafes to refuel after a stroll on the trails.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board lists many options for hikes on its website.

OTHER OPTIONS

Visit the Happy Valley Racecourse during racing season to experience one of Hong Kong's true passions - horse racing. The public stands offer beer tents, food and live music.

Two amusement parks - Ocean Park and Disneyland - are other popular attractions.

Outlying islands like Lamma, Lantau and Cheung Chau, all about a 30-minute ferry ride from Central, have a laidback pace and are great to enjoy fresh seafood by the ocean.

Take a trip to nearby Macau, a former Portuguese colony and now the world's largest gambling hub. Experience old Portuguese charm in the Coloane district or head to the sprawling casino resorts which offer Michelin-star dining, luxury shops, spas and entertainment.

High-speed boats leave Hong Kong for Macau from the Tsim Sha Tsui and Sheung Wan districts, along with the Sky Pier near the international airport on Lantau. The frequent sailings and one-hour journey each way mean that Macau can be a day trip.

MORE INFORMATION Listings of galleries, shows and events can be found at timeout.com.hk, hk-magazine.com and discoverhongkong.com.

- Reuters

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