BEST MIDNIGHT SHOPPING
It's a city that never sleeps. It's also a city that never stops
shopping. So why not combine the concepts? That's what the owner
of Italy France Japan Fashion Square in Tsimshatsui has done.
The boutique stays open until 2 a.m., primarily for the shopping
needs of hostesses and customers from the Chinese Palace
Nightclub, which is on the same floor--and has the same owner.
If you like gruff, abrupt service, you'll love Luk Yu Tea House
on Stanley Street in Central (2523-5464). Don't even try to book
between noon and 2 p.m. You'd have more luck getting China to
recognize Taiwan than getting a waiter to acknowledge your
reservation. This is one of those quaint institutions--it opened
in 1925--that success has turned into a monster, with just-OK
food, high prices and a factory-like atmosphere.
Our very own Golden Gate, the 2.2 km-long Tsing Ma Bridge--all
55,000 tons of it--will link Hong Kong to the new airport at
Chek Lap Kok. With appropriate qualifiers, it becomes yet
another Hong Kong landmark: the heaviest and longest road and
rail suspension bridge in the world.
THE THREE BEST HOLE-IN-THE-WALL RESTAURANTS
First try Mak's Noodle (77 Wellington Street, Central,
2854-3871), a bright and spacious little spot with a helpful
staff. A bowl of shrimp wontons and noodles will set you back
$2.70. For Vietnamese, you can't beat Saigon Beach (66 Lockhart
Road, Wanchai, 2529-7823) for their crispy spring rolls, spicy
shrimp noodle soup and crab specialties--expect to pay about $13
a head. The priciest hole-in-the-wall we've ducked into lately
is the Pavilion (5 Tun Wo Lane, Central, 2869-7768) tucked back
in a tiny alley off the Midlevels Escalator, just past the
garbage heaps and stray dogs. There you can dine on duck breast
and sip champagne under French chandeliers for a mere $100 or so
Note: All prices quoted are in U.S. dollars
In brain-drained Hong Kong, it's not unheard of for an applicant
to accept two jobs, then decide at the last minute which one
he'll show up for. One trade that seems to attract lifers,
however, is hotel doormen: Robert Chan has been welcoming guests
deftly at the Mandarin Oriental in Central for the last 23 years.
BIGGEST NEON SIGN
It's sponsored by Nanfang Pharmaceutical Factory's 999 brand of
traditional Chinese medicines. Key stats:
Height: 6 stories; Width: 111 meters
Weight: 80 tons; Location: next to Shun Tak Center, Central
Neon: More than 13 km of tubing
Number of pigeons it could fry: 541,696 (est.)
Who can keep up with the dozens of curries on offer at the
International Curry House in Wanchai (2529-0088)? We can't, and
we doubt the cooks can either--many of the entries taste
suspiciously similar. Still, this functional joint offers some
of the best cheap curries in town: spicy, damn spicy and
incredibly damn spicy. If you don't want your teeth scorched,
try the milder vindaloo fish or Pakistan chicken.
BEST AFTERNOON TEA
The colony may be going, but the colonial is still well
represented by afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hotel Lobby in
Tsimshatsui. Complete with decrusted bread, cucumber sandwiches
and scones with jam and cream, this teaset has starched stiff
upper lips since 1928. The Japanese, who occupied the Peninsula
during World War II, are back again, this time armed with cameras.
MOST ROMANTIC SPOT
With 6.4 million people living on the head of a pin, Hong Kong
is short on good places to make out. Try the Cultural Center
Promenade, which has a magnificent view of the Hong Kong
harborside. When the sun goes down and the tourists go away, it
becomes a nightly backdrop to enthusiastic, befuddled and
occasionally illegal romantic carryings-on.
If you're not a sailor or a member of a secret society, you
might feel out of place here. But Ricky serves all with equal
nonchalance and artistic skill at his shop on Lockhart Road,
Wanchai (2527-8908). Famous in the trade, Ricky's work can be
identified by tattoo artists from here to London. A small heart
costs $38.50. A full-torso triadesque dragon is $256 and up.
MOST FAMOUS DOGS
When Chris and Lavender Patten came to town in 1992, their
bookend Norfolk terriers Whisky and Soda--named after components
of the Governor's favorite cocktail--served as endearing
accessories. Then they reportedly started biting the hired help,
sending their popularity plunging. Whisky, however, won the
sympathy vote after he ate a poisoned chicken wing on a recent
morning walk and nearly died. Under Britain's stiff quarantine
laws, the poor pups face six months' incarceration when they
accompany their master home. Plenty of time to write their
MOST SPECTACULAR CLOCK
When it was built, Central Plaza was the world's tallest
poured-concrete structure (a building technique perfected in
Hong Kong because it's quick and cheap). The 78-story Wanchai
tower's lit-up spire is a cunning time device, with each hour
represented by a different color. Every 15 minutes, one of the
four horizontal neon bands, beginning at the top, changes into
the color represented by the next hour. As all four become the
same color, a new hour begins (trust us, it's not as complicated
as it sounds). The order: red (6 p.m), white (7 p.m.), purple (8
p.m.), yellow (9 p.m.), pink (10 p.m.) and green (11 p.m.). At
midnight it reverts to red. But since everyone in Hong Kong owns
at least two designer watches, this may be a moot point, er,
BIGGEST GIRLIE-BAR STRIP
The stretch of Lockhart Road from Fenwick Street to Fleming Road
is the heart of the large but rather tired Wanchai girlie bar
district. Seen-it-all mama-sans crouch in front, offering a line
to entice pedestrians inside for a drink and entertainment that
can quickly turn expensive (tabs of $200 for a couple of beers
and some chat are not unheard of). The Panda Bar claims to be
the only remaining club on Suzie Wong turf with a real topless
license, evidence of which is provided the moment a man walks
through the door (though quickly recalled if he seems
uninterested in buying a round of drinks).
MOST REWARDING ANTIQUES SHOPPING
Hollywood Road, Central, is home to dozens of shops housing
legions of headless Buddhas, armless Ming dynasty horsemen and
sundry other dirt-caked artifacts. The sheer weight of Chinese
plunder leaves you wondering what could possibly be left back on
the mainland. China may be wondering as well: dealers expect the
supply of precious artifacts to dry up after the handover, and
collectors are shipping their best pieces to Singapore and the
Hong Kong has a number of Chinese eateries so large the staff
use walkie-talkies to communicate with each other. The
biggest--the 7,900-sq.m. Ocean City Restaurant & Nightclub in
Tsimshatsui (2369-9688)--can serve more than 6,000 hungry eaters
at one time. Annual stats: shark's fin consumed, 5,239 kg;
abalone ingested, 1,590 kg; number of chicken feet swallowed,
216,000; number of dim sum dishes eaten, 2 million.
MOST BREATHTAKING BATHROOM VIEW
You can continue sightseeing while taking care of other business
at Felix restaurant atop the Peninsula Hotel. The glass wall in
the 28th-floor men's room commands one of the best views in
Tsimshatsui. Of course that works both ways, as the urinals
lining the wall are made of glass, too. Designed by Philippe
Starck, Felix was the talk of the town when it opened two and a
half years ago, though form was slightly favored over function:
lights under the glass bar made customers' drinks boil.
Innovative East-meets-West cuisine and the arresting interior
make it the city's most dramatic dining experience.
STRANGEST DINING ROOM
Truly one of the more bizarre settings for dinner, the main room
of Bamboo Village Fisherman's Wharf on Jaffe Road, Wanchai
(2827-1188), goes for the nautical motif in a big way. You eat
in booths shaped like Chinese junks; they jut from the
restaurant's perimeter, complete with high-pitched bows and
rigging. Part of the room is flooded by a moat, which has a few
grim fish swimming around, and part is piled with sand. You're
expecting seafood specials, and the stuffed crab claws and baked
jumbo shrimp do not disappoint. The English menu is fairly
limited, so scout neighboring vessels for tempting dishes if you
don't speak Cantonese.
If you think it's expensive to live in Hong Kong, try dying.
You'll pay up to $80,000 for a permanent resting place at the
private Chinese Christian Cemetery in Pokfulam. Public
cemeteries let corpses reside for only seven years. After that,
remains are dug up and must be either cremated or reburied in an
Ten years of double-digit inflation have taken their toll on the
city's reputation as a bargain center. One place that still
offers true value-for-money is the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas. In
fact, there are now close to 13,000 statues of Buddha lining the
walls, all of similar height but in varying poses. Perched on a
hillside overlooking Sha Tin, the temple and surrounding grounds
offer a peaceful break from the hubbub below. And you'll need a
break once you climb to the temple. It feels like 10,000 steps,
though there are really just over 400.
Snaking through some of the world's most expensive real estate,
the Midlevels Escalator (officially, the Central District
Hillside Escalator Link) can move as many as 200,000 young
professionals to and from work each day. Starting at Connaught
Road near the harborfront, the escalator stretches 800 m. to
Conduit Road, about halfway up Victoria Peak. Completed in 1993
at a cost of $32 million, it has spawned its own "escalator
culture": a row of trendy restaurants and bars, a featured role
in director Wong Kar Wai's Chungking Express and, reportedly, a
healthy pick-up scene for the city's very upwardly mobile.
MOST ENDANGERED SPECIES
For just $50, a group called Hong Kong Dolphinwatch will take
you on a seven-hour cruise to the home of Sousa chinensis, the
rare and endangered Chinese white dolphins (which actually range
in color from dark gray to pink). Or you can wait a year and
simply fly over, since the dolphins' natural habitat is the
waters north of Lantau Island where Chek Lap Kok Airport is
finishing construction. The good news for the 80-odd remaining
mammals: the government has designated the area a dolphin
sanctuary. The bad news: as many as 38 planes an hour will be
BEST (AND ONLY) GAMBLING
On racing days the territory's punters come in force to the
tracks at Happy Valley and Sha tin, and this season the smart
money was on Oriental Express--the top-earning horse has won
nearly $1 million since September. Annual turnover for the
Jockey Club, which passes much of its earnings on to charity and
public works, is more than $10 billion. If you'd had the
foresight to bet $10 on the highest-ever stakes, the Triple Trio
on May 31, 1995, it would have returned a cool $920,000. Average
investment per Hong Konger over a season works out to a
BEST EGG TART
Even Chris Patten sings the praises of the custard
desserts at Tai Cheong Bakery in Central. Their daan taat, or
egg tart (40[cents]), is a favorite at Government House. Nice to
know there's something about Hong Kong that has left a good taste in the governor's mouth.
FANCIEST DIM SUM
With its imperial red setting and huge chandeliers, the Summer
Palace restaurant in the Island Shangri-La Hotel, Central
(2877-3838), offers a regal setting for dim sum lunch. The menu
is limited (only 10 to 12 items) but exquisite, and definitely
headed in the nouvelle direction. The traditional har gau shrimp
dumpling, for instance, is wrapped in a spinach-flour coating.
And there are some unusual (but delicious) choices, like deep
fried mashed taro with seafood and baked vegetable pie.
Anyone worrying about the survival of colonial traditions after
the handover will be reassured at Cafe Deco Bar & Grill on the
Peak (2849-5111). Even James Bond would approve of Hong Kong's
perfect martini (though it's stirred, not shaken). Extra dry,
with only a drop of vermouth. And it's hard to find a more
authentic location to enjoy it. Cafe Deco takes its name from
the vast array of early-20th century period pieces imported from
New York, Paris and Miami. A wonderful collection of original
cocktail shakers lines the walls, the ten-meter bar is from a
'30s New York restaurant, and the table tops are made of antique
BIGGEST CONSTRUCTION SITE
Hong Kong never met a pneumatic device it didn't like, and more
of them than ever before have been employed in building the new
airport at Chek Lap Kok--the world's largest construction site.
The airport rests on 1,250 hectares of land reclaimed from the
sea (at a cost of $1.1 billion). At one point during
construction, 70% of the deep-water dredging equipment on the
planet was churning away in our waters.
TASTIEST PIGEON JOINT
For an urban jungle, Hong Kong has blessedly few pigeons. One
place they studiously avoid is Han Lok Yuen on Lamma Island,
better known as the Pigeon Restaurant. Though the plebian fowl
is common in Cantonese cuisine (and much yummier than it
sounds), it's raised to an art form at Han Lok Yuen. Phone first
to book tables and birds (2982-0608, outside seating is
MOST THRILLING BUS RIDE
For an afternoon's fun you can ride The Dragon roller-coaster at
Ocean Park, or, alternately, hop on the upper deck of the No. 6
bus heading from Central to Stanley Village. Lurching up the
twists and turns of Stubbs Road, over Wong Nai Chung Gap, and
then careening back down the south side of Hong Kong island, the
white-knuckled ride offers great views, plus a few chills and
some literal spills if you don't hold on. Excellent value at
Who said Hong Kong is a disposable society? Some craftsmen still
earn a living preserving items of everyday use--there are knife
sharpeners, umbrella fixers and a whole battalion of cobblers.
The area around Theatre Lane and the Pedder Building is Shoe
Central, with a row of cobblers stitching, gluing and pounding
right on the street. It costs around $6.50 to reheel a ladies'
shoe, and $45 to resole a man's.
CLOSEST THING TO VLADIVOSTOK
With menu items like shashlik and zakuska, this is not your
standard Hong Kong eatery. But the Queen's Cafe on Hysan Avenue
in Causeway Bay (2576-2659) is a local classic. Founded in 1952
by White Russian immigrants (who are responsible for making
borscht an odd staple of Hong Kong diners), Queen's Cafe is one
of the city's oldest western restaurants, though it recently
relocated to new premises, and turns out the best raisin bread
in town. The handover makes the territory's White Russians third
time un-lucky: historically supporters of the czar, they fled
first to Shanghai, then to Hong Kong in a double escape from
Tycoons, socialites and the Governor's wife get their exercise on
Bowen path, the trail that stretches 4 km from Stubbs Road on
the east to Magazine Gap Road on the west. Walking or jogging,
you'll be treated to bird's eye views of the city's most
It's surprisingly easy to escape from the urban jungle to a
version that actually has trees. Hong Kong has set aside 40% of
its land as protected country parks, and they are embroidered
with hiking trails that range in difficulty from Sunday stroll
to Himalayan ordeal. The Dragon's Back is one of the best. This
6.5-km trek along a southern peninsula of Hong Kong island is
what the word "panoramic" was invented for. Spectacular mountain
views and seascapes line the trail, which starts behind the Chai
Wan MTR station and ends just above Shek O Village.
If you tire of Cantonese delicacies like chicken feet, duck
tongue and fish heads, there is an alternative. Mr. Rhino
restaurant on D'Aguilar Street in Central (2522-2290) serves
African delicacies like ostrich salad, crocodile kebabs and
stewed wildebeest tail. Of course, there's also Pizza Hut.
Hong Kong people admire Shanghai Tang because they like anything
that makes money this fast. Entrepreneur David Tang gave
old-China clothing a modern aspect--cheong sams in acid pink and
neon chartreuse, for instance--and spawned a renaissance in
Chinese design. The old-Cathay look can now be seen in various
restaurants around town and in his members-only China Club.
Starting life as a small boutique in 1994, Shanghai Tang is now
a 1,400-sq.m. department store in Central's Pedder Building.
Tang now plans to spread the store's brand of mainland-chic to
New York, London and--how about that--Shanghai.
MOST SATISFYING RIDE
The Star Ferry has plied the waters between the Kowloon
peninsula and Hong Kong island for 99 years. Today's fleet of 12
boats makes 420 trips each day, though with the rate of
reclamation in the harbor, walking across may soon be an option.
FASTEST SUIT IN THE EAST
Bel Homme Custom Tailors on Nathan Road in Tsimshatsui
(2368-7574) makes a "high quality" men's suit in just eight
hours. They've been speed-sewing for three decades, serving
mostly a tourist clientele. A suit can be ordered in the
morning, fitted at noon and delivered by evening. Prices range
from $195 to $450, which includes two free shirts!
MOST ACROBATIC FOUNTAIN
While Renaissance Italians pioneered the use of hydraulics to
power fountains, it's computer-controlled wizardry that
mesmerizes locals and tourists alike at the fountain outside the
Peak Galleria. You'll stand agog as 10-m. tufts of water shoot
straight up from a piece of flat concrete in syncopated rhythm,
accompanied by assorted squelching and glooping sounds and the
gurgling delight of children.
BEST STREET SINGERS
It's not so much the night market that makes a trip to Yaumatei
worthwhile as the sideshows that spring up around the northern
end of Temple Street. Here you can have your face read and your
fortune told, all to the accompaniment of amateur Chinese opera
enthusiasts who sing and play the ancient melodies in makeshift
MOST COLONIAL FLAG-MAKERS
Want the perfect handover souvenir? How about an authentic Hong
Kong colonial flag like the one that will be lowered at midnight
on July 1? Nam Keung flag makers on Mercer Street in Sheung Wan
(2544-8764) will sew a four-by-six-foot flag for $350. It takes
only a day to complete.
Carnegie's bar in Wanchai is Ground Zero for the explosion of
FILTH (Failed In London, Try Hong Kong) that turned the
territory into a '90s mecca for Eurotrash. Though historically
Hong Kong did not discriminate against the untalented expat, new
visa rules for Brits and the increasing skill of the homegrown
work force have turned the tables. By day, expats are often
relegated to delivering sandwiches or handing out leaflets on
the street. By night you'll find them here dancing on the bar.
WHITEST-KNUCKLED AIR APPROACH
The notorious landing at Kai Tak Airport combines an approach
directly over (and alongside) Kowloon highrises, a sharp right
turn to avoid a mountain (watch for the giant checkerboard
painted on a hill) and, on blustery days, an unpleasant
phenomenon known in control towers as "significant sinking
windsheer." Back in cattle class, there's merely a vague
awareness of the wing tips bopping to and fro as passengers are
otherwise occupied staring into the windows of nearby flats. But
from the cockpit, the downward-leading sidewind from Lion Rock
often tosses jumbo jets clear across the center line of the
runway just as they make that final turn, leaving only 30
seconds to correct their position before touchdown. The airport
has a near-spotless safety record, but leaves many pilots with
rather damp armpits.
BUSIEST BIRD MARKET
Songbirds are prized as pets in Hong Kong (some get taken for
daily walks), as well as for their vocal prowess. Hundreds are
on sale on Hong Lok Street, Mongkok, with prices often based on
their warbling talents.
CHEAPEST WOMEN'S CLOTHES
The shops and stalls that spill onto Tung Choi Street in Mongkok
sell non-designer clothes, shoes, jeans and accessories for
women at prices that are rock-bottom. A well-worn stop on any
serious shopper's map.
MOST FRAGRANT MARKET
Hundreds of small stalls line the streets around Flower Market
Road, near the Prince Edward MTR station, selling every kind of
blossom under the sun. This is where many local florists and
hotels buy their flowers, and the price and variety make it
worth the trip.
MOST TOURISTY MARKET
You can find just about anything at Stanley Market, in Stanley
Village on Hong Kong island's south side. A great all-in-one
place to buy gifts for friends and family, there's a wide range
of T-shirts, porcelain, silk, leather goods and souvenirs.
Stanley was one of the largest fishing villages and home to
2,000 people when the British first acquired Hong Kong, but now
the biggest catch are the schools of bargain-hunters that keep
MOST IMPRESSIVE ATHLETE
Lee Lai-san brought home Hong Kong's first-ever gold medal last
year at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. "San San," as she's
known locally, is all the more remarkable when you consider that
she actually had to put her body into Hong Kong's toxic waters
to practice her sport of boardsailing. For that she deserves
another medal--for bravery.
BEST SARTORIAL NIGHTCLUB
By day it's a hair salon. But on Saturday nights the Visage One
on Stanley Street, Central (2522-8773), lets its hair down and
becomes Hong Kong's hippest music club, where the best local
musicians gather informally to jam. Go late (it's open only
after 9 p.m.). And for heaven's sake, wear black.
LUCKIEST LICENSE PLATES
You can say one thing about Hong Kongers' fixation on luck: they
put their money where their superstitions are. At a government
auction in 1994, tycoon Albert Yeung paid $1.7 million for a
license plate bearing the single digit 9. Why so valuable? The
Cantonese word for "nine" sounds like the word for "longevity."
Say no more.
Thai soups are known to be spicy, but the hottest
tom yum kung we've ever had is the one at Lotus Thai on Lockhart
Road in Wanchai (2866-0228). This will set alarm bells ringing
all over town, and we suspect the soup stock has a lot in common
with the waste from nearby Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant. Folks,
Consistently chosen by local sweet-tooths as the top choice in
town for dessert, the aptly named American Pie on Lan Kwai Fong
(2877-9779) is the place to indulge. Our favorite is the banana
cream pie, which, enjoyed on their balcony on a sunny day, is
about as divine as decadence can get.
Of all the daily indignities Hong Kongers have to put up
with--crowds, noise, pollution--you'd think one thing we
wouldn't have to worry about in this urban metropolis is shark
attacks. Not so. Silverstrand Beach near Sai Kung, New
Territories, is a favorite feeding spot for sharks returning to
northern waters in the spring. Since 1990, two deaths and
numerous shark sightings have been reported there.
MOST ENDANGERED SPECIES, PT. 2
At one time our fragrant harbor was filled with the angular red
sails of traditional Chinese fishing junks. Today only one
remains, the Duk Ling, though it's trotted out shamelessly for
promotional films and commercials about the territory. The
60-ft. vessel is now outfitted for private parties. As many as
35 guests can take a two-and-a-half-hour cruise for $710.
MOST BALLETIC PENSIONERS?
Late-night revelers are still dancing to techno-pop in Wanchai
clubs when the tai-chi brigade starts its day, moving to a very
different beat. Though pockets of tai-chi practitioners can be
found throughout Hong Kong (even on rooftops), Victoria Park is
ground zero for geriatric gyrators. But another type of exercise
is becoming popular among the early-morning set: would you
believe, ballroom dancing?
For an old-fashioned straight-razor treatment (complete with hot
towel and mini-massage), try the barber shop on the second floor
of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Central (2522-4858). It's $23
for the works (and you're advised to book ahead), but the shave
is so close you can probably skip your normal razor for a day or
MOST STATELY MANSIONS
More than half of Hong Kong people live in public housing, which
may in fact be the most profound and lasting legacy of British
rule. The largest single subsidized housing development is Yau
Oi Estate in Tuen Mun, with 9,153 units and a population of more
LEAST SEAWORTHY SHIP
There's a ship moored permanently near the ferry pier in Hung
Hom. The only thing unusual about that is the vessel is made of
concrete and sits on the corner of Tak On and Shung King
streets. The centerpiece of residential area Whampoa Gardens is
the hulking concrete replica of a cruise liner. Inside are movie
theaters, restaurants, and an arcade for kids including bumper
cars and a mini roller-rink.
About 25 of the 50 busiest McDonald's restaurants in the world
are located in Hong Kong, but is it McLuck or McThrift that
keeps us heading back for more? Local geomancers give the chain
high marks for feng shui, saying its golden arches and red
colors are pleasing to the spirits that determine fortunes.
Others attribute the chain's amazing success to its prices,
which are among the lowest in the world for the chain. Whatever
the reason, the Star House location in Tsimshatsui is designated
the second-busiest McDonald's on the planet (trailing Moscow's
Pushkin Square outlet). It goes through 2.5 million packs of
ketchup a year.
FOUR PEOPLE YOU'D MOST WANT
TO INVITE ON YOUR YACHT
David Tang: cigar-chomping, Chinese robe-wearing entrepreneur
and founder of both the exclusive China Club and department
store Shanghai Tang. He's usually to be found at a party, often
surrounded by jet-setters like Kevin Costner, Linda Evangelista
John Woo: film director whose celebrated (and violent) buddy
films include The Killer and A Better Tomorrow. Woo's work is an
inspiration to many, including American director Quentin
Anson Chan: head of Hong Kong's civil service, the first woman
and the first Chinese person ever to hold the town's No. 2 post.
Long touted as a possible post-handover chief executive, she'll
have to settle--for now--with remaining in her current job.
Stanley Ho: Hong Kong's most interesting billionaire and the
godfather of Macau. Ho has interests in shipping, property,
casinos, hotels, airlines and restaurants. He's also one heck of
a ballroom dancer.
Though threatened by encroaching development, the wetlands at
the Mai Po Nature Reserve, New Territories, still attract
birdwatchers from around the world--and 325 species of the
feathered folks themselves. You can see everything from a
red-necked stint to an Asiatic golden plover to a black-tailed
godwit as the migrating fowl stop over to munch at the reserve's
The Tsui Museum of Art is also one of Hong Kong's least known
museum's. Established in 1991 by paint magnate and FOB (Friend
of Beijing) T.T. Tsui, the museum displays a selection of
exquisite Chinese antiques, especially porcelain. Tsui has
filled museums from London to Singapore with his good taste, and
this is no exception. It's housed in Central's handsome old Bank
of China building, an architectural gem in a city where anything
more than 10 years old is considered ripe for redevelopment.
MOST PLEASING POINTLESS MACHINE
What keeps Hong Kong going at such a frenetic pace? The Energy
Machine at the Science Museum in Tsimshatsui. OK, maybe that's
not the full explanation, but the four-story, Rube
Goldberg-esque contraption does manage to keep dozens of 2-kg.
balls in continuous motion along 1.6 km. of track, thanks to the
wonders of kinetic energy. Spirals, elevators, zig-zags and
seesaws keep the balls rolling through the intricate maze, as
chimes, gongs and xylophones get played along the way.
If Hong Kong is heaven for shoppers, then New Town Plaza in Sha
Tin is the rough equivalent of Jerusalem. The city's biggest and
busiest shopping metropolis ("mall" doesn't do it justice), New
Town Plaza has 148,000 sq. m. of retail space and attracts
200,000 people daily, double that on Saturdays and Sundays.
You won't quickly forget the ride up the side of Wanchai's
Hopewell Centre in a glass elevator. Though definitely not for
acrophobics, it conveys a sense of just how tall everything in
this town is as you watch the ground recede and head 56 stories
straight up. And, with your stomach in your mouth, down.
BEST MAINLAND KITSCH
When it comes to leftover Cultural Revolution paraphernalia and
softcore shots of semi-naked Beijing beauties from the 1920s,
there are two shops on Hollywood Road that hold a near monopoly.
The LowPrice Second Hand Store, on the harborside of the street
where it meets the escalator, features a bucketful of Mao
buttons that will keep you enthralled for hours. Fine Art Studio
at the western end of Hollywood Road is where you can pick up
your Little Red Book, your bust of the Chairman, and, with luck,
a replica of a character from one of the era's revolutionary
ballets (think Margot Fonteyn in a Red Guard uniform,
brandishing a pistol).
MOST UNLIKELY KING
Tsang Cho-choi takes freedom of speech to the streets as the
city's best-known graffiti artist. Tsang claims he's part of a
clan that's inhabited east Kowloon for more than 2,600 years,
and his street calligraphy is a written protest against the
government for unfairly snatching his family's land. Nicknamed
the "King of Kowloon," 76-year-old Tsang has recently gone
trendy. A local designer has created a line of bed linens with a
pattern inspired by Tsang's work.
MOST FAMOUS FLOPHOUSE
Though fabled as a grimy, rat-infested, fire-prone place for
low-budget lodgers and ne'er-do-wells, Chungking Mansions on
Nathan Road, Tsimshatsui, has cleaned up its act. You can still
find cheap rooms (as low as $8 in some dorm-type facilities) and
a kaleidoscope of cultures, but the thrill of flirting with
danger is gone. The biggest thrills come from the maze of small
shops that make up the ground and first floors. At Morningstar
Company, for instance, you can rent one of 3,500 Indian movies.
BIGGEST (ETC.) BUDDHA
There are beaucoup Buddhas in Asia vying for recognition: the
biggest stone Buddha, the biggest indoor Buddha, the biggest
reclining Buddha. Hong Kong's contribution to the Buddha
sweepstakes is the world's tallest, outdoor, seated bronze
Buddha--a 250-ton statue that stands 24 m. high at the Po Lin
Monastery on Lantau Island.
MOST DURABLE POLITICIAN
A longtime champion of the "grassroots" element of society,
politician Elsie Tu lost her legislative seat in the 1995
election. But she found a new home in the China-appointed
Provisional Legislature. Now, at 84, Elsie's back in the thick
Perhaps the coolest joint in town, and we're not trying to
sound hip, is Gaddi's in the Peninsula Hotel (2366-6251). But
don't worry, the service at this fine-dining establishment is so
meticulous they provide shawls upon request.
You can't be a respectable tycoon in Hong Kong without one. Head
straight for MD Motors, the authorized Rolls-Royce dealer. Hong
Kong has a total of 1,600 now plying the streets: the most per
capita of anywhere in the world, and about 1% of the car-maker's
PINNACLE OF TRANSIT
A trip to the top of Victoria Peak is as much of a thrill for
longtime residents as visitors, and the Peak Tram is definitely
the way to go. The 1.4-km. railway operates on a funicular
cable: one car goes up while the other goes down, at gradients
as steep as one-in-two. This 109-year-old institution has
recently gone high-tech with the opening of the new Peak Tower,
the space-age terminal where the tram stops. Make a quick exit
(past the soon-to-open Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Museum) and
settle in for a welcome repose at the lovely Peak Cafe across
The future chief executive's crew-cut hairstyle is much like the
man himself: practical, pointed, and proudly reminiscent of an
earlier era. Where Tung Chee-hwa gets it done, nobody's letting
on, but his brother was recently seen at the Mandarin barber.
MOST CORPORATE PSYCHIC
Need some other-worldly guidance with that next career move?
Trying to get inside the boss's head? Want to know if the person
across from you at the bargaining table is trustworthy? These
services and more are available from Kathryn Ma, who bills
herself as a "corporate psychic." For $120, she'll come to your
office for a personal session to help you stay on top of the
corporate game. She'll also inconspicuously sit in on important
negotiations and analyze the various energies at work. She
claims she can detect the truths and falsehoods in a deal, and
point out anyone in the room who's lying.
No, we're not talking lamb chops or chop-suey, but chops: the
little stamps that contain your name and other vital statistics.
On Man Wa Lane in Sheung Wan, there are a host of chop makers
who will carve your name (translated into Chinese characters, if
necessary) in marble ($20-$65), jade, agate or crystal ($65 and
up). Or if you prefer, have a handy rubber stamp made to your
BEST PLACE TO GET LOST
In a city that has never believed less is more, you don't find
simple discos, you find "multi-functional entertainment
complexes"--in this case, a 9,000-sq. m. nightlife extravaganza
called Lost City in Tsimshatsui. True to its name, you might
just lose yourself in the maze of karaoke rooms, dance floors,
cafes and zebra-striped sofas. Half film set, half Vegas
ballroom, it's a monument to excess that's setting the night on
Hong Kong's a worldly city, especially when it comes to
knowledge of upmarket wristwatches. The abcs most likely to be
learned by precocious schoolchildren are not Apple, Box and Cat,
but Audemars, Breitling and Cartier. And they can't wait till
they get to the Ps. The most exclusive watch sold in Hong Kong
is the Patek Philippe model ref. 5016, which retails for more
than $3 million.
BEST TRADITIONAL MEDICINE SHOP
Dispensing since 1909, the Eu Yan Sang (2544-3268) shop in
Central is one of the oldest and most traditional Chinese
medicine shops in town, despite the incongruous suits of armor
that decorate the windows. The establishment has a root or bone
or preserved animal part to cure most any ill. Try the dried
seahorse to lower your cholesterol, ginseng for circulation--the
best-quality root costs $19,500 a tael (37.7 grams)--dried gekko
lizard for your kidneys and, of course, deer penis, which is
said to revitalize even lower extremities.
MOST EXPENSIVE TREE
Any spot of green comes at a price in uber-urban Central, but
$24 million? That's the amount spent to preserve a 120-year-old
banyan tree, situated on Supreme Court Road, that was threatened
by the development of Pacific Place.
When the shops have names like Guts and Giants, you know you
aren't in K Mart anymore. Tsimshatsui's Beverley Centre is the
trend mecca for Hong Kong's black-draped 20-somethings. The
shops are tiny--seriously tiny. Some are so small that two
customers cannot stand inside at the same time. Dozens of
mini-boutiques reflect the quirky tastes of young designers and
importers. Most open around 3 p.m. and stay open until late.
Blow all your dough on duty free and a credit card-iac trip to
Joyce Boutique? Have no fear. You can fill your luggage with
bargain-priced casual clothes and factory overruns on Granville
Road in Tsimshatsui.
MOST REGAL CLUB
Though most of Hong Kong's royalty is disappearing with the
handover, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club has steadfastly refused
to give up its majestic monicker. Formerly royal institutions
include the post office, police, observatory, Jockey Club and
the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
UNLIKELIEST BUILDING MATERIAL
Choi Keung, 61, is one of three bamboo scaffolding instructors
at the Construction Industry Training Authority, the only
institution that teaches the craft locally. There are 200 to 300
experienced scaffolders working in Hong Kong today (numbers are
dwindling), and Choi estimates he has trained 150 of them. He
has been a scaffolder since 1954. The average worker can erect
650 sq. ft. of scaffolding a day. Bamboo is the preferred
material: it not only goes up four times faster than steel but
is typhoon-friendlier too.
MOST EGREGIOUS EXCESS
With more billionaires per capita than anyplace else in the
world, modesty and subtlety are not exactly watchwords among the
rich and famous.
Cecil Chao, multimillionaire property developer and man about
town, named his living compound Villa Cecil "because it's a name
easy for everyone to know." Chao lives in a 15,000-sq. ft.
house, and last year was renting out relatively minuscule
4,000-sq. ft. houses on the vast property for $15,600 a month.
Brenda and Kai-bong Chau, Hong Kong's best-known glamour couple,
are famous for bringing the Carnaby Street styles of Swinging
London to fashion-backwater Hong Kong. Today they believe in
dressing to match their Rolls-Royces. Hers is pink, his is gold.
LAMEST HANDOVER GIMMICK
Hong Kong is undeniably the last gasp of the once-great British
Empire, and one local entrepreneur is cashing in on that
distinction by selling Canned Colonial Air--a sealed empty can
that claims its contents are "100% pure pomposity." The item
retails for $7 at hotel gift shops and local stores, and carries
a warning: one sniff could lead to extreme arrogance, stiffening
of the upper lip, or worse!
No surprise that a city whose economy is dominated by a handful
of hongs, or corporate conglomerates, produced the
world-champion Monopoly player last year. Local teacher
Christopher Ng Hon Yuen won the competition in Monte Carlo.
MOST DURABLE SINGER
Cantopop star Sam Hui holds the record for the longest stretch
of concerts at the Hong Kong Coliseum--41 performances given
during a 37-day period in 1992. Total attendance was 462,481,
about 8% of the city's population.
The uniform of Hong Kong's Wealthy Wives Club includes Chanel
suits, Hermes scarves, clunky jewelry, and an expression of
permanent petulance. Topping it all is a power hairdo from Le
Salon Orient, where founder and top stylist Kim Robinson will
attend to you personally for around $340.
Night and day, Hong Kongers greet one another with the words Sek
joh fan, meiya? (Have you eaten yet?). Odds are they have ...
even if it's 4 a.m. With one eating place for every 650 people,
Hong Kong surely boasts one of the highest per-capita
concentrations of cafes and restaurants in the world.
BEST SMOKED TEA DUCK
Keep your Peking duck, your roast duck, your glazed duck. The
absolute best duck we've ever eaten is the smoked tea duck at
Szechuan Lau restaurant in Causeway Bay (2891-9027). As the name
implies, it's smoked, over tea leaves and camphor wood.
Succulent and tender, with a unique flavor that has to be tasted
to be believed. $21 for a half bird (which is sufficient), $42
for a whole.
MOST CHARMING CHEF
As if to prove that all the snakes in Hong Kong are not in
corporate boardrooms, there's a periodic street show in front of
the She Wang Sun snake shop in Wanchai (2891-6639). The chief
handler puts the reptiles through their paces before turning
them into snake soup. If you're lucky, he may choose to kill the
main course by biting off its head.