FX Excursions

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Post-Business, Indulge In All Hong Kong Offers

Sep 1, 2015
2015 / August 2015

We barely have time to wash the sleep from our eyes when we gather for a sunrise tai chi class on an outside deck at our hotel in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Our tai chi master integrates teachings about the history of this martial art into an hour-long lesson demonstrating and practicing the series of deliberate movements and breath coordination. This is meditation in motion and is practiced by locals in Hong Kong’s parks, waterfront locales and other scenic spots.

I find the slow pace and strengthening moves more challenging than expected but also more rewarding. At once relaxed and energized from our session, our small group of business colleagues embarks on a tour of Kowloon, a tourist and business hub spanning a peninsula north of Hong Kong Island.

We start at Tsim Sha Tsui, a concentration of stores, shopping malls, restaurants and office buildings at the southern tip of the Kowloon peninsula, and also a mini cultural hub with its museums and Avenue of Stars. Based on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, the Avenue of Stars snakes around the Victoria Harbour waterfront, honoring celebrities from the Hong Kong film industry. I don’t recognize many names but stop at one figure I know, a bronze statue of Bruce Lee.

This is the start to a three-day, post-business grab bag of sightseeing throughout Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and the New Territories, indulging in Hong Kong’s haute cuisine, decadent nightlife and endless shopping along the way.

Hong Kong Space Museum

Hong Kong Space Museum © Au_yeung225 | Dreamstime.com

In Kowloon, we wander past the Hong Kong Space Museum, comprising two wings. The east wing, located under the dome, is the planetarium’s core, housing the Hall of Space Science and the Space Theatre, while the west wing houses the Hall of Astronomy. Between the center and the pier stands the historic 1915 Clock Tower, once part of the Kowloon-Canton Railway terminus.

Kowloon is a hub for the arts, featuring the Hong Kong Art Museum, which preserves the cultural heritage of China and promotes local art including Chinese paintings and calligraphy works. Also on the waterfront is the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, home to the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and other performance troupes.

Our guide explains a new arts hub, the West Kowloon Cultural District, is being completed in phases and will incorporate more than a dozen performing arts venues and more than seven acres of open piazzas, as well as the M+ museum for visual culture, focusing on 20th- and 21st-century art, design, architecture and moving images.

Another Kowloon specialty is shopping, and our group makes a short stop at the Jade Market to explore rows and rows of jade pieces — green dragons, purple Buddhas, yellow pendants. I chat with a proprietor who cuts me a deal on two dragons, which I snap up despite my vow to resist the shopping urge.

We also stop at Hong Kong Bird Market, known as the Yuen Po Bird Garden, located in the busy area of Mongkok and as much a cultural icon as the museums and other institutions. Rows of bamboo cages containing songbirds fill the market, along with bags of crickets and other live insects used for feeding.

En route to lunch, we visit the Taoist Wong Tai Sin Temple, also called Sik Sik Yuen. We admire its nine-dragon wall and watch locals practice the fortune-telling ritual of kau cim, which entails lighting incense sticks and kneeling before the main altar with a cylinder full of fortune sticks. Many people who visit the temple come to have their fortunes told. Red pillars, blue friezes and multiple colorful carvings festoon the 1921 temple.

For another dose of culture, we head to Nan Lian Garden in the Diamond Hill area of Kowloon, a soothing respite designed in the Tang Dynasty and offering its Pavilion of Absolute Perfection as well as water features and other landscaping. An on-site vegetarian restaurant first began providing meals in post-war Hong Kong more than 50 years ago.

Golden Pavilion in Nan Lian Garden at Diamond Hill, Kowloon

Golden Pavilion in Nan Lian Garden at Diamond Hill, Kowloon © Ixuskmitl | Dreamstime.com

We spend the afternoon shopping along Nathan Road, the main drag in Kowloon, and wander the nearby outdoor Ladies Market, a bargain hunter’s dream for T-shirts, carvings, handbags, electronics and a host of other accessories, trinkets and souvenirs.

Our evening ends back in Tsim Sha Tsui at Knutsford Terrace, an open-air mall with a variety of restaurants and pubs. We pause at a local center for foot reflexology, a practice said to prevent disease and promote health through various pressure points. With our feet revived, we end our day in the chaos of the Temple Street Night Market, another labyrinth of clothes and souvenirs.

The following day begins with a morning excursion to Victoria Peak (1,818 feet), taking a ride up on the Peak Tram to Sky Terrace 428, touted as the highest viewing platform in Hong Kong. Low-lying clouds impede our view; we catch snippets of Victoria Harbour down below but have to use our imaginations and some postcards to picture the skyline in all its sun-soaked glory.

Another viewpoint overlooking the harbor, the Hong Kong Observation Wheel rises nearly 200 feet above its prime location along the Central Waterfront Promenade. The promenade extends from the Central Star Ferry Pier to Admiralty, traversing through Tamar Park. Still in the building phase, once the promenade is completed by 2017, it will link to Wanchai, connecting with the Hong Kong Convention Centre, Bauhinia Square and the Wanchai Star Ferry Pier.

We stop in the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, which promotes Hong Kong’s seafaring heritage, before walking through Central, where a kaleidoscope of double-decker trams adds color to the surroundings. Hong Kong Tramways, founded in 1904, now operates a fleet of 163 tramcars.

On the southern end of Hong Kong Island, we visit the fishing village of Aberdeen for lunch at the Jumbo Kingdom, the largest floating restaurant in the world. We brave a spate of wet weather on the Top Deck before the sun breaks through and highlights the surrounding Aberdeen Harbour.

We later drive past the posh homes along Repulse Bay toward Stanley for a visit to the Stanley Market, a maze of stalls hawking traditional Chinese-style paintings, brand-name clothing, jewelry and souvenirs.

Late afternoon, the Star Ferry takes us from Central across Victoria Harbour back to Kowloon, where we find another epic view from the International Commerce Centre’s sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck overlooking the harbor.

Local cuisine, Hong Kong

Local cuisine © Deedreamstime | Dreamstime.com

For a taste of history, our group tours the grounds and dines at the 1881 Heritage development, the former headquarters of the Hong Kong Marine Police. It comprises a boutique heritage hotel, Hullett House; eight food and drink venues; and a shopping mall. We opt for classic Chinese cuisine at Loong Toh Yuen.

On our final day, we head to a private box at the Sha Tin Racecourse, the site of the equestrian events of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. I brush up on the background of today’s racehorses as we place our bets, hoping to come away with enough money for more late-night market shopping.

In the early evening, my colleagues and I sail out for a cruise on Victoria Harbour aboard the Aqua Luna, a restored traditional Chinese junk that lends views of the Hong Kong skyline from the privacy of our own boat, sipping Champagne and eating hors d’oeuvres along the way.

For our finale, we take in the nightly 15-minute A Symphony of Lights multimedia show, projected on more than 40 buildings on both sides of the harbor. Then it’s one last night of bar-hopping in Central, in the booming Lan Kwai Fong nightlife district, where the sounds of live music and DJs pour out of bars and nightclubs and Hong Kong’s young crowd spills out from myriad restaurants and dance venues — a world apart from the way our trip began with that quiet hour of tai chi.

Hong Kong Info to Go

More than 100 airlines link Hong Kong International Airport with about 180 destinations worldwide, including cities across the United States. A three-runway system expansion is planned to meet growing traffic. The world’s largest fleet of ferries provides a convenient way to travel between Hong Kong, Macau and other neighboring Chinese cities. Hong Kong is building an express railway from Kowloon to Guangzhou on the mainland that will link to China’s high-speed railway network, due for completion this year. Slated for 2016 is the 31-mile Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau bridge, giving Hong Kong access to its neighboring cities and shortening the journey to Macau to about 45 minutes.

Where to Stay in Hong Kong

InterContinental Hong Kong With more than 500 guestrooms and decadent suites, the waterfront property offers some of the city’s best dining: SPOON by Alain Ducasse, Yan Toh Heen and The Steak House winebar + grill. 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui $$$$

Langham Place Mongkok, Hong Kong This European-style hotel in the heart of the city’s shopping mecca offers fine dining at its Michelin-starred Ming Court restaurant. 555 Shanghai St., Mongkok, Kowloon $$$

The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong The luxury property sets its 312 guestrooms on floors 102 to 118 of Hong Kong’s tallest building. Sip cocktails at Ozone, overlooking Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island. International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road W., Kowloon $$$$$

Restaurants in Hong Kong

Hello Kitty Chinese Cuisine The world’s first Hello Kitty dim sum restaurant offers healthy organic food. Chefs with 40 years of experience in Cantonese cuisines produce colorful Cantonese dim sum amid Hello Kitty décor. Shop A–C, Lee Loy Mansion, 3 32-338 Canton Road, Kowloon $$

Ho Lee Fook Meaning “good fortune for your mouth,” the funky kitchen inspired by old-school Hong Kong cha chaan tengs and late-night Chinatown in 1960s New York serves inventive cuisine by Taiwanese chef Jowett Yu. G/F No. 1-5 Elgin St., Central $$

Pierre Sophisticated Pierre brings modern French accents to its 25th-floor perch above Victoria Harbour. The luxurious dining spot with stunning views is part of the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road, Central $$$$$

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FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.


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