Emma’s Hong Kong

Hello city-lovers! Today’s city lover is Emma Torry, a Londoner who loves Hong Kong and all of its extravagance.

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Hong Kong is My City

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is for drinks at RED Bar in the International Finance Centre and then dinner at Bistro Manchu (33 Elgin Street, +852 2536 9218). RED Bar has fantastic views across Victoria Harbour and of Central’s skyline, and Bistro Manchu serves some of the most delicious northeastern Chinese food in Hong Kong. I’m from London so mostly have visitors coming in from there. The flights usually arrive in the late afternoon–perfect timing for a shower, change of clothes, and then drinks and dinner.

When I crave dim sum I always go to Dragon-i. I admit, it’s not the most authentic dim sum experience, but boy is it good!

To escape the city I head to the beautiful beaches of Shek-O and Sai Kung.

If I want to shop I go to the boutiques in Soho. I especially recommend Tiare and Mint and Lemongrass, both are on Staunton Street. For shoes go to Vicki’s in the lanes (Li Yuen Street East, Central). They will tailor-make shoes to fit your feet perfectly for as much as it costs to buy a pair of nasty plastic numbers in London or New York. If there’s a particular style you like you can take a picture for them to copy. They will also copy worn-out shoes that you love and can’t let go of.

For complete quiet, I can hide away on Lantau. The island boasts miles of secluded hiking trails, beaches and relaxed restaurants. Ooh La La (Pui O beach, +852 2984 8710) and Stoep (Cheung Sha beach, +852 2980 2699) are both great if you feel like a low-key day of eating and sunbathing on the beach. If you’re feeling energetic you can get the ferry from Central to Mui Wo and then hike to the beach, it takes about three hours. Otherwise, you can get a bus from just outside the Mui Wo ferry terminal.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken with the views from Victoria Peak. Don’t bother waiting in the ridiculously long line for the Peak Tram to take you up the peak, just get a taxi! There’s a very easy (and flat) three-kilometer walk around the peak which offers fantastic views over Central Hong Kong and across to the outlying islands. Once you’re finished, get the Peak Tram down. There are never any queues on the way back.

The Lane Crawford outlet store (25F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing St., Ap Lei Chau; +852 2118 3403) is my one-stop shop for great discounted designer numbers. It’s in the Horizon Plaza Mall in Ap Lei Chau, which is also home to the city’s best furniture shops.

Locals know to skip tedious airport check-in and lugging heavy bags around town, and check out the check-in services at the Airport Express

stations in Hong Kong or Kowloon instead. If you have an afternoon, evening, or nighttime flight, you can check in in the morning and leave your heavy luggage, and then just hop on the Airport Express train later in the day when it’s time to get your flight. Genius.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to Nha Trang (88 – 90 Wellington Street, +852 2581 9992) to eat. Delicious Vietnamese food for just a few dollars. The pho is amazing. You can’t book so go early or go late.

For a huge splurge I go have cocktails on board the chic Aqua Luna junk (a traditional Chinese-style “sailing” boat) followed by dinner at either Aqua or Hutong (29F and 28F, One Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui; +852 3427 2288). I recommend booking the 7 p.m. sailing of the Aqua Luna so you can get to Aqua’s bar–Aqua Spirit–for 7:45 p.m. At 8 p.m. every night Hong Kong puts on a light show where lasers are beamed from the city’s skyscrapers. Aqua is on Kowloon side and has magnificent views of the famous Hong Kong skyline.

The most random thing about my city is you can get mobile phone reception absolutely everywhere, even in the depths of the MTR system.

As a Londoner who’s grown up with a public transport system that’s still stuck in the Victorian era, that’s pretty bizarre.

In my city, an active day outdoors involves a hike along the Dragon’s Back–a walking trail on the South Side of Hong Kong island–followed by a swim on either Shek-O beach or Big Wave Bay. Both beaches have great lunch spots if the hike has left you feeling peckish.

My favorite jogging route is Bowen Road. It’s 100% geared toward runners and the views are outstanding.

For a night of dancing, go to Kee Club or Gecko (LG/F, Ezra Lane Lower Hollywood Road). Or, for live music, check out The Cavern or Insomnia on Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s notorious party street.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read HK magazineHK magazine and TimeOut Hong Kong.

You can tell a lot about my city from just wandering through the streets. Compared with other world cities, Hong Kong has relatively few “sights,” so you’re free to explore the city’s myriad of lanes, markets, and huge shopping malls.

You can tell if someone is from my city if it sounds like they are having an argument when they are speaking to each other.

In the spring you should make the most of the relative lack of humidity and explore Hong Kong’s great outdoors.

In the fall you should spend as many weekends as you can out on a junk. Jaspas Party Junk can cater for up to 40 people.

All you have to do is show up and you are waited on hand and foot all day long as you bask in the sunshine and swim in the sea.

A hidden gem in my city is the China Tee Club (1F Pedder Building, Pedder Street, Central), not to be confused with the China Club. You’ll have to get your concierge to book for you, as it’s members only, but it’s a colonial-style oasis in the heart of Central: think overhead fans, kitschy booths, and delicious food. It’s great for both lunch and afternoon tea.

For a great breakfast joint try The Brunch Club (70 Peel Street, Soho; +852 2526 8861).

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Don’t miss the Mid-Autumn Festival on October 3rd. During the festival everyone goes nuts for “Moon Cakes”, special cakes made from ground lotus and sesame seed paste and duck egg-yolk. The city’s parks, especially Victoria Park, look really pretty decorated with masses of Chinese paper lanterns, which are lit up at night.

Just outside my city, you can visit Macau, Asia’s answer to Las Vegas.

It’s just an hour away from Hong Kong by ferry and boasts a Venetian, a Wynn, an MGM and many other casinos. But it’s not just casinos, either.

Macau has a pretty old town that was built by the Portuguese, plus has a lot of great restaurants and places to stay.

The best way to see my city is by boat. Whether it’s the Star Ferry, a junk or a sampan, Hong Kong looks best from the water.

The best book about my city is Gweilo: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood by Martin Booth or Fragrant Harbor by John Lanchester.

My city should be featured on your cover or website because it offers the perfect combination of fast-paced city living, amazing architecture, great eating, buzzing nightlife, fantastic shopping, and the great outdoors with its rugged trails, ravines, and waterfalls. You can hop from an incense-filled temple to the super-modern city to a beautiful, unspoiled white sand beach within an hour.

For more about Hong Kong, check out Traveler’s Places of a Lifetime guide.

Photos: junk at night, Bob Maske; all others courtesy Emma Torry

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