The Heart of Asia
In the heart of Asia lies a vivacious microcosm no bigger than the size of dot on the world map. With over 7 million residents in one tiny mountainous area, it is one of the world’s most dense metropolises. So why would anyone want to come here in the first place? Its unique blend of history, culture and infrastructure gives the city a life of its own. With an incessantly and bustling lifestyle it has a unique charm that attracts both business people and tourists alike. Whether you are looking to do business, sight-see, shop, taste or party, Hong Kong is Asia’s epicenter of possibility.
Having lived in Hong Kong for a year I have experienced the highs and lows of living a life abroad in this dynamic city. Despite having roots in Hong Kong it is still a rather steep learning curve for expats and visitors alike due to the ‘organized chaos’ that courses through the city. For this reason I have carefully distilled the best experiences into 5 quintessential flavours that Hong Kong has to offer – although Hong Kong is known for as a financial hub it’s not included for the purposes of travel and leisure.
Quintessential Flavor 1: Party Life
The first quintessential flavor of Hong Kong is the night life or shall we say the party life.
The maxim that pervades Hong Kong is ‘work hard, play hard’. While working 14-18 hours a day might sound extremely excessive borderline suicidal, the working professionals (mostly expats) know how to party after a ridiculously long week’s work. The rendezvous for these overworked individuals is none other than ‘Lan Kwai Fong’ (literally boudoir box) or ‘LKF’ for short.
Lan Kwai Fong or LKF
Located in the middle of the CBD in Central, Hong Kong Island, LKF is essentially a square shaped district littered with a spectrum of bars and clubs left, right, center, up and down. There are also restaurants however it is predominantly bars and clubs. Although the patronage of these bars and clubs are rowdy expats and tourists, on the outskirts of this “boudoir box” are bars and clubs catered for more locals and those expats with refined eclectic tastes.
Mid-levels or Soho
If getting blind-drunk and passing out on the streets before 12am is not your cup of tea, 5 minutes away is ‘mid-levels’ an area touted for expats and tourists with more refined tastes. Mid-levels or Soho is as you expect, broad and boutique without compromising on quality. You will find anything from chilled out shisha smoking bars to romantic lounge bars to fancy European restaurants that will clean out your wallet with exorbitant prices.
Apart from the Central district, Hong Kong has an alternative party district catered more for locals and those who just want to relax. Knutsford terrace located in Tsim Sha Tsui or TST is Hong Kong’s relaxed party destination located far away from LKF on Hong Kong Island. The night life is just as colorful and diverse however without the noise and chaos of LKF. You will find a range of exotic bars and restaurants along with the option of spa houses, massages, saunas and anything you associate with letting go and unwinding. The surround area of TST is scattered with a premium range of bars and restaurants that boasts spectacular views of Victoria Harbor. Although they can be quite ‘pricey’ the views are often well worth it not to mention breath taking (when it’s not masked in pollution).
Quintessential Flavor 2: Shopping
If you haven’t heard before, Hong Kong is touted as being a shopper’s paradise. The city is literally built for retail therapy. Giant malls are conveniently located at all major suburbs and conjoint to the MTR (the railway network) making traveling between shopping districts a seamless experience. Despite its unbelievable convenience, shopping is incredibly diverse depending on your budget. From the traditional street markets to hidden shopping complexes and from monopolized emporiums to upmarket megamalls if shopping is your vice then prepare to ‘shop till you drop’. I will be focusing on specific shopping districts rather specific markets or malls.
Causeway Bay is the first of Hong Kong’s mecca for shopping located 3 stops from the CBD. Not only will you find Times Square (Yes that’s right Hong Kong has its own Times Square but on miniature scale) you will find the World Trade Center (yet another shopping center). In between and surrounding these two megamalls you will countless shops of types and sizes, not to mention a massive emporium for luxury goods. The Causeway Bay district will leave your legs weak and your wallet empty with the amount of shopping potential. It’s best to shop early during the weekdays rather than weekends or else the massive crowds can slow you down and fluster you.
Tsim Sha Tsui
On the other side of the Hong Kong metropolis is Tsim Sha Tsui or TST for short which happens to be located on a scenic peninsula of Kowloon. Here you would expect some serious shopping, with massive stretches of megamalls attached to 5-star hotels and skyscraper height shopping centers you will be amazed at how the shopping experience can vary. The two main hotspots for shopping within TST is ‘Harbor City’ (upmarket fashion and luxury goods) and ‘The One’ (boutique shops and restaurants), however as usual there is an abundance of shopping in between.
Unless you want to be a walking ambassador for brands aim to go to local vendors and avoid the upscale brands as they are primarily intended to lure wealthy 'mainlanders' from China.
If flea markets are your thing then it doesn’t get better than Mong Kok. The famous ‘Ladies Market’ is located in possibly the busiest and most population dense regions of Hong Kong. Here you will find almost anything you can think of (except quality) from tourist T-shirts with ‘I heart HK’ iron ons to blatantly obvious counterfeit CK and LV products. The essence of the abundance of flea markets in Hong Kong and its vast independent boutique stores is bargaining power. These local stores usually have inflated prices as they operate from an economy of scale so if your bargaining skills are sharp then this is your shopping paradise. The surround area of Mong Kok is also overly populated with stores of all kinds and of all quantities – you can literally find 5 jewellery stores of the same company ‘right next to each other!’ or 6 ‘7-elevens’ on the same block. If you’re looking for some unique fashion then you can head over to Argyle Center located conveniently nearby, a modern multi-storey mall comprising of a range of boutique stalls mainly fashion and accessories. In essence, you will never be short of finding a place to spend money on.
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In the next part of 'The 5 Essential Flavors of Hong Kong - Part 2' we will look at the last 3 important flavors of Hong Kong: Eating, Sightseeing & Nature.