Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 19, 2017

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Hong Kong

From bustling night markets to rooftop bars, this South China metropolis is the ultimate city that never sleeps

Cosmopolitan, congested, dynamic and dramatic, Hong Kong is made for exploring. Whether you’re eager to shop, eat or sightsee, this buzzing metropolis clinging to a steep island off China’s south coast remains one of the world’s foremost urban experiences. Equal parts labyrinth and laboratory, Hong Kong bursts with futuristic technology and design, all of it cheek by jowl with a treasure trove of curiosities and discoveries in every market and alley.

Frenetic and occasionally overwhelming, the seven-million-strong city is made manageable by its walkable size and excellent transport network (buses, ferries, trams, taxis and the world’s most efficient subway). It’s also assiduously clean, polite and safe. Making the most of Hong Kong, even on a brief visit, is much easier than it initially seems — saying goodbye and going home, on the other hand, can be more difficult.

Friday

6PM: RED SAILS AND SKYLINE
An intensely vertical place with more high-rises than Manhattan and hills that plunge into the South China Sea, Hong Kong is undoubtedly a city of views. A good way to get oriented is from the waters of Victoria Harbour, the 900-metre strip of sea separating Hong Kong Island (site of the downtown area of Central) from the district of Kowloon on the mainland.

The panoramic views of skyscrapers lining the shores are spectacular, especially when seen from the Aqua Luna (Pier 9, Central; tel: 011-852-2116-8821; aqua.com.hk), a glamorous Chinese junk that regularly plies the harbour. Easy to catch from Central’s pier, the red-sailed Aqua Luna is outfitted in regal antique style. Guests loll on canopied couches and sip cocktails as the cityscape drifts by, its forest of skyscrapers pulsing after dark with laser beams and neon. A 45-minute sailing is $20. (All prices in Canadian dollars.)

8PM: HOT ON THE SCENE
A hotbed of pan-Chinese cuisine, Hong Kong has delicacies and exotic offerings easily obtainable at casual eateries, seemingly on every corner. It's also home to many internationally acclaimed chefs and some of the world’s best-stocked wine cellars. Ye Shanghai (Marco Polo Hotel, Harbour City; tel: 011-852-2376-3322; www.elite-concepts.com), on Kowloon’s waterfront, boasts two Michelin stars for its exquisite original sauces and fresh take on regional seafood recipes. September to January is fresh-water crab season: a set menu is around $114 per person.

10:30PM: OUT ON THE TOWN
Hong Kong’s extensive nightlife is geared to every imbibing age group, budget and taste. Watering holes range from seedy seamen’s haunts (the Wan Chai area) to carnival-like bar zones filled with youths dancing in alleys (Lan Kwai Fong), to countless clubs and lounges, many opulent and pricey. Ozone (1 Austin Road West; tel: 011-852-2263-2263; ozone.com.hk), on the 118th floor of the Kowloon Ritz-Carlton Hotel boasts the world’s highest outdoor bar and patio. Sip a blueberry mojito and chill to the DJ as clouds float by at eye-level: you’re 587 metres above the lights of the harbour.

Saturday

10:15AM: WALK THROUGH CENTRAL
Back at ground level, a good way to regain your bearings is to start off the day wandering Hong Kong Island on the three-hour guided Architecture Walk (meet at City Hall Annex, 3 Edinburgh Place, Central, tel: 011-852-2508-1234; bit.ly/Ra74VX; daily, $25) offered by the city’s tourism bureau. Taking you through more than 200 years of life in the downtown district of Central, you visit incense-filled Buddhist temples, Gothic-style colonial buildings and famous skyscrapers by modern masters — these last engineering marvels often built according to feng shui spiritual principles.

For the tired of feet, there are outdoor escalators up city hills and the world’s longest external moving sidewalks. The tour ventures past Ice House Street, a cool avenue of wild international fashion, and then winds through the Mid Level area, a neighbourhood known for expatriates, before finishing back at City Hall and the harbour.

1PM: THE SUM OF PLEASURE
Weekends are the preserve of dim sum lunches, the sumptuous assortments of dumplings and small dishes served in rapid succession, often in large, convivial dining halls. Conveniently located beside the finish line of the Architecture Walk, Maxim’s Palace (3rd floor, City Hall, 5-7 Edinburgh Place, Central; tel: 011-852-2521-1303) is an enormous mirrored ballroom crowded with feasting families and loud waitresses: the parade of food takes up most of the early afternoon.

The cramped Tim Ho Wan (2-20 Kwong Wa Street, Mong Kok; tel: 011-852-2332-2896) is Lilliputian in comparison, but worth trying to get a table: locals wait up to four hours to sample its sugar-coated baked barbecued pork buns (about $2). On weekdays, Central’s NoHo and SoHo international culinary district offers a wide variety of cuisines. Gough 40 Café Bar (40 Gough Street, Central; tel: 011-852-2851-8498) wins the prize for elegant service and immaculate presentation in a street scene setting. Sup on lobster pasta and watch mah jong matches or jugglers through the French doors: a meal for one without wine is around $80.

2:30PM: SUBWAY TO BUDDHA
Hong Kong is undoubtedly special, the kind of place where you casually take the subway to a neighbouring island and disembark by a mountain — a peak imposingly topped with a 34-metre bronze Buddha. That’s what happens when you take the Tung Ching Line from Central to Lantau Island.

Once there, you stare up at Mt. Ngong Ping, then hop the No. 23 bus, or risk “the 360” (a glass-floored cable car with views over the ocean), to arrive at the summit where the giant Tian Tan Buddha waits eternally. Approached by a long series of steps, the Buddha is hollow and contains three floors of shrines and holy relics. There is a monastery nearby, as well as a more worldly tourist village filled with gift shops and cafés that also hosts the bus stop. Lantau Island boasts a number of long sandy beaches, as well as Disneyland Hong Kong.

4:30PM: MARKETS GALORE
On the way back from the Buddha, get off the Tung Ching subway line in Kowloon at either the Prince Edward or Mong Kok East stations. You’re in the vicinity of Kowloon’s many fascinating markets, all grouped according to their wares to make stuff easy to find: there are markets for souvenirs, eyeware, sneakers, counterfeit goods, bona fide electronics, jewellery, gems, flowers, Chinese medicine and ladies undergarments, among other things.

Hardier personalities can check out butchers’ and fishmongers’ markets, along with the Yuien Po Street Bird Garden (flocks of tropical songbirds and parrots for sale) and the Tung Choi Street Goldfish Market (tropical fish and sea life displayed in water-filled plastic bags). Return to the nearby Temple Street market after dark and it fills with vendors, hawkers, acrobats, open air Chinese opera singers and fortune tellers.

7:30PM: “FISH STEW BONE” Located on the Kowloon side of the narrow eastern strait into Hong Kong Harbour, the fishing village of Lei Yue Mun came to prominence years ago when it became fashionable to visit for meals of fresh seafood, metres from the ocean. Long since a Hong Kong institution, the village has been absorbed by Kowloon and is now a maze-like neighbourhood of covered stalls offering a startling abundance of alive-and-kicking aquatic life, much of it on the larger side — watch for huge jellyfish and crabs, clams with bizarre proboscises and cuttlefish and squid the size of small dogs, along with many colourful and spectacular fish. All, of course, are destined for the pot, and the Hyde Park Garden Restaurant (44 Praya Street, Lei Yue Mun; tel: 011-852-2717-6381; hydeparkdeli.com) is a good place to test the results. Dishes interestingly rendered in English (“large spot fish stew bone”) invariably turn out to be delicious on consumption.

10PM: MIXOLOGY
The cocktail revolution has washed over Hong Kong’s shores in recent years. The Varga Lounge (36 Staunton Street; tel: 011-852-2104-9697; greenflashgroup.com.hk) has tipples like the Green Fairy (absinthe and pineapple; $12) to go with retro furniture and splashy '50s design. Lily and Bloom (33 Wyndham Street; tel: 011-852-2810-6166; lily-bloom.com) offers such fare as a blackberry-mangosteen sidecar ($15) to accompany its eye-catching space, while Sugar (32nd floor, 29 Taikoo Shing Road, Island East; tel: 011-852-3968-3738; sugar-hongkong.com), a hip rooftop bar in East Hong Kong, keeps Latin staff to dispense mojitos and Brazilian caipirinhas.

Sunday

10AM: SEASIDE HAVEN
Located on the southern far side of Hong Kong Island, away from the heavily populated Central and mainland-facing shore, the community of Stanley is an expatriate haven that features a souvenir market, seaside boulevard with cafés and bars and two large sand beaches popular with wind surfers. A good place to eat a western brunch in holiday surroundings, you can do so in the time it takes for a traditional “chop” to be fashioned (a chop is an ink stamp featuring your name in Cantonese). Stanley is reached via Repulse Bay Road and Tai Tam Road and is easy to get to with buses from across Hong Kong. En route, check out the nearby Repulse Bay Hotel, a startling building with a large rectangular hole built into its centre to dissipate cyclone-force winds during monsoon season.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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