HONG KONG – I have a number of favourite places in this
great city; Kowloon Park, Victoria Peak (naturally), the Lord Stow’s bakery Portuguese egg tarts from Macau that they sell at the Excelsior Hotel’s Expresso shop, a fun and busy milk tea shop in central called Lan Fong Yuen and the Star Ferry between Kowloon and Central; perhaps the world’s most romantic and historic boat ride.
All great places, and all places I visited again this time around. But I also managed to add in five awesome, new places and activities; always a nice thing.
1. The Aqua Luna harbour cruise. I can’t believe I’d never done this before, but the tourism board suggested I try a harbour cruise in a Chinese Junk replica so I figured I’d give it a go. It was a glorious hour out on the water on a perfect night; about 25 degrees with a nice breeze and reasonably clear skies. The red sails on the ship were a great contrast to the dark skies, and the lights of the buildings in both central Hong Kong and Kowloon were glorious. You also get a free glass of wine or a beer, although your jet-lagged correspondent opted for a Coke. A tremendous way to spend an evening in a great city.
2. Yonge Piggies. This is a world class food city, but only recently have they offered world class sausages and poutine. Yonge Piggies is a classic-looking diner spot in Sheung Wan operated by Andrew Cheung, a Hong Kong born but Toronto raised guy who got the business together with some fellow buddies from St. Andrews College in Aurora. He brings in a variety of sausages from Canada, as well as Canadian poutine, and serves them up to a mix of locals and ex-pats hungry for a taste of home. Andrew also has home-made milkshakes (voted best in the city) and home-made chili and pulled pork and he’ll even dish out a poutine plate called Porky’s Revenge; fries and gravy and cheese curds topped with pulled pork, double cooked bacon and sausage slices called “teasers.” Unbelievably tasty and fun. Oh, try the chocolate and bacon milkshake. Unbelievable! And look for more later on Andrew and Yonge Piggies in the Toronto Star’s travel section.
3. Knutsford Terrace. I stumbled onto this Kowloon laneway after reading a sentence in one of my guidebooks If you walk up Nathan Road from the Star Ferry you’ll come to Kimberly St. Turn right and then look for the steps rising to your left a hundred yards in from Nathan Road. The steps lead to an elevated laneway that runs maybe 100 yards and is lined with ten or twelve restaurants with outdoor patios on a lane with no cars. YOu can go downscale at Bahama Mama’s and get a San Miguel draught beer for $6 at happy hour, or live it up at one of several Italian restaurants or at the Salted Pig, where pork is what you’ll find on your fork. Or on your chopsticks. A great place to cool off and escape the noise and traffic of Tsim Sha Tsui.
4. Lamma Island. I’ve never taken the time to explore any of the outer islands, so this time I opted to take a boat ride on a Sunday afternoon to Lamma. It’s about a half hour from Central Hong Kong, passing alongside giant apartment towers on one edge of Hong Kong Island before heading the short distance to Lamma. There are exposed orange-red rocks on the shore and a small pagoda, and then, wham, you’re in the harbour. There’s a ramshackle fishing village and then a small main street that’s filled with lively and extremely casual cafes and small shops selling cans of imported beer for a buck, plus snacks and towels and such. There are some interesting shops and a bookstore where a hippie-looking guy was reading poetry and a couple English-style pubs, plus pizza joints and Chinese restaurants selling live blue and red crabs and geoduck, which looks a lot, sorry, like a giant penis. Anyway, it’s about a 15 minute walk to a nice beach and you stroll past more casual food joints and shops and a place called Grandma’s that sells bean curd topped with a sweet bit of what I thought was tea or honey. I didn’t like it much but there a million folks sampling her goods under the shade of a banyan tree on a warm, rainy day. The beach isn’t bad but is nothing to write home about and is backed by a giant power plant. The walk is pretty enough, with forested growth overhead and giant leaves shaped like bright green elephant ears and a real jungle feel. There are a slew of casual cafes at the beach, where the water is warm and there’s a net to keep out any nasty critters. It’s not a bad place, but I found Lamma fairly dirty and quite crowded on a Sunday. Maybe it would be better on a sunny day during the week…Still, worth the trip and something different to do.
5. Eaton Hong Kong Hotel. I wrote extensively about the Ritz Carlton the other day. It’s awesome but obviously beyond the budget of many average folks. If you’re looking for something more affordable but with plenty of style and in an excellent location, look no further than the Eaton in Kowloon. It’s a two or three minute walk to the Jordan station on the MTR (subway) and you can get to Central HOng Kong in less than 10 minutes. It’s also only a block or so from the Temple Street night market, where you can buy knickknacks and flashlights and sex toys (hard to believe, but true; right there on the street) or dine out in casual, roadside eateries or (probably not a good idea) listen to Chinese karaoke singers. There’s a nice pool and work out room but what I really liked was the clean decor (light wood and apple green accents), nice bathrooms (simple but all you need and reasonably spacious) and the bright lobby area, with a pretty atrium filled with light and an outdoor resting area with bamboo and other plantings; a nice respite from the madness of Kowloon. Rooms for around $180 and up in November.