My Travel Philosophy And Why I Love Hong Kong

I’m in Hong Kong again, which is hands down my favorite city in the world. I’ve visited it well over a dozen times, and I don’t think there’s a city I’m more passionately familiar with than Hong Kong (I get lost in New York despite the “grid” system, yet I could guide you around Hong Kong with my eyes closed).

I get asked all the time why I love Hong Kong so much, and I have a hard time explaining it. So I figured I’d step back and kind of explain what I enjoy when it comes to travel, and frame that in the context of Hong Kong.

To me there are two kinds of destinations — “Google Images” destinations and not “Google Images” destinations. What do I mean?

I think it’s summed up pretty well in this scene of the movie The Guilt Trip, where Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand are standing in front of the Grand Canyon and say “wow, look at this, I always wanted to see the Grand Canyon” and then after an awkward pause say “so, um, how long are we supposed to look at it?”

I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, but I certainly get the same feeling about many other destinations and landmarks. The idea is that I get as much out of the destinations by looking at pictures of them on Google Images as I do by “experiencing” them.

Here’s a personal example, and I know many will disagree with me — I’m not a huge fan of Paris (I don’t dislike it, but also don’t go out of my way to visit). The Eiffel Tower, for example, “does” nothing for me. I get as much out of looking at it on Google Images as I do looking at it in person. Again, I realize many love Paris and will disagree with me, but that’s the beauty of travel — we can all be into different things.

So what do I like to do when I travel? I love:

  • Wandering aimlessly and getting lost.
  • Sitting at a Starbucks and observing locals, from the way they walk to the way they socialize.
  • Anything with nice views of things with “moving” parts. I’m a sucker for views.

What I don’t generally like to do while traveling is:

  • Museums. I’m just not a museum person, and if I want to read about the history of a place I’ll do so online.
  • While I like food (who doesn’t?), I’m not someone that connects to cities through food. In other words, I don’t have to go to a different “local” restaurant every night in order to feel like I’ve experienced a city (which may have more to do with the fact that I’m usually asleep by dinnertime no matter where in the world I am).

I guess what it comes down to for me is that I love cities with “vibes.” If I can spend 90% of my time walking around and observing people I’m happy.

So why do I love Hong Kong so much?

First of all, Hong Kong is just such a gorgeous city. As far as I’m concerned Hong Kong has the most beautiful skyline in the entire world. Even though I’ve visited well over a dozen times, I literally get giddy every time I arrive in Hong Kong and see the Hong Kong Island skyline from The Avenue of Stars.

Hong-Kong-3

Typically when I land in a foreign city I’m tired and just want to sleep, but last night upon landing I was genuinely excited about seeing The Symphony of Lights… as I am every time I land in Hong Kong.

It’s a lights show every night at 8PM and while it’s touristy as hell, it literally makes my face light up every time. I feel like a six year old watching the Cinderella parade at Disney World.

Similarly, while it’s touristy, the view from Victoria Peak leaves me in awe every time.

Hong-Kong-1

But what I really love about Hong Kong is the vibe — it’s one of the only cities in Asia I could actually imagine living in. You have parts of Kowloon where you literally feel like you’re in the middle of China, while you take the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island and feel like you’re in the cleanest, most modern city in the world.

Hong-Kong-2

I don’t know, I realize I’m all over the place, because I can’t actually put into words why I love Hong Kong. And I think that’s actually what makes travel beautiful. If I could put into words what I loved about it so much, then it could be experienced “virtually” and there would be no need to visit.

But there’s something about Hong Kong that leaves me feeling energized, that leaves me feeling like I’m missing out on life if I’m not out in the streets. And every time I leave Hong Kong I get that empty feeling in the pit of my stomach like I’m leaving home.

Am I crazy? Can anyone relate to that general feeling, be it about Hong Kong or another city you love? Which city do you feel most passionately about?

And while I’m asking you guys for advice, here’s another request. I know a lot about what to do in Hong Kong, but really don’t know the first thing about where to eat. Do you have any favorite restaurants in Hong Kong, regardless of the type of cuisine they serve?

(In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not Asian)

Comments

  1. Openrice.com is your food bible in HKG 😛

    What do you wanna eat? I mean, being a HKer, I love my local food, and it is basically what I miss the most when I’m *not* in HK..

    If you’re in TST, the good late night fix is always Tsui Wah. Quirky local Cantonese “cafe” – but chances are if you’ve been in HK enough you *must* have eaten there 🙂

  2. On another note re: HKG

    I’m from there. I live there, more or less. I *LOVE* it in HK. But time and again I do get *very* tired of that city, perhaps it is because I never quite fit in culturally.

    But as soon as I leave I do feel empty and yearn to go back. There are various reasons – I *was* born there and had many fond memories there growing up, the delicious food, and the energy levels, etc. etc.

    Having “lived” back in HKG for a few years, I honestly think that my time there is up soon. HK is probably a city, for me, best visited, even frequently – but probably best not to call it “home”.

  3. I like this post and agree that the best part of travelling is pottering around with a specific aim/destination, although would disagree with this part “Sitting at a Starbucks and observing locals,”

    Especially in Asia, why sit in a starbucks, with the alternative of sitting in a hawker centre having a plate of noodles or something whilst people watching…

    PS try Teh Tarik or Kopi O next time…. Far superior to starbucks ;D

  4. As you feel about Hong Kong, I feel about Seoul. Not so much the night lights, but the vibe, the people, and getting lost aimlessly through all the myriad of small roads that offer hidden jewel of store, or shop, or restaurant. And they constantly change, so even though I go every year, it feels anew. Yea, I get where you’re coming from…

  5. Totally understand and it’s hard to put in words how you deeply “feel” about a place. My giddy-as-a-9-year-old-schoolgirl city is London. The huge smiles and excitement start the minute we fly over it and see Windsor Castle, the Thames, and the city landmarks. Someone once suggested to me that it was a past life thing, LOL.

  6. A third comment I’d like to add (Sorry to break this up into so many chunks)..

    I love NYC, too. I grew up there, spent a plurality of my life there, and so such. I love the vibrancy it has, the culture it offers, the shopping, even the people. I often compare NYC to Hong Kong.

    And in one drunken conversation, I discovered what I want is a *combination* of the two – beautiful city/skyscrapers, ruthlessly efficient transportation, amazing food, great culture, beautiful nature… somehow both cities actually complement each other.

    I’m crazy about both NYC and HKG, but I miss one city when I’m in the other… and ultimately, miss both when I’m in neither.

  7. Hong Kong is hands down one of the raddest places on earth. I’ve just spent some days at the city last may/june while visiting my father, who lives in China, and I was completely in love with the place. It wasn’t my first time there, but it was so much better than the first… it’s a very, very cool place.

    Together with Berlin, it’s my favourite city on the planet. And I really hope I can get a job that puts me there at least half the times you get to go to HK. You’re very lucky, Lucky.

  8. I will be in Hong Kong for the first time on December 26 this year and after reading several blogs saying the same thing you just said, I’m very excited to experience this city. I’m originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, a mega city lacking the vibe or the contrast you described.

    I got the feeling that I had found my home, the first time I visited Los Angeles many years, and I can’t explain either why I love it so much, but I have been living here for a while and it still feels like a dream every time I drive down Sunset Blvd…

    So enjoy Hong Kong and let us know if you find a real remarkable restaurant to recommend.

    BTW, we will fly Cathay Pacific Business from LAX. Any thoughts?

  9. I for one do not like hongkong, for me transportation options are the most important, i.e taxis and car service, taxis in hkg are crap, there are no taxi options… I love the food but the people r loud and noisy and I am not a fan of all those hills that I have to walk up and down…. haha I have only been there twice and that was many years ago, when the ritz was still on the hkg side.

    maybe it is time for a visit but I cannot envision myself living there, while I like Paris… it is a possibility, I like London best I think….I think I can see myself living in London.. of course hometown Toronto would be easy to get used to again… also love Germany everything is cheap Germany… 🙂 hotels groceries.. rent whatever..cheap cheap cheap and of decent quality.. cheap and rubbish is not worth mentioning… cheap and good is GREAT.

  10. Well, although you said you are “not someone that connects to cities through food” and “don’t have to go to a different “local” restaurant every night in order to feel like I’ve experienced a city” I will still stick with the perspective that no visit to HK is complete without a dining experience at temple street… If you are definitely not into street food try one of the following steak houses: Tango Argentinian, La Pampa or The Grand Hyatt Steakhouse.
    Bon appétit!

  11. You’re not crazy at all. I feel the same way about Singapore, and also Osaka — love the vibe, the people, the food (esp. Singapore!), and *always* hate to leave.

    A friend recently sent me a list of his favorite eateries in Hong Kong, so I’ll message it to you

  12. HK is one of my favorite cities in the world as well. However, I tend do disagree about your comments Paris. Paris is not about the Eiffel Tour. Paris is about walking with no plans and exploring every tiny place that city has to offer. The markets, patisseries, restaurants, etc.. Everything in Paris is open to be discovered when you are a tourist. You should leave your hotel next time you go there and really explore the city.

  13. So you like “views” (HKG), but you don’t like “views” (Grand Canyon, Eiffel Tower)?

    There’s no need to justify your choices. Personally I didn’t like HK at all. No one looked happy there to me. Lots of frowning faces and way too much smoking for me. But I liked Singapore a lot and I love the chaos of Bangkok. I think I could live part time in Bangkok. But there’s no way I could live there full time.

    I guess we all have our own style of travel and things we like. That variety is a good thing. I’ve never gotten into the whole “foodie” thing either. Just doesn’t connect for me. But as you say there are lots of people out there who think food/dining is the most important thing when it comes to travel. Just like some people are all about “connecting with the locals” and “meeting new people” when they travel. But I am such an introvert that I am happy to be in my own world for the most part.

  14. Was HK one of the first cities that you went abroad or young? I think this kind of feeling is like some loves from when you are a teen or young: it goes forever to a special place and, if you try to rationalize, you simply can´t, you just love it.
    I have this feeling with Canada. Montreal, Quebec, Banff National Park, Vancouver… all make me feel like meeting someone that I had a huge crush when I was younger.

  15. I love NYC.
    Just people watching sitting outside starbucks at times square or roaming around aimlessly you can see people from all walks of life all kinds of races ethinicity. Just makes me get in touch with humanity in a way no other place does.
    -Abhi

  16. Your post is spot on and I’ve never been to Hong Kong. I feel the same way about London. And the reason you can’t explain it to others is because that feeling isn’t tangible. Without getting overly cliche, it’s hard explaining a feeling to someone else without them personally feeling it too. But that’s part of what makes it special; it’s deeply personal to you. So forget about trying to explain it to others! Enjoy yourself!

  17. @Ben, some HK restaurant recs for you! Go to Serge et le Phoque in the hipster part of Wan Chai. It’s fun and delicious and not terribly pricey and feels very sceney without actually being sceney at all. It’s got charm that a lot of restaurants in HK don’t have (primarily because it isn’t in a shopping mall to begin with).

    Also there’s a lounge/restaurant on the top floor of the Tang Tang Tang Tang building on Johnston Road in Wan Chai. Not 100% sure how good the food is, but it’s in a beautiful historic building and the inside of the bar/lounge has such wonderful historic appeal, and then you can sit out on the balcony and nurse a cocktail and a snack and look out over the city and it feels very colonial and, dare I say it, chic. Plus the store downstairs (Tang Tang Tang Tang) is kind of worth seeing, too.

  18. Also, Duddell’s in Central (1 Duddell Street) is really pretty cool. Gorgeous interior/terrace, inventive drinks, good food, terrific vibe. Enjoy.

  19. I arrive in HK in 26 hours for my 52nd visit. This article has me looking forward to the visit…as if it was just my 10th time!

  20. You’re missing the real Paris. I used to feel as you do — Paris is perfectly nice, but a bit of an “outdoor museum of famous sights.” That all changed when I discovered the 11th arrondissement (kind of their Brooklyn.) The worst thing you can do in Paris is stay in some fancy American chain hotel using points. That’s a dull Disneyland version of a city which, in fact, is an irrepressibly eclectic, sexy, vibrant people-watching locale… as long as you stay away from the “sights.”

    Find an airBNB in the 11th. Pull up a chair at a cafe on Rue Oberkampf and watch the world go by. Get a drink on the rooftop of Le Perchoir at sunset and watch effortlessly sexy professionals socialize. Stroll the canal at Quai de Valmy at night, where youngsters drink wine and play guitar and laugh. Admittedly, it’s probably a bit less inviting if you don’t speak the language, as Parisians are so proud. But Paris does have infectiously vibrant neighborhoods. You just have to get off the travel blogger tourist route and seek them out.

  21. Have you ever checked out Dragon’s Back? Cool hiking trail not far from downtown, accessible by public transport- great place to visit for a morning or afternoon for a change! Incredible to see such diversity in Hong Kong!

  22. @Josh: +1. I could not agree more. It really makes me feel surprised that most American bloggers have one goal in mind: redeem points to stay at the Park Hyatt Paris. That is the last place I would redeem my points. There are so many amazing boutique hotels in Paris with amazing quality that delivers the real feel of the city. If you go to Paris to stay at the Park Hyatt and take a picture of the Eiffel Tower you did not go to the real Paris.

  23. I think I mostly have the same travel philosophy as you. I’ve nodded my head to pretty much all of the points you made. And I’ve really enjoyed Hong Kong as well.

    Like you, I’m a huge introvert and I’m not a party person at all. But despite that, the Las Vegas Strip is one of my favorite places in the world. Why? Because so much is happening, it’s changing all the time, everything is easily reachable, and it all has this awesome ridiculousness to it. And whenever I’ve got enough of all the action for a while, I can retreat right back to my hotel room.

    Once, while sitting in a comfy chair in my nice, spacious, and quiet room at the Aria, looking down at the busy Strip, I’ve actually said to myself: This right here, this is my personal Zen.

    So yeah, I totally get your fascination with cities that have a certain vibe.

  24. Kudos to you for your infatuation but i totally disagree.

    1. Choking pollution.

    2. Choking pollution.

    3. Choking pollution.

    4. The TERRIBLE SMELL from the choking pollution.

    You must have hearty lungs to withstand the HKG air. The fact that narrow streets have 40-story buildings on them combined with terrible air quality creates these dark, dank walking corridors of pure sh#ttiness. Even hotel lobbies smelled bad to me.

  25. as a new yorker, i used to have this odd feeling whenever i traveled that no matter where in the world i was, i would still feel a twinge of regret that i was missing out on something that evening back home in manhattan. hong kong was the first city i ever visited where i didn’t even think about nyc once.

    HK can be tough as a solo diner but if you try a lot of the small places on the street you really can’t go wrong. just follow the crowds. for a splurge, do the chef’s table at Bo Innovation in Wan Chai.

    have fun! can’t wait to be out there myself in a couple weeks.

  26. Love the blog, but you lost a bit of credibility when you mentioned that you were genuinely excited about the symphony of lights. It was such a disappointment and a complete waste of time.

  27. I understand that feeling of just loving a place without a specific reason why. I feel the same about Hong Kong and Singapore. Actually, I’ve just enjoyed every trip to Asia. Growing up there for a couple years, then moving to a smaller city, I miss the vibe, food and even the crowds.

  28. i think you romanticize it, but HK is indeed a great city. i wouldn’t want to live there though, spoken as a taiwanese-american who’s spent a hell of a lot of time there with family while growing up (and more than a few weekends as an adult).

    i don’t say i have a favorite city anymore, because i love a great many things about so many cities (on my list: NYC, London, Beijing, HK, Tokyo, Austin, SF, Barcelona, Berlin, Singapore). the things you say you love about it, views and people watching and getting lost are true for a great many cities. getting outside the tourist areas (and Starbucks, bleah) like so many here have said, and really slowing down to appreciate the heartbeat of the city is amazing, and takes time. here in Paris, you also might walk right past it, just like in Tokyo.

    you’re not crazy, but again, i think you’re seeing HK through rose-colored glasses. i’ll second that people there are not as happy as those in another former home, Singapore.

  29. Ben,

    Do you enroll for Frequent Visitor E-Channel for Hong Kong Immigration?
    Enjoy Lung King Heen at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong.

    Evelyn

  30. Love Hong Kong, but not sure I would want to live there.

    There is a world of difference visiting and staying downtown in a plush hotel and relaxing, versus the daily grind of commuting in from some anonymous shoebox apartment because you cannot afford the high prices in the best areas.

  31. I call it a feeling of being home, not necessarily a place you actually live, but a place where you feel really good and ‘at home’. For me that’s Bangkok, Honolulu and Munich.

  32. Sorry Lucky. You are completely wrong on this. Try living for half a year in hong kong or singapore and you’ll absolutely hate it for one reason: HOT & HUMID.

    Its awful when the sun has set and your still sweating from just walking around, trying to get to the closest AC. In singapore its 365 days of hot, humid crap weather.

    Europe in the summer is perfect. My favorite place would be Stockholm in the summer, if I had the money to live there. Not completely flooded with tourists like Paris or London, but the city is just stunning + lots of sunshine to go aorund.

  33. Ben,

    I agree with your sentiments about Hong Kong. I think it is the coolest city in the world and I hope you are having a fun and recharging time.

    Am I the only one who finds it amusing when people offer all sorts of *unsolicited* advice on blog post comments? You say you like a place and people want to show off how cool they are with the restaurant, cafe, and other attraction recommendations.

    They say unsolicited advice is the lowest form of conversation.

    Tocqueville

  34. A lot of words can be used to describe Hong Kong. Some great, some not so great, but clean is definitely not one of them.

    Sure, it’s clean indoors at most major shopping malls but the outdoor streets and the air is filthy. I’ve seen more cockroaches in Hong Kong in 1 week than all my years in Toronto. Others above me have also mentioned how the locals don’t seem very happy. That’s because the economy is slowly moving North into China, and the wealth gap is ever increasing in Hong Kong. The average local cannot even afford a decent sized living space.

    Personally I find LA and London much more attractive.

  35. I agree with you about Hong Kong. Definitely one of my favorite cities to visit and the views are incredible but have not spent enough time there to know if I would like to live there. My top 3 cities to visit would be Tokyo, Hong Kong and NYC. I have a similar travel style to you in that I love to just walk around and explore and am not a big museum or food person.

  36. I totally agree about Hong Kong, even though, yes, there is pollution and gross sewer smells at times-part of the ambience, I would say! As a woman traveling alone there many times, I always feel safe, even at night. If I get a little lost, there is always a kind citizen to explain the way or walk me to the correct corner.

    For a funky adventure just finding the front door, right in Tsim Sha Tsui (one of my favorite “neighborhoods”, try Koh I Noor for excellent Indian food! 16C Mody Rd.

    Second choice, San Francisco: any kind of food, great views, people-watching!

  37. Don’t know how you’d like the light show so much. Maybe you don’t understand the language when the music of the show is played? It is feeling so cheap and outdated!

  38. My favorite places to eat in HK – Tsui Wah Restaurant for their baked rice dishes + milk tea, Cafe de Coral, the Mango dessert places, the stands on the street where you can get a delicious bowl of congee + the fried salty dough bread and other “cha chaan tangs”. I can get all of these foods in NYC, but the flavor of these foods in HK are just amazing. These places are not fancy nor are the restaurants. They are mostly foods locals love and foods I grew up eating when visiting family in HK. For fun – go to HK Disneyland and check out their dim sum where you can get some Disney character shaped dim sum! Also check out “The Globe” in Central for some amazing English pie! It’s mostly an expat kinda joint. Rat Alley in LKF has some delicious Thai food too! You can also check out Fatty Crab (we have one in NYC), but not sure how it compares to the NYC location. Go for some high tea and rich ppl watch.

  39. Completely agree with you– went for the first time two years ago and was just in awe. The skyline is simply stunning and Victoria’s Peak was just an absolute joy.

    …You kind of broke my heart with that “Food is Meh” comment tho.

  40. Mine is Paris precisely because of all the amazing art museums. But after visiting Sydney it became a strong contender. I get why people enjoy cities with nice views.

  41. Not trying to talk you into liking Paris since, as you said, it’s a personal preference. But in Paris you can do pretty much everything you like to do when you travel other than the Starbuck’s part. And in general, I’d take a Parisian cafe to city watch over a Starbucks any day.

    In fact, I’d say that one of the best things about international travel is the opportunity to get away from the US mass-brand experience.

  42. Partly what makes some cities so amazing is their lack of sights, higher cultural barriers/weirdness, comparative lack of major luxury hotel chains (in developing countries) or other marketing factors circulating in the travel industry that create a sort of “tourist hell.”

    For anyone interested, here’s a partial list of cities that similarly have escaped these problems and are fantastic places to spend time to indulge in culture (since clearly that’s only found in museums, tall buildings and temples/mosques/churches/castles/palaces). Put another way, these cities don’t revolve around tourism like others do and you won’t run into nearly as many crowds of visitors.

    Lisbon, Porto, Brussels, Antwerp, Cologne, Berlin (outside Mitte), Zagreb, Budapest (outside Vaci utca), Marseilles (for the day trips esp.), Bilbao, Warsaw, Stockholm, Dublin, Buenos Aires (outside Florida St.), Sao Paulo, Seoul (outside Itaewon), Taipei, HK, Hanoi, Singapore, Melbourne, Austin, Vancouver, Seattle (outside Pike’s Place), Chicago (outside Magnificent Mile).

    I really hope people react with “Why would you go to _____?” My point exactly. 🙂

  43. I live 3 hrs from the Grand Canyon and have NEVER seen it, nor do I have any desire to go see it. I would drive 3 hrs for a Chick-fil-a though! I would also drive 14 hrs to see Glacier National Park over and over, but then again I’m not sure there are a whole lot of places on the planet that beautiful.

    Hong Kong? 100% agree, most amazing city on the planet. I also get asked what’s so great and it’s just hard to explain the feeling you have while there. It’s simply so over the top, but yet so sleazy at the same time. Heading back in March and taking my wife this time. I’m counting the days.

  44. Everyone will have a city they like depending on their own interests and backgrounds. Important aspects for me are physical attributes (like geography or architecture), food, people/vibe, arts and culture. New York, Rio de Janeiro (THE most spectacular geographic location of any city I’ve seen), Paris, Istanbul are among my favorites. Cities like Singapore are too manufactured for my taste – not interested in sound and light shows, or malls.

  45. Well, I thought I’d be the only one to say NYC… There are plenty of places that I loved to visit (Lugano, Dubrovnik and Rome come to mind) but the connection I feel with NYC is incredible. I feel giddy everytime i go there. In fact, I’ll be there in about 10 days and can’t think of anything else!!!!!

  46. @Josh

    I did what you did, except sub “18e” for “11”. Awesome studio in Montmartre via Air B&B, with patisseries and boulangeries in a stone’s throw? I’ll take that over the Hyatt Vendôme any day of the week.

    @Eric:

    “Pike Place”.

    Also, Pike Place is a working market, not just a tourist trap. I shop there as a local all the time (and worked there too).

  47. Hi Lucky. I have probably visited Hong Kong just as many times as you, if not more (though you may catch up to me soon). I totally understand what you are saying about it and it does have a great energy and vibe to it. The city for me though is Tokyo and Hong Kong is a place that I like to visit. Hong Kong to me these days has too much energy and too much chaos.

    One of my absolute favorite restaurants in Hong Kong is Kung Tak Lum Shanghai Vegetarian Cuisine.
    http://www.openrice.com/english/restaurant/sr2.htm?shopid=1753&tc=sr1

    I am a total meat lover but this restaurant has such mind blowing vegetarian food that it makes me feel like I could be a vegetarian. I hope you get to try it out. The best way to get there though is probably by taxi.
    Cheers!

  48. Butao Ramen near TST has the best ramen I’ve ever had, and the best dish I’ve had in HK. Avoid it in the evening as it gets packed. Reasonable prices.

  49. not to mention it has one of the most exciting airports in the world (and before the current one, arguably THE most exciting approach of any airport in the world)

    I too love the skyline– and this is coming from someone who lives in Manhattan. It’s a very cosmopolitan city.

    One thing that would kill living there for me though is the weather. It is unbearably humid for much of the year.

  50. Not an eatery per se, but winebuff is one of my favourite places I go to everytime I go back to Hkg.

    You drink with people who enjoy wine and Krug is only hkd 880 there a bottle!

    Its in Fortress hill though so youll have to catch the MTR

  51. Three places to try – all different:

    1. Little Bao. Fantastic little Chinese Buns done like burgers and other fun stuff http://www.thatfoodcray.com/hong-kong-cray-little-bao/

    2. Mak’s Noodles. Old-School Wonton and Noodle shop in Central. Go for lunch. http://www.openrice.com/english/restaurant/sr2.htm?shopid=1998

    3. China Club. Private Club. Upmarket. Usually only open to members and AMEX Centurion cardholders. Your hotel concierge should be able to get you a table to check it out.

    Have fun!

  52. Hong Kong definitely has a kind of ‘energy’ that I’ve yet to find matched in any other place in the world. It just makes you wanna be out and about with everyone else. Its not the cleanest place in the works but that’s not the point. I know that when I step of the plane and the first bit of Hong Kong air hits new, I’m in for a good time.

    It’s organised yet chaotic, clean but dirty, East meets west, just so many juxtapositions. Singapore might be cleaner, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the vibe that HK does.

  53. My partner and I are doing a RTW trip in April, starting in Hong Kong for three days. We’ve been once before and stayed at the JW Marriott in Central, but that was 25 years ago. I’m undecided on which side of the water to book our hotel this time. Any recommendations, Ben – or anyone else for that matter?

  54. I agree with you that Hong Kong is where it is at. I always find myself explaining it as “the perfect East meets West city.” And then there’s the food, and the beaches and the shopping and the …. well I guess I’m preaching to the choir here.

  55. I’m getting this way about London. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit London quite often recently and I’ve just fallen in love with it. Just walking around drinking coffee, beer, and exploring. Your post really makes me want to go back to Hong Kong, its been years since I’ve been there.

  56. Call me crazy, but after one visit to Cape Town, I have this gnawing desire to live there. It was so beautiful – wine country, the cape. Wow! London is special for me as well.

  57. Ben, Agree
    Hong Kong is the only city in Asia i could really see myself living in long term. After that it would be Bangkok for me.

    But all the others. I’ve been there and just don’t feel like i would want to live there permanently.
    I thought about it with Singapore, but i find it just gets boring and expensive.

  58. @Toqueville, Ben *specifically* asked for restaurant recommendations, so in this case no one’s advice is unsolicited.

    Maybe your snark might work better if your reading comprehension skills were up to par!

  59. I think everyone has nuances and preferences that draw them to or away from certain places. For me, the most magical place is Cape Town. Even though I don’t normally like cities, Cape Town feels like an assemblage of smaller towns along the coast to me. It is spectacularly beautiful (akin to San Francisco and Vancouver) and has amazing weather (akin to Los Angeles, an hour south of which is where I live now). It is a wonderful clash/mix of cultures, with English, French, Dutch, and African cultural norms all blending to some degree. It is a world class foodie city, and I’m a HUGE foodie–but, like South America, even its world class dining is cheap by Euro/American/Asian standards. Its winelands are the most beautiful in the world in my opinion–and just 45-60 min away by car, so a day trip there is even easier than it is to Napa from San Francisco–and there is even more amazing world class dining there. We were married there in Franschhoek outside Cape Town in April 2010 (our 4th visit), and we’re returning again in January 2015. In retirement, I actually dream about living half the year there and returning home to California for the other half of the year.

    I also don’t care about museums, but I love food and fine dining. I don’t care about public transport as much as natural beauty, architectural beauty, or drama–reasons why I liked Sydney more than Melbourne, Paris more than London, Edinburgh more than Prague, and Rio more than most. But Cape Town encapsulates all that I love in a way that no other city has.

  60. I wish you’d be willing to provide a 10-20 point check list of points of interest, in your opinion of course, to those of us who have never visited but will be doing so in the near future. It’s always enjoyable to have such a thing from someone with whom you share a similar perspective.

  61. Ben, have you been to soho yet? You can go anytime and people watch as you eat at any of the near by restaurant. Trust me, you will love it.

  62. “Wandering aimlessly and getting lost.
    Sitting at a Starbucks and observing locals, from the way they walk to the way they socialize.
    Anything with nice views of things with “moving” parts. I’m a sucker for views.”

    Uh…. that basically defines a trip to Paris (sub local cafe for Starbucks, of course).

  63. @Mike i can’t say enough about The Upper House. Fantastic location in Central and a stunning hotel. My partner and I stayed there last hear on an around the world trip and still miss it. I would recommend booking via a Virtuoso agent — room upgrades if available and breakfast. Well worth it. Their grapefruit mademe weep.

    For restaurants, I can recommend Yardbird — all chicken all the time and really, really excellent at it too. Don’t be afraid of the KFC — it tastes just like chicken. Also, Tim Ho Wan — you’ll wait, but its the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world and delicious.

  64. I was born in Hong Kong and moved to the U.S. after graduating from college. I am glad to hear you love it there (so does my husband, he loves it there more than I do). We are going back for the 5th times next year, since all my family is still there (but we are planning on visiting Kyoto as well, so probably fly UA BusinessFirst from IAH to NRT then use Avios to fly NRT-HKG). Hong Kong is a fun place to visit, I will admit and my husband has such good time every time. He never seems to get tired of going there. It’s also a very easy place to get around for Americans since we are bilingual (English/Chinese). It’s not a fun place to live.

    If you are in TST, go check out Hutong. It has a gorgeous view and great food. Decor is very nice too. We went there last time and my husband said we need to go back again when we visit next year.

  65. @Nick: went to Duddel’s last night, pretty good duck 2 ways.

    Been living in HK for 5 months, after living in NYC for 7 years.

    @Ben: try Cafe Grey Deluxe in the Upper House hotel, Fatty Crab in Central, Zuma for sushi/sashimi, Beef And Liberty on Star street for the best burger in town.

  66. Sympony of lights was literally the worst tourist thing I’ve ever done

    It’s terrible. It’s not impressive or entertaining

  67. I am in HKG right now too . Great view from my room at the Intercontinental, and my second visit here.

    After all the comments, I guess it is, in fact, only me that isn’t impressed. Seems like just another city and no way I’d want to live here.

  68. I live in Hong Kong and understand the sentiment of being infatuated with a city. For me, that city is Las Vegas. I was surprised to read “while you take the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island and feel like you’re in the cleanest, most modern city in the world.”

    Feel like you’re in the cleanest city in the world? Seriously?? Do you actually have a sense of smell or are you sticking to the main streets of the sanitised tourist and financial areas??? Sorry to be so negative but I can’t take you seriously when you claim that you “could guide you around Hong Kong with my eyes closed” and then refers to it as the “cleanest”.

  69. Lucky, I completely agree. Was just in Hong Kong earlier this week and found myself feeling the same way. It’s the energy, the skyline, the mix of modern and seedy, and the incredible functionality – don’t think I’ve ever had to wait more than 2 minutes for an MTR train. I also find the people exceedingly helpful and polite considering it’s such a big fast city. Was in the Starbucks at Hong Kong Station for example, and people sitting at a table saw me standing awkwardly and actively cleared space for me at their table and offered me a chair. That will NEVER happen in San Francisco.

  70. I share your infatuation with HK, and also your inability to adequately describe why. Hot, smelly, yes, but that’s also part of why I love traveling there.

    We took our kids there for 3 days on our way to Malaysia two summers ago, and they now insist on returning.

  71. I completely agree with you. My wife and I are considered ‘weirdos’ for traveling to such remote places (like HK) and going to the movies, or just hanging out in a market, etc. Most of the time we never even see the famous landmarks. I’ve been to Buenos Aires 7 times and never gone to Boca, Caminito or Casa Rosada.

    As far as Hong Kong goes, it is too my favourite city. Second to Hong Kong comes Mexico City.

    My tip for HK is eat a (or many) egg custards at Tai Cheong. THEY ARE AMAZING!

  72. In Hong Kong you can walk into just about every restaurant by the street that doesn’t look posh, and order from rice to beef noodles to desserts, and it’s going to taste good. HuiLauShan serves my favorite mango desserts and they can be found just about everywhere in Hong Kong. If you’re into pepper and beef there’s one on the top floor of Festive Walk that I personally love to go to, especially compared to the common fast food brands like McDonalds and Cafedecoral. There’re also a handful of stared restaurant serving Cantonese food, but I’m not sure you know what to order even if I point you to one :p

  73. Hey Ben I think we are staying at the same hotel! 😉
    I am a HK local here…
    Make sure you check out the beef noodles with soup you can find anywhere in HK, they are my number one fav when I need some midnight food.
    If you want some (not-so-Asian) fine dining I think Felix at the Peninsula is a great choice. You can have the Early Dining menu at a rather reasonable price, plus you have the Victoria Harbour and the Symphony of Lights at 28/F of the Pen all to yourself! What can you ask for more?

  74. Great post, one of your best. (One alternative suggestion for the monsoon season – watch the symphony of lights from the air-conditioned lobby of the Intercontinental sipping a Carlsberg and listening to live jazz. Bruce Lee would do it this way). In defense of the Grand Canyon – the four suites at El Tovar and Unit 306 at the Grand Canyon Lodge are among the toughest hotel rooms on earth to book and have views that would put any mere Park Hyatt or Ritz to shame. Unit 306 is a stone ‘log cabin’ with a porch with two rockers that sits perched directly on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The four suites have similar views on the south side but are not offered on the El Tovar website, you have to call and be very persistent about a year in advance. If you are poor, unlucky or just incapable of planning in advance (or in my case, all three), you can camp nearby and visit the lobbies of either lodge, which look like they were jointly designed by Teddy Roosevelt and Frank Lloyd Wright.

  75. No argument here, as I agree with you entirely. Hong Kong has that vibrancy that is noticeable as soon as you arrive, no matter what time it is. I doubt that I could live there, as it is not only expensive, but the smog and humidity would get to me. However its a great place to spend a few weeks, and I wouldn’t go without also spending time wandering around Kowloon and doing the Macau visit.
    Going back again in January, and the service on Cathay Pacific always makes the trip even more enjoyable.
    The only other city I have felt the “awe factor” is Havana. Like stepping back in time, but that’s another story.

  76. Love, love, love Hong Kong! To me, HKG is where East meets West. This is the city that most foreign companies put their Asia headquarters. Why, safe, easy for families to live in, great air connections,….bad things, become very expensive and air pollution from China.

    Try the Cafe Deco on the Peak. Very eclectic menu, everyone should find something they like. Get a table outside on the terrace. Felix, on top of the Peninsula. Great views, very good food, and weird urinals in men’s room. Hint, you have a view! Spring Deer in TST for Peking Duck, make reservations. Better than China. Lei Garden, multiple locations, good old Cantonese food. Hong Kong is regarded as one the best food cities in Asia. Dig in!

  77. I totally agree with this post, i moved in hk from France 8 years ago and even now when i leave office dead tired i feel like i am in a holiday spirit, mesmerized by the building skyline, by the energy of this city. Of course, everything is not perfect, it’s more and more crowded, polluted, media are more and more controlled.

  78. Guess I’m late to this party but we were in HKG earlier this week for 4 nights and it is one of our 3 faves…BCN,SYD and HKG. Even with the stifling humidity it was great taking Star Ferry to Pier 7 and walking to IFC mall and finding Tim Ho Wan in the station adjacent. Even though there was no English sign it was easy to find based on the 200+ people milling about most waiting for takeout which only took about 10 minutes.
    Ullaru is my no return site. Just wish we hadn’t spent 2+ days seeing it.

  79. So many places serving good food in HK! I normally visit at least one of these for cheap eats: Tim Ho Wan, Tsui Wah, Chee Kei, West Villa. For special occasion: Tin Lung Heen, Lung King Heen or Caprese. I also try at least one new place each time I visit HK (Open Rice is handy). How long are you staying in HK this time? I’m flying there tomorrow from LAX and then 2 night in HK before heading home to Sydney on Wed.

  80. I totally agree.

    To me (and in some extent to my twin kids and wife) we love Singapore, just for the sake of “staying” and having holidays there, with nothing more than being a normal family “living” there.

    As an expat I tend to have more opportunities to enjoy such an expensive city but nevertheless I like to “be” there.

    Same happens with HK; it is the way people treat you, the ambiance, etc.

    I agree with you about the big cities like Paris, Tokio, London, NY, Dubai…they are ok to visit once, and nothing more.

    Thanks for sharing!

  81. Habibi Restaurant in mid level,gone there for years everytime I visit HK. Reasonable prices for what you have to pay in HK and they deliver solid Mediterranean style food with nice atmosphere.

  82. Hong Kong is great as you say – but somehow, once you start living here, it loses the ‘wow’ factor. I mean, we get used to the skyline and the views and the food, and things start getting boring – though the same could probably be said about most cities in the world. Then the pollution and other problems start hitting you.

    I’d agree with Simon and say Tsui Wah is great – though at times overrated – for a late night fix or after going for drinks or something of that type. Especially noodles with fried egg and canned meat. Haha. Yum

    Let’s see if I’ll be lucky enough to accidentally spot you in one of the Starbucks. I’m still quite fascinated by ‘locals’, though a local myself, at how quickly they walk and how they manage to squeeze and navigate through the crowds and not colliding with each other…

  83. Just got back from HK and our best meal was at: Ho Lee Fook Not a joke check out the reviews on trip advisor……

  84. Hi there,

    Hong Kong is also my favorite city in the world. I have been there a lot of times and once during a flight back home to Brazil after a week in HK I realized why I like the city that much: It is a huge cosmopolitan place where you can find anything you want but even in the most modern and western-like parts of town you don’t miss the Hong Kong’s own and unique characteristics. Things that you don’t find in any other city in the world but are so well integraded to the HKs global lifestyle that makes you feel almost like a local. In Hong Kong you feel like a true citzen of the world.

  85. @Lucky — I know that you think you were rambling, but believe me when I tell you, you made perfect sense! I feel the same way about Hong Kong and about travel in general. There are places that I love that I simply can’t convince anyone else to love, because they’re not “textbook destinations.” Hong Kong is by far one of the easiest cities to love and every corner there is exciting. I’ve been many times and am heading there next month again — YAY! 😉 PS: as many posters above noted, just walk into any place that looks local and you can’t miss with the food. I’ve had the most amazing roast goose (and duck) at places that I literally just stepped into because I was hungry at that instant. To this day I don’t know what the places were called and probably couldn’t find them again. 🙂

  86. Hey Lucky,

    If you haven’t been before, you should check out Lamma island. a half hour ferry ride from the ferry terminal. once you get off, you’re walking down a street running alongside the water. pick whichever restaurant appeals to you and you choose whatever fish you want them to make you from one of their tanks. really tasty and pretty fun. there are other places in HK like this with better seafood, but with Lamma you get the ferry ride and a cool walking/people watching scene. Nice to go with a few people so you can sample a few dishes. But going alone would be fine too, I’m sure.

  87. I can’t agree more. We are the same type! I am going to send this article to my friend because I’ve always tried to explain to him about this but I didn’t do it as well as you do.

  88. Sheung Wan station has a lot of good places . If you go around lunch time, lots of people from Central actually walk over there for good food and wait in line. Check out which lines are longest! I love the rice noodle soup with fish. They “melted” the fish in the soup and makes it almost white, thick and tasty !

  89. Born and raised in NYC and now living in San Francisco I visited HK for the first time this year back in July. Loved the hustle and bustle and what a city for food. It rivaled NYC. I am not a big fan of public transportation and honestly have not taken a city bus or train in years. But the train system in HK is amazingly simple and the air conditioning oh my! I looked forward to riding the train to escape the heat! It’s an entire city down there? Unlike the subway in NYC this was a truly amazing system. Can’t wait to go back!

  90. You are totally right or maybe i have same view as you,i never set a foot in a meuseum,i dont care about food,i can go to a MacDo whetehet in New york,Dubai or Tokyo,i like Hong Kong because of the gorgeous Intercontinental hotel and that priceless view from its harbour view room,i can stay for hours watching the view from kowloon without having enough.

  91. Hey Lucky,

    I need your advice. I am visiting HK next week for 3 nights (first time). Main purpuse is to have suits made for my new job.

    I put off booking a hotel and now prices are pretty high (for me at least)… I found a deal with the Hyatt Regency Sha Tin for about $250/night for a Regency Club Suite (82m2) — only about $30/night more than a standard room (3 nights min).

    I know back in 2010 you weren’t too hot on the location, any updated thoughts? Is this a great deal for a suite?

    Finally, you mentioned taking an alternative shuttle Skye Express back in 2010… any idea if this still exists, I cant find any mention of it.

    Thanks for your advice!

  92. Zed,
    Hyatt Regency Shatin is way out in the New Territories. Far from all the places that you would do things. You would spend so much time travelling to places you want to be. There are so many hotels in HKG, find something in Kowloon. Much better location. The Airport Express is the fastest transport from the Airport. If you stayed at that Hyatt, you would have to take 4 trains to get to the hotel.

  93. @ Zed — That’s definitely a great deal, though the hotel is extremely inconvenient for sightseeing. If it’s not too much more I’d one of the other Hyatt properties in Hong Kong. As far as the shuttle goes, I’m not sure, unfortunately.

  94. Long time new york resident, and recently relocated to Hong Kong. Have to agree with most people here – Hong Kong is definitely one of my favorite cities. Even though i think New York is No.1 for food, Hong Kong is not that far behind.

    My favorite dim sum place is Tim Ho Wan – for cheap, delicious dim sum though be mindful of having to wait ~45min to get a seat.
    http://www.timhowan.com/

    I’ve recently came across an article about Hong Kong based, Michelin-starred Chef’s recommendations for hidden local food joints – it has quite some good tips -.e.g where to get the best egg tarts, a local delicacy
    http://www.klook.com/Web/getConnoisseurDetailWebAction.action?connoisseurId=8&cityId=2
    The site even has quite some unique experiences they recommend doing in Hong Kong too.

  95. @Zed – have you considered Point + Cash at Hyatt Regency TST? It’s a category 4 property and only cost you 7,500 pts + USD $100. I just checked in a few hours ago and I like it! They also provide smartphone with unlimited 3G data for guests to take outside the hotel so you always have google maps handy. If you prefer to use your own device, just use it as a personal hotspot. If you’re staying here, don’t worry about buying a local sim card.

  96. “(In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not Asian)”

    Since you drink bubble tea and like Hello Kitty planes, you can definitely have some kind of honorary status. 🙂

  97. I lived just north in Shenzhen, China for almost two years (though thats shortly coming to an end, I think).

    I’d also recommend the China Club for any meal, even breakfast. Its a throwback and you should, if you go in the evening, hit the top level for the bar and the roofdeck. If you like views, there are few better in HK.

    Theres such an assortment of ethnic restaurants of every persuasion in the mid-levels, and I think wandering around some of the markets in HK island and eatign fruit while walking the streets is pretty awesome too. Then you can head towards Wan Chai, people watch and go to a more traditional cantonese restaurant.

    Enjoy your stay? Hope you’ve made it to the Ritz Carlton Kowloon, amazing views and restaurant (and breakfast buffet). I stayed there on my first trip here.

  98. @ Lucky – I had a little bit of your Eiffel Tower/Grand Canyon experience with your [ex-] hometown’s Space Needle. Seattle was very smart to put restrictions on building height around the Needle as that makes it seem impressive on TV, more so than in real life. Perhaps I’m a bit jaded having visited Ostankino Tower in Moscow which is almost three times taller (4th tallest tower in the world at 1772 feet/540 m) and whose observation deck/restaurant is twice as high as the Needle. Hopefully, will make it to Tokyo Skytree soon 🙂

    @ everyone else – thank you all for wonderful tips on Hong Kong 🙂

  99. Hey Lucky! You’re not crazy at all. I know exactly what you mean. I’ve only been to Hong Kong once but I absolutely loved it. I was that close to moving over there as an expat. And why? The energy of the city was really sparking. It’s very easy to move around, the locals are great, and it still felt rather British! I really can’t explain that but I think you know what I mean. 🙂

    The other cities that I really love are London, Prague and Berlin. I lived in London for 6 years and I had a wonderful time building my career and spending all my money. Great times! I lived in Prague for 2 years and I would have stayed longer, but the companies there couldn’t really afford my corporate services at the time so I moved onto Berlin. Berlin was IT! As soon as I came here, I know this was the place. The place that I utterly and completely love unconditionally. I’ve now been living here for 15 years as an expat, and the experience has been an utter roll of excitement and contained madness! Brilliant!

  100. Hong Kong is my jam! Love this post, Ben. Got into hkg today after 2 weeks in Vietnam. Leaving VN, we were SO ready to be home but as soon as we got touched down at my favorite big airport and got on the incomparable airport express, I remembered that feeling I only get in Hong Kong. Your post is exactly how I feel- this is the most incredible, indescribable place for me. It’s completely personal opinion of course but I’m with you, Ben. I’m sitting in our room at the Kowloon shangri-la and can barely pay any attention to my girlfriend as I’m just mesmerized looking at the harbor.

    And although I love trying new places, I’m with you on Starbucks (or “hometown” chain of one’s choosing) – there’s something cool about trying things you know well in unusual settings. The intangible differences are more striking, perhaps

  101. Completely agree with you Ben!

    For me, Hong Kong give off a special vibe that is very hard to explain. As soon as you arrive, you feel the energy of the city. It is a very different vibe that you will find in most other places on earth. In Hong Kong, it seems like the government, it’s peoples and it’s businesses had gotten everything in just the right balance of efficiency and modernism, add together a dap of occassion chaosness, and wrap it all in a world of commerce and consumerism (with giants Neon lights and advertising boards everywhere), that vibes that it gives off is just amazing. I have never find the same vibes and feelings at any other city in the world. Many cities in the world had a component of this vibe, but very rarely will you find it all in one place like Hong Kong!

  102. Hi Ben, Was following your recent write up about HK dim sum and saw your previous write up about why you love HK.

    Do you really want to know why you love HK? Its not a coincidence that you do.

    Not everyone has this affection for it. And in this life one does not need to be Asian or Chinese to love it.

    If you wish to know, contact me via my email privately as sometimes its best to play it that way.

    Klive

  103. Hi Lucky, thanks in good part to reading your blog we were lucky enough to score 4 R/T tickets to Bali on Cathay Pacific first and business class for this coming June. On the way to Bali we overnight in Hong Kong (arriving at 2020 and leaving the following morning at 1015.) Although it will be nighttime when we arrive, it will feel like first thing in the morning for us and I don’t know if we’ll be able to sleep at all. We’ll have our two children (ages 11 & 12) with us. Do you know if there are any hotels in Hong Kong where the pool is open all night? Or any other suggestions? We’ve never been to Hong Kong (and may never be back!) so we thought we should leave the airport and go check out Hong Kong at night a little. Hoping to find something to do besides the night market, as that doesn’t look appealing to us.

  104. I really love Hong Kong. There is no middle ground with Hong Kong – people love it or hate it. Plenty of streets to explore and I agree, people watching in HKG is fascinating . I’ve travelled to Hong Kong many times alone and always feel safe as a (non Chinese) female to wander around in the evening on my own . It certainly feels like a second home and I get emotional every time I land. Try the great restaurants near Temple Street and the bars and tiny restaurants in and around Kimberley Rd Kowloon .

  105. Like so many, I also love Hong Kong. And I guess it’s bcos I thnk it has it all. I visit HK basically everytime I travel to Asia. One day I’m gonna live there!

  106. Hk is a amazing city I love the skyline and the light show and fireworks are amazing even though it is so crowded so be sure to get there early! how early? some people go there early in the morning. but then I am probably biased since I live there. who doesn’t like where they live!! lol life here is amazing all though whoever wants to live here prepare for ridiculous prices!! amazing city!

  107. It’s easy to love Hong Kong. For me it’s the East meets West vibe with the high finance industry, modern skyscrapers, restaurants, clubs, hotels, bars, luxury western brands etc. mixed with the beautiful, ancient Chinese culture and aesthetic. It’s a very glamorous, cosmopolitan, sophisticated city that has hundreds and thousands of expats living there, many of whom have opened their own businesses which makes the city feel very international. You have incredible patisseries and French restaurants due to the large number of French living in Hong Kong, stores like Marks and Spencer and Harvey Nichols because of the British influence, lots of Tapas bars and award winning Spanish chefs setting up shop there etc. The Europe meets Asia theme is really strong there, which makes Westerners feel at home. The layout is so incredible with the hills, mountains, harbour, sea with tons of islands, Mong Kok. It is easily the most gorgeous large city in terms of topography. They have hundreds of luxurious malls with anything you can imagine from Ikea to Jack Wills. The shopping is endless. They city is abuzz 24/7 with outdoor markets, street food, restaurants, bars and clubs in LKF etc. It is even faster paced than NYC in my opinion and I am a New Yorker. Everyone speaks English, the locals are polite, it is virtually crime free, there are always events going on and there is an endless amount of shows, activities, events and things to see. It’s also a perfect hub for a weekend getaway to countless amazing places in Asia to see, all within a 3 hour flight. It’s very similar to London in that sense – a diverse, business capital where the commerce occurs and a place that can be used as a hub for the rest of the continent. This is why London and Hong Kong are my favorite cities in the world.

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