Hong Kong offers visitors the opportunity to experience a unique fusion of cultures where east meets west; a vibrant place where the modern blends seamlessly with tradition, therein creating a global city which is dynamic and cosmopolitan. Sublime aromas emanate from the streets, thousands hailing from all corners of the globe whirl around you, gleaming modern skyscrapers are juxtaposed against traditional, cramped Chinese alleyways and designer retail shops selling haute couture are setting the trends while a vast variety of restaurants are busy vying for prestigious Michelin stars. These rewards and thrills await you in Asia’s World City.
The last time I stepped foot in this bustling city was to visit my older sister in 2008. Since then I have always wanted to return to my favorite Asian destination, but between work commitments and a hectic travel schedule, I haven’t found the time to travel back to Hong Kong. Lucky for me, I don’t have to go very far to experience Hong Kong. Instead, I can experience the best of Hong Kong at my doorstep right here in London.
Last week the UK Hong Kong Tourism Board invited me to a treasure hunt to promote the upcoming street festival “Hong Kong – Live in London”, a celebration of Hong Kong’s vibrant culture. Our objective was to use the clues provided to us to uncover Hong Kong’s intimate ties and long history with London.
The first clue took us to landmark hotels such as The Langham, where the hotel’s signature fragrance - a lovely fresh ginger flower scent – greeted us along with the concierge staff who presented us with pink roses, the signature colour of the luxury hospitality group who also maintain several properties in Hong Kong. Continuing on to the iconic Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane, we were escorted through the exquisite hotel lobby to the much applauded China Tang Restaurant. Hong Kong-born Sir David Tang, the force behind China Club and lifestyle brand Shanghai Tang, designed this gorgeous restaurant with strong influences of 1930s Shanghai, serving up authentic Cantonese food, indeed the perfect blend and ultimate example of how east and west are combined to give birth to the epitome of Hong Kong style.
The next clue brought us to South Molton Street, which will stage “Hong Kong – Live in London”, the week-long street festival running from the 12 - 18 September 2011. To celebrate the upcoming Year of the Dragon in 2012, an auspicious year in the lunar calendar in which the dragon symbolizes prosperity and energy, itself encapsulating the spirit of Hong Kong, the UK Hong Kong Tourism Board will be displaying the Molton Street Dragons installation. A collection of five interactive dragons aptly named Cosmopolitan, Fusion, Variety, Trends, and Vibrancy will give visitors a flavour of the different elements that make Hong Kong the most exciting and exotic metropolis in Asia.
A center of excellence for style and gastronomy, eating and shopping are two major activities to keep visitors and locals alike entertained. It is no surprise that Hong Kong is a culinary heaven for the food lover. Brimming with over 30,000 restaurants, ranging from small dumpling shops to Michelin-starred restaurants, Hong Kong offers every imaginable cuisine, from regional Chinese, Thai, and Brazilian to Japanese, Lebanese, French, and even Mexican. A visit to Hong Kong will no doubt be a feast for the senses, and the ultimate gratification to satisfy any appetite.
As guests of the UK Hong Kong Tourism Board, we were in for a treat. Executive Chef Tsang Chiu King of the two-star Michelin restaurant Ming Court at Langham Place, Hong Kong flew in to promote the Best of Hong Kong through its culinary legacy. We sampled several signature dishes of Ming Court, including the Deep-Fried Shrimp Toast, a Crispy Sole Filet with Yuzu Honey, and the award-winning Chicken Black Truffle with Pumpkin. These dishes truly embody the fusion cooking of east and west, combining traditional Cantonese cooking techniques with European ingredients. The pan-fried minced chicken meat cooked on the traditional wok was perfectly seasoned and coated with a luscious layer of black truffle, then infused with the aroma of deep-fried shallots and accompanied by a slice of pan-fried pumpkin. This is a well executed dish that pairs amazingly well with a crispy white wine. Teaming up with Head Chef Alan Marchetti, you will have an opportunity to taste Chef Tsang’s culinary creation at the Mews of Mayfair on Lancashire Court from the 12 - 25 September through their special, jointly created Asian-influenced menu.
Hong Kong is world renowned for its trend-setting creative industry; from film-makers such as Director Wong Kar Wai, actors Chow Yun Fat and Maggie Cheung, and the haute couture through the creative work of fashion designers Vivienne Tam and Lu Lu Cheng. Much like the role of its cousin, London, it is no surprise that Hong Kong is a major fashion centre of Asia. Visitors to Hong Kong can indulge in some serious retail therapy, another local favorite past time. You will find a range of everything you can imagine, from international designer brands in upmarket Tsim Sha Tsui or in Central, to stylish boutiques and retail shops in Causeway Bay, to street markets in Yau Ma Tei such as the famous Ladies’ Market and the Temple Street Night Market for affordable fashion accessories, knock-off handbags, and everything in between including electronic goods, jewelry, and antiques.
Speaking of shopping, the treasure hunt then took us to Beatrix Ong’s flagship store on the Burlington Arcades in Mayfair. Known for her “creative twist on the classic” shoes, Hong Kong-transplant Ong has earned her stripes as one of London’s rising fashion designers, receiving her MBE honor this year for her service to the fashion industry.
The last clue took us to the beautiful rooftop bar Aqua Spirit on Arygll Street for evening cocktails. The design is modern sleek with a touch of Asian accents adorning the walls. The connection? It also has a sister branch in Hong Kong, which occupies the 30th floor of a high-rise office building in Tsim Sha Tsui. With incredible views of the city, Aqua Spirit Hong Kong has all the “wow” factor and is the place to be seen with a killer cocktail.
Between eating, shopping, and wandering among the alleys and streets beneath the towering buildings, be certain to immerse yourself in Hong Kong’s rich Chinese cultural heritage. For the most amazing sights of the city’s iconic skyline, take the famous Star Ferry across the Victoria Harbour or ride the peak tram to Victoria Peak for fantastic views of Hong Kong Island. Make it a point to mingle with the locals and expats at the London-inspired pubs of Lan Kwai Fong, roam the escalators and browse the cafes that adorn SoHo, and of course visit the world’s tallest outdoor seated bronze Buddha on Lantau Island for a moment of calm and serenity before getting back to it all again.
Can’t get to Hong Kong in the near future? Head over to South Molton Street for the "Hong Kong – Live in London" Festival from the 12 - 18 September 2011 to sample the Best of Hong Kong and enter for a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong, Asia’s World City.