Vi­brant Hong Kong fas­ci­nat­ing paradi has be­come a friendly and ise, writes Jane Howard

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - News -

IT is the Year of the Ox, a sign that in Chi­nese cul­ture sym­bol­ises pros­per­ity through hard work and for­ti­tude. But as there is yin, there is yang and in Hong Kong, at least, that earnest toil is bal­anced with a healthy re­gard for he­do­nism.

As an Aussie ex­pat based in Sin­ga­pore in the early 1990s, I was al­ways im­pressed by Hong Kong – it had one of the best-tuned barom­e­ters for fun and en­ter­tain­ment in Asia.

A re­cent visit con­firmed not a lot had changed in that re­gard ex­cept there are now many more funky and fab­u­lous of­fer­ings for trav­ellers.

Much of the ex­cite­ment is based around the hith­erto more in­dus­tri­alised, west Kowloon district, which is fast trans­form­ing into an edgy, com­mer­cial, en­ter­tain­ment and cul­tural hub.

Now, as in the 1990s, from the ma­jes­tic Vic­to­ria Har­bour, with its ever-chang­ing tide of junks and ships, to the se­duc­tive, steamy al­ley­ways of Kowloon, that beckon like sirens with bar­gains du jour, to the dai pai dong (canny traders who sell food from carts) and pro­duce ven­dors, whose pal­lid, skinned ducks and pi­geons hang like neck­laces in win­dows of cramped shops – Hong Kong is vi­brant and alive.

Its streets brim with noise, com­merce, a thou­sand ex­otic aro­mas, voices in com­pe­ti­tion, and fun.

What­ever your deadly sin, Hong Kong is a will­ing and com­plicit part­ner.

Sloth? Its five-star ho­tels are plea­sure tem­ples sec­ond to none.

The new­est and hippest ac­com­mo­da­tion kid on the block is the ul­tra-cool W Ho­tel, run by Aus­tralian gen­eral man­ager Da­mon Page in west Kowloon.

Page says it is aimed squarely at the 25-55 age-group. It is for well-heeled, in­de­pen­dent and techno-savvy trav­ellers who ap­pre­ci­ate art, fash­ion and thanks in no small part to sur­pris­ing in­te­rior colours, tex­tures wrought by Aus­tra team Ni­cholas Gra­ham and and by Glam­orous Co. of Ja

It has an at­ti­tude and fres all its own (well, of W, the grow­ing ho­tel chain in the which started in New York than a decade ago). The staff are kn tal­ent. Re­cep­tio concierge de old hat, he wel­come restaura fire and while is the – a plac where lo­cal mo and celeb If you are up, (rooms $400-$790 a nigh pre­fer the lord-and-re­la­tion­ship in ho­tel ser­vice think an MP3-player is some with a Bri­tish po­lit­i­cal sex W is not for you.

Its staff are young, gorge (some might think im­per­tin greet­ing you (of­ten and ofte as if you are a long lost frien

But it is not all looks and sub­stance, th­ese new friend ser­vice to the nth de­gree.

One re­mem­bered my rath break­fast pref­er­ence for wa juice and their fab­u­lous tep style the­atrics, chop-as-you muesli, down to the last pum and dried apri­cot ker­nel.

W has un­ob­structed view Hong Kong sky­line, at­ti­tude oozes style with rooms and are not deluxe or pres­i­denti from won­der­ful and spec­tac fan­tas­tic, wow and the top-ex­treme wow.

Its triple-height lobby (so area) is glass fes­tooned with tree branches while out­side of look-alike fire­fly lights gr the ex­te­rior, like moths to hap­pen­ing flame.

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of the galore and suites that ial but range cu­lar to of-the-line orry, liv­ing amaz­ing a plague rav­i­tate to his very hts the night pent­house, the ex­treme wow suite is a vast, mir­rored, hi-tech haven with views to die for, the ul­ti­mate in au­dio-vis­ual tech­nol­ogy in­clud­ing large LCD TV screens (even in the bath­room), Bang & Olufsen sound sys­tem and best of all, a toi­let pan stud­ded with thou­sands of Swarovski crys­tals.

Sur­prises abound else­where too, in the kitchen there are strik­ing, lean­ing tow­ers – not of pizza – but plates, fire has a col­umn wrapped with more than 8000 gold-leaf bur­geoned eggs plus cut­ting-edge cui­sine by New Zealand ex­ec­u­tive chef Michael Poutawa.

Per­haps the might­i­est sur­prise is the rooftop pool, called – what else – but Wet. On the 76th floor Wet seems to sit on the top of the world and has a breath­tak­ing view of a gi­ant Bud­dha, the sweep of Hong Kong sky­line and a tow­er­ing mo­saic but­ter­fly wall.

Fi­nally, W has Bliss, a world-class, im­pos­si­bly chic day spa where skin screams for the triple oxy­gen treat­ment with vi­ta­min oxy­gen spray and where other treats in­clude ev­ery woman’s best friend, the triple thigh­pass, as well as the love han­dler and the most di­vine range of skin­care po­tions for groom­ing groupies.

If you can ever tear your­self away from W to con­sider the other deadly sins, say glut­tony, Hong Kong de­liv­ers.

From its uber chic eater­ies and lav­ish restau­rants crowned with in­com­pa­ra­ble views, to its sim­ple dim sum de­lights and hot and de­li­cious hawker fare, it scores A-plus.

On this visit the lav­ish new Sevva was the gas­tro­nomic jewel in the crown. At the top of the Prince Build­ing in Cen­tral, it is the baby of so­cialite Bon­nie Gok­son and of­fers 360-de­gree views, four zones, a meet­ing place for the rich and fa­mous and the most ex­quis­ite cake shop, Ms B’s Sweets, with chan­de­lier and heaven-sent dec­o­ra­tor desserts.

There was even a vertical gar­den wall that would make Jamie Durie weep with envy.

Once you’re fed to the gills, and greed en­ters the equa­tion, Hong Kong rocks.

Its bar­gain-filled mar­kets and al­leys are burst­ing with clothes, shoes, jew­ellery, an­tiques, elec­tron­ics and pot­tery while its up­mar­ket shop­ping cen­tres gleam.

My favourites were the tra­di­tional bar­gain-hun­ters par­adise, the Ladies Mar­ket, and the quirky and whim­si­cal SoHo and NoHo ar­eas. Try style guru and HK fash­ion de­signer Ra­nee Kok’s fas­ci­nat­ing store, the Ra­nee K Shop in Cen­tral. East meet West in her funky and eclec­tic one-off cheongsams and Chi­nese fu­sion garb, in del­i­cate fabrics with sur­pris­ing twists.

Still seek­ing plea­sure and want­ing to in­dulge a lit­tle pride and lust then start the night at the Sha Tin Race­course, gath­er­ing place of young lo­cals and ex­pats, or catch an Aqua Luna har­bour cruise, a gen­tle, red-light shrouded boat that lets you en­joy the ex­otic HK har­bour light show.

Fol­low with a dose of the lo­cal, teem­ing night life at Lan Kwai Fong.

And af­ter all that, you just might find that for all its deadly sins, Hong Kong of­fers plenty of heav­enly virtues.

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