FUNK Y HONKERS HON ERS
Vibrant Hong Kong fascinating paradi has become a friendly and ise, writes Jane Howard
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.
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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.