From silks to Chinese junks and a century-old railway, there’s still Oriental charm to be had among the gloss of this thriving metropolis. And the skyline views are spectacular

Described in 1841 by the then British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston as a ‘barren island with hardly a house upon it’, Hong Kong is anything but deserted these days. With globally unsurpassed ambition, energy and alacrity, the city has evolved from a collection of sleepy fishing villages into the definition of East meets West. Amid this mad dash, timeless gems, dramatic vistas and unique souvenirs await.

Retail riches

Find authentic Chinese antiquities along the Hollywood Road Those in search of authentic Chinese antiquities can trust Chine Gallery along the Hollywood Road, a stretch of shops proffering Asian antiques, where the genuinely ancient co-exists alongside more recent pieces. Women can go Oriental with a custom-made cheongsam dress from Linva Tailors on Cochrane Street; Mr Leung keeps an extensive range of fine silks in solid and sexy prints. Men can keep up by slipping on exquisite handmade shirts and bespoke suits from A-Man Hing Cheong in Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong’s shopping arcade alongside bling-king Ronald Abram. Under-the-radar Youmna sells sublime designs in 18-carat Florentine gold, by appointment in an airy palm-fringed atelier.

 

View points

A Chinese junk in Victoria Harbour No longer the only way to cross Victoria Harbour between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula, the Star Ferry remains, however, the waterway’s most romantic form of transport. Tickets are cheap and the extra half-dollar premium for the upper deck views is a bargain. The vertical perspective is no less impressive on the Peak Tram, one of the world’s steepest funicular railways, which has been climbing the island’s heights for about 120 years from Central, the business district, to Victoria Peak. Sit on the right-hand side heading up for the best views. For the broadest perspective of Hong Kong, take one of Heliservices amazing helicopter tours.
 
Relax in style Sedate during the day, MO Bar takes it up several notches come nightfall with concerts in its intimate lounge

Art affairs

Invest in modern art by Chinese painters at Zee Stone Gallery Behind a red, rippled fibreglass façade, unexpectedly sandwiched between the fruit vendors and street stalls of Wan Chai Market, one of the last slivers of old Hong Kong, the Ooi Botos Gallery mounts exhibitions that explore China’s rapid 21st-century growth through the mediums of avant-garde photography, video and installation art. Modern art from China, Vietnam and Burma can be found at Zee Stone Gallery, while further contemporary Chinese works are displayed at Plum Blossoms. Also in the neighbourhood is Grotto, which has a niche promoting Hong Kong artists.
 

Spa partners

The Moroccan rasul at The Oriental Spa at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong Disappear from the bustle for a few hours at The Oriental Spa at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong for a result-driven facial developed by the world's renowned plastic surgeon, Ivo Pitanguy, or a signature, indulgent Time Ritual, an individually tailored massage lasting two hours or more. Arrive early to unwind in the women’s Laconium or the men’s Hamam, or relax in the jets of the vitality pool and under scented ‘rainforest’ showers. There’s more male pampering to be found at The Mandarin Barber at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, which offers haircuts and shaves in a private-gentleman’s-club-style setting.

 
Where to bliss out Arrive early at The Oriental Spa at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong to unwind in the women’s Laconium or the men’s Hamam

Outdoor life

Map of Hong Kong There are few cities in the world where you can watch pink flamingos between business meetings, but take a five-minute walk from Central to the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens and watch them strut their stuff while locals practise tai chi. Early mornings are the ideal time to jog or power-walk along Bowen Road, a 4km path halfway up the Peak, which winds through the Mid-Levels area. Follow its route alongside exclusive residences set in a lush jungle overlooking Wan Chai and the racetrack at Happy Valley. Serious hikers should do Dragon’s Back, a two-hour trek along a hilly ridge to the seaside village of Shek O at the easternmost tip of Hong Kong Island.
 

Delicious dining

Pierre by Pierre Gagnaire at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong The only reason to remove oneself from the sofas on the wraparound outdoor terrace lounge at Sevva is for the eclectic menu: Indian dosas, traditional Chinese clay pot with crackling rice in broth, abalone, freshwater shrimps and fragrant leaves, or the Sevva Special – a salad of artichoke hearts, avocado and tea-smoked quail’s eggs with salt and pepper tofu. Stop for an afternoon snack at Vero with its floor-to-ceiling views of the skyline and harbour. Sip espresso and sample handcrafted chocolates in unusual flavours like honey mustard and banana mint. After nightfall, take a seat at the table for 12 in Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong’s private Krug Room where menus are hand-written on slate walls. For gourmets, there’s Michelin-starred French cuisine at Pierre by Pierre Gagnaire at Mandarin Oriental, while Dutch-born chef Richard Ekkebus presents two Michelin-starred delights at Amber at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental,  with dishes such as Iberian pork chin and cheek with celeriac, celery, pickled green pears and black truffle coulis, followed by passion fruit soufflé.
 

Show time

Symphony of lights See the day off in style aboard the Aqua Luna, one of the last Chinese junks to be traditionally made with three enormous red sails; in Cantonese the boat is called Cheung Po Tsai, after a pirate who once terrorised these waters. The on-board bar-restaurant is split across two wooden decks. Time your voyage to take in the Symphony of Lights held at 8pm each evening. This sound and light display turns the skyline into the backdrop for a pyrotechnic celebration of the city’s energy and diversity. Sedate during the day, the street-front MO Bar at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong takes it up several notches for Unplugged, its invitation-only concerts in the intimate lounge where Alicia Keys, Annie Lennox and Harry Connick Jr have already graced the stage.
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