Four days in Hong Kong; part two

Our Hong Kong adventures continued—see part one here—with an early morning walk through the empty streets of Central and Wan Chai. The streets are so very different without the crowds of people. They look neither better nor worse, just different, exposing elements previously unseen. This day we decided to do something we had heard of many times and yet never undertaken; hiking in Hong Kong.

Hiking is not something one typically associates with the city, yet, there are numerous hikes on Hong Kong and the surrounding islands. We settled for the MTR (train) and a bus ride out to the Dragons Back trail and Big Wave Beach. Arriving at the MTR stop for the connecting bus to Shek O, it was our first taste of what living in Hong Kong is really like; busy, insanely crowded and requiring of a good deal of patience.

Hiking in Hong Kong is a bustling affair—as in the city—with people densely packed along the trail. Passing is mostly impossible, and equally pointless, as there will just be more people ahead of you. The best advice is to slow down and walk in sync; this was you’ll have a far better time. The Dragon’s Back trail is named for its undulating ridgeline. This trail is a three-hour walk along the ridge taking in views on either side including the strangely Mediterranean architecture on one side, with Shek O and Big Wave Beach on the other.

Turning off the Dragons Back, we followed the trail to Big Wave Beach, a further hour down the path. This was a little fraught as by this stage we were tired, hot (28 degrees with no shade) and irritable. Pushing on, we arrived to find a weird hybrid Chinese/Western restaurant serving greasy food and plastic garden chairs; needless to say, the food was entirely forgettable. In spite of this, the rest and a little food put us in better spirits as we meandered down to Hong Kong’s surfing beach. I was quite keen to hire a board for the sheer novelty of surfing in Hong Kong. However, the two-foot shore break, floating rubbish and nasty smell made me reconsider; it’s easy to forget just how lucky we are to live with Australia’s fabulous beaches.

A long taxi—long for Hong Kong as we traversed most of the island—and we arrived back at the Pottinger Hotel. As we stepped out of the cab, we saw once again queues of people at Michelin starred goose restaurant, Yat Lok. This time it was 3pm, and we were determined to sample their famed cuisine. Ordering half a goose (delicious), we met many interesting people including a couple from Macao who travel to Hong Kong each fortnight for the goose noodle soup. While the service is typically Hong Kong (brusque), and you are squished into a tiny shop with a large number of other diners, Yat Lok is definitely worth visiting.

Later that evening, we boarded the always charming Star Ferry to Kowloon to view the city’s nightly light show. In Kowloon, we walked through their smart shopping precinct in the search for a cash machine; it’s worth noting that many places in Hong Kong are still ‘cash only’ including taxis and tour operators. Wandering through Kowloon, it is clear why Hong Kong is known for its sophisticated retail offerings. Taking a wrong turn, we got lost in an enormous waterfront mall, nearly missing our tour of the harbour. Luckily we made it—running—and had a great experience seeing the light show from the last remaining fishing junk on Hong Kong harbour. This boat, the ‘Dukling’, was salvaged and restored by an eccentric millionaire when it sank in Hong Kong Harbour over fifteen years ago.

The following morning featured breakfast at the hotel before setting off on one of the city’s iconic trams for coffee at Omotesando Koffee. We had been to the original Omotesando Koffee in Tokyo, housed in a tiny old house in Omotesando. The formula seems to have worked as this single coffee shop has since expanded across Asia with two locations in Hong Kong. The Wan Chai outpost features the same high-quality coffee, without quite the attention to detail you find in Japan. This is more cultural and not intended as a criticism of the Hong Kong branch.

Feeling over caffeinated—I had not drunk coffee for two years; see story on quitting coffee here—, we boarded another tram for some shopping at the Ralph Lauren flagship store. In addition to the Purple and Polo labels, the flagship store stocks the difficult-to-find RRL line which was my prey. This store offers a great retail experience with helpful staff, excellent product range and a stylish bar for customers to drink whiskey and play backgammon.

Next, we were keen to try one of the best ‘local’ dim sum restaurants and were directed to Lin Heung Lau in Central. This is a Cantonese only speaking affair where you have to battle other diners for a table, and for the food. We coined it ‘scrum cha’ as you have to gently, or maybe not so gently, push people out of the way to secure food from the trolleys that circulate. To a westerner, I have never seen a restaurant like this. After ordering six or seven dishes at random, we paid and left, leaving it to the locals to battle it out for their meals.

Keen to experience a different part of Hong Hong we walked up the hill above Sheung Wan to a neighbourhood called Tia Ping Shan. This area has a more relaxed feel and offers a change of pace from the freneticism of Central and Wan Chai. The district comprises independent shops, plentiful trees (a rarity in Hong Kong) and a creative class of resident and visitors. It was a charming area and probably where we would choose to live if we ever moved to Hong Kong.

In Tia Ping Shan, teahouse Teahka is known for its tea and cakes and features an atmosphere that would not be out of place in Surry Hills. Naturally, tea was the focus, although it was not quite as serious about its tea as I had expected, as I come to grips with the Chinese approach to tea. Nevertheless, it was a nice refuelling stop before heading onto cocktails at Dundell’s rooftop bar above Shanghai Tang.

Running out of time, we dashed to Mak’s Noodles on Wellington Street. Wow. Earning a Michelin Star for their wonton noodle soup, the decor is pleasant, as is the service, two things not to be taken for granted in Hong Kong. Mak’s makes the best wonton noodle soup I have ever tasted. It was absolutely delicious, consuming two bowls before heading to the airport. This was another great trip to Hong Kong, a city that finds itself perennially high on our list of preferred short-break destinations.