Places to Love: Hong Kong
Hong Kong is truly dazzling, with soaring modern skyline surrounded by spectacular nature. However, once you start wandering through the city, you’ll find tucked away in corners with gems waiting to be discovered. From traditional restaurants to artists who don’t take themselves too seriously, Hong Kong is an ultra-modern city with a personality all its own. Here’s why it’s a place to love.
PLACES AND STORIES TO LOVE
Creativity Booms in a Former Government Building
In a city where old buildings are knocked down to put up another skyscraper, it’s rare to find a place like PMQ. Built in 1951 as the Police Married Quarters, this utilitarian building was reimagined as a hub for creativity in 2010. Today, it’s filled with artists and designers, restaurants, shops, and a rooftop garden.
I visited the shop of artist Ronno Ip, a jewelry designer who creates pieces paying homage to the local culture and characteristics of Hong Kong. Think famous Hong Kong street snacks; traditional clothing and skyline views. A few doors down, I found Heidi Choi’s ceramic shop, FlowPlusLiving, which sells handcrafted pieces inspired by seasonal eating.
How to Gossip Like a Hongkonger
One of my favorite shops at PMQ has to be Goods of Desire, the fun, playful shop from designer Douglas Young. Not only did we talk about what sets Hong Kong apart from mainland China, he also taught me to play mahjong, the favorite local game of moms, grandmas and aunties. Played with small tiles, this game is as much about competition as it is about gossiping. If you’re in Hong Kong and have an opportunity to play, just do it! It’s as local as it gets.
IF YOU GO
Want to speak like a local? If you lose a hand of mahjong, drop something or stub your toe, shout, “Ayaah!” It’s Hong Kong’s version of “dang it!” or “ah, rats!”
Goods of Desire
Staunton / GF / SG09 – SG11
S614, Block A, PMQ,
35 Aberdeen Street,
Central, Hong Kong
A taste of traditional hong kong cuisine
Sham Shui Po is one of Hong Kong’s oldest and most densely populated neighborhoods. You can still find traditional Hong Kong businesses tucked into the nooks and crannies, among them, a dessert that is a beloved classic. For over 100 years, Kung Wo Beancurd has been known for all things tofu. Their tofu pudding is something every local kid grew up eating. Smooth as silk and topped with sugar, I fell in love with this simple dish instantly.
IF YOU GO
This old school restaurant is famous for more than pudding. Try their tofu puffs, deep fried tofu dishes and homemade soy milk.
Kung Wo Beancurd
118 Pei Ho Street, Sham Shui Po
The bird is the word
You could say Hong Kong’s Prince Edward district is for the birds. I met up with local Fred Cheung who introduced me to a very different Hong Kong tradition. For over 500 years, people have brought their pet birds to Yuen Po Street Bird Gardens for socialization– both for the birds and their human companions. The park is designed with bars for hanging bird cages. Nearby you’ll find everything you need to take care of your own flock. Cages, food, feeders– you name it!
IF YOU GO
The local birders here love to tell you all about their pets and accessories. Don’t be surprised if someone whips out their iPhone, showing off their birds like a proud grandma boasts about her grandkids.
Create a Ritual, Hong Kong Style
If I’m in a place for more than three days, I like to create a ritual. It might sound crazy, but I love to find my place and keep going back. This helps me feel the ebb and flow of a place. I stumbled upon Tsui Wah— a tea restaurant that’s kind of like Hong Kong’s version of a diner. It’s a chain here in China, but to me it’s solidly local because of its breakfast. They offer a roll, bowl of ramen and a fried egg. This place is nothing fancy, but that’s precisely why I love it. Not every meal has to change your life; sometimes it just needs to keep you satiated and sane.
IF YOU GO
The beef ramen noodles are really delicious, and you absolutely cannot skip the tea. But apparently their 11-inch hot dog, topped with ketchup, mustard, tomato, pickles and lettuce is one of their top sellers!
Get Schooled in Feng Shui
Most of us have heard of the practice of feng shui, but do you really know what it is? I didn’t, and was fortunate to have Kerby Kuek show me how this practice plays into Hong Kong’s design and architecture. Those who live by this philosophy are very deliberate in how they design the world around them, harnessing energy in a positive, productive manner.
Kuek strongly believes that feng shui and Chinese Metaphysics is not superstition at all: he says it’s a combination of formulae, experiences and common sense. A skilled master like Kuek can help integrate feng shui into your daily life, helping you to achieve personal goals.
Take a literal hike
When you think Hong Kong, you probably imagine an expanse of skyscrapers and concrete. However, there’s tons of incredible green countryside just outside the bustling city. If you like to get out into nature, link up with Hong Kong Hiking Meetup, quite possibly the world’s largest organized hiking group (over 23,000 registered members!). SK and Galia Shum organize about 1,800 hikes. What’s especially cool about this group is that nearly all of their 100+ trail hikes are accessible by public transportation from the city, which makes these adventures available to every kind of person.
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IF YOU GO
It can be challenging to meet people when you travel. However, activities like hiking with a group make it so much easier (and really quite fun!). Whether it’s a hike, a class or an organized tour, look for opportunities to meet and mingle with locals and other travelers.
Find a hike by visiting Hong Kong Hiking Meetup.