Tick off Central and Tsim Sha Tsui then jump in a little red Toyota taxi or on the world-class MTR train network to explore some of the city's lesser known haunts.
WONG CHUK HANG
Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong.
The Place: South Hong Kong Island
Best for: Contemporary art galleries, boutique homeware shops, cafes
The Lowdown: Wong Chuk Hang was getting its groove on years before the new MTR station opened, but now the city's art stalkers and shopping fiends have easier access. The trip from Admiralty to Wong Chuk Hang on the new South Island line takes eight minutes with trains departing every three minutes. The industrial suburb's aesthetic assault of factories and warehouses (mostly empty since the 80s) have gifted the city with well-lit, spacious and funky spaces perfect for fitting out galleries, homeware stores and eateries. Navigating bridges over highway-sized roads, riding commercial lifts and traversing seemingly unused corridors is all part of the attraction.
Must do: Blindspot Gallery (www.blindspotgallery.com), a contemporary art gallery that champions emerging artists. The Butcher's Club Deli and Secret Kitchen (www.thebutchers.club) is a charcuterie cafe by day and, by night, a sumptuously adorned private kitchen on a factory rooftop. Home-bod stylists will love Mirth Home (www.mirthhome.com) for its colourful collection. On the top floor of mega shopping high-rise Horizon Plaza (www.horizonplazahk.com) in nearby Ap Lei Chau, Tree (www.tree.com.hk) is a stylishly sustainable furniture store. For views, head to 3/3rds (www.three-3rds.com) which offers an escape from the rush.
The Place: Hong Kong Island, southeast of Causeway Bay
Best for: Small bars, cafes and specialty shops
The Lowdown: This pocket of relatively low-rise residential buildings backed by hills has retained its village atmosphere, somewhat miraculously given its proximity to frenetic Causeway Bay. Its grid of narrow one-way streets is mostly free of traffic, allowing visitors to stroll around quirky bars, artisan foodie venues, arty-craft shops and the odd open-fronted mechanic garage, a hangover from trades gone by. This is also home to the annual Mid-Autumn Fire Dragon Festival, one of the city's most dramatic and unforgettable spectacles whereby a 67-metre fire dragon, spiked with smoking incense, dances wildly through the streets.
Must do: Gorgeous new Little Tai Hang hotel (www.littletaihang.com) is part hotel-residence, part neighbourhood hangout. Celebrity Asian chef May Chow's brewery Second Draft has 25 beers on tap. IMTeppanyaki & Wine (www.imteppanyaki.com) does Japanese on skewers like few can. Lab Made Ice Cream (www.labmade.com.hk) uses cold liquid nitrogen to freeze its ingredients and Papabubble (www.papabubble.com.hk) sells the kind of candy Willy Wonka would approve of.
SAI YING PUN
The Place: Hong Kong Island west between Sheung Wan and Kennedy Town
Best for: Cool bars, contemporary eateries, design-driven shops
The Lowdown: The sloping tree-shaded cobbled streets of residential Sai Ying Pun, known affectionately as 'the Pun', have become home to some of the city's most artisan shops, creative eateries and cool bars. Not bad for a neighbourhood with a rather colourful history. The opening of an MTR station and Centre Street Escalator Link have contributed to its new-found popularity, as have rents that are cheaper than the neighbouring hipster hub of Sheung Wan. Closer to the waterfront, the dried seafood shops, old street vendors and Chinese medicine shops add to the neighbourhood's allure.
Must do: F.O.B or Fresh Orgasmic Bottles (www.freshorgasmicbottles.com) is a new wine bar specialising in organic and biodynamic wines. Ping Pong Gintoneria (www.pingpong129.com) is an industrial-looking neon-lit bar in an old table tennis hall. All day caffeine fix and after-five coffee martinis are served at Winston's Coffee (www.winstonscoffee.com). Above street level, Thorn & Burrow (www.thorn&burrow.com) is a colourful clutter of curated homewares.
Sai Kung, Hong Kong.
The Place: East Coast New Territories
Best for: Fresh local seafood, local vibe and access to the great outdoors
The Lowdown: It's a bit more a challenging getting to Sai Kung but the end justifies the means. This low-density, low-rise village, a 40-minute drive from Central, has long been a city escape, attracting ex-pats looking for open space and fresh air and locals wanting a seafood fix. This is also the jumping off point for some iconic outdoor activities including kayaking to Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark, hiking along the popular MacLehose trail and camping (yes – camping) on the white sands of nearby Tai Long Wan. In the village itself there are numerous bars and cafes, but the highlight is Sai Kung Seafood Street where open-fronted eateries display live seafood in bubbling tanks.
Must do: Sing Kee seafood restaurant has again earned a star in the 2018 HK Michelin guide. Wild Paddle (www.wildhongkong.com) offers kayaking, cycling and hiking tours. The tropical beach at Hap Mun Bay beach is a short boat ride from Sai Kung. Little Cove Espresso sells Aussie quality caffeine.
SHAM SHUI PO
The Place: North Kowloon
Best for: Haberdashery, fashion, local street food
The Lowdown: Sham Shui Po's combination of gritty local areas and urban renewal make it a pit stop for anyone wanting an authentic Hong Kong street life immersion. The crowded shopping malls and market streets are still delineated by specialty retail products so you can one-stop shop for electronic accessories (Apliu St), computers (Golden Computer Arcade), toys (Fuk Wing St), street food (Fuk Wa St), fabrics (Ki Lung Shek Kip Mei streets) and clothes (Cheung Sha Wan Rd). Most popular of all, due in no small part to the artisan and craft trend that has taken over the city, is the haberdashery on Yu Chau Street. Here design DIY-ers can find buttons, beads and leather samples fit for adorning and jazzing up any outfit or accessory. In the surrounding buildings there are unique vendors, one-off shops and galleries worth exploring too.
Must do: Kueng Kee (4 Yiu Tung St) is an old-style dai pai dong selling traditional wok favourites. Tao Yuan Fashion Beads (259 Yu Chau St) sells beads by the weight and ribbons by the roll. The mural Rainbow Thief covers the entire facade of a residential building on Tai Nan St. Vinyl Hero (239 Cheung Sha Wan Rd) is avid record collector Ah Paul's music repository and shop. Tiny artist-run 100ft Park (100ftpark.hk) is an edgy local gallery.
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