A visit to Hong Kong, whether for a visa run or a slice of Westernized escapism, is a rite of passage for many a newly arrived Beijing expat. But what about those of us who are on our Nth visit and are looking for something a little different? Here we present the Beijinger’s alternative guide to Hong Kong for repeat visitors.
Give it a miss… Tim Ho Wan
Go instead… Man Mo Café
Yes, the char siu pork puffs at Tim Ho Wan are delicious, and yes, it is one of the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, but the long waits and canteen atmosphere, particularly at the IFC branch, always leave us feeling dissatisfied. For something completely different, head to Man Mo Café. Nestled among the antique stores on Cat Street, Man Mo Café serves up kooky dim sum with Western flavors twists, such as foie gras xiaolongbao or Nutella-filled sesame balls. Of course, for the traditionalists there’s always shabby-chic Lin Heung Teahouse on nearby Wellington Street.
Give it a miss… Afternoon tea at The Peninsula
Go instead… Afternoon tea at the Clipper Lounge, Mandarin Oriental
If you’re tired of waiting in line at The Peninsula with scores of Chinese and Japanese tourists clutching bags of luxury goods, head instead to the equally venerable Mandarin Oriental and the exceedingly genteel Clipper Lounge. Decked out in muted colors and subtle oriental accents, Clipper Lounge’s afternoon tea is served on traditional silver stands with a selection of seasonal teas. Afternoon tea for one is HKD 278 plus 10 percent service charge (the Hong Kong dollar is worth approximately 20 percent less than the RMB).
Give it a miss… IFC, Harbour City, et al.
Go instead… Argyle Centre, Mongkok
It’s hardly a secret that most tourists come to Hong Kong for the shopping. If your style is more “cheap chic” than Chanel, head to Mongkok’s labyrinthine Argyle Centre for trendy clothes at bargain basement prices. Imagine a bricks and mortar version of Taobao and you will have the right idea – sparkly phone cases and imported face creams compete for space with the latest fashions from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. There are also plenty of cheap snack stalls for when you need a break from the retail onslaught.
Give it a miss… The Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery
Go instead… Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden
The 34-meter-tall Big Buddha on Lantau Island is undoubtedly an impressive sight, but the expensive cable car and tacky tourist village surrounding it have made it more of a miss than a hit (not to mention that with Hong Kong’s humid, cloudy weather you’ll be lucky to visit on a day when you can see the Buddha’s head). Instead, take the MTR to Diamond Hill station in Kowloon and visit hushed Chi Lin Nunnery, a Buddhist temple complex renovated in Tang dynasty style. Together with the adjacent Nan Lian Garden, lush with foliage, it is one of the most unexpectedly serene spots in Hong Kong.
Photo: Issac Lee (Flickr)
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