If New York is the city that never sleeps, then Hong Kong might be the city that doesn’t even own a bed. After floating under the cultural radar for the last couple of decades, Hong Kong has risen to become Asia’s premier world city – a bustling, cosmopolitan playground where East and West dance together under flashing neon lights until the rising sun turns the countless skyscraper windows golden.
Safe, easy to get around via a cheap and expansive public transport system, and home to an English-speaking trilingual population (in addition to local Cantonese and Mandarin), Hong Kong is a uniquely foreigner-friendly city (it was, after all, a British colony until 1997, and remains a primary location of the Asian offices of many international companies). Indeed, visitors of all nationalities are welcomed by locals with open arms and wide smiles, part of a culture of hospitality that has long been embraced by the inhabitants of this group of 282 islands.
Hong Kong’s nightlife is as varied as the 7 million cramped natives who rub elbows here, and colored neon signs are everywhere, giving the city a fluorescent glow at all hours. It’s as easy to find a back-street bar serving homemade plum wine as it is to walk past velvet ropes into a decadent nightclub straight out of ‘Flashdance.’ The narrow streets of the Soho and Lan Twai districts especially offer an eclectic mix of world cuisines, and are home to everything from Brooklyn-style eateries like Posto Pubblico, which serves up homemade pasta, to Mexican taqueria Caramba (which has unforgettable, fresh margaritas), to Irish pubs, sake bars and – it should go without saying – countless karaoke bars blasting K-pop. Across the harbor in Kowloon you’ll find more touristy spots like Ozone, located on top of Hong Kong’s tallest building, with a cool outdoor patio overlooking the throbbing city.
A trip to Hong Kong isn’t complete without a late night visit to a local noodle house, like one of our favorites, Kau Kee Noodle on Gough Street, where we were served beef brisket noodle bowls above a simple kitchen, while we shared communal tables with the locals (also look for Mak’s Noodle). Tim Ho Wan, who cut his teeth making dim sum at the Four Seasons, makes fresh gourmet dim sum accessible to everyone – and also happens to be the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in Hong Kong. If hip, young, and stylish is what you’re after, then you’ll definitely want to visit Yardbird. With a clientele that includes everyone from Cantonese pop stars and well-known Hong Kong artists like Simon Birch to a mix of Chinese and Western financiers, filmmakers, and foodies, Yardbird never disappoints. And that also includes the food; head chef Matt Abergel consistently creates some of the best signature dishes in the city. Try a skewer of chicken thigh, wing, liver or tail and also the KFC – Korean Fried Caulifower – washing it all down with delicious artisanal sake or the locally brewed Aldrich Bay Pale Ale. Wherever you roam, though, don’t be surprised when you’re asked to “queue up,” as long waits at popular restaurants are not only common, but expected.
Our favorite place to stay in Hong Kong is the InterContinental Hotel in Kowloon. A go-to spot for traveling businessmen and royalty alike, with a beautiful lobby overlooking the harbor and Hong Kong skyline, it’s a local hot spot for afternoon tea – a Chinese tradition – and home to world-class restaurants like Nobu. It’s also conveniently located within walking distance of the subway station, which will take you anywhere in the city. The InterContinental’s full spa and not to be missed three-temperature, infinity edge hot tub will help you kick jet lag, but if real pampering is your goal, get one of the world’s closest and most luxurious shaves at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s barber shop, followed by a life-altering foot massage at Ten Feet Tall.
More information: Cathay Pacific and United Airlines fly nonstop to Hong Kong from numerous U.S. gateways including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), and San Francisco.