Hong Kong's Top 5 Staycations: Escape Without Leaving
Sure, you live here. But that doesn’t mean you can’t see the city anew with these fantastic staycations.
Blast from the Past
A journey into Hong Kong’s history doesn’t have to mean a boring old trek around the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Trail. Jordan and Yau Ma Tei are at the very heart of the city’s heritage—and it’s alive and well.
Where to Stay: Hotel Stage is an urban nomad’s dream pad. This brand-new boutique hotel is cloistered away just off Nathan Road, with colonial buildings on one side and Zaha Hadid’s avant-garde Innovation Tower in the distance. The hotel is all beautiful shades of gray offset by warm wood, and it’s strongly rooted in the city. Unique artwork from Hong Kong artists is the name of the game—we stayed in a suite decorated with a wall-wide depiction of the Mido Café just around the corner, painted by up-and-comer Kwong Man-chun. A library-lounge space and the gorgeous wine bar-slash-exhibition-and-performance-space Muse are the perfect places to perfect that screenplay, if the cutting-edge cool of the rooms isn’t doing it for you. Rooms from $1,430 per night. 1 Chi Wo St., Jordan, 3953-2222, www.hotelstage.com
What to See: Cross the road from Hotel Stage to check out the forbidding Old South Kowloon District Court (38 Gascoigne Rd., Yau Ma Tei), a beautiful colonial building built in 1936 that now serves as the Lands Tribunal. From there venture around the corner to the Kowloon Union Church (4 Jordan Rd., Jordan). Built in 1931, this house of worship stands out thanks to its red-brick construction, neo-gothic windows—and Chinese-style tiled roof. Used as a stable by the Japanese during World War II, nowadays it’s a fully restored place of peace—complete with wooden vaulted ceiling and fans hanging from on high. Next, wander down to the Former Kowloon British School (136 Nathan Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui): Built in 1902 for the children of expatriates, this Victorian school building is full of tropical flourishes, such as a wide verandah and pitched roofs.
Head north along Shanghai Street (see more things to do on p.20), where you’ll find Man Wah Tailor (文華洋服, 176 Shanghai St., Jordan, 2384-9197). This shop has been around since 1966, and you’re sure to see sifu Lee Yim-ming at the cutting table—or playing mahjong with his friends.
Further north is Hamilton Street and Luk Bing Kee Copper Ware (陸炳記銅器, 1 Hamilton St., Yau Ma Tei). Over 70 years old, this is the only remaining coppersmith in Hong Kong. The Luk brothers still hand-beat pots, pans, tea urns and more—including the huge copper gong used to open racing season at Sha Tin Racecourse.
Last: A bite. Dodge the tourists and head to the dai pai dongs at the northern end of Temple Street. The trinkets sold in the street stalls may be rubbish, but the food served up is the real deal. Not into fried noodles? No problem. Yau Ma Tei has long been a home to the city’s Nepalese population, and Manakamana Nepali Restaurant (165 Temple St., Jordan, 2385-2070) serves up a taste of home, from deep-fried momo dumplings to lip-smacking curries. Historical getaway: complete.
With its own MTR station opening soon, Wong Chuk Hang is only going to get hotter amongst stylish staycationers. This industrial jungle is full of gems, if you know where to look. Save yourself the trouble of scratching around—we’ve rounded up some of the best art, food and houseware shops to check out in this concrete treasureland.
Where to Stay: L’hotel Island South is the perfect chilled-out headquarters for getting around the area. Look out for art installations scattered around the hotel—think butterflies made of used CDs or an enormous wall installation entirely made from real fish skin. Pick up a tan on the balcony of the top-floor Aqua Suite on the 37th floor, while drinking in views of Ocean Park and taking in the gentle breeze of the Southside. Pamper yourself with Salvatore Ferragamo toiletries before heading to the pool or pigging out on briny oysters and red king crab at a sumptuous dinner buffet in the LIS Café—and after a day’s exploring, lounge on the couch with some late-night television before passing out on the plush queen bed.Rooms from $888 per night, Aqua Suite Celebration Package $3,488 per night, both include breakfast and dinner. 55 Wong Chuk Hang Rd., Aberdeen, 3968-8888, www.lhotelislandsouth.com
What to See: Hunt for designer homeware in the little stores tucked away in the area’s industrial buildings. Pop into the showroom of Establo (Room C&D, 4/F, Kwai Bo Industrial Building, 40 Wong Chuk Hang Rd., Wong Chuk Hang, 3565-5207), which boasts an extensive collection of Scandinavian furniture; or turn down a back-alley to find Mirth (M/F, 23 Yip Kan St., Wong Chuk Hang, 2553-9811), full of a brilliant jumble of quirky tableware, handcrafted tassel necklaces and anything you need for a party of any kind.
Grab brunch at the super-chic 3/3rds (22D Yally Industrial Building, 6 Yip Fat St., Wong Chuk Hang, 3462-2951): A tahini-dressed roasted eggplant salad and a chilled gazpacho soup should be perfect to fend off the summer heat. Blindspot Gallery (15/F, Po Chai Industrial Building, 28 Wong Chuk Hang Rd., Wong Chuk Hang, 2517-6238, www.blindspotgallery.com) is a must-go if you have an eye for contemporary photography—right now it’s hosting an exhibition of Japanese erotic photos.
As the saying goes, a vacay without photos is no vacay at all—wanderlusters can up their Instagram game with snaps in front of The Factory (1 Yip Fat St., Wong Chuk Hang), a huge events space that has been dressed up with bright yellow comics by Italian artist Mauro Marchesi. After a long day’s wandering, take the weight off at Above (23/F, Ovolo Southside, Wong Chuk Hang Rd., Wong Chuk Hang, 3460-8159)—this rooftop bar boasts a killer weekday happy hour with free-flow drinks for $180 per person. And the best part of all? Everything’s so close, you can just wander on back to the hotel.
If you thrive on posting gorgeous photos online and making your friends wonder if you really have a day job, head east towards the sleepy nabes of Tin Hau, Tai Hang and Fortress Hill. Full of quirky hidden gems and quaint cafes, it’s cool but not outlandish, and still close enough to the center of town to be relevant—just like yourself.
Where to Stay: With its sleek, shadowy facade, boutique hotel TUVE is hidden in plain sight on restaurant-laden Tsing Fung Street. Upon reaching the foreboding iron front gates it feels as though you’re entering some sort of sacred hipster temple, and the cinematic background music and minimalistic marble and concrete interiors add to the effect. The whole hotel is painstakingly simple, teeming with clean lines. If space and luxurious comfort is what you’re after, the largest 30-square-meter Premier room will do the trick: a massive king bed takes center stage, complete with a roomy rainfall shower so large you could practice yoga in there.Rooms from $1,000 per night, 16 Tsing Fung St., Tin Hau, 3995-8899, www.tuve.hk
What to See: This part of Hong Kong is a glutton’s paradise. Grab a late breakfast from Tai Hang’s The Pudding Nouveau (G/F, 17A King St., Tai Hang, 3585-7325), which does great coffees and full fry-ups. You can’t leave without trying the duck and waffle—impossibly crispy skin and melt-off-the-bone duck leg over a soft and lightly crisp waffle, dipped (or drenched) in maple syrup. Snap a few #blessed pics at the Lin Fa Kung Temple nearby, where you can pay your respects to Guanyin, the goddess of mercy, before continuing on your food explorations. Sip one of 140 varieties of artisanal loose leaf teas at Jrink (G/F, 21 Ormsby St., Tai Hang, 2284-4203), as you while away a chilled-out afternoon.
For an afternoon snack? You’ll want to grab one of the best Napoleon mille-feuille pastries in town from Mimosa Patisserie (Shop 36N, Golden Court, 22-52 Electric Rd., Tin Hau, 2806-0782—call ahead to make sure they haven’t sold out for the day). Soak up your fill of art at the Oi! Street Art Space (12 Oil St., Fortress Hill, 2512-3000), which is currently exhibiting “North Point Dream Properties Limited,” a commentary on the local property market in the form of a satirical show flat.
Cap off the weekend of good eats and Hong Kong culture with cart noodles and tea eggs from Hooray 萬歲 (Shop 9, G/F, Wang Fai Mansion, 2-12 Wang On Rd., Fortress Hill, 3105-9681). This retro-style Hong Kong snack shop even stocks the once popular Green Spot orange soda, and you can play old school arcade games as you wait for your food.
The heart of Tsuen Wan comprises immersive mega-malls and markets which stand towering over crisscrossing pedestrian flyovers, but not far from the chaos lie two beautiful country parks. For a family-friendly weekend that combines unbeatable shopping and spectacular hiking overlooking the South China Sea, head west of the city.
Where to stay: The Bay Bridge Hong Kong is a sleek and modern hotel/residence offering fully serviced apartments and studio rooms, located a quick shuttle bus from the station. Their one-bedroom apartments exude a hip beach-house vibe, with wide bay windows overlooking the sea, 150-square-foot patios perfect for a morning coffee or evening nightcap, plus dining table and kitchenette. Not one for cooking on holiday? Grab a breakfast buffet at Anchor’s Seafood & Beer House before repairing to the mosaic-tiled swimming pool, which offers sweeping views over the South China Sea. Similar views are on show in the lounge, making it ideal for a pleasant happy hour spent watching the boats pass by under the long, picturesque bridge to Tsing Yi. The “Delicious Journey” package starts at $770 per night, including $100 of credit per day to be used at Anchor’s Seafood & Beer House. 123 Castle Peak Rd., Yau Kom Tau, Tsuen Wan, 2945-1111, www.baybridgehongkong.com
What to See: You could board a shuttle to Tsuen Wan and pass a whole day in the labyrinthine Discovery Park mall (398 Castle Peak Rd., Tseun Wan) with its various kid-friendly themed areas, including a “tropical rainforest” with artificial waterfall and a K-Pop zone.
But if you didn’t leave home just to go to another mall (really?), follow the signs towards the Sam Tung Uk Museum (2 Kwu Uk Lane, Tseun Wan). This restored 200-year-old Hakka village contains 12 original rooms, each housing their own mini-exhibits: Down one corridor, you can learn about the history of rice farming in Hong Kong and surrounding areas; down another is a series of rooms displaying woodblock prints of everyday life two centuries ago. Their major exhibition hall is a tour through Hong Kong’s intangible cultural traditions, including Cantonese Opera, tea ceremonies, and the art of the guqin (including a real guqin you can play on the spot).
To really stretch your legs, Tsuen Wan is one of the closest entry points to Tai Mo Shan. Hong Kong’s highest peak boasts the 35-meter-tall Long Falls, Hong Kong’s longest waterfall. But the peak isn’t quite as steep as it seems, and much of it is on a paved trail. From Tsuen Wan MTR, take bus 51 to the “Country Park” stop. From there, follow Section Eight of the Maclehose Trail. Head up and you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Kowloon—but pick a cooler day and don’t forget to bring sunscreen and lots of water.
Sometimes, you just need to get away. Don’t have the time to hop on a plane? Take a weekend escape to a family-friendly urban resort that looks and feels like an island getaway.
Where to Stay: The Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Sha Tin, is a one-minute walk from University MTR station. Not what you had in mind for a weekend getaway? You’ll be surprised: The escalator from the ground up to the hotel is a portal to a whole other world. You’ll forget you almost tripped on a row of luggage on your way over: Here the only rows are rows of palm trees and greenery. Sign up for the Summer Getaway Package for two, overlooking a lush mountain view or a constellation of headlights along Tolo Harbour. The package features a breakfast buffet, two drinks, and bike rental for a breezy ride around the area. If activity isn’t really your thing, dive into their serene, secluded outdoor pool or opt for a foot or scalp, neck and shoulder massage at the Melo Spa (from $298). Witness chefs whip up authentic northern Chinese cuisine in Sha Tin 18’s open kitchens, and grab a nightcap at Tin Tin Bar. Rooms from $1,100 per night. Summer Getaway Package (Jun-Aug) from $1,280 per night. 18 Chak Cheung St., Sha Tin, 3723-1234, www.hongkong.shatin.hyatt.com
What to See: Feeling like you should spend at least some of your staycation outside of the hotel? Sha Tin has plenty to check out. The orange houses of the
Hong Kong Heritage Museum (1 Man Lam Rd., Sha Tin, 2180 8188, www.heritagemuseum.gov.hk) peek out from a wooded area along the Shing Mun River. Its galleries tell the story of Hong Kong’s cultural history and also host regular rotating exhibitions. From now through July 11, the museum features the artwork of Impressionist master Claude Monet—don’t miss it.
What better way to take in Tolo Harbour than by cycling? Wake up early to ride the waterside bike path that stretches from Shing Mun River to Tai Po Waterfront Park. The park’s grassy lawns are a favorite of kite fliers and there’s a lookout tower offering great views of Tolo Harbour. Want to keep going? Follow the path all the way up to the beautiful Plover Cove Reservoir by Tai Mei Tuk.
After all that exercise, you’re going to want some spiritual rest. Shame it’s going to take a 430-step hike to get it. The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (221 Pai Tau Village, Sha Tin) is a feast for the eyes—it’s home to countless buddhas lining the path to the top of the hill, on which sit temples and pavilions—which are all also full of buddhas. It’s not the shortest hike, but who ever said the road to enlightenment was easy?
Still want to scratch that tourist itch? Here are 10 more great ideas for a tourist-tastic time.
- Queue for ages to ride the Peak Tram up to the Peak, because the queue is the REAL experience.
- Explore “The Dark Side,” land of terrifying legends and great Indian food.
- Spend a whole weekend pretending not to speak English or Cantonese, to get a feel for what it’s like to be a real tourist overseas.
- Go to Chanel and LV on Canton Road and buy all the expensive bags. Sheepishly try to return them the next day.
- Walk into a cha chaan teng, point at everything on the menu, get hounded out for wasting the server’s time.
- Go to Lan Kwai Fong, party like you’ve only got one night in Hong Kong, make bad decisions, wake up the next morning and realize that you actually live here and you shouldn’t have alienated everyone you met.
- Ride the Star Ferry, do the “I’m the King of the World!” thing.
- Call the tram the “ding ding,” like only tourists do.
- Take a bottle of wine, a sleeping bag and a change of clothes with you to the office on Friday night. Pretend you’re working late, and then just bunk up for the next two nights in air-conditioned luxury. Raid the office fridge for leftovers. Best of all, you’ll be early to work on Monday morning.
- Stay in your flat all weekend. Who has money for a holiday?