Often referred to as "the Pearl of the Orient", Hong Kong is a Mecca for shop-a-holics and foodies alike.
Following the economic recession of 1997, the world's freest economy seems to have lost part of its edge. Fashion consciousness amongst its once super stylish citizens has unfortunately dwindled. For some uncanny reason, the perpetually crowded streets of Causeway Bay and Nathan Road are also visibly less packed than before.
The retail atmosphere at the moment is not at the fever high as it was when I last visited this shopper's paradise. Feeling perturbed, I decided to ask a few local friends about this disturbing trend. They too agreed that they noticed the subtle changes over the recent years.
Apparently, it was also reported in the papers that Hong Kongers are just not spending as much on luxury and fashion items like they did before. Gone are the days where walking along the busy streets of Tsim Sha Tsui felt like attending a fashion show. Back then, everyone in this style capital were so glamourously dressed up. Nevertheless, Hong Kong still has its many hidden charms and well-kept secrets. There is always something new to rediscover each time I return to this ever evolving cosmopolitan metropolis.
My top five picks for the coolest places to check out while in Hong Kong:
2/ fl, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham Street, Central (www.finds.com.hk)
FINDS (acronym for Finland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden) is cooler than cool. Centrally located in the hip and happening clubbing district of Lan Kwai Fong, the icy white interiors of this year old Scandinavian restaurant and bar are reminiscent of the chilly Nordic winter landscape.
Everything from the decor to the food presentation is so contemporary chic and ultra sleek. The bar serves up an extensive list of specialty vodkas, martinis and cocktails. Make sure you try one of their signature drinks named after famous personalities such as Björk, Greta Garbo, Helena Christensen and Viggo Mortensen.
2) KEE, 6/F, 32 Wellington Street, Central
Rub shoulders with the elitist high society of Hong Kong at Kee, an exclusive private members only club that spins hypnotic music that makes you just want to boogie woogie down to their dance floor, which is located on the first floor. The second floor is decked in ornate furnishings, decadent chandeliers and filled with framed original art works hung on its opulent walls. Right here you can catch a glimpse of celebrities, classy socialites, filthy rich millionaires and try-hard wannabes.
3) Sistyr Moon
(Customer hotline: 23965268)
Trend setting Sistyr Moon is a fashion chain with many outlets scattered across Hong Kong & Kowloon. This fashion haven for cult brand followers carries an extensive range of imported foreign labels with the likes of Karen Walker, Jill Stuart, Robert Cary-Williams, Roberto Cavalli and paper cloth denim. The excellent customer service rendered by the staff is commendable.
4) Spy by Henry Lau
Henry Lau is touted as one of Hong Kong's top fashion talents. His extravagant designs and innovative use of textiles has earned him a name in the elite fashion circuit. Henry has also customised flamboyant concert costumes for various Hong Kong celebrities such as the legendary Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung. Pop into any of his four stores and you will find his brightly coloured military style tailored jackets, utility pants, smocked printed blouses and wacky printed T-shirts.
5) Teresa Coleman Fine Arts Ltd, 79 Wyndham Street
Walking into this Chinese antique art store at the end of Hollywood Street feels like steeping into a museum filled with intricate ancient artifacts. Be spellbound by the elaborate handiwork of the ancient Chinese. Not everything costs an arm and a leg here. You can purchase a framed authentic 19th century floral silk embroidered art piece for just a few hundred dollars.
If you have visited Hong Kong in the past, you should have tried the typical HK street food stalls and had a taste of the famous curry fish balls there.
If you haven't, then you must make sure you will try it the next time you are there.
What is so special about it? Standing in front of a food stall like this, you will be able to see a wide selection of food choices. My favourite would be the curry fish balls and the pig intestines.
Of course these may not sound mouth-watering to some of you but I am sure you will be able to find something which you fancy eating. Octopus balls, beef balls, minced pork balls, octopus, squids, chilli wrapped with fish meat, chicken wings or tips, fish balls and lettuce in soup, fake shark fin soup, cow tripe and many others are all available. Just go to Mong Kok, you can easily find one at each street corner. Then of course, these types of stalls are everywhere in HK.
Most of these stalls do not provide seating but some do. With those few which provide seating, very often you will also find noodles available. When I was small, I used to enjoy a bowl of these noodles for lunch. At that time, it did not cost me more than HK$1 per bowl. These days, you will not be able to enjoy one bowl of such noodles for at least HK$15.
You can combine as many ingredients as possible in one of these bowls of noodles. The only difference is that the more ingredients the more expensive your bowl of noodles will be. There are already at least four types of noodles which you can choose from - greasy noodles, flat noodles, thin noodles or rice noodles. If you want you can have some vegetables. Apart from some Chinese noodles, you can also have the western choice of lettuce. Then there are the meat options. The most popular would be pig's intestines, pig's blood and pig's skin. However, if these sound revolting to you, then you can choose some more common ones such as fish balls, chicken wings, meat balls, pork belly meat, fish dumplings, pork dumplings etc.
There is one thing to remember. One may not find these places very hygienic. I am not saying that you should refrain from trying any of these places since it is one of the specialties in HK. The food on offer is generally very well cooked, so you should not have any problems. What you need to do is just to be careful. If you are already having difficulty acclimatising to the new environment, then I would advise you to leave these eating places until another time.
Gather your courage and I am sure the food from such stalls will not disappoint you! - Wong Yee Lee