Eating wet noodles with chop sticks on the seesawing deck of a Chinese junk is not easy. But it certainly adds to the drama while sailing in Victoria Harbour past Hong Kong Island at night, when arguably the world’s most awe-inspiring cityscape is lit up in neon. The endless array of towering waterfront high-rises skirting the base of the volcanic island in the Central district area, is indescribable by Western standards in terms of scale and mass.
Pretty much everywhere in urban Hong Kong it’s brimming over with a cataclysmic cosmo vibrancy amidst one of the planet’s highest population densities. That’s the primary attraction—the sheer, worldly energy. So how do your clients navigate through it to sample the widest array of the city’s pleasures?
kowloon rising We’ll start across Victoria Harbour from Central in Kowloon. Once regarded with suspicion by out-of-towners, this side of Hong Kong has evolved into the creative future of the city, recently anointed as such with last October’s opening of the bayfront W Hong Kong. People living and working in Kowloon regard the area as the “real” Hong Kong, versus the glammed up financial/banking behemoth across the water. But the line is blurring. Who’s to really say what “real” means as you walk down Kowloon’s Canton Road into Asia’s brand-new Louis Vuitton flagship. Or Chanel, Hermes or Dior’s big shops. No matter what the Dow Jones looks like, window shopping is high sport here, so it’s worth joining the giddy street parade as everyone ambles through a gauntlet of stores more stridently displayed than you’ll find in NYC, London or Paris.
Around the corner at the new One Peking Road building, the Aqua restaurant is packed with trendsetters almost nightly for reasons above and beyond the edgy fusion cuisine. The top two floors of this Dubai-esque skyscraper open up into one cavernous space, with a 2-story wall of glass facing the island. The bar is perched high in the space like a loft. So at night, you feel like you’re floating vertiginously both inside the restaurant and outside over the city. Regarded as the hippest joint in town, it’s worth a ride up for the scene, the view and the tuna meatball ragu.
The same company, incidentally, owns Aqualuna, the aforementioned sailboat. The traditional, handcrafted wooden junk motors around the harbor for 45-minute jaunts from 1:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., and sails over on weekends to quiet, quaint Stanley Market on the far side of the island.
A short walk from Aqua and Aqualuna, Hong Kong’s movers and shakers are thronging at Nobu restaurant perched over the water inside InterContinental Hong Kong. Or they’re right below at celebrity chef Alain Ducasse’s Spoon. You’ve never seen a parking lot like this where a silver Porsche 911 looks positively pedestrian next to the convoy of Aston Martins, Bugattis and Ferraris. Nobu is more fun in Kowloon than, say, New York or Miami, so insist clients visit for the sassy sashimi tacos. They should follow or precede that with a walk along the Avenue of Stars, a waterfront boardwalk around the InterContinental with the best land-based views for watching Central’s nightly 8 p.m. laser light show. The hotel itself is a favorite for visiting Americans, but with its stellar location you’re paying a premium for the views. Harbourview rooms start at $397 plus 10 percent service charge.
So if a water view is not a must, The Langham Hong Kong right next to One Peking Road is a value sell. Check out the Grand Langham rooms after a $22 million redo. There’s a certain classic Chinese appeal that’s entirely soothing with pale fabrics and dark mahoganies, infused with subtle floral tapestries. The lobby with its colonial-style, barrel-vaulted ceiling and orchid-tressed lobby bar is a most welcome respite from all the retail therapy outside.
“Our location and our brand-new rooms are our top selling points,” says Julie Jackson, director of sales and marketing. “We’re in the heart of Kowloon next to Canton Road—the Rodeo Drive of Hong Kong. Kowloon itself has undergone a fabulous face-lift over the past few years and guests can access Central in just a 15-minute ferry ride.” Through Dec. 30, the property is offering the Big Deal package for $219 per night that includes a full breakfast and dinner (guests can use the value of the dinner as a nightly credit towards any of the hotel restaurants, bars, facilities or services).