Hong Kong See And Do
40-42 Des Voeux Road
Tel: 852 2810 6666
If you've been hitting Hong Kong's nightspots a little too hard (or if you're just jetlagged from a long trip over), make like a local and head to this clinic. Pressure-point massages by blind masseurs are a 2,000-year-old Chinese tradition that continues to thrive to this day; after kneading, pressing, slapping, and occasionally tickling your pressure points, the practitioners here will have you feeling fresh as a daisy.
2 Sports Road, Happy Valley
Tel: 852 2895 1523
Hong Kong locals are horse-racing fanatics—so it's no surprise that this track, an oasis of green lit by giant floodlights at night, sits right at the heart of the city. In fact, it's occupied its place since 1846; Hong Kong practically grew around it. Betting on horses is one of the oldest legally sanctioned forms of gambling here, and with all the money flying around the city these days, it's a big, big business.
The best time to experience the track is at night, when thousands of spectators fill the stands and watch from the balconies of surrounding high-rises. The stakes are huge, the bets are outrageous, and the crowds are appropriately enthused. Wednesday evenings (between September and May) are the liveliest.
10 Salisbury Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Tel: 852 2721 0116
Right on the waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui, this museum mounts fine temporary exhibitions and has a huge permanent collection of more than 14,000 Chinese antiquities and objets d'art. The artworks here are not only beautiful; they often help visitors understand Hong Kong from a cultural and historical context. This is especially true of the prints and paintings from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, which show scenes of daily life in the city.
Macau's gambling revenues may have surpassed those of Las Vegas, but cultural tourists and foodies can hit the jackpot here, too. The Portuguese colonized this small but strategic territory at the mouth of China's Pearl River in the 16th century as the first European settlement in the Far East. Today the high rollers head straight to casinos like Stanley Ho's Lisboa Hotel & Casino (24 Ave. de Lisboa; 853-2888-3888; www.hotellisboa.com), The Sands Macao (203 Largo de Monte Carlo; 853-2888-3388; www.sands.com.mo), Wynn Macau (Rua Cidade de Sintra; 853-2888-9966; www.wynnmacau.com), and the $2.4 billion Venetian Macao (Estrada da Baía de N. Senhora da Esperança; 853-2882-8888; www.venetianmacao.com/en), on the Cotai Strip between Taipa and Coloane islands.
Colonial vestiges remain in the stone facade of the wooden Saint Paul's Church (Rua de São Paolo), the pretty saffron Saint Dominic Church (Largo de São Domingos), and the residences around Lilau Square where the first Portuguese settlers made their homes. These settlers also left their mark on the cuisine of Macau, starting with the pastel de nata, or egg tart, that comes out of the ovens day and night at Lord Stow Bakery (1 Rua do Tassara; Coloane; 853-2888-2534; www.lordstow.com). Hong Kong day-trippers make pilgrimages for the caramel-crusted roast pork at Fernando's (9 Praia de Hac Sa; Coloane; 853-2888-2264) or to A Lorcha (289 Rua do Almirante Sergio; 853-2831-3193), which serves traditional Macanese dishes like deep-fried king prawns with chile and garlic.
Turbojet hydrofoils make the one-hour trip between Hong Kong and Macau around the clock (853-8790-7039; www.turbojet.com.hk), but those with the cash may prefer to cut travel time down to a mere 20 minutes by arriving via helicopter (Heliservices; 852-2802-0200; www.heliservices.com.hk).
There are more than 230 Hong Kong islands, a handful of which make great day-trip destinations from the Central city district. Take the Star Ferry from Hong Kong Island (852-2367-7065; www.starferry.com.hk), or sail on a traditional Chinese junk with Jubilee International Tour Centre (852-2530-0530; www.jubilee.com.hk) to check them out.
The largest of the outlying islands, Lantau is about an hour by ferry from Central. And while the newish Hong Kong Disneyland (opened in 2005) takes up a big chunk of the island, Lantau is its own natural wonderland. A national park covers half the land mass, and Hong Kong's longest beach (Cheung Sha, almost two miles of sand), its highest mountain (2,700-foot-high Lantau Peak, a terrific hike), and the rare Chinese white dolphin are all found here (well, the dolphins are actually swimming offshore). You'll also find the world's largest Buddha statue and Tai-O, a 300-year-old fishing town filled with traditional canal-side stilt houses.
Tiny Lamma is just off of Hong Kong Island's Aberdeen district, close to Stanley Market. Thanks to a ban on cars and buses, it's an authentic dose of old Hong Kong, complete with quaint fish farms, unfussy seafood restaurants, and scenic cliff-side trails.
This small island, about half an hour from Central, has a charming clutch of traditional fishing villages and seafront restaurants. It's also got nature parks, Buddhist temples, and calm-watered, tropical-feeling beaches.
Every evening at 8 pm sharp, the world's largest light and sound show turns Hong Kong's urban jungle into a futuristic beauty pageant starring 44 of its waterfront skyscrapers. Discerning locals watch from the Star Ferry, Tsim Sha Tsui harborside promenade, or restaurants like Aqua and Huton, agreeing that the disco lights make even imposing structures like Sir Norman Foster's Bank of China building look rather groovy. The crowd swells considerably on holidays, when China's best pyrotechnics add extended sparkle to the otherwise 15-minute affair. If the whole thing sounds a bit over-the-top, it is. But it's still one of the must-see events in the city.
Limbering up and clearing your mind—Asian style—is a great way to start the day. Free tai chi lessons are given by English-speaking instructors near the Avenue of Stars, right on the Kowloon waterfront, several mornings a week. The classes usually begin at 8 a.m. and last an hour. Call the Hong Kong Visitor Hotline (852-2508-1234) for more information.
Hong Kong may have been called a barren rock by its first foreign visitors, but these days it's so packed with attractions that it's hard to get oriented. The government-run Hong Kong Tourism Board publishes reams of maps and touring pamphlets, and organizes bus, boat, walking, and shopping tours. Though the names aren't terribly catchy, some of the best include: the Land Between Tour of the New Territories, Feng Shui Tour, Tea & Tai Chi Tour, and the Come Horse Racing Tour. For more upscale options, lift off from the rooftop of the Peninsula Hotel and look down upon the taipans from Heliservices' twin-engine Aerospatiale Squirrel helicopter. The 15- to 30- minute tours circumnavigate Hong Kong Island and give you a great feel for the layout of the city. Longer, pricier journeys take in the big Buddha, Lantau Island, and the New Territories.
To explore the area by water, hop aboard a traditional sailboat, known as a junk. The best is the Cheung Po Tsai, a 92-foot-long traditional red sailboat named after an infamous pirate who once terrorized these waters. The boat was handcrafted according to original Chinese designs and in traditional materials by an 80-year-old local craftsman. The two wooden decks are among the best spots to watch Hong Kong Harbor's nightly 8 pm sound and light extravaganza in vintage style.
At 1,810 feet tall, Victoria Peak is Hong Kong's highest and most notable landmark, as well as its ritziest residential area. Its well-heeled 19th-century residents were hand-carried up the mountain via sedan chair, but modern visitors can take the Peak Tram (the steepest funicular in the world) from Central Terminal at 33 Garden Road. The tacky Peak Tower shopping and entertainment complex is forever packed with the camera-wielding crowd. You can pop in and taste bottled waters from around the world at O Bar or sample dishes by Down Under celebrity chef Geoff Lindsay at Pearl on the Peak, but it's best to leave the crowds behind and explore the Peak on foot. Head for Mount Austin Road, which climbs through the Peak's public gardens to the actual pinnacle. Along the way you'll get sprawling views of Macau, the outlying islands, and the jostling junks and sampans of Aberdeen Harbor.