Every time I touch down in Hong Kong I experience giddy excitement. The bustling Asian megacity is magic: each night the city’s skyline lights up to reveal an army of giant skyscrapers; world-class museums share the island’s unique colonial history; as Asia’s financial hub, it’s a playground for the fabulously wealthy; Michelin-Starred restaurants abound; fashionistas shop until they drop; and after a long night of cocktail bar–hopping, a steaming pot of Chinese tea and parade of petite dim sum soothes the soul.
Although Hong Kong offers endless entertainment, North Americans struggle through their first few days with exhausting zombie jet lag after being caged on a 15-hour flight. I’ve had the pleasure of familiarizing myself with the pangs of jet lag after spending the last ten years zigzagging across the globe. I’ve spent nights wide awake begging for my brain to go to sleep. I’ve also sat at a 3 Michelin-Star restaurant interviewing a notable chef at 2 pm when my eyes closed and I unexpectedly started snoring. The struggle is real.
Hong Kong is an attraction all on its own, but the city also attracts thousands of tourists heading to final destinations in Southeast Asia. Most flight itineraries from North America to hot spots like Bali, Thailand, and Cambodia require a connection through Hong Kong.
Hot Tip: avoid a 36-hour travel day by breaking up your trip. Enjoy a luxurious layover in Hong Kong that will have your mind inspired and body rejuvenated just in time to hop on your next leg.
Whether your layover in Hong Kong is for several days or a quick 48 hours, you need to make the most of your time. I researched my trip to Hong Kong in advance using Eyewitness Travel Top 10 Hong Kong (DK Publishing, 2016), sketching out a four-day itinerary that would have me zigzagging around the city with ease while taking in top attractions and nibbling through famed local delicacies.
Eyewitness Travel Top 10 Guide Hong Kong
Size: It’s super thin, packed full of useful quick tips, and easily slips into your pocket or camera bag while running around the city.
Easy to Use: Each of the chapters lists the Top 10 things you should experience at a particular attraction, so if you’re time crunched or don’t want to miss out on exploring a museum’s star attraction, it’s an invaluable resource.
Includes Map: In the book’s back pocket, you’ll find a detachable waterproof map, which comes in handy when you’re running around on a rainy day.
Great Top 10 Lists: The first few chapters of the book are dedicated to the Top 10 most-visited attractions in Hong Kong, while the remaining are niche lists that are handy for those who have unique interests. Examples includeL Ways to Experience the Real China, Areas of Natural Beauty, Off the Beaten Track and Moments in History.
Insider Tips: The guide is full of useful insider tips and tricks that answer a lot of great questions you might not even think to ask. Where and when am I most likely to see a monk at a Buddhist monastery? What time of day is it best to visit Temple Street Market? What are the city’s must-try dishes?
A Luxurious Layover at Ritz Carlton Hong Kong
The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong
As soon as you’ve whisked your way through immigration, hop in a limo and head straight to your new home sweet home, The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong. Located on floors 102-118 in the International Commerce Centre overlooking Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, The Ritz-Carlton offers jaw-dropping, 360-degree panoramic views and claims the title as the world’s tallest hotel. You’ll want to stay put for a while, as one of the most prestigious luxury hotels in Hong Kong offers an inviting place to relax in truly serene surroundings.
If you’re looking to struggle through jet lag in style, be sure to book the decadent Carlton Suite – Victoria Harbour, a 1920-square-foot sanctuary featuring 400-thread count linens on a plush King bed, sweet-smelling Asprey bathroom amenities, plus a full marble bathroom featuring a soaker tub and rainforest shower.
The Ritz Carlton Spa
Located on the 116th floor of the hotel and overlooking Victoria Harbour, The Ritz-Carlton Spa redefines luxury and indulgence from a truly serene setting. Featuring nine lavish treatment rooms, including two couples spa suites, the idyllic hotel spa is a true getaway from the busy world below. Open your eyes and mind to an endless view from floor-to-ceiling windows or from the hotel’s indoor infinity swimming pool with breathtaking views of surrounding skyscrapers.
Pamper yourself with one of the spa’s soothing signature treatments, and you’ll beat your jet lag sooner than you think as you discover serenity in the sky, where having your head in the clouds is a desired state of mind.
Ritz Carlton Club
While the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong’s culinary offerings are second to none (I dare you to count their Michelin Stars!), guests with access to the coveted Ritz-Carlton Club have access to a regular rotation of complimentary sips and nibbles.
Situated at 465 metres above sea level, the Club Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong features floor-to-ceiling windows, offering spectacular panoramic views of the city and Victoria Harbour. It comprises a buffet area, a lounge section, a library, and a meeting room. Appealingly furnished interiors provide a perfect backdrop to enjoy martinis at the bar sitting area or experience the unmatched culinary distinction of the hotel’s chefs through six food and beverage presentations daily.
After spending a morning cocooning at the hotel’s spa, head up to the Ritz-Carlton Club for my favourite mid-day ritual, Afternoon Tea. Grab a seat by the window with a glass of buttery chardonnay and slather scones with clotted cream while sitting perched over the city in style.
OZONE at Ritz Carlton Hong Kong
Claiming the title as highest bar in the world and designed by Tokyo-based interior designer Masamichi Katayama, OZONE at Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong pushes the edge of Hong Kong’s urban night out scene. Step outside the lightening-fast elevator and you’ll feel as though you’ve entered a futuristic spaceship.
Looking for a little pomp and panache? Order OZONE’s signature HK Skyline, a flamboyant tipple featuring a muddling of Zacapa, absinthe, imperial oolong syrup, pink grapefruit, lime, Dom Perignon foam, chocolate stones and apple wood smoke. If keen to compliment your cocktail with a few next-level nibbles enjoy a selection of Spanish tapas from the OZONE kitchen featuring montaditos, smoked salmon and crab roulade, and artichokes with quail egg and white sturgeon caviar.
sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck
If you’re eager to enjoy a decadent breakfast with a swoon-worthy view, you’ll be glad to know you don’t have to step one foot outside the building. In March sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck launched Cafe 100 by Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong.
Inspired by the relaxing ambience of a Parisian terrace café, Cafe 100 by The Ritz-Carlton is located 393 metres above sea level and commands boundless sea views on the west side of the deck. Grab a seat in the early morning and enjoy a selection of fine TWG tea, freshly ground coffee, and made-to-order sweet and savoury crêpes, waffles, panini sandwiches, and poffertjes.
Hong Kong Foodie Tasting Tour
If you can muster the strength to skip out onto the street, strap on your walking shoes and enjoy a beginner’s guide to the city’s most famous dishes via the friendly Hong Kong Foodie Tasting Tour. You’ll spend your afternoon nibbling through Hong Kong’s Central and Sheung Wan neighbourhoods, sampling a plethora of local delicacies: wonton noodles, barbecued pork rice, sugar cane juice, Chinese tea, dim sum, and sweet egg tart.
HK’s famous public multimedia show includes more than 40 buildings on both sides of the harbour and is named as the “World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show” by Guinness World Records. The best spot to view the nightly spectacle is along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. Those with sturdy sea legs can hop on the Aqua Luna, one of Hong Kong’s last remaining Chinese junk boats. Grab a glass of wine or bottle of beer from the bar and sip the night away as the moody glow show shoots across the city’s harbour.
Man Mo Temple
If you’re keen to experience Hong Kong’s Buddhist tradition march up the stairs to Man Mo Temple. The temple is a picturesque tribute to the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo), both of who were worshipped by ambitious students looking to succeed in the civil examinations of Imperial China. These involved rigorous systems aimed at finding the best administrative officials for the state.
Built in 1847, this remains the largest Man Mo temple in Hong Kong. To pause for a moment’s respite under its giant hanging incense coils makes for a pleasant contrast with the hectic pace of the nearby financial district.
Avenue of the Stars
For years, fans of Hong Kong kung fu films have gathered at Tsim Sha Tsui’s waterfront to snap photos while strolling along the Avenue of the Stars (Hong Kong’s take on the Hollywood Walk of Fame). Every time I visit Hong Kong I make a point to head down to the waterfront to take a picture of the city’s sculptural homage to superstar Bruce Lee.
Thankfully I read through Eyewitness Travel Top 10 Hong Kong (DK Publishing, 2016) and saved myself a big headache as it informs readers “The TST waterfront is being redeveloped and during this time both the Museum of Art and the Avenue of the Stars will be closed until late 2018. However, a selection of the iconic statues, notably the one of Bruce Lee, can be found at a nearby park – The Garden of the Stars.”
Chinese New Year celebrations, Halloween bashes, arts and film festivals, and sports tournaments – from lavish mega events to ancient and quirky local festivities, Hong Kong’s year-round calendar of happenings blends East and West, tradition and modernity.
Before planning your trip to Hong Kong be sure to check the city’s annual events calendar to see if you’re in town during a notable festival. My last two trips to the city were smack dab in the middle of the finger-licking-good Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival and world-renowned Art Basel Hong Kong.
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