Author Robin Lynam Photography Dave Lauridsen
DAY THREE / Start early and sensibly sidestep rush hour by taking the Star Ferry, as locals have since 1874. At a mere HK$2.20 (less than 30 U.S. cents) for a minicruise across one of the world’s most spectacular harbours, it is almost certainly the best value in town.
The ferry drops you within minutes of Central MTR station, where you board a not-so-crowded train to Tung Chung on Lantau Island. From there take a 25-minute cable car ride on the Ngong Ping Skyrail, relishing unforgettable views of the South China Sea and Hong Kong International Airport. Alight at Ngong Ping Village.
Pay your respects to the world’s largest seated, outdoor bronze Buddha. Sitting on his lotus throne, he is an imposing 34 metres (112 feet) tall and weighs more than 250 tonnes. Then drop in on the Ngong Ping Tea House for a refreshing brew and insight into some Chinese tea traditions unique to Hong Kong.
Afterward, retrace your steps to Central and get off the MTR at Admiralty to browse around Pacific Place, one of the many up-market shopping malls Hong Kong is known for. Part of the complex is the Island Shangri-La Hotel, where you’re having lunch at Café Too. Asian or Western? Stations prepare Italian pasta side by side with Chinese noodles and Indian tandoori. A Hong Kong tradition done particularly well here is the wonton noodles dish—a modest HK$120 (US$15).
After a short walk back to Central, spend a half-hour exploring The Lanes, three narrow alleys connecting Des Voeux Road and Queen’s Road. Stalls sell watches, clothes, and shoes already at bargain prices, but this is the place to haggle and save a few extra dollars if you feel inclined.
Finish your shopping spree at Western Market, an Edwardian building of stores selling antiques—real and replica. You’ll see such items as opium pipes, clocks, and cameras. A floor of stalls sells silks and other cloth. Then, it’s back to The Pen to change for your evening.
It’s Wednesday, so the Peninsula’s concierge has made arrangements for you to attend the weekly night race at the atmospheric Happy Valley Racecourse. Horses have been thundering around this track since 1846, and everybody in Hong Kong takes an interest. Have a flutter with a clear conscience: The racing is run by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which donates most of its huge profits to local charities. The minimum bet is a mere HK$10. Give it a try and enjoy a lavish buffet between races.
A nightcap celebrating your three perfect days is called for, and Wednesday is the night that Hong Kong’s leading jazz songstress, Elaine Liu, has her residency at Aqua, a couple of minutes’ walk from your beckoning bed at The Pen. Take in the nighttime sky lounge view over Tsimshatsui and the harbour and enjoy an aquatini vodka with litchi liqueur and gold leaves glittering in the drink. The music is equally delicious. Raise your glass to Hong Kong—and your next visit. Robin Lynam has lived in Hong Kong for 25 years. He has written for Newsweek, Wine Enthusiast, the South China Morning Post, and The Asian Wall Street Journal.
The yin-yang of Hong Kong’s climate balances a tropical wet season with a temperate dry season. The wet season spans May through September, when about 80 percent of Hong Kong’s 90-inch yearly rainfall douses the city. Showers and thunderstorms are part of the daily fabric, often occurring before noon. In steamy humidity, average highs are near 90, making lightweight clothing a must. Tropical storms and typhoons are possible, especially by September. The dry season extends from October to April. Cold fronts move through the city, preceded by low clouds and followed by strong, dry northerly winds. Daytime highs are in the upper 60s, and nighttime lows are in the upper 50s.
Weather information is provided by The Weather Channel. For more Hong Kong climatological details, visit weather.com.
Red Cabs serve urban areas with a flagfall of HK$15 (US$2) and HK$1.40 for every 200 metres thereafter. The Star Ferry is the nicest way to cross the Hong Kong harbour. Buses run regularly and are inexpensive, as is the slow but pleasant tram that serves the northern part of urban Hong Kong. Public Light Buses can get you from A to B remarkably fast.
A Disneyland (hongkong disneyland.com) Rides and shows
B Ocean Park (oceanpark. com.hk) Aquarium, zoo, and fairground rides
C Dolphinwatch (www.hk dolphinwatch.com) Native pink dolphins in the wild
D Hong Kong Space Museum (hk.space.museum) Planetarium and interactive exhibits
E Peak Tower/Madame Tussauds/Ripley’s Believe It or Not! (www.madame-tussauds.com; ripleys.com) Waxworks of the locally and internationally famous and oddities unique to Ripley’s Hong Kong location