Nearly seven million people are crammed into the mere 1,100 square kilometers that make up the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). Not just a city of skyscrapers, there is also lush countryside and small rural communities.
Hong Kong Island
Victoria Peak is the highest point on the island with world-famous views north over the city as well as over the greener southern slopes down to the South China Sea. Clinging onto the northern slopes of the Peak are the prestigious Mid-levels , full of tightly packed, towering blocks of flats. The Mid-levels' steep slopes are best negotiated using the Peak Tram or the Mid-levels Escalator .
Colonial history and modern architecture vie for attention in Central , the city's vibrant financial hub. At the end of the business day, offices empty as the multitude of international eateries and bars in Lan Kwai Fong and Soho fill with revelers. Almost an extension of Central, Admiralty plays host to the glitzy Pacific Place shopping and hotel complex. For a little rest, Hong Kong Park is a must.
The old districts of Western and Sheung Wan, with Des Voeux Road West and Western Market in their midst, portray a more traditional scene with shops selling anything and everything Chinese.
Wanchai is busy, even after the demise of Suzie Wong. The restaurant and club scene centers around Lockhart Road. The Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts caters to more cerebral entertainment while the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre , the site of the 1997 handover ceremony of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China, sees more trade fairs and rock concerts.
Happy Valley is home to the Happy Valley Racecourse , with the Queen Elizabeth Stadium nearby. Just across Leighton Hill there is the Hong Kong Stadium , venue of the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens and other sporting events. Causeway Bay is where Hong Kongers go to shop. Beyond the shopping malls there is Victoria Park , the Tin Hau Temple , and the daily boom of the Noon Day Gun . Further along the coast is the Eastern District. Although largely residential, it holds a few surprises.
The south side of Hong Kong Island is a complete contrast to the concrete jungle of the northern shores. Country parks, fishing villages, markets and beaches offer an altogether more relaxed atmosphere.
Kowloon is flanked to the north by verdant hills forming nine peaks, hence its name, which literally means "nine dragons". At the very tip of the Kowloon peninsula lies Tsim Sha Tsui , a tourist magnet with Nathan Road as its focal point. Running between the Clock Tower and Tsim Sha Tsui East is the Waterfront Promenade , with views of Victoria Harbor and Hong Kong Island that are every photographer's dream.
Yaumatei's rural heritage is still evident in its name, which means "place of sesame plants." Although sesame plants are scarce here these days, Yaumatei with its old Tin Hau Temple and Jade Market , is still steeped in tradition. Famous for being one of the world's most densely populated urban areas, Mongkok is also the place for markets of all sorts. The streets are packed with locals and tourists alike, buying anything from clothes and computer goods to flowers and birds .
Beyond these districts Kowloon becomes more residential. Noteworthy are the Kowloon Walled City , the Festival Walk mega-shopping complex, the similarly mega Wong Tai Sin Temple and the fishing village at Lei Yue Mun .
Although the New Territories actually account for almost 3/4 of the Hong Kong SAR region, only about a third of the population lives here, mainly in high-rise new-towns.
Once a small village famous for incense cultivation, Shatin is now a prime example of such a new-town. Aside from rather dull architecture, Shatin is home to the Shatin Racecourse . The Tsang Tai Uk walled village, Che Kung Temple and Man Fat Monastery also ensure that Shatin is far from becoming a cultural desert. Lion Rock provides panoramic views over both Shatin and Kowloon, while Amah Rock is a popular picnicking spot. Tai Po still has a thriving market area with the much-loved Man Mo Temple in its midst. Not far away in Lam Tsuen is the Wishing Tree , its branches heavy with wishes written on colorful paper. Fanling is where the last governor of Hong Kong had his country residence and also where the last tiger of Hong Kong was sighted in the 1950s. Still there is the Fung Ying Sin Koon . Also in the area are the ancestral halls of Tang Chung Ling and Liu Man Shek Tong , as well as the Lok Ma Chau Lookout Point with its views across into mainland China.
Yuen Long is close to the Tai Fu Tai Mansion , the walled villages of Kat Hing Wai and Shui Tau , and the Mai Po Marshes . At the foot of Tai Mo Shan lies Tsuen Wan , the springboard to the western New Territories.
More than 200 outlying islands belong to the Hong Kong SAR, but only a small number are inhabited. Amongst the forested hills and hiking trails of Lantau , the territory's biggest island, there is the Big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery . Lamma , Hong Kong's third largest island, is home to a large western population. The two main villages are filled with cafes and seafood restaurants. Cheung Chau still has a lively Chinese community with many traditions. Trails cover the island and seafood restaurants line the pier. Peng Chau is small and peaceful. Dining at one of the Western-style open-air restaurants with views over to Lantau is very popular, especially among tourists.
Need a place to impress a business client? Fancy a drink after a tough day at the office? Need a romantic spot to share with someone special? Well, look no further. Here is the comprehensive, nuts and bolts, all-seeing, all-dancing guide to what is cooking and brewing in Hong Kong.
Lan Kwai Fong
As the local saying goes, "Bankers drink in Lankers." Where else? Also known as LKF, the Fong, or as an expensive but popular place to titillate the tastebuds, this is where trendy restaurants and chic bars unite in a bustling bonanza under a common theme: indulgence.
Friday night the front of California is where powerbrokers, media executives and lawyers fueled by beer and cigars discuss stock options, while the beautiful people recline elegantly outside La Dolce Vita . A few feet away, despite the thumping guitar chords of a live band blasting out of F-Stop , lovers dine in the romantic seclusion of Va Bene . Meanwhile, on the terrace at Bit Point , soccer fans debate the merits of the sweeper system.
From Chinese, Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, German, American to even a dressed-up version of British cuisine, from the outrageously expensive to the moderately inexpensive, populated by glamorous starlets and grungy students, Lan Kwai Fong has it all.
Weekend Wanchai warriors are spoiled for choice in this down-to-earth, rowdy part of town. Delaney's warms a warrior's heart with creamy real ales and wholesome Irish stews, and Dusk till Dawn allows the local knights and damsels to turn entertainment into an all-night vigil.
If further investigations of Wanchai are required, our sources tell us a trip to Grissini is never disappointing. Likewise, Kumatei has a solid reputation for excellent Japanese cuisine. Victoria City serves classic seafood platters that do not require as stringent a dress code.
Bars like the Devil's Advocate and Chinatown , spring up regularly and chaotic nightclubs slither to the hypnotic twists and spins of the house DJ. Nevertheless, the history of Wanchai remains untouched by trends and passing fads, a story as established as the Old China Hand , where the saintly Suzie Wong dreamed away her future, or as timeless as the Bell Inn , run by the oldest bartenders in town.
Wanchai: Hong Kong's past, present and future. For warriors only.
Tsim Sha Tsui
Try saying Tsim Sha Tsui after five glasses of house red. A hodgepodge of pubs and dives in the nethermost regions of Nathan Road caters to the whims, woes and wishes of the international drinker. From Britpubs such as the Stag's Head to wild Chinese bars like Chemical Suzy , beer is consumed in great quantities and with great gusto. Quieter evenings can be spent along Knutsford Terrace, perhaps at Papa Razzi , but the adventurous will hit up the bars along Chatham Court. At over 100 years old, Inagiku has maintained its reputation as a destination for Japanese specialties.
One Peking Road in the heart if Tsim Sha Tsui is home to a number of remarkable restaurants and nightclubs, all with incredible views from the 30 floor tower shaped like a sail. The penthouse Aqua inspires with Italian and Japanese dishes served to the accompaniment of a harbor view. Chao Inn and Hutong specialize in Chiuchow and Beijing style Northern Chinese cuisines.
Cheese & Biscuits
This is a saying often heard on the Mid-levels Escalator is, "If you wish to dine in Soho , don't come looking like a hobo."
A quieter, more sophisticated landscape for eating and drinking, this area south of Hollywood Road deserves polished shoes, pressed trousers and freshly laundered dresses. To order a drink in a place like Club 1911 , wearing jeans and sneakers would insult the Gods of Etiquette. Likewise, best manners are put to use over paella at La Comida .
Causeway Bay & Admiralty
A place where sailors roll with a nautical gait, especially after a few beers. For the best taste of Hong Kong, check out Sorabol Korean Restaurant . We are talking international, global, comprehensive, all encompassing, diverse, wide-ranging, far-reaching and, most of all, spectacular food.
If it can be slaughtered, you will find it at W's Entrecote . And anyone who has just made a mint on the NASDAQ should celebrate at Petrus or Cova Ristorante , two classy restaurants east of Central .
Another local saying goes, "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you're on the morning flight home."
Eating in Hong Kong is a taste sensation - it's one of the best places in the world to satisfy gastronomic urges. Where else can you dine on evening Harbour Cruises against a dramatic skyline? Or take a ferry out to one of the Outlying Islands and eat fresh seafood? Or order cocktails at sunset in rural Shek O or Sai Kung ? Or breakfast on Victoria Peak watching the sun rise over Victoria Harbour ?