At times all you want from a short break in Hong Kong is to embrace the frenetic excitement of the streets and revel in the electric nightlife. But sometimes all you want from this Asian metropolis is serenity. So where do you go to find some stylish peace and quiet in the urban commotion of Hong Kong?
Stay at a boutique Hong Kong hotel
First things first, you need to find a Hong Kong hotel that provides a luxurious oasis, a retreat from the noise of the Hong Kong streets. The award-winning boutique hotel The Fleming fits the bill perfectly.
Down a quiet side-street in the heart of the bustling Wan Chai business and entertainment district, this stylish four-star Hong Kong hotel has 66 rooms with the latest technology and facilities. From the upper windows you can see typical Hong Kong views of skyscrapers, and ferries plying to and fro on Victoria Harbour.
The rooms are spacious and the beds huge, likewise the bathroom, which has the always desirable separate bath and shower. They have obviously tried hard to think of everything guests might need for their stay, including bath salts and a bath pillow for proper relaxation.
The executive rooms have a complete kitchenette, which is great for travellers who don’t want to be out on the streets and eating out all the time because they are visiting Hong Kong with young kids as we were.
Unusually, perhaps uniquely, The Fleming is to open a ladies only floor in November 2010, offering women travellers an escape from the hustle and bustle. Ladies travelling to Hong Kong on business or pleasure will find this the perfect retreat with fresh flowers, toiletries from L’Occitane, aromatherapy oils and super-soft bedding and rugs. You’ll even be able to request a leg massage machine.
Only two stops from Central on Hong Kong’s MTR where the airport express train terminates, the Wan Chai district is famous for its shopping and nightlife if that’s what you’re looking for. But I’d recommend stopping by the lobby at around 4pm and unwinding with a complimentary drink.
Take a cruise on Victoria Harbour
Next you need to sort out sightseeing and entertainment. I’d recommend stepping away from the streets and onto a Victoria Harbour cruise. But not just any Hong Kong harbour cruise. Climb aboard a traditional red-sail Chinese junk – the Aqua Luna.
This mysterious craft appears at an empty pier out of the darkness and with low light from scarlet Chinese lanterns and the beautifully carved woodwork, this is a very glamorous way to see Hong Kong.
So slip on a little dress and some kitten heels and feel the warm night air surround you. Sip a drink from the bar on the polished teak deck. Lounge around on the low cushions and settees. Gaze up at the blood red sails.
Hong Kong is a city that has taken the use of the humble neon light tube far beyond the imagination of its inventor and a feature of any harbour cruise is the colourful and creative lighting displays on the skyscrapers that line Hong Kong’s waterfront in all directions.
And it’s not just a visual feast. This is the perfect way to imbibe a bit of Hong Kong’s history on a 45-minute cruise. Enjoy a complimentary drink and then a tempting selection of snacks and beverages.
Aqua Luna also offers relaxing day cruises, offering travellers a chance to discover some of Hong Kong’s best-kept secret places, including Cheung Chau Island, the Temple of the Sea in Joss House Bay and Stanley Village and market.
Eat out like the locals in Hong Kong
For eating out in Hong Kong you could go to the iconic Yung Kee for dim sum or hit the street stalls for a spicy morsel. But an altogether more civilised option is available in a pleasant dining room just a few minutes walk from The Fleming. On Johnston Rd you’ll find Tanyoto, a Wan Chai hot pot institution.
Hot pot originated in Chengdu and it’s a culinary experience. The tables have a big hole in the middle with a heater to get the soup pot bubbling. We ordered the half/half tomato and spicy soup and a selection of tofu, meats, veggies and dumplings to cook in the hot pot.
The fragrance of the complex spices used in the dishes is channelled in a cloud around your table (the air conditioning works overtime in this restaurant) as you add your own spring onions, chillies, coriander and garlic to the mix.
It’s just a matter of continuing to spoon ingredients into the soup and great fun stirring and trying to pick bits out without including an overwhelming amount of the whole chillies. Don’t worry too much about the chilli. You are asked to choose whether you want your food mild, medium or hot!
Enjoy green Hong Kong
If you’ve still got some time to spare on your short break in Hong Kong the best place to find some serenity is up the hill in the Botanic Gardens, where flamingos and excited children blowing bubbles are the only interruption to this green space of peaceful reflection.
The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, to give it the proper name, lies on the northern slope of Victoria Peak and is a 5.6-hectare green oasis in the city.
People have been coming here to relax since the 1860s so it’s another way to get in touch with Hong Kong’s past and present. In fact it’s one of the oldest zoological and botanical centres in the world. You’ll find a children’s playground, aviaries, greenhouses and mammal and reptile exhibits.
The best place to chill out is in the Fountain Terrace Garden. Enjoy the lush plantlife (there are more than 1,000 species of plants in the garden) and wander through the individual bamboo, camellia, palm and magnolia gardens. You can even bring a book and enjoy some peace and quiet in the midst of this most urban of cities.
Another wonderful place to wander serenely away from Hong Kong’s skyscrapers, traffic, bustling commerce and air pollution is away in the New Territories, on the northern slopes of Tai Mo Shan mountain – at the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, a little known visitor attraction where native biodiversity, nature conservation and education are a priority.
By Natasha von Geldern
More information on short break holidays in Hong Kong:
Cathay Pacific offers great flights to Hong Kong from around the world. Cathay also has a great guide of activities to do in the city
The Fleming is a member of the Sterling Hotels collection of hotels. Room rates are from HKD$1,880 per night. To book please contact the reservation department on (852) 3607 228825.
Aqua Luna harbour cruises operate eight sailings through the afternoon and evening from Pier 9 on Hong Kong Island or from Public Pier by the Cultural Centre on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront.