I first met Lizzie when we both worked and lived in Bangkok. She was running a successful publishing company before relocating to Singapore as the Editorial Director for Ink Publishing. Having contributed to Mr. & Mrs. Smith, she now produces the LUXE City Guides from Hong Kong. She without a doubt is the perfect friend to show us around her town just in time for Chinese New Year! So settle in whilst she whizzes us through her city.
You've moved from Bangkok to Singapore, and now Hong Kong. How does HK compare to these other cities?
I love Bangkok for its random energy, people and food – it’s still my spiritual home in Asia – but it was a challenging city to live in. Singapore’s cityscape and medley of cultures and food are impressive, but it became too easy – and I
became complacent living there! Hong Kong fits between the two; it has more pace, grit and energy than Singapore, but is easier to live in than Bangkok.
How would you describe HK in one word?
It's been a while since I visited Hong Kong. Where's the best place to stay? The Upper House
is a gorgeous, glam and zen-like retreat in Admiralty. Bag a room with a harbour view and you won’t want to leave. If you’re on a tighter budget, there’s a recent crop of indie hotels – Tuve
in Causeway Bay is stylish and central while the idiosyncratic Tribute Hotel
in Yau Ma Tei plants you smack-bang in one of the city’s most vibrant neighbourhoods.
What's the best way to get around?
Public transport is amazing in this town – I like to see where I’m going so prefer travelling by bus over the MTR.
Which neighbourhood is best for exploring?
The west of Central neighbourhoods of Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun are gentrifying at rapid pace, yet still have pockets of old-world life. Temples, dried fish shops and mom and pop stalls sit alongside indie studios, boutiques and cafes. You can walk easily from district to the other – make sure you dip along back alleyways as along the way.
What is your favourite restaurant?
My favourites reflect my Southeast Asian palate: Chachawan
for fiery Isaan Thai; the chicken laab and som tam are as good as any in Bangkok, albeit pricier. Chôm Chôm
for Vietnamese and Soho people-watching, and rustic Sabah in Wan Chai for Malaysian; you’re not here for the design or atmos, but to eat. The Asam laksa and roti prata are awesome.
Where is the best place for dimsum? Maxim’s Palace
at City Hall is great for old-school style dim sum – it’s a vast, slightly faded dining hall with chandeliers, harbour views and waiting staff pushing dumpling trolleys. You can’t book and be prepared to wait at least an hour for a table on weekends – or go extra early or late. For a more sophisticated experience the art gallery-cum-restaurant Duddell’s
does terrific dim sum brunch with bubbly at weekends.
What’s a local delicacy that should be tried?
Egg tarts or fluffy egg waffles.
What should be avoided?
Shark’s Fin or any other endangered species.
Where is the best place to go shopping aside from the malls?
Star Street Complex in Wanchai has a lovely mix of indie boutiques, interiors shops, galleries and cafes – standouts are Lala Curio
for original and exotic homewares and NYC fragrance import Le Labo
. The network of lanes around Tai Ping Shan and Square Streets in Sheung Wan are similar – check out Sin Sin
for gorgeous jewellery, textiles and art, and Fungus Workshop
for handcrafted leather goods. Buzzy PMQ
on Hollywood Rd. is a restored heritage building converted into a one-stop destination for homegrown design and fashion.
HK is a party town, where's the best place to revel in the fun?
Soho is still party central especially at the weekend, with people spilling out onto street corners. Infamous Lan Kwai Fong is fun to wander through – but be warned it gets feral as the night progresses.
And for a quiet night? Broadway Cinematheque
in Yau Ma Tei is hands-down the best cinema in Hong Kong with cosy screening rooms showing a predominantly art-house programme. It’s Kubrick Café / bookshop is well worth dropping in on before or after a movie.
When's the most favourable time of year to visit? It can get really humid.
Having lived in Singapore I thought I could cope with humidity, but the Hong Kong summers are way more intense. The best time is October to December when temps are ‘spring’ like and you can walk without sweating.
A lot of people associate HK with the cityscape but there is also a lot of nature to enjoy. Where do you go to escape the city?
By far the best thing about Hong Kong is its abundance of natural parkland. We live ten minutes from the Peak and Pok Fu Lam hiking trails so I get out to those at least once a week. We also head to Shek O’ and Big Wave Bay for beaches (and the Dragon’s Back Hiking Trail, which offers spectacular vistas but also gets very popular on clear days). Sai Kung National Park or Lantau trails for longer hikes.
You're an avid hiker, which trail would you recommend?
Sai Kung National Park is around 1.5 hours from Central by MTR and bus and provides stark contrast to the cityscape. The 100km-long MacLehose hiking trail can be broken down into manageable sections, which lead you past waterfalls, woodland and spotless beaches – some unreachable by car.
What’s a great souvenir to take back?
One of the reproduction-but-quirky Sino bric-a-brac items from the stalls on Upper Lascar Row in Sheung Wan. Or a waving cat!
What's the most touristy thing to do but is still loved by locals?
The Star Ferry. It’s a magical way to cross the harbour.
What am I missing out that would be great to share?
Hong Kong’s big-ticket art events like Basel attract much attention, but there’s a burgeoning local scene – from HK Walls
promoting street art to independent galleries in Chai Wan – that’s well-worth checking out.
Kung Hei Fat Choi everyone, happy Chinese new year! xxx