10:16 am

THIS IS MY CITY | Hannah-Rose's Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a surprising city, the kind of place that the expression "don't judge a book by its cover" was written about. You can go there one time and see everything and nothing, and you can go there a hundred times and still be surprised by what emerges from this melting pot of European and Chinese cultures. From a French bakery next to a traditional wedding stationery printer to the Asian fusion restaurants that are just as popular as the British gastropubs, don't ever think you've got a grip on Hong Kong, because it'll just go and change on you. This is Hong Kong, by Hannah-Rose.

all photos by Hannah-Rose Yee

one. Best thing about Hong Kong? Yum Cha at all times of the day (and night!).

two. Worst thing about Hong Kong? The weather. In Summer it can reach sweltering, monsoon-y, sweaty temperatures because of the humidity, and the past couple of winters have been quite bitter, especially around Wanchai where my grandparents live which is right on the harbour of Hong Kong island. And everywhere inside is air-conditioned, which means that even in the depths of summer you need to bring a jacket with you to counter-act those freezing temperatures inside restaurants and buildings and shopping centres.

 three. Favourite secret spot? To try and increase the amount of greenery and shared public spaces amongst the ocean of concrete that is the character of the urban high-rise city, Hong Kong's government started to introduce all of these hidden gated gardens around the city and its main streets. There's not one in particular, but any of them will do, a place to sit down surrounded by the tranquility of ferns and tall trees and pretend, even for a second, that you're not in a big city.

four. Favourite everyone-knows-it-but-it's-still-good spot? The Star Ferry. It's not really a spot, more like a thing to do, and not only does everyone know about it but everyone HAS to use it to get across to Kowloon side. But for only a handful of pocket change that translates to less than an Australian dollar, you can get the best views of the city as you ride across the ocean. You don't have to pay for a fancy scenic yacht tour or anything, just sit back maybe even lean against the metal barrier. It's best at night-time to see all of those mega-story building complexes really light up (the last Ferry is at 9 I think!!).

 view from the Star Ferry

 five. What is your newest discovery in Hong Kong? What about somewhere you've been going since forever but can't quite give up? My newest discovery would be a real, authentic French bakery in the heart of Wancha, the Chez Patrick Deli, where you can get fresh baguettes and cheese at all hours of the day. The place I've been going to always but will never give up is Chung's cuisine in Times Square, Causeway Bay. This place is ridiculously good - traditional chinese food with a modern spin. The spiced soya chicken with apple sauce is my favourite Chinese dish, and the crispy pork belly is insanely good. I've been going to Chung's with my family for ages now, and I don't think we'll ever stop.

 six. Where is the best place for.... morning coffee? meal with friends? romantic rendez-vous? late night drink? even later-night boogie? When I was last in Hong Kong I stumbled across a couple of cute cafes near my grandparents' house in Wanchai which had pretty decent coffee and fantastic breakfast options. One of them was Classified at 31 Wing Fung St, which is a mozzarella bar by night and brunch spot by day. For a great value lunch with friends I would say somewhere in Mid levels, if only because the walk down is so much fun and there are plenty of shops to peruse with mates. I really like the Brunch Club, which is another cute cafe with white-washed walls and comfy lounge chairs, but Bistro Marmite is pretty good as well, if you're after a bit of classic French fare. Romantic rendez-vous? You'd have to go somewhere with a view! Amber at the Mandarin Oriental (the most beautiful hotel in Hong Kong by far) is right up there. Follow it up with a drink at The Pawn, one of my favourite places in Hong Kong. It's a British gastropub which has a pretty decent restaurant and excellent, show-stopping cocktails. Try the wild raspberry vodka, raspberry puree and ginger beer concoction if it's on the menu. And for a late night boogie? The best place used to be Yumla, an underground hip hop and electronica club, but it's just closed down. So I'll have to recommend a place I've never been - XXX - and hope that it lives up to the hype the next time I go back...

 muesli at Classified, Wanchai

seven. Where are Hong Kong's style spots? Where is the best shopping? Hong Kong is the city of the supermall, with several of them dotting the tiny island and Kowloon filled with megabrands and department stores. My favourites are Pacific Place in Admiralty, which has the best branch of Hong Kong's designer department store Lane Crawford - where you can pick up 3.1 Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang and Stella McCartney, as well as small outposts of European chain stores like Zara and H&M. Landmark is in Central and it's got you covered for high-end designer. There are not one but TWO Celine stores, a Harvey Nichols (where you can ogle the Smythson embossed travel wallets) and a beautiful Dries Van Noten store modelled off the one on the Quai Malaquais in Paris (with Frederic Malle parfums and all!). It's opposite Shanghai Tang, which is Hong Kong's riff on traditional Chinese fashion for the luxury market, opposite a massive Marks & Spencer's (if you're into that thing) and Joyce, which is kind of like Hong Kong's Belinda, a multi-brand boutique with a fabulous beauty section stocking Diptyque, Serge Lutens and even Aesop and Grown. In Causeway Bay I always go straight to Paterson street where you can find A.P.C, Isabel Marant and Vanessa Bruno. Little Paris!

But the best shopping is actually at the outlet stores at Horizon Plaza in Ap Lei Chau, about a 15-20 minute drive out of the centre of Hong Kong (a very big distance in such a small island). You'll find most of the brands I mentioned above - Lane Crawford, Joyce and I.T, the concept store that owns the franchising on A.P.C and Isabel Marant in Hong Kong - and many more. Sure, you gotta dig deep and there's a load of crap hanging around, but you can also find some gems that you thought were lost to the ehter, like all of that YSL plexiglass that everyone loved so much, or ribbed turtleneck sweaters from the Givenchy apres-ski collection.

eight. What is something you can get/read/experience/eat that you can only do in Hong Kong?
Do that traditional Hong Kong thing and get a lunch special. The one at To Yuen noodle is crazy good - noodles with your choice of meat, toast with scrambled egg and ham and your choice of coffee and tea all for HKD28 - or less than $3 AUD. This kind of meal is viewed as a traditional Hong Kong tea set and it's popular all around the country. You have to check out the mid-levels escalators, the longest covered escalators in the world. You can jump on and off at will, but it's kind of fun to ride the thing all the way to the top. Go to an all-nighter restaurant. I don't know what it is about Hong Kong but it literally never sleeps. There are so many places to get food that are open all night, from noodles to greasy western-style fry ups. And finally, it's such a Hong Kong thing to join a queue. Whether waiting for the lifts or to get onto the train, there are plenty of opporunities to get in line in Hong Kong. The best kind? When you're waiting for one of only 200 bowls of perfect Ramen that will come out of a hole in the wall in Central called Butao. You wait for an hour but the result is utter perfection: slippery yet still chewy noodles, and a gloriously salty broth.

 Bamboo on the street

nine. You can tell a lot about a city from their airport. Describe Hong Kong. State of the art and kind of space-agey and so efficient. This is the way airports really ought to be. You can shop at Celine or Zara or Chanel before you flight or even grab a full yum cha service. The only slightly disconcerting thing is how damn big it is. You have to catch a quick shuttle between terminals, and it's easy to forget that this can add a little bit of time to your trip from customs to gate...

ten. How would you describe Hong Kong to someone who has never been there before? The real city that never sleeps.

Hong Kong's classic streetscapes - the old and the new together

Benah's This Is My City guides:
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Estelle's Melbourne
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