Insider's guide to Hong Kong

THE MAN helps you explore this region like a local. From hiking, taking ding ding rides, getting your mugshot taken at a decommissioned prison to cruising on a traditional Chinese boat, travel around Hong Kong like an insider

Hong Kong balances ancient traditions amidst modernity, presents creative street art splashed across its iconic neighbourhoods, and engages your senses with fine dining and picture-perfect views. Hong Kong balances ancient traditions amidst modernity, presents creative street art splashed across its iconic neighbourhoods, and engages your senses with fine dining and picture-perfect views.

Take a break from bustling streets and skyscrapers to hike in nature. You don’t have to head out of Hong Kong for this. Dragon’s Back is a scenic hike in the territory itself. It was recommended as one of the best hikes in urban Hong Kong by Time magazine in 2004. Lace up your sneakers, stock up on healthy munchies, and look dapper in your hat as you challenge yourself in the outdoors to hike to feel on top of the world. 

The beauty of Dragon’s Back is that the views change at every vantage point. Start with watching one of the pristine beaches while you thread along forested paths and proceed to gaze at insta-perfect islands and a coastal panorama as you elevate uphill along winding paths with fresh, crisp air giving you company. Don’t miss the hovering migratory birds, the enthusiastic parasailor, the Shek O Beach, Shek O Peninsula and Tai Tam Bay. 

Dragon’s Back Dragon’s Back Picture: Khursheed Dinshaw

Let the peeking urban buildings remind you from time to time that this hiking paradise is within civilisation. Big Wave Bay greets you on the completion of this 8.5km trail. Dragon’s Back takes an average of four hours and is of a moderate grade level. Time your hike in such a way that you get to watch either the sunrise or the sunset from up there.   

Enjoy a drink at PDT (Please Don’t Tell) 

It’s private. It’s exotic. It’s got luxury stirred in all its cocktails. It’s PDT (Please Don’t Tell),  a cocktail bar located at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental. The legendary 

New York’s cocktail bar, PDT has its Asian collaboration with this bar. 

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You lift the curtain entrance to walk into space which has an old telephone booth. Insert the coin provided in the telephone slot and dial one to be escorted into the bar which only seats 25 people at a time. Sip their signature Winter Break that was created by famous mixologist Jeff Bell. The cocktail is a delightful mix of Moet Brut imperial Champagne, seed lip grove 42, Hyuuga Natsu juice, honey and tankan vinegar. 

If you prefer your gin and tonic, Safari should be your chosen cocktail. The kabosu citrus and shiso from Japan pack in an additional punch of flavour. You are also doing a good deed as 15 per cent of the proceeds of the gin bottle go towards conserving African elephants. 

We’d also recommend another signature cocktail that goes by the name of Mezcal Mule. Passion fruit, ginger, lime and cucumber are mixed with a spirit prepared by roasting agave on wood-fired stones to get this smoky drink. 

If you are on an alcohol break, try the non-alcoholic Silver Fox prepared with fruits, spices and egg white. It’s got a tarty taste while Smooth Sailor has a smoky pineapple flavour. Let its pineapple, grape juice and black cardamom let you call it a night in style.         

Explore Old Town Central 

Picture: Khursheed Dinshaw Old Town Central is Hong Kong’s historic and colourful neighbourhood. Picture: Khursheed Dinshaw

Old Town Central is Hong Kong’s historic and colourful neighbourhood. Head to the famous Hollywood Road for antiques and souvenir shopping. A lane from this road will lead you right to the most instagrammable wall graffiti of Hong Kong. 

Man Mo Temple Man Mo Temple

Next pay your respects at Man Mo Temple dedicated to two Gods: Man Cheong, the God of Literature, and Mo Tai, the God of Martial Arts. This Temple is 157 years old and was constructed to commemorate the opening of Tai Po Market. 

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Step into Kung Lee Herbal Tea Shop for some fresh sugarcane juice, sugarcane tea or sugarcane pudding. Tai Kwun, which is the Centre for Heritage and Arts, is also located at Old Town Central at the Central Police Station. Get your own mugshot at the now-decommissioned Victoria Prison or Victoria Gaol. Can you spot the cell where Vietnam’s leader Ho Chi-Minh was imprisoned or the yard which he described in his journal? 

Don’t leave Tai Kwun without relishing a meal at the trendy Madame Fu- Grand Cafe Chinois. All its rooms have a different décor and the view from it juxtaposes Hong Kong's skyscrapers and colonial buildings. 

An evening at Victoria Harbour

     Aqua Luna sails from 12pm  onwards as part  of its harbour discovery ride Aqua Luna sails from 12pm onwards as part of its harbour discovery ride Picture: Khursheed Dinshaw

Indulge the child in you as you step onto the Hong Kong observation wheel. As the wheel turns slowly, soak in the views of Victoria Harbour, the high-rise buildings synonymous with Hong Kong, the star ferry which ferries passengers from Hong Kong Island, and the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade which is always abuzz with activity. 

By the time, you have experienced the third and final round of this 60m wheel, you would have noticed the old clock tower which dates back to 1915. 

A well-spent evening on Victoria Harbour would be incomplete without boarding Aqua Luna for a cruise. 

It is a traditional junk boat of Chinese origins whose red sails fluttering in the evening breeze beckon. Let this wooden boat take you back in time as you relax on its upper deck, enjoying the twinkling lights of Hong Kong sailing on, drink in hand. 

If you have other plans for the evening, Aqua Luna also sails from 12.00 pm onwards as part of its harbour discovery ride and has day cruises to Stanley village.  

You can have dinner at Nanhai No. 1 which offers Chinese spirits with Chinese cuisine and customises the menu for vegetarians. It's known for its seafood and night views including the twice-a-year fireworks display. 

Take a TramOramic Tour 

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Trams have been used in Hong Kong since 1904 and have been nicknamed ding ding ride. Take this oldest medium of transport in the region, but do it with style. Opt for a TramOramic Tour! It is onboard a 1920’s double-deck tram and the audio guide which is plugged into the seat lets you learn about monuments, streets, localities and sites. 

Send yourself a free postcard available onboard or buy souvenirs of tram models, fridge magnets and key chains which are sold at the resting station. Drive by Percival Street which turns into neon street at night, the Happy Valley Race Course which was destroyed in a fire and rebuilt in 1955 and the Jockey Club founded in 1884 to promote horse racing. 

As you pass the vast stretches of retail space, keep a lookout for Times Square which is one of the most expensive areas to rent in the world. You can also hire the tram for a champagne party or to propose to your girlfriend. 

Sample street food specialities’ 

Don't miss Deep-fried tofu, egg waffles and Chinese desserts. If you love soy products, Kung Wo Beancurd Factory in Sham Shui Poi is the go-to place. An old-school store, their signature items are velvety beancurd pudding, and sugar-free soy milk. The beancurd pudding is scooped out from a wooden cask and along with beancurd, it has a little sugar syrup. 

Michelin-recommended Kwan Kee Store, also located in Sham Shui Poi, has been dishing out traditional Chinese desserts since the 1960s. The crowds here savour their white sugar cakes, glutinous rice puddings and bowl puddings called Chai Koh in Cantonese. These are made using white sugar and red beans. 

This island is known as Dumbbell Island because of its shape resembling a dumbbell. This island is known as Dumbbell Island because of its shape resembling a dumbbell.

For egg waffles, head to Mammy Pancakes at Temple Night Street market. The waffles are not boring, but come in flavours like organic chestnut, mocha, salted seaweed with corn, pork floss and white sesame, double cheese, banana and chocolate. After letting your taste buds experiment with unusual flavours, it’s time for shopping for souvenirs at the street market. Don’t groan at the mention of shopping. There are wallets, gadgets, T-shirts and watches to choose from.  

The Tin Hua Temple dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea is also located near the street market. Inside it are the Tin Hau Temple, Shing Wong Temple, Kwun Yum Temple, Shea Tan and Hsu Yuen. 

The ceilings of the temples are lined with coil incenses’ which Hong-kongers believe are a way to communicate with  God. Devotees write their name and wish on the card hanging in the middle of these incense coils which can burn for over two weeks non-stop. 

Unravel the secrets of  Cheung Chau island 

This island is known as Dumbbell Island because of its shape resembling a dumbbell. Stretching across three sqkm, this is a non-vehicular destination and visitors board the ferry from Victoria Harbour. When you arrive at the island, you can either cycle (available on rent) or walk to explore Cheung Po Tsai Cave which was where the 19th-century pirate named Cheung Po Tsai hid his treasure. The cave is quite narrow inside and its entrance is well-hidden.

While Mini Great Wall has interlocked stone pillars, Reclining Rock is a complex of five  rocks resembling the five Chinese elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Each of these rocks is five metres in height.

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Tung Wan is a crescent-shaped beach and blends seamlessly with Kwun Yam Beach which offers kayaking and windsurfing. A former fishing village dating back to the Ming Dynasty, the island is known for its Pak Tai Temple which is dedicated to Pak Tai, the God of the Sea. This Temple was built in 1783. 

Next to the temple is Kwok Kam Kee shop which has been selling lucky buns for the last 40 years. Run by the second generation of the Kwok family, these buns have a red auspicious stamp on them and a filling of a paste that is made from sesame or lotus seeds or red beans. The buns are believed to bring affluence and harmony and locally referred to as ping on bao. 

The shop is the main supplier of buns during the annual bun festival and is also known for its signature egg tarts. These have a crispy crust and a filling of custard. Cheung Chau offers some great souvenirs like mandarin black tea which is black tea filled in a dried mandarin, Pu'er tea cakes and jasmine pearl tea. 

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