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ZB Travel – Hong Kong Nov 16

You’ve just been to the tallest bar in the world? My head is still lingering in the clouds, of that bar. If you’re heading to Hong Kong, check out the swanky new watering hole, Ozone, which crowns the roof of the Ritz Carlton, housed in Hong Kong’s tallest building, and the fourth tallest in the world. The ICC Tower. 118 stories high, Ozone is  THE place to nibble on Asian tapas and sip on signature cocktails that have a zesty Asian edge, with lemon grass, yuzu and lime featuring prominently. But it’s the absurdly high views and profound temperature change on the roof terrace that is the real magnet. It is so high, that the clouds waft by, below you.

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What about Victoria Harbour? Is the Star Ferry still a cheap ride? Alongside a harbour jaunt on the Staten Island Ferry, the Star Ferry is one of the world’s cheapest treats It still costs just 50 New Zealand cents to take a crossing on the scuffed old green and cream ferries, that endure as a heritage emblem of Hong Kong.  I can’t think of a better way to spend 50 cents.

Hong Kong’s infamous old airport ( Kai Tak) has had a major makeover? Many listeners will recall the gnarly old airport jutting out into Kowloon Harbour, which made for some pretty hairy landings as the jets threaded their way through the apartment buildings. Well, the old Kai Tak runway has finally been given a new lease of life. A glittering new cruise ship terminal now adorns the runway, so what was an airport is now a seaport. Only in Hong Kong. 

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 What about the Peak Tram. I understand you did it, with a difference?  The charming old Peak Tram rattles up the mountainside of Hong Kong Island. After sizing up the view, I opted to make my own way down, from the 5 hundred metre high peak. There’s a swag of nature trails through the tropical vegetation, with a feast of views as you go.  It such a great escape from the 7 million strong swarm of humanity, and reveals just how green and verdant Hong Kong Island really is. Highly recommended.

Head over to Repulse Bay and Stanley? Yes, on a similar note, if the throbbing crowds are zapping you, the seaside retreats on Hong Kong Island are very restorative. Repulse Bay is a rather ritzy bolt-hole for the showbiz set. And charming little Stanley, it’s like the Devonport of Kong Kong, has a lazy Sunday vibe with outstanding markets.

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Is Hong Kong gearing up for Christmas? The city has been good to go for weeks. No expense is spared in the retail displays, that look more like mini Christmas theme parks, than just a few decorations flung about. And of course the decades old tradition of festooning the facades of multi storey buildings with monster Christmas illuminations continues.

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What’s shopping impressions did you pick up? I actually polled a variety of locals in Hong Kong, and they reckon the best three  malls are SoGo, Landmark and iSquare. Bag a bargain on a tailored suit. It’sis still a booming trade, and the turnaround time is as fast as 7 hours. And something I thought was curious was that every traditional Chinese medicine store I spotted, has branched out and is stocking New Zealand milk powder brands like Karicare.

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You’re a fan of Shanghai Street, right?  What about the Bird Garden? Beyond the bling of the glossy new malls, there are vestiges of old Hong Kong to be found. Shanghai Street has the biggest clutch of lost-in-time traders and stalls. Plus, the Bird Garden, is a great encounter, where elderly men preen and feed exotic birds in artfully crafted bamboo cages, waiting for a buyer.

 Is it true that Kong Kong is nearly as clean as Singapore?  Since the SARS scare eight years ago, Hong Kong has dramatically cleaned up its act. They regard Singapore as the lodestar, and quite frankly, most parts of the city are becoming just as tidily groomed, as their spick and span neighbour.

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BEST MARKETS?

LADIES MARKET – With over 100 stalls of bargain clothing, accessories and souvenirs, the Ladies’ Market on Tung Choi Street provides a one-kilometre stretch on which to practise your haggling skills. It gets its name from the huge amount of clothing and accessories on sale for women of all ages; however, with watches, cosmetics, bags, home furnishings, CDs and trinkets also up for grabs, you don’t need to be just in the market for a pair of nylon stockings to find something within its crowded aisles.

TEMPLE STREET NIGHT MARKET – When the sun goes down, the traders have already laid out their wares and the opera singers and fortune tellers begin to emerge. Welcome to the Temple Street Night Market, a popular street bazaar, named after a Tin Hau temple located in the centre of its main drag, and a place so steeped in local atmosphere that it has served as the backdrop to many a memorable movie. Trinkets, tea ware, electronics, watches, menswear, jade and antiques are scrutinised and haggled over, while claypot rice, seafood, noodles and other treats are consumed with gusto.

STANLEY MARKET –  This market in the quaint village of Stanley on Hong Kong Island’s south coast is a huge hit with locals, expats and tourists for good reason: its enormous selection of brand-name clothing items (large sizes are available) and accessories, jewellery, home furnishings, souvenirs, ornaments and Oriental knick-knacks are sold at reasonable prices in a picturesque warren of lanes. And if that’s not enough to grab you, the nearby eateries along the breezy seaside strip surely will!

BEST BUYS IN HONG KONG

Hong Kong’s demise as a shopping paradise is overstated – there are still plenty of bargains to be found in the city. The days of saving buckets full of money when shopping in Hong Kong are gone, but here’s what we think is still  cheap to buy in Hong Kong products.
1. Computer Equipment –  Consider this the land of the nerds. Hong Kongers love their computers and you’ll find the world’s cutting edge technology at very reasonable prices. Hong Kong has a number of computer markets, dedicated buildings featuring hundreds of independent sellers flogging computer hardware and software and, if you know what you want and how much you want to pay, you can make a killing cost wise. Laptops, tablets and gaming equipment are all on offer at excellent prices.
2. Tailored Suit – Hong Kong is hands down the best place in the world to pick up a superbly cut suit at a snip. The Indian and Chinese tailors here are some of the most talented in the world and continue to suit up British royalty, army top brass and the world’s biggest celebrities. Prices are also excellent, and whether you want double breasted, Italian fabric or a cheap and cheerful linen number, you’ll find it here. And they can organise a new suit in 48 hours.
3. Clothing –  Hong Kong used to be the workshop of the world and while most of the globe’s clothes now bear the stamp Made in China, they are made just across the border in Guangzhou. Hong Kong is still awash with cheap clothes and you’ll find hundreds of shops all over the city selling cut price clothing for little more than a couple of dollars. And, while the dresses and shirts might not say H&M or GAP, at least some of the clothing looks similar. Sham Shui Po and Causeway Bay are good fashion neighbourhoods to browse around.
4. Luxury Goods –  They certainly aren’t cheap, at least in the traditional sense, but Hong Kong probably squeezes more luxury boutiques and stylish emporiums per square block than anywhere else on the globe – Dubai excepted. Canton Road and the streets of Central are stuffed with the likes of Gucci, Luis Vuitton and Armani, not to mention a long list of ‘only shop in Asia’ designers and jewellers. The feverish competition does keep some downward pressure on the price tag.As does the fact that Hong Kong has no sales tax.

For more travel tips, advice and inspiration, check out the website of New Zealand’s premier travel magazine, For the Love of Travel. www.fortheloveoftravel.net.nz

Mike Yardley’s travel notes from Newstalk ZB’s Jack Tame Show.

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