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May 14, 2017, Hong Kong

See Hong Kong like a local

Soak in the vibrant art scene, go hiking, tuck into delicious food and shop till you drop in the city

Joyce Lim

Hong Kong has more to offer than just good food and shopping. It is also an Asian art capital that has seen a boom in art galleries, auctions and international exhibitions in recent years. Visitors will find a cluster of galleries along Hollywood Road, for instance.

Famous as the most vertical city in the world, travellers need only look upwards when searching for good eats in a city where everyone is constantly fighting for space.

But what is wonderful about this compact metropolis is that to get in a good hike, there is no need to leave the city.

SATURDAY

1. WORLD'S LONGEST OUTDOOR ESCALATOR

Access the Central to Mid-Levels escalator from Queen's Road Central in Central district. On the way up, you will see plenty of restaurants and shops and pass through the city's oldest street market in Graham Street.

The free 20-minute ride will also take you to Shelley Street, which is part of the Soho entertainment district, a haven for pub crawlers.

The covered escalator system, which stretches over 800m and rises up to 135m, takes you up to Mid-Levels from 10am to midnight daily. It is made up of 20 escalators connected by footbridges and has 14 entrances and exits. In the morning, it takes people down.

Where: From Queen's Road Central, Central

Admission: Free

Info: www.hongkongextras.com/_midlevels_escalators.html

2. WALK DOWN OLD STREETS

Exit the escalator at Hollywood Road, where you will see the former Central Police Station and Victoria Prison.

Walk up Old Bailey Street to take in the view of the former prison or walk down Hollywood Road to soak up the vibrant art scene.

Dozens of antique shops and art galleries line Hollywood Road, the second road to be built when the British colony of Hong Kong was founded in 1842.

Here, too, you will find Man Mo Temple - one of Hong Kong's oldest.

The God of Literature and the God of War are worshipped in this temple, which was built in 1847. Students like to pray here for success in their examinations.

Where: Man Mo Temple, 124-126 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan

Admission: Free

Info: www.discoverhongkong.com/seasia/see-do/culture-heritage/chinese-temples/man-mo-temple.jsp

3. RETAIL THERAPY AT PMQ

Continue west along Hollywood Road to Aberdeen Street, which will lead you to a creative hub where local artists display their work.

PMQ, short for Police Married Quarters, was a dormitory for married rank-and-file police officers. It is now home to local art galleries, design studios, hipster cafes, restaurants and flea markets.

Here, you can find Hong Kong-inspired products such as mugs, slippers, aprons, tote bags and T-shirts at lifestyle store Goods Of Desire. Handmade jewellery stores are a gem in this historic 1951 building. You can also find established labels such as Vivienne Tam and pop-up stores from international designers.

Tired from all the shopping? Space out at the rooftop garden on the fourth storey.

Where: 35 Aberdeen Street, Central

Info: www.pmq.org.hk

4. CHILDHOOD MEMORIES AT TOY STREET

Take the A3 exit from Wan Chai MTR station and walk down bustling Tai Yuen Street, which is lined with toy shops. Here, you are sure to find an old toy that will bring back happy childhood memories.

On the road also known as Toy Street, you will find shops selling some classic Star Wars figurines that used to be made in Hong Kong, as well as collectible superhero figurines, model cars, Lego sets, Peppa Pig and Barbie dolls.

It is not all toys, however. The variety of food in Wan Chai will put you in a good mood too.

Where: Tai Yuen Street, Wan Chai

Info: www.discoverhongkong.com/seasia/shop/where-to-shop/street-markets-and-shopping-streets/tai-yuen-street.jsp

5. JOIN LOCALS FOR AFTERNOON TEA

For an authentic experience of dining with locals, head to the nearby Kam Fung Restaurant at 41 Spring Garden Lane.

This cha chaan teng, or tea house, serves one of Hong Kong's best milk teas, egg tarts and bo lo bao (pineapple buns). It also offers instant noodles and macaroni. Be prepared to share tables with other diners.

Where: 41 Spring Garden Lane, Wan Chai

Info: www.openrice.com/en/hongkong/r-kam-fung-restaurant-wan-chai-hong-kong-style-r1549

SUNDAY

6. CLIMBING THE DRAGON'S BACK

Scenery-wise, Hong Kong has plenty to offer.

Dragon's Back trail, which has a spectacular view of Shek O, Tai Long Wan, Stanley, Tai Tam and the South China Sea, is one of the easiest and most accessible hikes.

Take the A exit at Shau Kei Wan MTR Station and hop onto Bus 9 at the Bus Terminus. Alight at To Tei Wan Village in Shek O Road - the starting point of the 8.5 km trail.

If you are hiking for the first time, it takes about an hour to get to the sightseeing platform on 284m-high Shek O Peak. You will need double the time if you stop to take selfies every few steps.

End the hike at Shek O Village and treat yourself to a seafood feast at one of the many restaurants on the white, sandy beach.

Where: From Shek O Road, Southern district

Admission: Free

Info: www.discoverhongkong.com/seasia/see-do/great-outdoors/hikes/dragons-back-hiking-tour.jsp

7. ARTISANAL JAPANESE COFFEE

For serious coffee lovers, a must-try is Omotesando Koffee in Wan Chai, the first overseas outlet of the famous pop-up cafe in Tokyo.

The Japanese baristas at this cafe, which has a minimalist design, will show you how much they care about coffee. Here, beans are ground on the spot.

My favourite is the double-shot iced cappuccino.

Where: 24 Lee Tung Avenue, Wan Chai

Open: 8am to 8pm (weekdays), 9am to 9pm (weekends)

Info: Call +852-26013323 or go to ooo-koffee.com/hongkong.html

8. JUMP ON THE TRAM

Hop onto the city's iconic tram and step back in time.

Despite its 113-year vintage, the ding ding, as the tram is affectionately known to Hong Kongers for the sound of its bells, has not stopped being a key form of public transport.

Take the eastbound tram from Wan Chai and grab a window seat on the upper deck for the best views. It will take you to the Causeway Bay shopping hub in 10 minutes for a flat fare of HK$2.30 (40 Singapore cents) a ride, compared with MTR fares which start at HK$4.50. And if you miss your destination, fret not as the tram stops every 250m, so you can get off at the next stop and walk back.

Alight at the 53E Paterson Street stop and head down the street to Fashion Walk, a shoppers' haven at the heart of Causeway Bay. There is a good mix of restaurants with outdoor seats, where you can enjoy dinner under the moon.

Info: www.hktramways.com

9. A CINEMATIC AFTERNOON

Head down to the Hong Kong Film Archive in Sai Wan Ho to soak in the cinematic magic of the city's film history.

Film buffs can check out an exhibition and watch classic films, from 1960s Cantonese wuxia (swordplay) films to Bruce Lee's 1970s gongfu movies and Hong Kong's first live-action animated film, Master Q (2001), by Tsui Hark.

The five-storey building is dedicated to state-of-the-art film storage and preservation and houses a voluminous resource centre stocked with books, magazines, newspapers and audio-visual materials.

Where: 50 Lei King Road, Sai Wan Ho

Admission: Free

Info: www.filmarchive.gov.hk

10. SEARCH FOR 001

This is probably one of the best hidden bars in Hong Kong.

Located in the middle of the Graham Street Wet Market in Central, 001 does not have any signage, just a doorbell which you have to ring to get in.

This glamorous bar, decorated with vintage-looking furniture, has an exclusive touch, but is open to the public. Try the signature Earl Grey martini.

How do you find 001?

Here is a clue: Stand in Graham Street, facing the Butterfly on Wellington boutique hotel. Behind a pushcart is a black door. Look for the signature doorbell.

Where: Graham Street, Central

Open: 6pm to 1am (Mondays), 6pm to 2am (Tuesdays to Thursdays), 6pm to 3am (Fridays), 7pm to 3am (Saturdays), closed on Sundays

Info: bit.ly/2pWFBQx

GETTING THERE

Six airlines operate direct flights from Singapore to Hong Kong. Plan your trip early and look out for promotional airfares by Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, which may cost less than airfares charged by budget carriers such as Jetstar.

WHERE TO STAY

• The Upper House is a contemporary luxury hotel where room rates start at HK$4,800 (S$880) a night. Go to www.upperhouse.com/en/default

• At the Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel, which has 60 per cent of its rooms overlooking Victoria Harbour, nightly room rates start from HK$2,000 (S$360). Go to www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/hkghv-renaissancehong-kong-harbour-viewhotel

TRAVEL TIPS

• The best time to visit Hong Kong is in March and April and from October to December, when the weather is cool and pleasant.

• If you plan to take the Airport Express train to the city, you can get cheaper tickets online at www.grayline.com.hk

• If you plan to visit Disneyland and Ocean Park, you can also get discounted tickets from www.grayline.com.hk

• Change your currency in Singapore for a better rate

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