Hong Kong in a Hurry

Notes from a whirlwind trip to an amazing destination

hong kong

For those who think they know Hong Kong, think again. Its energy, drive for growth, and adaptability are visible and palpable. And there’s more to come, says Gilly Wong, general manager of Meetings and Exhibitions Hong Kong. Over the next two years, visitors can expect a 75 percent increase in hotels, in addition to new cultural exhibits, events, and improvements to the region’s already outstanding infrastructure. Over espresso in a private interview at one of the Mira Hotel’s sleek private meeting rooms overlooking the Yamm restaurant, Wong says, “Every two years you’ll find something new; our attractions continue to grow.” 

Letting Loose
Even amid the crowd inside the glass-bottomed Ngong Ping 360 cable car, the steady glide and panoramic views of the South China Sea create a Zen-like experience—as does first sight of the Tian Tan Buddha that presides over the landscape like a centuries-old idol of worship. In truth, the colossal bronze statue was completed in the 1990s. For planners scheming up ideas for an Amazing Race-style teambuilding experience, the Po Lin Monastery, Ngong Ping Village, and surrounding temples offer exotic backdrops to any game plan. 

In Tai O, a rustic river village with tin houses, small boats and fishing nets, and laundry-strewn shanties built over wooden stilts, you can arrange to visit one of the houses and watch how locals create sun-dried salted duck egg yolks, a traditional Chinese food typically added to rice. But planners, know your audience. Some group members found this up close and personal look at Tai O a little too “fowl” an experience. A better bet for those in search of cultural exploration without the pathos would be lunch at an open-air restaurant along the top-rated beaches of Cheung Sha Wan in southern Lantau. For lodge-like comfort, there is the Discovery Bay Residents Club, an attractive social, sporting, and recreational center with ample function space. 

And the polished marble lobby of the Island Shangri-La Hong Kong is the perfect tonic after a long flight from North America. Visually luxurious, the resort can also be counted on to offer meeting and incentive attendees details such as cozy night clothes to sleep in and first-rate amenities like hair and skin products from L’Occitane. Deluxe rooms at the Island Shangri-La offer ample space and elegant style. 

Great Views of the City
At night, the Hong Kong city skyline gleams with dazzling phosphorescence. 

The city’s nightly laser light show can be enjoyed at length on a cocktail cruise aboard the Aqua Luna, a handcrafted Chinese junk with bright red, four-cornered sails. For the most stunning views from above, day or night, go to Sky Terrace at the top of the Peak Tower, which can be rented out for events. Attendees will take the best photographs from The Peak, which offers screensaver-worthy photo-ops that capture the mountainous landscape’s natural mystique. The Peak also houses a broad selection of restaurants. Back on solid ground, Watermark restaurant, located on the Star Ferry Pier, offers Western-style fine dining with a surrounding view of the harbor. 

Kowloon Comes Alive
The five-star Mira Hotel, in the heart of bustling Kowloon, is aptly named for its use of mirrors and nightclub ambiance. Rooms are snug, but the space is well designed and the rooms have an attractive decor. Overall, the Mira is best described as young and trendy, but with some sophisticated surprises, such as the Michelin two-star modern Cantonese restaurant Cuisine Cuisine, a pastry shop called Coco, and a gorgeous spa with private waterbeds, a pool, and a spa bar. The Mira also has a sexy garden area that serves as a Tai Chi classroom by day and loungy bar area by night. 

Nearby attractions include Nathan Lane, aka the Golden Mile, lined with shops and restaurants. For a livelier shopping experience groups can visit the Temple Street Night Markets, a brightly lit street fair where you can hunt down clothing, electronics, and even watches amid slow-moving crowds and a splendid mash of street market sounds. 

Saving the Best for Last
Heritage 1881, an expansive historic building composed of archways and columns, has been converted into a shopping and dining center where attendees can enjoy delicious Cantonese food in a private dining area, adjacent to a courtyard that can be decorated with glowing red lanterns. The historic feel of the venue, combined with its exceptional dining offerings, qualify it as a must-experience for groups.

But the best venue is the China Club, located in Central Hong Kong. Lavish doesn’t begin to describe this heady art-filled venue, where classical Asian portraiture shares wall space with photographs of hatchet-cracked skulls and Andy Warhol’s Mao and Whitney. It is simultaneously lofty, exotic, and weird. Function rooms have the richly detailed, art-deco appeal of luxury train cars.