x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

City that never stops

My town Island city Hong Kong is an electrifying mix of urban grit and romantic chic.

Behind the glitzy, futuristic skyline Hong Kong offers fantastic shopping, magnificent temples and a bewildering array of restaurants.
Behind the glitzy, futuristic skyline Hong Kong offers fantastic shopping, magnificent temples and a bewildering array of restaurants.

With its futuristic skyscrapers, glitzy shopping malls and labyrinth of back alleys, Hong Kong is an electrifying mix of urban grit and romantic chic. But only after dark does this island city shake off its strictly business exterior, to reveal its true colours. For the perfect evening out, begin with a sunset drink at Sevva in the Central district. Perched at dizzying heights on the penthouse level of Princes Building, the 360-degree balcony offers stunning views over the financial district, Victoria harbour and the Kowloon skyline.

For a glimpse of Hong Kong's past wander over to Sheung Wan and walk through Western Market. The redbrick, Edwardian structure is the territory's oldest surviving market and a constant reminder of a bygone era. Next, follow the bend in the road to Man Mo Temple for an authentic flavour of the east. Built in 1848, this ancient Taoist temple is a popular place of pilgrimage for locals in times of distress. Breathe in the musky scent of incense hanging in coils from the red rafters, or make your way to the right-hand hall, where fortune tellers huddle around rickety, round tables, offering insights to your destiny.

Day and night, Hong Kongers customarily greet each other with the phrase "Sik joh fan, meiya?" ("Have you eaten yet?") With one restaurant for every 650 people, the city boasts one of the highest per-capita concentrations of eateries in the world. Satisfy your appetite at Hee Kee Fried Crab Expert in Wanchai, a quick tram ride away, and be sure to sample the legendary stir-fried garlic and chilli crab.

For dessert, stop off at Tai Cheong bakery on Lyndhurst Terrace for some of the best "daan tat" (egg tarts) on the island. Legend has it that the last governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, loved the custard treats at Tai Cheong so much that after the handover he had two dozen delivered to the Royal Yacht Britannia, before it sailed away into the night. If Hong Kong is the city that never sleeps, it is also the city that never stops shopping. Cross the harbour on the Star Ferry and join the throng of pedestrians on Nathan Road - a neon spectacle of shops, hotels, restaurants, historical buildings and the city's Cultural Centre.

Next hop on the MTR to Yau Ma Tei and visit the Temple Street flea market, which only comes alive after dusk. Weave your way past roadside hawkers and rows of stalls selling everything from T-shirts and jeans to vintage Mao posters and fake designer bags. If something should catch your eye, insist on half of the asking price. On your way back to the main island, stop off at the Phillipe Starck-designed Restaurant Felix, at the top of the Peninsula Hotel, for the most breathtaking bathroom view. The glass wall in the 28th-floor men's room commands one of the best panoramic views of the harbour.

For one of the city's better-kept secrets, head to Feather Boa in SoHo, which is the talk of the town. A former antiques store, this bohemian lounge is hidden behind thick, gold drapes and an unmarked door. Tourists and locals rub shoulders until the early hours, dancing the night away to a selection of funk, soul and live jazz. No evening out is complete without a trip to the Tsui Wah "tea house", the Chinese equivalent of a greasy spoon cafe. This is one of those deep-rooted institutions, where the service is abrupt, the menu is enormous and the food is reassuringly calorific, cheap and served around the clock. If you really want to dine like a native, then order an iced lemon tea and wedges of thick toast slathered in condensed milk.

For a much deserved break from the city's frenetic pace, book yourself a relaxing massage at Happy Foot. Soothe tired feet with a reflexology session, where therapists knead pressure points to relieve stress, headaches and other common ailments. Don't expect a deluxe treatment, though. The interiors here are basic and you are almost guaranteed to share a room with other customers. However, this is, after all, part of the charm.