How to make the most of exploring Hong Kong: the high-rise happy place

Features Editor Olivia Adams travels to Hong Kong to discover the destination daring to steal the spotlight from the world’s greatest cities. From staying in a harbour hotel taking interior inspiration from a 1930s cruise ship to mountainous hikes and vintage shopping, here’s why the glittering city is all that and dim sum
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How to make the most of exploring Hong Kong: the high-rise happy place

Colour, and chaos, flood my mind as I leave the safety net of Hong Kong International Airport and join the queue for a shabby, glaringly red taxi – not dissimilar looking from a New York cab rattling around the streets in 1970s movies. “How old is this car?” I mutter out loud as we race along stilted bridges towering over the South China Sea. Gulp.

The journey from the airport to the hotel I’m residing in for the next few days, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, takes 40 minutes and costs approximately 400 Hong Kong Dollars (Dhs188). It’s situated at the waterfront of Hong Kong Island, facing the word-famous Victoria Harbour, and inside the lobby has been designed in keeping with its location. It reminds guests of a luxurious cruise liner in the 1930s (think three-storey high ceilings, grand marbled columns, period décor pieces, fresh flowers and indoor water features). An impressive start.

With a similar concept in mind, the guest rooms are built to frame around the views of Victoria Harbour, the city lights of Hong Kong or the tranquil landscaped garden of the hotel. While perhaps unsurprisingly my Club Harbour View room is splendid, I’m told following a multi-million dollar renovation on the original building, built in 1989, all the 542 rooms and suites (including two Presidential Suites which are among the largest in Hong Kong) reflect the elegance of mine.

What I quickly learn about the city is space is hard to come by. The pavements are crammed with over seven million busy residents and property is the most expensive in the world, fuelled by domestic demand and protected mountainous land, which means homes have shrunk to the proverbial shoebox. Fortunately, I am not a resident, and as an indulgent holidaymaker checked in to a hotel I have the luxury of an open bathtub, walk-in shower, marbled vanity counter and king size bed.  

Even better, as a guest staying on a Grand Club floor, it means I have exclusive access to a private two-storey lounge, flooded with natural light and boasting a unique view of the harbour. In this lounge I am offered daily complimentary breakfast, pretty snacks and evening mocktails. There are also nine restaurants and bars on the property, providing everything from authentic Cantonese cuisine, Italian, Japanese and a steak house.

A true asset of the Grand Hyatt, in my opinion, is the 50-metre outdoor swimming pool, surrounded by lush trees.  There’s also a spa, sauna overlooking the harbour, two tennis courts, squash court, jogging track and 24-hour fitness studio, which is always a good idea when you’re offering unlimited breakfast.

When I’m finally full from drinking in the harbour views from my room, I leave the hotel and set off to unearth a vintage store I’ve Googled (deep, I know) in the hope of finding unique items I can show off back in Dubai. I’m not disappointed. Midwest Vintage in Causeway Bay makes a refreshing change from the high-end malls I’m used to, and I leave armed with a leather jacket, denim shirt and one-of-a-kind T-shirt ready to wow my fashion-savvy friends in the UAE.

The following day I wish to devour dim sum, and I’ve heard rave reviews from happy customers at Lung King Heen at Four Seasons. The fine-dining Cantonese restaurant is the world’s first Chinese restaurant and the only Cantonese restaurant in Hong Kong to be awarded the maximum of three Michelin stars, which it has retained for 11 consecutive years. Need I say more? Yes, the dishes - particularly the Lung Heen roasted chicken - are truly superb. 

After, I walk it off with a hike to The Dragon’s Back. There are plenty of hikes to choose from (Morning Trail and Victoria Peak are up there) and this one takes a good few hours but is accessible for all hiking levels. Honestly, the views of the beautiful coastal scenery are unforgettable.

My Asian adventure coming to an end, I check in to my flight and headed to one (out of five) of the business lounges belonging to Cathay Pacific, to make use of the showers and relaxation room. The premium airline, based in Hong Kong, takes two trips to Dubai daily and provides one of the fastest routes to Hong Kong.

Clearly not full from my mass eating experience in the lounge (the noodle bar was moreish), I gleefully accept the flight menu of locally sourced, sustainable ingredients - think marinated scallop and pesto crème fraiche, roasted lamb rack, cheese boards and chocolates (seriously, my diet starts Monday.) Each business-class seat extends to a full flatbed with pillow and duvet, and so, exceptionally content, I open my amenity kit, don my sleep mask, socks and balm and begin the nine-hour mission of catching up on all the sleep I had lost while exploring Hong Kong.

I can’t lie, I did not leave the vertical city feeling refreshed, but truly, I left with an enriched travel experience. And I will be back.

Grand Hyatt Hong Kong rooms start from Dhs1,879 + 10% service charge per room per night. For reservations call (+852) 2588 1234 or email hongkong.grand@hyatt.com

Fly directly from Dubai to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific from Dhs2,735 for Economy class and Dhs8,425 for Business class 

Photos: Supplied, iStock and Instagram @midwestvintage