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No one knows Hong Kong like the locals. When we were over there, we took advice from those in the know and it never steered us wrong. Here are some of the very best insider tips for where to go when you need to escape the craziness of The Kong.
Wine & Reflexology at Happy Foot
When we first moved here, an old friend who had been living in HK suggested we meet at this quirky place. We met at 11pm (a little later than we were used to in London!) and thought we were going to a bar. How wrong we were! We were surprised and delighted to find, not a drinking den, but a foot massage parlour packed with people and some cool tunes playing quietly in the background. Happy Foot is BYO nibbles and wine (amazing) and offers mani-pedis, foot, back or head massage, all while catching up with friends over a well-earned glass of vino. Is it full of women? Not at all. The place was packed with pleasure-seekers of both genders. This became a regular (weekly, in fact) fixture for us and we can’t believe it doesn’t happen anywhere outside of Asia (now THERE’S a business plan…).
Catching the Light Show at Sevva Terrace Bar
Located in the Prince’s building on Hong Kong Island, this rooftop bar is completely awesome. Not only is the terrace huge (especially compared to some of the other self-proclaimed ‘best rooftop bars‘) hugging the building almost all the way around, and offering genuinely breath-taking views of Victoria Harbour and Kowloon. It’s a great place to watch the sunset and the daily 8pm light show. It was also one of the first places we took visiting guests. If it’s your first time in Hong Kong then this is quite magical, the lights and dazzle of the city can take your breath away and it’s full of locals (so you know it’s good). The restaurant here is pretty decent too, but it’s the terrace overlooking the infamous Bank of China and HSBC building, Pearl Harbour and Kowloon that really illustrates the electric energy of this city.
Running Down Bowen Road Fitness Trail
This is a beautiful place to run with lovely parks and lots of convenient restrooms. It’s not quiet though – you’ll be sharing this runner’s paradise with more dog walkers than you can possibly imagine! It feels social, even if you don’t fancy talking to anyone, giving the customary ‘Good Morning!’ wave to a passing jogger will make you feel at home and running past all the buildings from Central to Happy Valley makes you feel like part of the extensive Hong Kong running community.
There are few ways to get there, the best is turning off Kennedy Road and either going up Bowen Drive or Wan Chai Gap Road (whichever is closer to you). The uphill trek to the fitness trail is steep and long so be prepared! If you plan on hiking, then take your walking stick, it’ll come in handy. The fitness trail is perfect: 4k long, car-free, paved and shaded by trees with a smattering of fitness stations. You can have an intense workout or a lazy jog here and enjoy it either way. This is where we used to go almost daily for a chance to unplug and unwind from all the Kong craziness.
Running or Hiking at The Peak
This is still our favourite morning run in the whole of Hong Kong. It just can’t be beat. The famous view of the city and harbour is incredible, the air cleaner and fresher. For a change of pace from running exclusively on cement and asphalt (and as a respite from the seasonal heat), this place is perfect. There are four stages, doing all four at once is a challenging 25km, but you can easily cut it short with one of several outlets along the way. Any section along the first four stages of the Hong Kong Trail makes a beautiful running spot, though.
Beginning at Lugard Road on The Peak, The Hong Kong Trail is easy to follow as it’s marked by signposts spaced approximately 500 meters apart; they feature an icon of a male and female hiker in lockstep. The first two stages of the trail are mostly paved and include stairs (both up and down). The third and fourth stages are mostly dirt and they undulate quite a bit – you can also walk the trail if you’re a beginner. It’s a real treat to go past the canopy of beautiful banyan trees on your way. You have to go, if only for the view and a gentle stroll.
Zen at Tsz Shan Monastery (Tai Po)
In one of the busiest cities in the world, sometimes everyone needs a tranquil spot to get to easily. Tai Po is it. A spiritual and serene 500,000sq ft. of Buddhist sanctuary, it’s home to the world’s tallest bronze Guanyin statue and owes its tranquillity not only to Zen Buddhist vibes, but also to the limited entry quota, meaning guests must book their visit in advance. It’s so worth it, definitely one of our favourite places when we needed some time to stop, think and gain some much-needed space and perspective.
Step into Silence at Nan Lian Garden
Few spots in the heart of an urban jungle come more peaceful than this Tang Dynasty-style garden in Diamond Hill. This chilled-out botanical heaven is a sanctuary for silence with bonsai trees, a lily pond and a Golden Pavilion set against tall high-rises. Be sure to pop over the road to Chi Lin Nunnery (a Buddhist retreat) for a relaxing bonus. Surrounded by the mega skyscrapers of Hong Kong, this retreat can border on the surreal.
Get Away from it all Southside at Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir
We think it deserves a mention because it’s one of the most tranquil spots on the Island. Tai Tam is supremely calm at all times: peer over the reservoir into the blue waters to watch wild koi carp and turtles swimming. Not many people seem to come here, so whenever we went it was really chilled and serene. Bonus: it’s only a short cab journey away from most places on Hong Kong Island.
Our Favourite Day Spa at Iyara Mid-Levels
Iyara was established in 2008 in Hong Kong’s Central District, just a third of the way up the escalator in Mid-levels. Iyara Day Spa seeks to break the boundaries of the conventional, assembly-line nail salon by creating an escape for customers to enjoy the tranquil and unique ambience of a home-away-from-home in the heart of the incessant hustle and bustle Hong Kong’s busy city streets. Like Happy Foot, this place is filled with as many men as women and is always packed.
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