While Hong Kong continues to evolve into a modern, vibrant city, the old Hong Kong is alive and well around in parts of the Central district. This is specially the case around the area known as the Western District in Central, where cooking and eating is still done the old-fashioned way: out in the open in small streets and alleyways. The whole area west of SoHo and the longest staircase in the world is a throwback to another era. Simple food for the masses, fresh ingredients, and prepared right there in front of your eyes. And if you are on a budget, then this is the place to eat. What's more, if trinket shopping is your thing, this is the place for you. But don't go too early, because not much happens before 10:00 AM.
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Modern Architectural Gems
You will have already been to one of Hong Kong’s major architectural achievements: The airport, designed by Sir Norman Foster. The Tsing Ma Bridge connects Lantau Island to the rest of Hong Kong and is one of the world’s largest suspension bridges. Hong Kong lacks available land for development, therefore creating the need to build “up” instead. Skyscrapers, like the tallest International Commerce Centre and I.M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower, with its notable façade, are hard to miss. The HSBC Headquarters Building in Central, which was rebuilt in 1933 to replace its previous Victorian design, contributes to the impressive Hong Kong skyline. Drop by the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, which represents a bird in flight.
There is much to see and do in Hong Kong, but don’t overlook some functional and seemingly mundane elements of the city—Hong Kong's transportation is anything but. The traditional trams, affectionately called the “ding ding” by locals for the bells it chimes at each destination is a beloved method to see the city. Spend a few hours onboard and, depending on the route, you'll traverse by the Happy Valley Racecourse, through to bustling Causeway Bay and Wanchai's markets.
Just short walk from the Mandarin Oriental, are the piers, from ferries sail to Hong Kong's neighboring islands like Cheung Chau and Lamma Island, both of which provide a charming escape from the city. For a more local experience, hop on the nostalgic Star Ferry over to Tsim Sha Tsui to round off your stay with a show at the Cultural Centre or to catch the nightly cross-harbour light show or explore the local shops.
Don’t forget to also feed your curiosity in the area surrounding Mandarin Oriental; Tai Cheong Bakery is well-known for its egg tarts, Lin Heung Teahouse’s décor hasn’t changed much since the ‘70s and is one of the places to fully experience a traditional dim sum meal, and Mak’s Noodles serves up some of the city’s best wonton noodles.