December 19, 2008 / 5:24 PM / 9 years ago

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Hong Kong at Christmas time

HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - Reknowned for fine dining, bountiful shopping and buzzing nightlife, the financial hub and former British colony of Hong Kong is also a good place to soak up some festive sights, Asian style.

<p>Office buildings in Central, Hong Kong are lit up at night October 20, 2008. REUTERS/Woody Wu</p>

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors make the most of a short stay in Hong Kong.

FRIDAY

6 p.m. - Drinks in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel's Captain's Bar (www.mandarinoriental.com). A favorite with the city's movers and shakers, the hotel evokes the city's British colonial past before its historic 1997 handover to Chinese rule. Sink into a plush leather sofa in the wood-paneled bar and savor the Anglo-Oriental ambience.

8 p.m. - Dinner at Yung Kee (www.yungkee.com.hk). One of the finest Cantonese restaurants in the world, it recently picked up one Michelin star in a new guide on Hong Kong and neighboring Macau. Its roast goose is a culinary institution and reasonably priced, served with a side dish of ultra-smooth thousand-year old egg and pickled ginger. Fans of the 66-year-old restaurant include Hong Kong's last governor Chris Patten.

11 p.m. - Take a two-minute stroll up to nightlife hub, Lan Kwai Fong. There, the city’s burned-out workaholics let loose in a pulsing knot of bars, clubs and restaurants. Nearby Wanchai -- the legendary haunt of Richard Mason’s fictional Suzie Wong -- comes into its own at night, with a slightly seedy edge. For a quieter evening, head west along the world’s longest covered escalator to Soho’s intimate bars and restaurants, which snake up narrow lanes and ancient stone steps.

SATURDAY

7 a.m. - Head up to the peak of Hong Kong island early. Stroll through Hong Kong park in Admiralty to the peak tram stop in St. John's Building (www.thepeak.com.hk). This steep and historic funicular, built in 1888, carries visitors up to Victoria Peak. Take in the clear, crisp winter views of the city's countless skyscrapers rolling down to the sea.

10 a.m. - Spend an hour or two hiking around the nature and jogging trail that meanders around the Peak, for stunning views of both sides of Hong Kong island. The well-wooded route is one of hundreds of hiking options for visitors across the territory’s many country parks and 200-plus archipelago of islands.

12 p.m. - For architectural enthusiasts, lunch at the Peak Lookout (www.thepeaklookout.com) in a historic stone cottage with a garden terrace overlooking the city's southern waters. Stunning views compensate for rather average Asian fare.

3 p.m. - Wander around the financial heartland of Central, and grab one of the most authentic cups of Hong Kong “pantyhose” milk tea available at Lan Fong Yuen on Gage Street. Stride down to the financial district’s repository of modern architecture; where Norman Foster’s glasshouse-like HSBC building, and I.M. Pei’s angular Bank of China, overlook colonial monuments such as the historic domed Supreme Court that houses the legislature.

5 p.m. - Revive yourself with a short ride on the century-old Star Ferry from Central to Kowloon peninsula. Take the lower deck of the iconic green and white vessel, and gulp in the sea air.

7 p.m. - Stroll along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront to soak up the Christmas atmosphere with a long line of buildings brightly lit up with colorful, giant festive decorations. Take a photo by a Bruce Lee statue or place your palms on Jackie Chan’s hand prints along the Avenue of Stars -- Hong Kong’s version of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

9 p.m. - Head to Chuen Kee seafood restaurant for a late dinner in the laid-back seaside town of Sai Kung, around one hour out of town. The steamed garlic prawns and scallops with vermicelli are highly recommended, as is the stir-fried crab.

SUNDAY

8 a.m. - An early morning tram ride to the western tip of Hong Kong island. The green trams -- called “Ding Dings” by locals for their tinkling bells -- have been around for more than a century. In Western district, grab breakfast Hong Kong style in one of the city’s many teahouses or “Cha-chan teng.” Try a bowl of congee and a fried doughstick, washed down with a “Yin-Yang,” a popular local hybrid brew of tea and coffee.

10 a.m. - Explore the antique shops and open air curio market of Hollywood Road and Upper Lascar Row, also known as Cat-street. Souvenirs include Mao memorabilia, bracelets, jade objects and old Chinese posters. Nearby Hollywood Road also offers high-end Chinese antiques and red-hot Chinese contemporary art.

12 p.m. - No Sunday in Hong Kong would be complete without lunch at a dimsum restaurant. Classics among the bewildering variety of chopstick-sized tidbits include prawn dumplings, spring rolls, egg tarts, barbeque pork buns and chicken’s feet.

Try Lin Heung (Fragrant Lotus) Tea House on Wellington Street for gruff waiters, and a deafening din of clanking crockery and Cantonese banter. The popular Maxim’s Palace, on the second floor of City Hall, near the Star Ferry, offers fantastic harbor views and a more comfortable time, but best get there early.

2 p.m. - Squeeze in some last minute Christmas shopping. Options range from luxury brand-name boutiques in the Landmark and Pacific Place malls, to the retail Mecca of Causeway Bay, where some of the cheapest, trendiest clothes and newest electronics gadgets can be found.

6 p.m. - Check your luggage at the downtown airport check-in. Then sit on the left-hand side of the high speed train to the airport for a parting glance at the city dubbed Asia’s Manhattan.

Reporting by Hong Kong newsroom; Editing by Gillian Murdoch and Bill Tarrant

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