Hong Kong

There’s no farming talk here. If that’s what you want, keep moving.

I’ve had a couple of days in Hong Kong, en route to Sydney. It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit, so it seemed like a sensible time to do it. Having spent probably the majority of my adult life working as a photographer, I’m incredulous at how good camera phones are now: I bore people on the subject all the time.

Here are a handful of photos, and at the end is a copy of the hotel review I had to write so that I could stay somewhere that wasn’t a hovel.

View from my hotel room: acceptable

View from my hotel room: acceptable

Can't decide which way up this photo should go?

Can’t decide which way up this photo should go?

The alternative red light district

The alternative red light district

Checking out the smog from Victoria Peak

Checking out the smog from Victoria Peak

Nothing interesting to say here

Nothing interesting to say here

 

Errr, fish?

Errr, fish?

That’s another one ticked off the list then. Hong Kong was, for some reason, a place that I have wanted to visit for as long as I can remember. Quite why is a mystery, but I wonder if perhaps it stems from watching James Bond climb into the half sunken boat/secret base in The Man with the Golden Gun. Re-watching those old movies is always a disappointment, but I came here fresh, with no real preconceptions. As I wandered about one evening, I tried to think what other cities it reminded me of. I drew a blank, there really is character all of its own. The view from the top of Victoria Peak (obscured as it is by the perma-smog) shows a city that makes Manhattan look as if was designed by an acrophobic, and the recently built (with bamboo scaffolding) ICC reaches 118 floors, with an incredible view down over pretty much all of the 7 million inhabitants below. In a town where a forty story high rise looks normal, the older height-restricted buildings of Kowloon hardly show up on the radar: the 16 floor Intercontinental is a minnow. Neither is it a looker from the outside, but like buying a car, when you’re inside you cannot see it, so who cares?

By some clever trick of design, they have managed to make two thirds of the guest rooms look out over the harbour. This is the real USP, and the totally unobstructed view out over Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong island is magnificent – especially at night, when Asian cities really come alive. Apparently the tourist-hot-spot Avenue of Stars that runs in front of the hotel, next to the water, ensures that there will never be any land reclamation here to spoil the vista. Mind you, even if there was, Intercontinental would most likely just pull down the hotel and build a taller one: the whole city is in a perpetual state of flux and redevelopment anyway.

On the western corner’s 16th floor you can find the Presidential Suite; Spread over two floors and 7000 square feet, it’s probably the size of 30 average Hong Kong flats. The best bit has to be the private terrace, complete with an infinity pool looking right out over the harbour. Inside is the self styled “loo with a view”, which certainly lives up to the name. There isn’t much you can do here that isn’t in front of a sheet of glass. I hope the curtains are working.

If I’m honest, the real reason I wanted to come to Hong Kong was to satisfy (as much as is possible) my gluttony. The hotel is very proud of its five restaurants, one of which, Yan Toh Heen, has just this week been awarded its second Michelin star. There has been some, justified, criticism of how the judging has been handled over in the Hong Kong guide, but I would say the second star here is justified. It is certainly a better bet than the over-rated Lung King Heen, and the very over-rated Bo Innovation, both of which have somehow been mysteriously awarded top honours. As well as excellent dim sum, the desserts were exceptional, which is not something I can say often in this part of the world. It’s making me hungry now thinking about it, I wonder if there is time for one last meal before my flight? I doubt it, but hopefully next time I am back, the re-run will be more enjoyable than watching Roger Moore.