Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.
Last week, Hong Kong endured the world’s strongest storm recorded this year.
Typhoon Mangkhut left a path of destruction throughout the city of more than seven million people, packing wind gusts of up to 223 km per hour, The Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) reported.
The HKO raised the storm signal to T10 -- the highest level possible – last week (Sept. 16) as the typhoon ripped apart roofs, smashed windows and even made buildings sway back-and-forth.
PAX was touring Hong Kong just one week before the city shut down (we were safely in Taiwan, our second stop, by the time the typhoon hit).
READ MORE: Did we find Hong Kong's rowdiest restaurant?
Hong Kong: back in business
Since Mangkhut, clean-up has been swift, party due to local citizens and communities lending a helping hand.
“Hong Kong has a ‘can do’ spirit. Not even a typhoon can stop Hong Kong,” Michael Lim, director, Canada, Central & South Americas at the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), wrote PAX in an email.
In other words, Hong Kong is back in business. We love a good come-back, and if our visit to Hong Kong taught us anything, it’s that incredible things are possible when a city works its magic.
Six things we learned about Hong Kong
1) THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING NEW IN THE WORKS
The newly-opened, 671-room Hotel VIC on The Harbour, (which hosted PAX), is steps away from a newly-created waterfront promenade. (The Hotel VIC has one of the highest rooftop infinity pools on all of Hong Kong Island). Other new hotels include trendy Attitude and Thai-inspired Soravit on Granville in Tsim Sha Tsui, as well as Mojo Nomad Central, an ’80s-pop-meets-Mexican-inspired must-see on Queen’s Road Central.
We loved the newly-opened Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts, an architecturally-impressive, public arts space that lives within the colonial-era Central Police Station complex on Hollywood Rd, Central. Considered the biggest restoration project Hong Kong has ever completed, the 300,000-sq. ft. compound is a hub for year-round art exhibits and live performances, breathing new life into Hong Kong’s arts scene.
2) GOING HUNGRY ISN’T AN OPTION
From Cantonese to Greater China fare, Hong Kong’s food scene is thriving with lip-licking experiences. Start at the Michelin-starred Tim Ho Wan, one of Hong Kong’s most famous dim sum eateries. Then visit Kung Wo Tofu Factory for wow-worthy tofu pudding (a local classic). At Tung Po in North Point, the wind sand chicken is as eclectic as the owner (as PAX witnessed first-hand) Newcomers to the food scene include FU RONG, a chic Sichuan restaurant at the Ocean Terminal Deck, and Tai Kwun’s Old Bailey where the Jiangnan-influenced menu is 80% organic.
Want to try it all? Sign up for the Temple Street Night Foodie Tour, a guided food crawl that covers everything from fish balls to egg puffs (and the stories behind their fame). A must-do.
3) NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A GOOD VIEW
Everywhere you look in Hong Kong tells a story. One minute you could be basking in the glory of Hong Kong’s meticulously-placed skyscrapers to peering up at a local’s wet laundry hanging out to dry on a windowsill the next.
The newly-opened Ocean Terminal Deck at Harbour City, a 195,000 sq. ft. mall, offers one of the best panoramic views of Hong Kong Island’s futuristic skyline (hot tip: go at night). Higher up, at the Victoria Peak Sky Deck, you can literally hold the city in the palm of your hand. Take things further by visiting Knog Ping Village on Lantau Island, where the 34-metre-high Big Buddha statue and Po Lin Monastery await. It’s a zen-like destination, but to get there, you ride the Ngong Ping 360 gondola, which sends you soaring over mountains and lakes, steeply and safely (glass floor included)!
4) NIGHT TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME
While glassy, matchbox-thin skyscrapers shine bright during the day, Hong Kong comes alive at night with electrifying intensity. Neon signs featuring Chinese calligraphy will grab you (and your camera’s) attention on the streets, but it’s the dazzling A Symphony of Lights show that will wow you. Organized by the HKTB, the multimedia spectacle sets the skyline ablaze as futuristic lights and lasers, programmed to music, blast from skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Runs nightly at 8:00 p.m. (weather permitting), best vantage points include the Ocean Terminal Deck and sightseeing ferries sailing across Victoria Harbour.
5) EVERY NEIGHBOURHOOD OFFERS A NEW ADVENTURE
With 18 eclectic districts, Hong Kong offers countless experiences that grab hold of all five senses. Every turn in Hong Kong provokes a new adventure: the luxury malls of affluent Causeway Bay in Wan Chai District; the flea markets, food stalls and traditional temples of Sham Shui Po; the narrow streets, fortune tellers and haggling shopkeepers in the Temple Street Night Market.
“The beauty of Hong Kong is that it has 5,000 years of Chinese culture, history, heritage and customs and yet it is a very modernized and cosmopolitan,” Karisa Lui, assistant manager of marketing at the HKTB, told PAX.
Luckily, Hong Kong’s user-friendly transit system (MTR) makes getting around easy.
6) TRAVEL AGENTS HAVE RESOURCES AT THEIR FINGERTIPS
Hong Kong has an impressive B2B e-commerce site for travel professionals that features tons of useful facts, stats, products, industry news and, most importantly, contacts. Agents can further become a Hong Kong specialist by enlisting in the HKTB’s free online training program. For air, Hong Kong Airlines offers a classy and comfortable flight with direct service from Vancouver to Hong Kong plus connections to nearly 40 Asia Pacific destinations (the airline’s full-service Skybar in business class is divine). Agents can also get more value for their clients' trips by adding on additional destinations in Asia, such as nearby Taiwan (which HKTB has partnered with for the past four years).
For more information, visit discoverhongkong.com.