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24 Hours in Hong Kong

City and Harbor at dawn
City and Harbor at dawn

The British occupied and administered Hong Kong for over 150 years, returning it to Chinese rule in 1997. In that time, the rather unremarkable island was infused with an eclectic mix of East, West and everything in between to transform it into a major financial, tourism and cultural hub. China did not want to upset this delicate immensely profitable balance when Britain handed Hong Kong back and have left it largely as it was.

24 hours is precious little time to discover this small but densely-packed city bursting at the seams with hidden gems.

There are few better places to try a typical Chinese breakfast than Hong Kong. Most visitors are incredibly surprised how affordable a filling breakfast is here and the immense variety of styles of cooking the same dish, a result of the spectrum of influences the island has enjoyed. A perfect start to your Hong Kong day of discovery.

PoHo. No, that’s not a typo, it is probably an expatriate’s reminiscent spin on Po Hing Fong, one of Hong Kong’s most effervescent creative hotbeds. Sip a drink as you watch the local twist on fashion on hipsters that live in and frequent the area. Wander about and discover an artwork that speaks to you in the maze of lanes peppered with historical terraces.

One of the most iconic images of Hong Kong is that of a red-sailed Chinese junk leaning to with the wind in the bay. Now, you can be part of that image – the Aqua Luna is a painstakingly restored junk that sails hourly on weekdays between noon and 4 p.m. It is also the perfect opportunity to view Hong Kong from the harbor, a sight not everyone gets to see.

Lunch can be a Michelin-starred affair if you drip by the exquisite Luk Yu Teahouse. It is another opportunity to take in authentic Chinese decor and architecture in a world that is overrun with cheap imitations. The pre-war setting is an ideal place to observe the more affluent side of Hong Kong while feasting on some of the best dim-sum in the country.

The Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road is another glimpse into the intriguing and colorful history of Hong Kong. It was once the arbitration court for local disputes where roosters were beheaded as part of the rituals. Now used exclusively for prayers, the joss sticks make it a visual and olfactory delight.

The night sky becomes a modern day canvas – Hong Kong features a light show with lasers and the lights on 40 buildings near the harbor flashing in time to music. Worth seeing once. At least.

The late night markets are a delight for bargain hunters whether you are looking for cheap electronics or munching on exotic dishes, some served on a stick. Don’t sleep – 24 hours is way too short and make up for it on the flight.

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