To say Hong Kong is full of surrealism is not any sort of exaggeration. To start with, right in the heart of the city, you find the world’s longest outdoor escalator – a walkway that carries thousands of Hong Kongers to go up and down the mid-levels and the central district of the city. It serves as the backbone of every bit of Hong Kong from its low-end to its high-end, from the street-level to high-rises, from local to international, all in a very dense space and close proximity, converting the district into a vast array of dynamic neighborhoods.
Walking down from the start of the escalator at Mid-Levels, you will first find SOHO – a trendy area of restaurants and clubs that serve a wide variety of cuisines and packed with customers from all over the world. A few minutes down in the Hollywood Road, it is a world of art galleries showcasing traditional-to-contemporary arts from South America to China (By the way, Hong Kong is the most important hub in Asia for Art Auctions and the home of “Art Basel”). Towards the west of Hollywood Road, there are Chinese antique and furnishing stores. If you want to go Bohemian, go to Man Hing lane and look for Club 71, a cat-riddled alley perpendicular to Peel Street and parallel to Hollywood Road, it is a hidden gem which has an outdoor seating area in front of a colorful bar with a creative vibe and attracts bohemians, artists, philosophers and designers to hang out there. The bar is named after July 1, a day of pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong. Just a small walk from there, you will find the world’s legendary beef brisket noodle shop with its 90 years of history located in Gough’s street where award-winning Hong Kong actors such as Tong Leung are regular patrons and the shop was featured and highly rated by the New York Times. Interestingly enough, it is also a neighborhood for those who look for alternative, artisanal goods at a variety of boutiques with global influences. Shop and eat – they always go hand in hand in this city.
Under the last part of the escalator is where you find the most authentic Hong Kong experience, from checking out the wet market where they sell local fruits, flowers, vegetables and dried Chinese herbs and grocery to trying the food in this popular “Dai-pai Dong” – a local food stall -named “Lan Fong Yuen” where they sell the famous Hong Kong Style Milk Tea and Macaroni with Tomato Soup at the intersection of Lyndhurst Terrace and Hollywood Road. Or a choice of Portuguese inspired egg tarts which is just around the corner. Walking down from there, you will encounter a crowd dropping by that particular Chinese herbal medicine shop (Good Spring) anytime of the day where they serve the on-the-go herbal tea saying it helps “eliminating heat or flu”. Or, if you seek a more detailed consultation, 2 registered in-house Chinese doctors are there to help. Turning to the very end of the left from Good Spring is the most popular bar area of the city (Lan Kwai Fong) where all walks of life come to chill and relax the night away. If you prefer a complete experience, you could also visit one of the spa and massage places around this area, before or after bar hopping.
Riding the escalator is a unique experience of its own. The space between the escalator and the residential and commercial buildings along the 2-side is so close that it gives a feeling that you can literally peek into one of their living rooms and check what’s happening there.
The escalator ends in Central district where with a few minute walk from there, it’s the IFC Shopping Mall which offers a holistic shopping and cuisine experience for high-end shoppers and fine-diners. If you are still up for continuing this surrealist journey, I suggest you finish from the labyrinth by taking a ferry ride from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui under a starry sky – just to unwind.