Gallerist Henrietta Tsui-Leung’s insider guide to Hong Kong

This article is part of a guide to Hong Kong from FT Globetrotter

There’s nature in abundance wherever you are in Hong Kong. I live on Hong Kong Island, and I find hiking a glorious way to unwind after a busy week. On Sunday morning I like to hike the Dragon’s Back, with its beautiful vistas over Stanley and Big Wave Bay, fringed by the shimmering waters of the South China Sea.

Hong Kong is a bustling nexus of east and west and, increasingly, a flourishing centre of the arts. It’s a city of dynamism and energy, full of restfulness and opportunities for contemplation. Not many people realise that 40 per cent of Hong Kong is designated as country park. From Tai Mo Shan, its highest peak, to the chattering monkeys of Kam Shan and the Unesco Geopark in Sai Kung, there is enough here for a lifetime of exploration.

A path at the end of Hong Kong’s Dragon’s Back trail, flanked by greenery and with sea and hills in the distance
Tsui-Leung enjoys hiking on the Dragon’s Back trail on Sundays © AsiaDreamPhoto/Alamy

Two monkeys on the branch of a tree in Kam Shan Country Park
Residents of Kam Shan Country Park (aka ‘Monkey Hill’) © Mickey Lee/Alamy

The fresh air reinvigorates me for the week ahead. However, after a three-hour hike it’s time for a reward. I indulge in a breakfast at a Hong Kong-style café, usually Cheung Hing Coffee Shop in Happy Valley. Here, a typical breakfast might consist of Hong Kong favourites like a pineapple bun (no pineapples involved), an egg tart (a staple imported from Macau), and a yuenyeung (hot tea mixed with coffee), plus a hearty fried egg with ham, bacon and macaroni in tomato soup.

Hong Kong is a modern city packed with tradition and heritage. After breakfast, I take the scenic double-decker tram route from Happy Valley to Central, rattling through the canyon of buildings under the unlit neon signs. The iconic ding ding costs HK$3 (about 30p) for a one-way trip. On alighting, I walk up the famous escalator, the world’s longest of its kind, immortalised in Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express by Tony Leung and Faye Wong. I might stroll through the vibrant SoHo district, past the bakeries of Square Street, browsing the antiques of Hollywood Road. At Chinese New Year, the 19th-century Man Mo Temple is thronged with worshippers and swirling with the smoke of lighted incense sticks.

Dozens of wicker lanterns hanging from the ceiling in Man Mo Temple
The 19th-century Man Mo Temple © Sean Pavone/Alamy

High-quality food is a way of life for us in Hong Kong, and there’s always time for dim sum. My favourite restaurants for these delicate Cantonese treats are Tim Ho Wan, Madame Fù or The Chinese Library in Tai Kwun. My gallery, Ora-Ora, is also in Tai Kwun, which is itself a beautifully conceived arts centre set within a former police station and judiciary complex.

Chilled jade flower in green Sichuan pepper essence on a small turquoise plate: a piece of dim sum at The Chinese Library restaurant
Chilled jade flower in green Sichuan pepper essence . . . © What The Fox?

The ornate interior of The Chinese Library restaurant, with marble-topped counters and tables and clusters of globe lamps hanging from the ceiling
 . . . at The Chinese Library, one of Tsui-Leung’s favourite spots for dim sum © Owen Raggett

Another historic means of transport still going strong is the Star Ferry (HK$3.20 to sit on the upper deck, or HK$4.20 on weekends and public holidays). I love to take this green and white ferry to the Tsim Sha Tsui district, watching Hong Kong Island retreat before my eyes, the IM Pei-designed Bank of China building and the towering IFC seeming to get smaller and larger all at once.

On arrival, I take a bright red cab to the new West Kowloon Cultural District, which includes the new contemporary arts museum M+, designed by architects Herzog and de Meuron. M+ showcases an impressive range of contemporary Chinese art from the 1970s to the present day, much of it donated by Swiss collector Uli Sigg. A short walk away, and equally worth visiting, is the Hong Kong Palace Museum: a jewelled repository of Chinese treasures from classical times (advance booking is recommended).

A triangular steel artwork with a large porthole in a room with floor-to-ceiling windows in the ongoing ‘Things, Spaces, Interactions’ exhibition at M+, which showcases design and architecture
The ongoing ‘Things, Spaces, Interactions’ exhibition at M+ showcases design and architecture © Kevin Mak/Courtesy of M+, Hong Kong

After a rousing day of hiking, art and delicious food, there’s still time to go and meet friends for hotpot at the Lau Haa Hotpot Restaurant on Lockhart Road in Causeway Bay. Hotpot is a homely, intimate and comforting dish — fresh ingredients such as vegetables and raw meat are quickly poached in a communal simmering soup stock — and there’s just no better way to spend time with friends, exchanging confidences and supporting each other. Another restaurant I like to visit is Victorian Era in nearby Lee Theatre plaza. It’s a lively, eclectic mix of chilled sophistication with whimsical Hong Kong collectible items thrown in. It’s a must for any visitor.

A bowl of milk soup on top of which float rosebuds and petals at Victorian Era
Milk soup with rosebuds and petals at Victorian Era in Causeway Bay © @victoriaera_hk

A cocktail with an orange-pink base, creamy top and a petal sitting on the top at COA bar
After dinner, Tsui-Leung sometimes heads to the Mexican-inspired COA bar for cocktails

After dinner, if I still have the energy, I love to go to COA, a Mexican-inspired cocktail bar justly renowned for the creativity of its mixology. There’s often time for a nightcap at Whisky & Words on Shin Hing Street in Central; with its calming atmosphere, mellow whisky tastings and ambience of conviviality, companionship and serene repose, there’s no better ending to the day

Henrietta Tsui-Leung is owner of Hong Kong-based art gallery Ora-Ora, and co-founder of the Hong Kong Art Galleries Association

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