“The pinnacle of Cantonese cuisine is steamed fish,” says Chef Bombana. “If you only try one Cantonese dish, make it this.” The chef recommends the steamed fish and signature chicken dish at Celebrity Cuisine, a Michelin one-starred restaurant known for its luxurious and nostalgic Cantonese cooking. “In Celebrity Cuisine you will find a very good expression of Cantonese cooking, which emphasises subtlety and beauty.”
- 1/F, Lan Kwai Fong Hotel, 3 Kau U Fong, Central, Hong Kong Island
- +852 3650 0066
- MTR Sheung Wan Station
Mak An Kee Noodle
In the 20 years that Chef Bombana has served Italian food in Hong Kong, he has never received complaints about the texture of the pasta. “The Chinese like their noodles with a very similar texture to al dente,” he explains. The unassuming Mak An Kee Noodle is one of his favourite Hong Kong noodle restaurants. The Mak family have been renowned for their wonton noodles restaurants since the 1960s but this one was opened in 1986 by a son who branched out on his own. “Wonton noodles are another must-try Cantonese speciality and this is an excellent place to try it in its most authentic manifestation — as a classic Hong Kong comfort food.”
- G/F, 37 Wing Kat Street, Central, Hong Kong Island
- +852 2541 6388
- MTR Sheung Wan Station
Lung King Heen
Chef Bombana is also keen on local seafood fried rice — a staple of street-side food stalls known as dai pai dong. But this being Hong Kong, even the humblest of dishes get the most luxurious of treatments and the chef is particularly fond of the version served by Lung Hing Keen, the world’s first Chinese restaurant to be awarded three Michelin stars. “There are certain techniques that are very highly evolved in Chinese cooking and frying rice is one of them,” he says. “From dai pai dong to deluxe international restaurants, this dish is symbolic of Hong Kong in that it has gone through incredible transformations without losing its essence.”
- Podium 4, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong Island
- +852 3196 8880
- MTR Hong Kong Station
“Another Hong Kong classic is beautifully tender beef brisket in a perfectly seasoned Chinese broth,” says Chef Bombana. And his pick to try it is Kwan Kee, a down-to-earth eatery in the New Territories. “The beef brisket in clear broth here is very authentic. And the restaurant is in an area close to beautiful country parks. Hiking is one of my favourite pastimes here and this makes a great spot for a post-hike meal.”
- G/F, 26 Dai Ming Lane, Tai Po Market, Tai Po, New Territories
- +852 2638 3071
- MTR Tai Po Market Station
San Xi Lou
The millions of migrants from all over China who populated Hong Kong throughout its modern history brought with them the flavours, cooking styles and dishes of their home provinces, making this a great place to sample authentic regional Chinese cuisine. When Chef Bombana takes a break from Cantonese, he likes to try some Sichuan food. “Sichuanese is one of the major Chinese cuisines and is very special for its fiery spices and complex flavours,” he says. “Whereas Cantonese food is subtle, Sichuanese is bold. The Sichuan chefs are very skilled with the use of garlic, ginger, chilli pepper and Sichuan peppercorn.” The chef recommends the sautéed diced chicken with spicy red chilli at San Xi Lou as a good representative of the style.
- 7/F & 22/F, Coda Plaza, 51 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong Island
- +852 2838 8811
- Bus 12A from Central or Admiralty
Yung Kee Restaurant
The chef often drops into Yung Kee Restaurant, a historic Hong Kong restaurant that specialises in barbecued meats and other Cantonese food. “Try the charcoal roast goose,” he recommends. “Goose, duck, pork, suckling pig – the Cantonese have very deep experience in roasting and have perfected the technique. The roast meats are a great entry point for people new to Cantonese cuisine. The first Cantonese food I tried in Hong Kong was the roast meat”. Clearly, it was love at first bite.
- 32-40 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong Island
- +852 2522 1624
- MTR Central Station
Area near High Island Reservoir
High Island Reservoir in Sai Kung blends in nicely with its surrounding scenery. The famous MacLehose Trail, impressive geological landscapes and beaches are all close by. “The area near the reservoir is great for hiking,” says Sean. “The scenery is beautiful and there are many gorgeous beaches, such as Long Ke.” He reminds visitors not to veer off the trails: “It’s very safe as long as you stay on the route. There are pavilions, snacks stalls and washrooms. It’s really well equipped.”
- Take a taxi from Sai Kung Town to High Island Reservoir East Dam, and follow the MacLehose Trail.
Sai Kung town centre
Besides beaches and hiking trails, the leisurely Sai Kung neighbourhood is also a good place to explore. “Seafood is the first thing people usually think of when Sai Kung town is mentioned, but there is more to it than that,” says Sean. “There are old cha chaan teng (local-style diners), small shops and interesting cafés. It’s lovely to take a stroll around here,” said Sean. He jokes that he eats here so often, he can’t recommend any one restaurant in particular without the owners of other restaurants getting upset with him, but encourages visitors to look out for and try local favourites including glutinous rice balls, dumplings, and classic dishes such as ‘silver needle noodles’ (rice noodles with a tapered end) and ‘doggie noodles’ (a type of puppy tail-shaped noodles that is almost a lost culinary art nowadays).
- Bus 92 from MTR Diamond Hill Station
A striking landmark against which local drama series and movies have been set, Kowloon Peak is also a place full of memories for Sean. “I’ve shot countless scenes here, but every time I go back, I still think the view is stunning,” he says. By hiking up to the peak, you will find yourself amongst greenery, but with the brilliant Kowloon and Hong Kong Island urban skylines on either side of Victoria Harbour seemingly right beneath your feet. “Hong Kong is a highly developed city. But right next to the bustling downtown, you’ll see lush nature. It’s rare to see such extreme contrasts in landscapes elsewhere.”
- Wong Tai Sin, Kowloon
- MTR Choi Hung Station
If you want to see the leisurely side of Hong Kong, spend a day on the outlying islands. “Lantau Island is a laid-back place that’s not very commercialised,” says Sean. “There are a lot of beautiful beaches. And Tai O [Village] is especially interesting: you can hop on a boat and look for Chinese white dolphins; my friend has even seen a whale shark here!” Sean also loves the food in Tai O: “There are a lot of local snacks, like glutinous rice balls and charcoal-grilled eggettes. Jing Gei, the eatery in the video, does amazing tofu desserts.” Most importantly, this place is chilled out. “Tai O’s way of life is dramatically different to that found in Hong Kong’s urban areas. The elderly folk who live here are real characters. It’s fun listening to the old ladies chat among themselves. Foreigners like to sit by the water with a cup of coffee or a nice meal, where they can bask in the sun and enjoy views of the stilt houses.”
- Tai O, Lantau Island
- Bus 11 from MTR Tung Chung Station
You can still indulge in some shopping while enjoying Hong Kong’s slower pace. Venture beyond Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui to the south side of Hong Kong Island. You can find furniture and designer outlets at Horizon Plaza in the seaside area of Ap Lei Chau. And if you are a dog lover like Sean, you really shouldn’t miss this place. “The whole building is chock full of everything from famous international designer shops to locally made furniture,” he says. “There is also a pet supplies store that allows dogs.” Although you might not be able to bring your furry family to Hong Kong, it would be nice to bring home a gift for them.
- 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, Hong Kong Island
- +852 2554 9089
- Bus 671 from Causeway Bay
After all these relaxing activities, you will be in such a calm mood that you’ll even be able to find serenity in the hectic downtown. “There is actually a lot of beauty in Central, where you will find the unique sight of the modern alongside the old,” says Sean. “An architect friend of mine came to Hong Kong and asked me to take him to Central, as he wanted to see the architectural wonders here, like the renowned Bank of China building designed by I. M. Pei. The Asia Society Hong Kong Center is also really interesting; it even has a sky garden,” where Sean says it’s easy to relax. “And just nearby you’ll find Bonham Strand and the restaurants in the PoHo area comprising Tai Ping Shan Street and Po Hing Fong, where you can enjoy a moment of peace and quiet anytime.”
- MTR Central or Sheung Wan Station
“There are major malls and flagship stores in Central, but this little shopping arcade is unlike anything else,” says Anais. “Look up and you will see an uneven facade, where the windows are curiously shaped. It’s nostalgia beyond our expectations, with its own personality. The tailors in there are quite famous in the style world. A lot of people bring their brand name clothes and get them altered there, because they do such an amazing job. They have a lot of experience and are very familiar with high-end fashion. They also have colourful personalities, so it’s fun to hang out with them. There are also perfume and leather shops in the building that seem to have been frozen in the 1960s or 1970s. It’s interesting to see such anachronism in the bustling heart of Hong Kong.”
- 33 Queen's Road Central, Central, Hong Kong Island
- MTR Central Station
“Like the Chungking Mansions, Mirador Mansion houses a mixed crowd of shops and guesthouses and can appear daunting,” says Anais. “But this unique place is also a haven for travellers, who go to the shops on the ground floor for made-to-measure clothing and shoes. They are so efficient that the orders are ready for next-day pick-up. If you are interested, head upstairs for a look at the workshops, where there are a big group of experienced tailors with skills unique to their generation. Take a look at their work and you will understand how that suit jacket can be made so quickly. The structure of the building is special too, with a courtyard surrounded by corridors and flats, which forms a unique pattern when you look down from up high.”
- 1A-1J Mody Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
- MTR Tsim Sha Tsui Station
Mee & Gee
“This shop is a bit odd,” says Anais. “When I was young, I enjoyed treasure-hunting here, and some of the items I’ve kept till now. Outside of Hong Kong, vintage clothing is considered a style, with items carefully curated by shop owners. But the mode of operation here is different: everything they have is out there, and you need to take the time to pick through them”.
- 55 Tung Choi Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon
- MTR Mong Kok Station
Central & Western District
Anais lived and went to school in the Mid-Levels neighbourhood, and she likes the shape of the undulating streets. The random turns and ups and downs make it fun to take strolls in the area. “There is colonial architecture as well as food stalls,” she says. “I enjoy taking walks here during the weekends. Recently, the area around Centre Street, Second Street and Third Street has started to attract a younger crowd. Ping Pong Gintonería used to be a place where locals played ping pong, and the bar has kept the feel of ‘a neighbourhood hangout’.”
- MTR Central Station, MTR Sheung Wan Station, MTR Sai Ying Pun Station
SCAD Hong Kong
This art school is anything but orthodox, in terms of its architecture, teaching methods and learning atmosphere. “This building is beautiful,” says Anais. “It used to be a courthouse, so its staff room is transformed from a holding cell, and its lecture hall evolved from a courtroom. The lecture hall has kept the original defendant and jury boxes, and also houses installation art by the students. It’s an interesting experience to sit for lectures in the gallery.”
- 292 Tai Po Road, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon
- MTR Sham Shui Po Station
Clockenflap Hong Kong's Music & Arts Festival
Anais recommends this large-scale, professional music festival, and thinks it’s worth making a trip to Hong Kong for this event alone. “The line-up is as attractive as the skyline surrounding the venue. I don’t think many musicians get to perform in such stunning surrounds.” Clockenflap takes place in late November or early December each year.
- Central Harbourfront
- MTR Central Station
Canton Singing House
Surprisingly, this was the venue for Mak’s birthday party. “Visitors come to Temple Street, but they might miss this gem. Canton Singing House is one of the most down-to-earth night clubs. It’s got so many uniquely local elements: the neon lights are beautiful, the beer’s cheap, and the atmosphere is in a league of its own. It might have seen better days, but it’s got a loyal following of aged fans who dress up and sing on stage. You can join them too.”
- 49–51 Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
- MTR Yau Ma Tei Station
Man On Hong Silverwares
To Anais, entering Man On Hong Is like diving into a refreshingly beautiful sea of silverware. “The accessories here are placed really close together. There are many kinds of silverware on offer. Even a plain necklace comes in numerous different widths. You can also find accessories that look like they would be worn by local gangsters, like dragons and crosses. It’s fun. They are skilful and only use pure silver.”
- 69 Shan Tung Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon
- MTR Mong Kok Station
“People think of Hong Kong and they picture a big city but there’s more to it than that,” says Michael. “If you come here with your family you really should spend a day at one of our beautiful beaches.” While you can find lovely beaches a short hop from the downtown on Hong Kong Island, Michael recommends venturing a bit farther to Sai Kung. “I often fly over the stretch of the MacLehose Trail that runs along the coast in Sai Kung,” he says. “Long Ke Wan, Sai Wan, Ham Tin … these beaches and the villages around them are not that far from the city yet they can make you feel like you are in a remote part of Southeast Asia.” Some of the beaches, such as Sai Wan, can be reached via a short hike, suitable even for little ones. And the village shops and restaurants provide simple food and supplies. For families with older kids, Michael suggests exploring some of the trails up the nearby Sharp Peak for amazing views of the surrounding area.
- Sai Wan Beach
From MTR Diamond Hill Station Exit C2, take bus 92 to Sai Kung Town, then a taxi to Sai Wan Pavilion. From here it’s a 3 km hike to Sai Wan Beach. Follow the signs.
The culinary capital of Asia will undoubtedly offer something for everyone in your family but Michael recommends finding a private kitchen for an unforgettable, local experience. “Hong Kong has lots of private kitchens where chefs or just people who are passionate about food cook for a small number of guests,” he says. “These kitchens often don’t look like restaurants so you might feel a bit wary on the way into one but once inside you will be treated to great home cooking, unique menus and hospitable service. It can almost be like dining with a local family.”
It might sound strange to recommend taking the subway as an activity for visiting families, especially coming from a helicopter pilot, but Michael always stresses to visitors to make as much use of it as possible. “It’s clean, safe, fast, extensive and great value,” he says. “It’s one of the best public transport systems in the world and it’s easy to use. Many of the stations also have shopping malls with restaurants and other facilities, making it even more convenient for families.”
The MTR covers all major districts in the city with ten lines, including the Airport Express. You can also use it reach the boundary with Mainland China. Tourist passes are available.
Hiking on Hong Kong Island
Where most people see skyscrapers and busy streets, Michael’s aerial occupation has made him aware just how close nature lies to the teeming urban areas, even on the densely populated Hong Kong Island. “When you fly over [Hong Kong Island] you see, right next to the city, a tangle of trails on these huge swathes of Country Parks,” he says. “Even a local like me can go hiking in areas like Tai Tam and still find new trails and routes every time.”
While the MTR is a great way to get around, Michael highly recommends taking a helicopter tour to get a sense of what Hong Kong really looks like. “When you see Hong Kong from the air, you realize just how physically attractive this city is”, he says. “In fact, the thing that usually strikes my passengers the most is how much greenery and nature there is in close proximity to really dense urban areas. It’s very dramatic.”
Helicopter tours offered by The Peninsula Hong Kong can be anything from 15 minutes over Hong Kong Island with views of the harbour, the downtown, mountains, beaches and more, to longer tours that allow you to see almost all of Hong Kong, from the rural New Territories to the spectacular downtown skyline and all the islands scattered around its coastline.
“I’ve flown over many of the world’s great cities — New York, Toronto, Los Angeles — but Hong Kong is hands down the most impressive,” he says. “I like to take my passengers to about 2,000 feet over Central and execute a 30-degree bank angle over the skyscrapers, just to give them a sense of how vertical [the city] is.”
If it’s a family adventure you’re looking for, you probably won’t go far wrong with viewing one of the world’s most iconic skylines from a chopper helmed by a movie star!
- +852 2802 0200
“Taking a ferry to an outlying island is a great experience,” says Michael. Hong Kong has more than 200 outlying islands, many of which have fishing village communities, beaches, walking trails, temples, restaurants and other attractions. “You don’t need to venture too far. Cheung Chau and Lamma Island are both nearby and make for lovely trips. In fact, on Lamma Island you can walk the Lamma Island Family Trail from one side of the island to the other. It’s a fairly easygoing walk and there’s a small village on the other side where you can eat great seafood and get another ferry back to the downtown.”
“Or, if you have more time and want something more adventurous, you can make a visit to Tung Ping Chau in Mirs Bay. It’s more remote so will be a full day trip but it’s worth it because the island itself will make you feel like you’ve gone back in time.”
- Ferry from Central Pier 4
- Ferry from Ma Liu Shui Ferry Pier
Museum of Coastal Defence
“Hong Kong has had an eventful history and the harbour always seems to be at the centre of things,” says Michael, who suggests spending a few hours at the Museum of Coastal Defence. “The great thing about this museum is its scenic location,” he explains. “It gives you a real insight into the fascinating history of how the harbour has been defended over the centuries. But it’s also on a site that used to be an important coastal fort, overlooking the narrow eastern entrance to the harbour. There are lots of wartime relics scattered around the headland, which younger kids will get a kick out of too.”
- 175 Tung Hei Road, Shau Kei Wan, Hong Kong Island
- +852 2569 1500
- MTR Shau Kei Wan Station
While it’s amazing to see the city from above, Michael loves to get out on the harbour and highly recommends that visitors take at least one harbour cruise while in town, whether it’s something exclusive or just a ride on a humble Star Ferry. “Night time is the best as the skyline is lit up and it’s an awesome sight,” he says. But even day trips will leave you feeling spellbound. “When we were shooting [the Family Adventures on Land, Sea and Sky] video on the Aqua Luna, I was tempted to drop out just to enjoy the moment,” he jokes. “The waters were wonderfully calm and as we sailed in from the eastern side of the harbour the view of the city opened up on either side. It was magical.”
“If you don’t mind crowds, bring your family to the market and lantern displays at Victoria Park during the Mid-Autumn Festival,” suggests Michael. “They will have lots of elaborate lantern displays that kids will love. Nearby, the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance is a must. The traditional fire dragon moving through the streets is really something to witness. And Tai Hang is a great little neighbourhood for restaurants and cafés, so you can make a nice evening of it.”