Hong Kong Buzz List: 24 crazy hours in Hong Kong with Henry Golding
What a difference a day can make! Especially when you consider how much fun you can compress into a compact city like Hong Kong, which is precisely why we invited Henry Golding to Hong Kong for a whirlwind itinerary of local experiences, including tranquil temples, hidden local gems and world-class dining.
Before starring in Hollywood rom com Crazy Rich Asians, Golding racked up many frequent flyer points as the presenter of BBC’s The Travel Show for seven years and has visited Hong Kong half a dozen times. “The experience in Hong Kong is always fantastic,” he says. “What I love about Hong Kong the most is the pure diversity. Everyone says it’s a melting pot of all of Asia; it truly is. You really are spoilt for choice here.”
This time, with just 24 hours in the city, Golding made a beeline for some of his favourite spots and also discovered some hidden gems.
If you want to experience local culture, a temple visit is a must on your Hong Kong itinerary. Originally located on the waterfront before reclamation, Tin Hau Temple in Yau Ma Tei used to be where seafarers came to seek the goddess Tin Hau’s blessing and is still popular with the local community to this day. Take in the traditional architecture, light an incense stick to offer a prayer or draw a fortune stick and see what blessings may be in store for you. Ringing the bell three times and hitting the drum indicates to the gods that you’ve paid your respects. “Every time I finish up at a temple, I always get this beautiful sense of calm,” says Golding.
Stop 2: Shanghai Sun Ngah Monaliza Hair Salon
“One of my favourite things about Hong Kong are all the mom-and-pop stores that are dotted around the city,” says Golding. As a formerly trained hairstylist himself, he felt a strong connection to Shanghai Sun Ngah Monaliza Hair Salon in Mongkok, one of the few remaining Shanghai-style barbershops which has been operating since the 1960s. Small businesses like this are a fabulous way to get the pulse of Hong Kong and connect with its people. Neighbourhoods like Sham Shui Po are also home to spots like the 90-year-old shophouse Lui Seng Chun, the colourful and cheerful toy shops along Fuk Wing Street, and a new wave of local indie businesses, cafes and boutiques springing up beside them.
Stop 3: Old Town Central
“From the buildings to the people to all walks of life, Hong Kong has this energy that isn’t found in Asia very often,” says Golding. One place that hums with this energy is Old Town Central, where Golding browsed market stalls selling fresh fruit and local produce in Graham Street Market, the city’s only remaining open-air wet market. This sprawling collection of sloped streets in Central and Sheung Wan snake between skyscrapers and house an assortment of market stalls, street art graffiti on walls, traditional tea houses, antique shops on Upper Lascar Row and outdoor dai pai dong hawker dining experiences. Hop on the Central–Mid-Levels Escalator — the world’s longest outdoor pedestrian elevator — for an elevated vantage point and a convenient shortcut up to SoHo’s popular restaurants and bars that come alive after dark and at weekends.
Stop 4: The Magistracy Dining Room, Tai Kwun
History meets hospitality in the dining room of The Magistracy, where Golding stopped by to refuel on Executive Chef Matthew Kirkley’s menu of classics like prime rib paired with a wine cellar to match. Inspired by timeless London restaurants and housed in a former judicial building in Tai Kwun, a former police compound turned heritage-arts complex, award-winning interior designer Joyce Wang worked with Black Sheep Restaurants to create a space where food, architecture, history can be appreciated together. While you’re there, take the time to discover Tai Kwun’s exhibitions and collection of restaurants and bars set in heritage buildings.
Stop 5: Maggie Choo’s
Make it a night to remember by soaking in the nightlife in Central, as the Hollywood star did when he paid a visit to Maggie Choo’s. Tucked away on Hollywood Road, a hidden entrance in an antique shop leads to a seductively lit cabaret and bar complete with bank vault doors, spiral staircases and bank-teller cocktail bars. Visitors would be forgiven for thinking they’d been transported to 1930s Shanghai, where a live band plays to guests and mixologists whip up artisanal cocktails. After 10pm, the band retires and a resident DJ keeps fun going well into the night. As Golding says, “How can you possibly miss out on the nightlife in Hong Kong?”
“Hong Kong is unlike anywhere else in the world. It’s one of a handful of cities that’s a destination for life — like Tokyo, London, Paris, New York,” says Golding. “I would love to come back with my family. I have a new baby on the way, so maybe when she’s older.”
WHERE TO STAY
Make the most of your stay by choosing a harbourside hotel to wake up to views of Victoria Harbour. This time, Henry Golding started his day at K11 ARTUS, a luxury home away from home that boasts not only uninterrupted harbour views, but is also just steps away from the K11 MUSEA mall, the Avenue of Stars and the Hong Kong Museum of Art. You’re also on the doorstep of Tsim Sha Tsui’s shopping district and a ride on the iconic Star Ferry takes you across the harbour to Hong Kong Island.