5 free things: Hong Kong
By KELVIN CHAN
HONG KONG — The former British colony of Hong Kong has become an increasingly popular destination for wealthy visitors from mainland China, many of whom come just to shop. In Hong Kong’s main tourist districts, Louis Vuitton and Gucci boutiques have crowded out middle-of-the-road retailers to cater to the big spenders. Trendy, expensive restaurants and bars have replaced mom-and-pop shops. One could be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing else to do in the Asian capital of commerce but spend money.
But Hong Kong still has a wealth of non-retail activities for visitors, and many are free.
With its bustling harbor and glittering, neon-drenched skyscrapers set against a backdrop of verdant, towering peaks, Hong Kong is one of the world’s most scenic cities. Start at Tsim Sha Tsui on the tip of the Kowloon waterfront. Join other sightseers snapping shots of Hong Kong Island’s legendary skyline.
Martial arts legend Bruce Lee died in 1973 at age 32. Forty years later he arguably remains Hong Kong’s most famous movie star, yet there are only a few landmarks for his fans. A bronze statue of the actor was erected in 2005 on the Kowloon waterfront promenade, showing Lee in one of his characteristic fighting stances: knees bent, leaning back on one leg, hands at chest level, ready to strike. The statue is on Hong Kong’s Avenue of Stars.
Hong Kong’s hyper-urban highlights might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But it’s easy to get away from the crowds. Numerous parks offer hiking trails, many with scenic panoramas. One favorite is the Dragon’s Back on eastern Hong Kong Island. The trail starts in a shady, quiet bamboo grove before emerging onto a hillside leading to the Dragon’s Back, a winding ridge with sweeping views of the South China Sea.
If you visit Hong Kong at any time except winter, you’ll likely encounter sweltering weather. To cool down, head to the beach. Hong Kong Island has several, including Big Wave Bay in Shek O or the beach at tony Repulse Bay, but they do get crowded on weekends.
In the past decade, Hong Kong’s art scene has mushroomed thanks to soaring numbers of wealthy mainland Chinese and other Asians who have developed a taste for collecting.
Big names like London’s White Cube and Larry Gagosian of the U.S. have opened local outposts of their art dealing empires while numerous lesser-known galleries have also sprouted up over the past decade. Many are located on or near Hollywood Road in the Mid-Levels neighborhood.
Hong Kong has become one of the biggest auctions hubs worldwide.
and is one of the biggest markets for the Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses. In spring and autumn, you can watch their twice-yearly sales of art as well as jewelry, watches, wine and furniture held in a cavernous exhibition center in Wan Chai. Dress nicely and the security guards may let you past the velvet rope to take a seat in the bidding room. Watch the British-accented auctioneer call out bids in both English and Chinese as nouveau riche mainland Chinese and others bid up prices of coveted works into the stratosphere.
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