Posts from the “Hong Kong” Category

Best places to drink Champagne in Hong Kong – 5 bottles in 24 hours.

I’ve been inspired by the sunshine streaming into my study today and the glorious site of the islands on the horizon across a deep blue sea. This post originally appeared on Lifestyle Asia last year, but I never uploaded it to Caustic Candy.  Once again, huge thanks to Debra Meiburg for her fantastic picks.

Forget perching atop a bar stool sipping bubbly in your Choos, the best places in Hong Kong to share a bottle of Champagne require a little forethought, a cooler bag and some sensible flats to reach (don’t expect photos of these locations here I have no intention of spoiling the fun of discovering these places for the first time).

Each of these spots is best to visit at a specific time of day, and so I thought it appropriate to enlist the help of an expert and find five special Champagnes that would match perfectly.

When I say expert, what I really mean is Master of Wine and all round superstar Debra Meiburg, and I can’t thank her enough for taking the time out of her busy schedule to carefully select some truly unusual and special wines.

If you haven’t heard of Debra, where have you been? She is one of only two Masters of Wine in the whole of Asia, and apart from being an educator, speaker and journalist, she also has her own TV show Taste the Wine which you can catch on Cathay’s inflight entertainment.

1. Long Ke Wan, Sai Kung

When: Morning

Champagne: Pommery Summertime Blanc de Blancs NV

I think the best way to do Long Ke Wan is to arrive on foot and leave by speedboat.

Going to this beach should be done on a whim when the skies are clear as the view into the bay will be at its best (I’m thinking summer with its maritime airstream).

It’s great to get here by mid-morning as the sun will sparkle off the sand and bring out the colours of the sea. With the right weather, it’s breathtaking.

Have a taxi take you to the very far end of the East Dam at High Island Reservoir. At the end of the road there is only one path up the hill, so scurry up. At the top there is a short saddle, and then suddenly below you is the perfect bay of Long Ke Wan.

Descend the hillside through the buddhist pines to the beach to enjoy some of the softest, whitest sand in Hong Kong. The horseshoe  bay gets popular at weekends with motor cruisers, but mid-week or even just mid-morning it’s invariably deserted. Make sure to pre-arrange a speedboat to come and take you back to Sai Kung Town. It’s the quickest way back to civilisation, especially after a few glasses of bubbles. I get my lifestyle manager at Ten to organise this kind of thing for me — I think it, they manifest it.

Long Ke Wan - Caustic Candy

2. Hor Lan Geng, Mid-Levels

When: Afternoon

Champagne: Vouette et Sorbé Saignée de Sorbe Rosé NV

One of my favourite paths on Hong Kong island Hor Lan Geng is known to some as Snake Path and to many others as Dutch Path. Winding through the trees above Bowen Road with kilometre long sections with not a splash of concrete underfoot, the path connects Magazine Gap Reservoir with Wan Chai Gap Road.

Slip away from the office and get a taxi to drop you off in the water work’s road opposite The Harbour View, 11 Magazine Gap Road.

Walk past the playground and covered reservoir to the far end where you will see a tiny path winding into the trees. Follow this path until you come out onto the concrete road some 20 minutes later and around the start of this section you will find two or three gaps in the trees where you can sit and swing your legs over the edge and enjoy stunning views over Victoria Harbour.

There is nothing quite like being in the jungle, and yet looking out over one of the most spectacular modern cityscapes in the world, especially when you know that all of those offices below are crammed with people beavering away.

Carry on until the end of the path and you will hit the crazy steepness of Wan Chai Gap Road. It’s a 100 metre haul to the top where you can grab a taxi straightaway, or go and enjoy an ice-cream at Wanchai Gap Road Playground (avoid the coffee, it tastes like pee).

Snake Path is also a brilliant place to watch Harbour Fireworks from.  You’ll still need to arrive an hour or two early to get a good spot, but it’s well worth it.

Snake Path Caustic Candy

3. Sham Wat Wan, Lantau

When: Sunset

Champagne: De Sousa & Fils Cuvée des Caudalies Brut NV

For sunset, you have to be west-facing, and so we may as well go as far west as possible and pretty much as far back in time as possible to enjoy the next bottle on the sea wall at Sham Wat Wan on Lantau.

Again, this is a bit of an adventure and may mean you having to bribe the taxi driver another HK$100 to take you and wait.

To reach Sham Wat Wan by car (you can walk from Tung Chung or Tai O but it takes too long in my book for this specific endeavour), the taxi will turn left off the road that leads to Ngong Ping and the Big Buddha. You will snake down the side of Lantau peak for about 15 minutes until you find yourself in the village of Sham Wat.

It’s a very old fishing village, where inhabitants dig for clams at low tide, grow their own fruit and vegetables, and farm oysters in the bay.

With the pollution from the airport and the factories of the PRC you can count on a stunning sunset, and, if you are brave enough, you can enjoy one of the famous oyster omelettes that the two village restaurants serve. It’s difficult to find a more chilled out, old-school spot in Hong Kong, and the locals are super welcoming.

Sham Wat Wan Caustic Candy

4. Rock pools, above Ngau Kwo Tin, Lantau

When: Nighttime
Champagne: Taittinger Nocturne NV

Staying on Lantau for this next bottle, there’s nothing quite so delicious as skinny dipping in a rock pool on a hot and humid night with some good crystal-wear and an ice-cold bottle of Champagne.

My favourite pool is above Tai O at the end of a waterworks road that begins just below the Li Ka Shing funded Kwun Yam temple. You have to choose your seasons for rock pools, and the hot, rainy season is best as pools are likely to be full.

To be safe you shouldn’t really swim in them for 24 hours after heavy rain as you don’t want to be drowned by a flash flood or crushed by a landslide of boulders that sometimes get shifted in the rainy season. So exercise some common sense.

Get the taxi to drop you off in the car park on the right soon after the entrance to the Kwun Yam temple. Cross the road and follow the Water Supplies Department track for about 25 minutes to its end. There you will find a waterfall whose pool has been dammed making a lovely swimming hole. Set up your hurricane lamps and citronella coils and while away a couple of hours in one of the most secret infinity pools in Hong Kong. For those who can’t drive on Lantau, there is now the option of making a night of it by staying in the utterly charming Tai O Heritage Hotel in the old colonial police station. The establishment has dinky rooms but they beautifully furnished, and having Tai O to yourself in the morning before the hoards arrive is delightful.

Rock Pool Caustic Candy

5. Mount Davis Battery, Pok Fu Lam

When: Dawn

Champagne: Cedric Bouchard Inflorescence Blanc de Noirs

After a hard night’s partying, you need somewhere convenient but spectacular to watch the sunrise. For me, it’s at the summit of Mount Davis on top of the battery.

You have a wonderful view across most of Hong Kong, a fascinating network of military buildings to mooch around and some great spaces to lie down and watch the sky turn from night to day.

It’s a blissfully quiet moment in a busy city. Ask the taxi to take you to Mount Davis Youth Hostel and pay him to wait for you, otherwise you will have to wait for the minibus service to start (not a terribly sophisticated way to end this venture). You will see an incredibly steep concrete “road” continuing another 50m upwards and you just use the steps at the side to walk to the top.

Cross the huge open space (keeping left) that really should be used to host outdoor music festivals, and at the far end you will see the battery.

Clamber on top of the complex and find a comfortable spot to enjoy the view of Hong Kong coming alight; more beautiful than any laser light show. If you go at the weekend you may be disturbed (in every sense of the word), by the Airsoft brigade who use the battery as one of their battlegrounds. They aren’t usually there at dawn, but try to restrain yourself and not point out where their enemies are hiding if they happen to be there.

Mount Davis Battery Caustic Candy

These are some of my favourite spots in Hong Kong, so go and find them to enjoy.

Sunday evening bliss – Sham Shek Tsuen

Hong Kong corners:

I’m feeling all bucolic at the moment. I think it’s spending more time on Lantau with the cows that’s doing it.

Sunset and low tide in Sham Wat Bay

I’ve always been slightly reticent to reveal my favourite “secret” places in Hong Kong in case more people decide to descend, but I’ve realised that very few civilians can be bothered to or have time to investigate the furthest reaches of our nobbly territory, so I’m going to start sharing, (albeit I’m still not going to give you my most favourite places for now, we’re going to start small).

Tucked down in one of the most hidden corners of Lantau is Sham Shek Tsuen and Sham Wat Bay.

If you ever walk between Tai O and Tung Chung (a highly recommended, easy walk around the coast, through some fantastic villages), then you will come to Sham Wat which is below the Big Buddha.

There are a couple of little eateries, and the locals are just super lovely.  The muddy bay is chock full with oysters, mussels, cockles and crabs, and the village is known for its oyster omelettes and dried seaweed.

A beautiful corner of Hong Kong, where you can sit with a can of beer, dangle your legs over the sea wall and watch the sun slip below the horizon into the sea and the locals harvesting their seafood. Chill-mc-chillin.

The villagers insisted on giving us lots of fruit from their orchards.

The best way to get there (as most of you don’t have a Lantau permit) is actually to do it as part of the walk to or from Tai O, or by bike if you’ve got legs of steel.

But if you fancy a last beer after a day on the beaches of South Lantau then the only way to go is by taxi, and get ready for a pretty hairy ride up and down the Sham Wat Road.

Call taxis on 2984 1328 or 2984 1268. Be persistent, taxis can be wildly difficult to get through to here.

Island Club – replacement for Frog & Toad on Lantau?

Of course nothing could replace the Frog & Toad on Lantau, it was a unique institution. But, I am interested to see that The Island Club has now been set up in Chi Ma Wan’s Dai Long Wan village.  I met the very nice Shirley Chan on a reconnaissance trip last weekend,  and discovered not only an organic veggie farm, but also her Island Club.

Dai Long Wan has a lovely beach and although has no road access it’s actually very straightforward to get to – either walking a quick 25mins from Chi Ma Wan prison, by 20min kaido from Cheung Chau, or by junk.  It’s not really on the junk trip radar anymore, but the Island Club will provide you with all sorts of watersports equipment, bbqs and booze.  Either $350 or $450 per person for all the food and booze you can tuck away  (including those lovely organic veggies), I think it would make an awesome stop off for a lazy weekend beach party. Certainly of more interest than the hideous Stoep on Cheung Sha.

We carried on round the coast to Sea Ranch for a bit of a gander.  Fantastic walk, really pretty path from Chi Ma Wan Prison all the way to Sea Ranch, but Oh My God!  What a horrible canker on the bottom of Lantau that former “luxury” resort is.  It’s post-apocalyptic, it’s rotten, it’s spine-chilling frankly.  Broken windows, broken blinds, desiccated pot-plants left out for years on balconies, one house had a bunch of weird statues of 4ft tall african tribesman standing outside their front door – oddness. A couple of the flats/houses are lived in and there are 24hour guards, but it really feels like hell descended and just ate everyone up.  Shpooky. We ran away ‘toot sweet’.

Anyway: Click here for all the contact details and how to get there.

M1NT, Hong Kong – like it despite myself.

Despite myself, I like M1NT – I abhor Dragon-i (except for dim sum)and all these other velvet rope clubs.  M1NT’s always laid back early on, with a really chilled vibe.

During the week people come here to chat, so they keep the music low til 11pm and folks just get on and do their thing, there’s no preening or flirting or ostentation, it’s actually really pleasant.

The biggest bee in my bonnet about HK bars is that I can’t hear myself think, let alone talk, and I get more and more uncomfortable and frustrated the louder and busier bars get. That’s probably why I like M1NT over other places.

Post 11pm, it gets louder, drunk and boisterous people arrive and a lot of the time the tunes really are mid 90s (but that’s my era, so I don’t care), but it’s always still a nice vibe.  There’s usually room to move, daft idiots to watch on the dance-floor, the service is really good, the waitresses are lovely and the bartenders are shit hot, plus they serve my favourite champagne – Ruinart Blanc de Blanc.

I’m just hoping that the main Chihuahua stays away from Hong Kong and doesn’t meddle so that this agreeable hiatus can continue indefinitely.

Location: 108 Hollywood Road, Central. Tel: 2980 3737

The Balcony – Finally somewhere to chill in Tai O

Review

View from The Balcony

Tai O is in desperate need of some cool.  I love this place, it’s a travesty that after the fire the locals weren’t allowed to rebuild all their stilt-houses.  Let’s all just pray to each of our gods that the Government doesn’t go ahead with its “Authentic Fishing Village” redevelopment project after the Old Police Station is finally turned into a hotel.

It IS an effing authentic fishing village you idiots!?  Have you been to Fishermen’s Wharf in Macau?  It’s horrific and more importantly completely deserted.

The architecture in Tai O is fantastic and there are plenty of lovely little houses and shops that open onto the river. Why then is there only one Hongky, in this city full of entrepreneurs, smart enough to open a cafe?

Bless them for doing it at The Balcony though, as we had a lovely beer at sunset on a Sunday watching the wading birds and boatman winging about.  The hoards leave Tai O pretty early on Sundays as there aren’t many restaurants, no bars and the majority have a minimum of an hour’s journey to get home.  You get the place to yourself and it’s great.

You can have bar snacks to go with your drinks, which is always welcome after a long hike. The balcony itself only has room for 4-5 tables, and you sit on the wooden terrace staring through the slats into the river beneath.  Love the fact that each table comes with it’s own little gold-fish bowl too.

The owner is really friendly and you can buy history books on Tai O and other little crafty bits and bobs – Crikey it’s like Lamma minus the drug dealers!

Location:  The Balcony is over the swing bridge, past all the dried seafood shops, take a right when you hit the end of the street at Fuk Moon Lam restaurant, and then about another 100m or so on your right.  86 Kat Hing St, tel: 9153 7453

Super Cute!