Is it safe to travel to Hong Kong this year-end in spite of ongoing protests?
There's a lot to be said about what is going on in Hong Kong at the moment. With blazing protests across the country entering its sixth month, and more than 4,000 people arrested, chaos now perpetuates the streets. To many people, there probably isn't a worse time to hop on a plane than right now to Hong Kong — we've seen disruptions to public transport, road closures and even the airport shutting down. According to Hong Kong's financial secretary, tourist numbers fell almost 40 percent from the same time in August last year, which is shocking for one of Asia's most well-liked destinations.
The question is, should you visit? To each his or her own. In my opinion, it is safe for tourists as long as you avoid protest locations and there's still good reason to visit Hong Kong. This includes a smorgasbord of scrumptious food both in cha chan tengs and fine-dining restaurants, brand-new precincts and developments, and a delicious big city buzz. Below, a few insider suggestions on how to make the most of your visit during this tumultuous time. It might take a bit more planning for a smooth-sailing day, but perhaps enjoying the benefits of a less-crowded city will outweigh the potential disorder you may encounter.
Book a stay at one of Hong Kong's most prestigious hotels
There is absolutely no better time to check in to The Upper House, The St. Regis Hong Kong, or The Peninsula Hong Kong than now. With tourist numbers on the decline, hotel occupancy isn't likely to be through the roof. This means Hong Kong's five-star offerings are the most affordable it's been — some are throwing in discounts off weekend retreats, and including perks such as free breakfast, late check-out, room upgrades, airport transfers, and even dining credits. If living it up in Hong Kong has always been a fantasy of yours, perhaps now, it can become reality.
Spend a day at K11 MUSEA
Victoria Dockside — Hong Kong's new art and design district — is the place to be at the moment. K11 MUSEA, the brilliant brainchild of renowned entrepreneur Adrian Cheng, opened its doors in mid-September with an aim of becoming the go-to cultural-retail destination. Collaborating with 100 creative powers of various disciplines, such as award-winning architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, K11 MUSEA is a space to inspire global millennials and spark creativity, culture, and innovation. Check out the first MoMa Design Store in Greater China, soak up the many intricate artwork, grab a cuppa at one of K11 MUSEA's many coffee stores, or visit Fortnum & Mason's first retail and restaurant flagship worldwide.
Take a trip out to The Mills
If you're looking to explore suburban Hong Kong, jump on the MTR and head towards the end of the red line at Tsuen Wan. The Mills, a contemporary arts space restored from a 1950s textiles mill, draws a young, artistic crowd who are looking to uncover another perspective in the eclectic city. The heritage destination is replete with business incubators, colourful retail shops, cute cafes, intriguing murals, and a stunning rooftop park overlooking the industrial buildings in the neighbourhood. It reminds us somewhat of PMQ in Sheung Wan, but potentially with more heart.
Enjoy a memorable night out at Louise
I'm all for Hong Kong's moreish local eats, but it's also rather exhilarating to be on the pulse of the city's fast-paced dining scene. The latest cool kid on the block? French restaurant Louise, opened by Odette's Julien Royer. Situated in a two-storey heritage house in PMQ's gardens, the food here is homely, honest, and toes the line between fine dining and everyday fare. Dig into Louise's autumn menu, which highlights the beauty of white truffles in sensational plates of pan-seared langoustines, roasted yellow chicken, and ravioli. You'll be glad you came.
Go queue-free at Disneyland
Hands up if you've forked out extra money for a fast pass at a theme park — yes, join the club. Queueing is the bane of our lives, and it seems almost ridiculous that you'd wait in line for two hours for a ride that is all of three minutes. As tourists make up the majority of numbers at Hong Kong's Disneyland, the lack of overseas visitors has turned the "The Happiest Place on Earth" into a ghost town. So, go on and take the family to Disneyland because the dwindling crowd will not last forever. It's a whole new world when you get to ride Space Mountain five times in a row, without so much of a harrowing wait.