It is clear that China will not be able to put the capitalist genie back in the bottle in Hong Kong. Gucci and Louis Vuitton stores are almost as proliferate on the streets as McDonalds, and the frenetic vibe of economic pursuit permeates the city. For a visitor, it can be hard ‘not being green’ in Hong Kong, but there are ways for the savvy traveler to experience this megalopolis without breaking the bank.
Start with an affordable lodging choice full of panache: the Philippe Starck designed J-Plus Boutique Hotel in the Causeway Bay district. Here, an upgrade to a suite is worth the nominal incremental dollars, for expansive apartment-like quarters with a full walk-in kitchen, separate bedroom and lounging areas, and whimsical decorative flourishes (are those garden gnomes next to the daybed?). Freebies such as Wi-Fi, breakfast, happy hour and a guest laundry add up to a great value. The front desk staff is attentive and in-the-know about what is hot and happening in Hong Kong.
When it is time to set out on the town, don’t even think about hailing a cab. Hong Kong’s mass transit options are myriad and dirt cheap. The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is efficient, clean and signed in English. The city’s double-decker trams carry commuters anywhere along the spine of the city for a fare of about 30 US cents, approximately the same cost of a ride on the famed Star Ferry between Hong Kong and Kowloon. You can go vertical for free on the 2,600 foot long Central-Mid-Levels Escalator, or for only slightly more cash, take the historic funicular to Victoria Peak. At the top, dodge the pricier concessions in favor of a brew with a view at the Pacific Coffee Company.
For shopping, ditch the designer boutiques in favor of more entertaining retail therapy in the city’s many street markets. Keep your wallet in your pocket and enjoy the sheer spectacles of the Bird Market, the Flower Market and the ‘Ladies’ Market. Cap your evening visit to the Temple Street Night Market with a stop at a fortune teller, where your fate is in your hands.
To keep the dining budget in line, think ethnic or vegetarian. For affordable, creative Mexican tastes – yes, Mexican – head to Socialito or Brick House. You are what you eat at the Life Café in trendy SoHo, where even the wine is organic.
You have been a conscientious spender, so now it is time for a splurge. Put on your finery and position yourself in the bar in Felix at the top of the Peninsula Hotel at twilight. There, with a very fine cocktail in hand, you will have a front row seat as Hong Kong’s dramatic skyline illuminates in salute the coming night. Cheers, to Chinese capitalism.