hong kong insider

presse agent Charlene Lo

Do cities have horoscope signs? If they do, then Hong Kong is definitely a Gemini. I know because I am one – and a true Gemini at that. There’s a yin to my yang, a fire to my water, a rational to my spiritual. And finally, I’ve landed in a place that seems to get me, and I intuitively relate to: a little Chinese, a little English; a little soulful, and a lotta sass. Walking the island from end-to-end, dissecting the neighbourhoods, taking transit over taxis… My inner city girl has been swept up by an electrifying, pulsating energy, while my inner yogini has been romanced by HK’s beautiful nature walks and waterscapes. One of the first things I always do when landing in a new place is find the right spot for my Ashtanga practice. In fact, I rarely feel settled in until I get that first session on the mat. Must be something about connecting to the ground and the energy of a new environment. Upon my initial arrival in Hong Kong, I quite literally walked off the plane from Delhi and into the place that has become my anchor: Yoga Mala. Located on Wyndham Street in Central and owned by Jolene Ho, this place is a fusion of Ashtanga, Chinese Buddhism and energetic goodness. It was as though everything I had studied in India was transplanted into Wanchai – a busy, bold neighbourhood in the heart of HK island. I’ve had the good fortune of practicing with Cheuk Na – a long-time student of Michel Besnard, Alex Medin and John Scott – whose teaching style is disciplined, patient, ego-less and powerful. Imagine not working and still wanting to get up every morning at 6:30am – yep, it’s that good.

With a home studio sorted, I could set off to find some more places to nourish, soothe, pamper and indulge. I’ve listed just a few of my Hong Kong hot spots discovered through luck, friends’ recommendations (many thanks to Vonita, Jacq, Rick Conor, Raj, Karine and Sanaz!), as well as a healthy dose of curiosity and serendipity.

Sparadise (Mosque Street, Mid-Levels) -Let the kind, thoughtful manner of the Nepalese therapists smooth and soothe. This organic boutique spa, right off the longest outdoor escalator system in the world, provides healing refuge from the HK hustle and heat. I recommend: Aroma Touch Immuno-Stimulant massage. I also learned all about the therapeutic benefits of lavender, lemon and peppermint oils… the must-have trio for tired travelers. They are each multi-purpose and treat everything from itchy bug bites, fatigue and insomnia, to upset stomach and sore throats. Plus the tiny vials don’t add any weight to my backpack – good news for my weary shoulders!

Veggie SF (Stanley Street, Central) – Paul and Bess Choi are lovers of San Francisco and the fabulous ’50s – and have exploded onto the HK food scene with a vegetarian concept in a decidedly non-vegetarian city. The concept is unique, food is delightful and decor is cheeky, straight-up Cali kitsch. I recommend: I Am Fabulous Crispy Black Pepper soy patty with potato pumpkin wedges.

Origin (Wyndham St, Central) – Antonio Lai’s impeccable reputation for multi-sensory mastery behind the bar precedes him (accolades from HK Magazine here). Upon meeting him in person, I was pleasantly surprised that he not only lived up to the hype, but with the complete modesty of a consummate host. I recommend: Classic G&T with house-made chrysanthemum-infused gin. The aromas alone will excite the senses. Being that this is Asia, the T & G (tea and gin) creations will not disappoint… and if you’re a true gin aficionado, order Monster 47, Bombay Black or Oxley. And don’t you dare dilute with soda or tonic! In my opinion, these will be best enjoyed clean, dry and straight-up with a twist. Is it afternoon yet?

Life Cafe (Soho, Central & Ship Street, Wanchai) – Fresh juices, smoothies, spirulina balls and yummy salads. An expat, gym rat, yogi hangout.
Teakha (Tai Ping Shan St, Sheung Wan) – Warm ginger scones and Jamu – a Balinese tea with fresh lemongrass. Soothes the soul and humidity-zapped spirit.

For nighttime noshing:
Little Bao (Staunton Street, across from PMQ, Sheung Wan) – Asian-inspired diner. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I spend more time at Little Bao than home. You’ll go for the famed veggie Sloppy Chan bao or the little ice cream bao-gasms, you’ll stay for the Small Sake and fun, funky staff. This place is the brainchild of the often-imitated-never-duplicated May Chow (pegged as That Girl by Sassy HK), who also happens to love Mickey Mouse so I call her Mickey May… ask her about it.
Posto Pubblico (Elgin Street, Central) – Italian food with a side of hip-hop. This was the first Soho spot I discovered when I landed in HK, and it’s still my local. Run by the Lauria brothers, Chris and Vinny, they do such ingenious nights as ‘Biggie Smalls and Meatballs’ – bringing in NYC DJ’s and serving up free-flow Peroni with mini meatballs. Yes, it’s as fun as it sounds.

Looking for local?
Sing Heung Yuen (Sheung Wan side street) – Happy staff serve up classic HK brekkie of steaming tomato and fried egg over noodles and milk tea. To order like a local, ask for “faan kaeh daan mein, yeet lye cha”.
Sheung Wan Cooked Food Market (where Queens Rd and Queens St meet) – Bring your own beer, friends and appetite to this HK “dai pai dong” food-stall style of eating. No-frills dining hall with delicious and authentic options for Thai, Indian, Italian and Chinese.

Get outta town!
Fun day trips that are just an MTR (metro) or ferry-ride away:
Lantau Island is located right by the airport so even those on a short layover can enjoy. Take in the stunning views from Ngong Ping 360 cable car and wander the Wisdom Path, Tian Tan Giant Buddha statue and Po Lin monastery. The latter is also the site of a delightful, fully vegetarian cafe with meatless dim sum. Score!
Lamma Island is a pedestrian/bicycle-only island that is home to fresh seafood, great hiking and dragon-boat racing.

Get into nature!
For the less initiated, Hong Kong = concrete jungle. It’s simply not true… you can get into lush, dense, replenishing nature within minutes of Soho. Head up the escalator to the mid-levels and cut across to the Bowen Road Fitness Trail – perfect for an uninterrupted morning run framed by dramatic city views. Hong Kong is also a hiker’s haven. Follow the masses up to the Peak, or opt for a short, sweet and scenic one (about 1.5-2 hours) to Jardine’s Lookout and Mount Butler, where the Wilson and Hong Kong Trails meet. You’ll be rewarded with epic views of the island from the north and south, as well as happily sore glutes in the morning.

Charlene Lo is an avid yogini and toured the world to teach and train during a sabbatical in 2013. She is a creative strategist and seasoned communicator currently taking on PR projects in Asia and Canada.

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