It’s not all beer and (a very few) skittles in Hong Kong after dark – there’s a more cultural side to the city’s entertainment too
Like South China's syrup-like popular music that's dubbed Cantopop? You’re in the right place. Loathe it? Tough. That said, Hong Kong’s live music offerings are broad enough to cast doubt on the city’s alleged all-consuming pursuit of money.
Off the top of my head, I’ve seen The King’s Singers, Elton John, the Rolling Stones, The Barber of Seville, The Corrs, and Strauss’s Elektra on stage here. A good place to start is Urbtix (urbtix.cityline.com.hk) where you can scan what's on offer and buy tickets online.
Major live venues include the long-established Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (1 Expo Drive; 2582 8888; www.hkcec.com.hk) in Wan Chai, however this is now rivalled by AsiaWorld-Expo (3606 8828; www.asiaworld-expo.com), right next to the airport, so fans can fly in, catch the gig, and fly out again. Clapton’s due on 18 February 2011 – cheapest tickets are HK$488. Michael Bublé and The Eagles perform (separately) in March.
It’s also worth checking out the programme at the Academy of Performing Arts (1 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai; 2584 8500; www.hkapa.edu), a slightly odd looking structure whose foundations, by the by, are made of rubber to stop the building wobbling as the MTR’s trains rumble beneath. APA is also a training institute and showcases a wide variety of local and international acts.
Cinema and Theatre
Hong Kong flicks tend to blockbuster, with either a Chinese or English soundtrack. One of the most welcoming cinemas is AMC Pacific Place (88 Queensway; 2265 8933; www.pacificplace.com.hk) with stadium seating, a state-of-the-art sound system, and a selection of imported cheese and fine wine. The HK$75 admission charge is slightly higher than some other cinemas.
There’s a broader selection on Hong Kong’s silver screen at the annual flick fest each Spring – see below for details.
For a more traditional evening, the Sunbeam Theatre (432 King’s Road, North Point; 2856 0161; www.ua-sunbeam.com) stages Chinese Opera. The interior has changed little since it opened in 1972 and many of the audience first came here as children.
Getting out on the water is very much a Hong Kong recreation, taking advantage of the iconic harbour views and adding in a decent measure of alcohol and some food to soak it all up.
Quite the best harbour cruise is aboard Aqua Luna (2116 8821; www.aqualuna.com.hk), a glammed-up sailing junk built on traditional lines that potters about the harbour, embarking passengers from Pier Nine in Central and Pier One in Tsim Sha Tsui. Evening tickets cost HK$180-220, marginally less for children.
If you can get a party together, Saffron Cruises (2857 1311; www.saffron-cruises.com) has a fleet of craft, from regular junks to speedboats, to vintage launches and even a three-masted sailing barque, The Bounty. Prices for a night out range from HK$5,000 up.
Jaspa’s Junks (2792 6001; www.casteloconcepts.com) are competitively priced at HK$600 per head, which includes food and free-flowing drink.
All the fun of the festivals
For brief periods of the year, Hong Kong takes its eye off the Hang Seng Index to enjoy a festival celebrating one or another or a lot of the arts.
The Hong Kong Arts Festival (2824 3555; www.hk.artsfestival.org) usually runs from February to March, showcasing opera, dance, music, theatre and special events.
Hard on its heels, the 35th Hong Kong International Film Festival (2970 3300; www.hkiff.org.hk) takes place from March 20 to April, screening some 300 flicks from 50 different countries.
Not quite so cerebral, the annual Art Walk (www.hongkongartwalk.com) lasts for one night only (usually in March) – but what a night! Central’s art galleries throw open their doors, uncork the wine bottles, and welcome (for a smallish fee) anyone who cares to drop by. As might be implied by the title, the galleries are all within walking/staggering distance of each other, and the result is an incredibly social event with hundreds of hitherto unacknowledged patrons of the arts milling back and forth under the slightly bemused eye of the local constabulary.
While Hong Kong trails cities like New York or London in its cultural offerings, there is more on offer than you might think, and the city’s vultures are quick to swoop on tickets for star acts – the best advice is book ahead.
Not to be outdone, Hong Kong’s nightlife zones kick up their heels from time to time too, with specially organised carnivals. Lan Kwai Fong (www.lankwaifong.com) and SoHo (www.ilovesoho.hk) usually pick November, while Star Street (www.starstreet.com.hk) launched its first fest in October 2010 – a roaring success which organisers plan to repeat in 2011.
There again, there are some who’d say the party lasts 365/6 days a year anyway.
More expert advice on Hong Kong
For suggestions on where to stay in Hong Kong, see my Hong Kong Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Hong Kong.
Read my overview on Hong Kong nightlife.