How to unwind in Hong Kong

by Richard.Macauley

Hong Kong, home to the most densely-populated square kilometre in the world, also offers unrivalled choice for those looking to relax and unwind


Hong Kong may be one seriously busy city - but it also has sunshine and beaches to enjoy during the day, and world-class restaurants and spas to chill out in in the evening. So if all you want from a holiday is to relax, you can count on the city to deliver.

It's a 12-hour flight to reach Hong Kong and after such a trip, one of the most effective ways to de-stress will be to get straight to a spa. The Oriental, located inside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Hong Kong Island, is one of the finest in Asia, and boasts the largest number of treatments available on the continent, many of them exclusive to this spa.b

One of the most tantalising treatments available is the Oriental Harmony: a two-hour massage with not one but two masseuses working together in unison on both your head and feet. It's a massage like no other and one likely to leave you feeling as though you've been elevated six inches off the ground for the remainder of the week.

However, this is Hong Kong, and, as such, alternatives are never far away. Those of us who need to keep a slightly closer eye on the purse strings could also enjoy a more local experience, and discover any one of the hundreds of spas dotted throughout the city. After all, a massage or a reflexology session is nothing out of the ordinary to locals. In fact, don't think that you're in the wrong part of town if you see massage parlours open late into the night, as businessmen will even pop in for a session after dinner!

Langham Place, one of Kowloon's finest and newest monuments to shopping, houses the Chuan Spa, which bases its treatments on the principles of Wu Xing, the five elements of earth, fire, metal, water and wood. Here, you can expect traditional massages as well as body wraps, polishes and hydrotherapy, ensuring all tastes are catered for.

Staying on Hong Kong Island, travellers will be spoilt for choice for dinner, and can sample food from any cuisine in the world, but to get a taste for Hong Kong's most famous cuisine (seafood) a quick ferry ride to Lamma Island is advised. The term 'seafood' in Hong Kong simply means anything that has come from the sea, and there is no distinction between clams, mussels or octopus and other, more adventurous, foods such as sea cucumbers, eels and seahorses.

Due to the importance of freshness in Cantonese cooking, your seafood dinners will be the freshest you've ever tasted. The live creatures kept outside restaurants on Lamma Island may be entertainment enough for many visitors, as the number of sea animals crawling, swimming or simply sticking themselves to the side of their fishtank is fascinating - but they're all edible and destined to be turned into dinner.

As well as seafood and spas, Hong Kong offers one more thing that few other city breaks can: beaches. They may not be as famous as its shopping or gadgetry but nevertheless some of Hong Kong's beaches are beautiful, and there is no trekking involved to reach any of them. Two that are particularly noteworthy are Shek O, on the south of Hong Kong Island, and Clearwater Bay, in Kowloon.

Beaches in Hong Kong are some of the safest in the world, with nets ensuring swimmers don't have to deal with jellyfish or sharks, as they sometimes have to in Australia or other parts of Asia. Shek O itself is also home to Paradiso Beach Club, a restaurant and bar run by a Frenchman, which remains open 24 hours a day serving grilled dishes, seafood pastas and steak, for those in need of some more Western-oriented food.

While it's unlikely that the credit crunch gloom in the West will have subsided by the time you return from Hong Kong, at least a trip to the city will give you the chance to indulge yourself in ways simply impossible at home. And a week here will be enough to convince anyone that there is more to the city than shopping - it's great for pampering too. So, relaxed and refreshed, that 12-hour trip home should certainly pass far quicker than the flight out!



I grew up on the south coast of England but moved to London in 2003, where I lived for four years in the east, south and north of the city. In London I studied journalism and began writing for music websites, before joining a newswire in 2006. In 2007 I moved to Hong Kong, where I lived for a year. Since then I lived in New York in 2008 and have lived briefly in San Francisco and Sydney. I currently live in Hong Kong. Favourite places: My favourite cities in the world are: New York, London, Hong Kong and Brighton (UK). Other highlights of my travels include rock festivals around the world, specifically Norway's Hove festival and Denmark's Roskilde festival.