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The Urbanist’s Hong Kong: What to Do

Mah-jongg tiles.  

Get a (Temporary) Hobby
How to explore the city through some of the natives’ most beloved pastimes.

See a Cantonese Opera
The waning art form of melodramatic hours-long epics with headdress-clad aria singers, which dates to the thirteenth century, was given a new lease on life when the government turned a defunct cinema into the Yau Ma Tei Theater last July. The space is devoted entirely to the genre, and there’s a show, concert, or workshop nearly every day of the week. Tickets rarely exceed $20. 6 Waterloo Rd., Yau Ma Tei; 852-2264-8108.

Play Mah-jongg
The clinking of tiles on a weekend afternoon is ingrained in most Hong Kongers’ memories. The four-player game works a bit like gin rummy, and, unlike in the States, it’s a common pastime even among the non-retirees. See the pros in action at King’s Hotel, a multifloor gamers’ paradise in Wan Chai, or call ahead to book a table. (Taxi and minibus drivers get a discount, which hints at the typical clientele.) The other floors offer pool, snooker, darts, poker, and karaoke. 303 Jaffe Rd.; 852-3188-2277.

Go Biking
Hong Kong’s mountainous landscape and hilly roads deter most leisurely pedalers, but a group of teens from Tin Shui Wai, a down-at-the-heels neighborhood in the Northwest New Territories, is trying to change that. The group leads amateur bikers on tours (from $28; bike, helmet and lunch included) of off-the-beaten-path, ecologically valuable areas like Nam Sheng Wai, Lau Fa Shan, and Bak Nai. Excursions are offered daily and reservations required. Shop 4, Wai Fat Building, 5 Fung Cheung Rd., Yuen Long; 852-2478-3880.

Map by Jason Lee  

Gowanus of the East
Once the exclusive domain of auto garages and mechanics, the Hong Kong Island neighborhood of Tai Hang has morphed into a creative hub brimming with trendy restaurants and shops. Architect, blogger, and Tai Hang transplant JJ. Acuna sizes up the current scene.

Lin Fa Kung Temple and Garden  

Lin Fa Kung Temple and Garden
Lin Fa Kung St. W. at Lily St.
“Stretch out, exercise, or read a book in the garden; it’s so relaxing you can’t even hear the traffic outside. There’s even a temple fortune teller who speaks English.”

Wabi Sabi
14-16 Lin Fa Kung St. W.; 852-2570-1336.
“I haven’t had sushi this authentic since I went to Japan. They even had Japanese carpenters build the restaurant.”

Happy Fish Bistro
12 Wun Sha St.; 852-2808-4228.
“A mom-and-pop operation with pink flowered tablecloths and hanging lamps like you see in the wet markets. Get the Cantonese steamed fish and prawns.”

Unar Coffee Company
4 Second Ln.; 852-2838-5231.
“Unar serves its goods out of a window counter, and seating is in an adjacent alleyway. Sometimes you see local celebrities like Josie Ho, daughter of Macau casino mogul Stanley Ho, and heartthrob actor Edison Chen hanging out here.”

Volume One
30 Sun Chun St.; 852-2808-0962.
“This design store sells jewelry, scarves, and leather goods from local designers. They even have their own bakery where you can get pastries and cakes.”

The Socialhouse
Shop A, 12-13 Shepherd St.; 852-2808-2638.
“A dim, intimate restaurant serving upscale Western comfort food—like foie gras mac ’n’ cheese.”

Lab Made and Xiao Tian Gu
6 Brown St.; 852-2670-0071; 10-11B School St.; 852-2882-6133.
“My two favorite dessert places are across the street from each other. Lab Made is the city’s first liquid-nitrogen ice-cream parlor. Each day, there’s a different set of four flavors, from vanilla to mooncake. Xiao Tian Gu is a more traditional Chinese dessert place, serving fruit-infused treats frequently made with jelly or custard.”

Buddy Bar & Cafe
22 School St.; 852-2882-9780.
“Everyone goes here after other places close, so it’s a good mix of oldies and expats. Go here if you want to chat up locals till three in the morning.”


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