Even though youngsters in Hong Kong are grumbling about tough times on the job front, the upmarket image of the city is amply evident. Men are smartly dressed, women extremely chic and well groomed, and if you are a female tourist, you cannot miss the beautiful and classy handbags they carry and the pretty shoes they wear.

But times are indeed difficult and while Hong Kong people are reining in their shopping a bit, the upscale Hong Kong malls are kept in business by visitors from mainland China.

Whether it is tourist attractions like the Ocean Park spread over a massive 91.5 hectares of land, the Sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck inside the International Commerce Centre – the city’s tallest building with 118 floors – that gives a spectacular view, or the Ngong Ping 360 cable car, there is a huge presence of visitors from China.

Fast transport between Hong Kong and several Chinese border cities is facilitating smooth movement of people. Every 10 minutes there is a train connection between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, which you can reach in less than an hour. Other cities like Guangzhou are well connected too. Alice Chu from the Hong Kong Tourist Board points out that when the hi-speed train link with China is operational by 2016, travel between Hong Kong and Shanghai will take 24 hours and to Beijing 28 hours.

Small wonder then that the Chinese are thronging to Hong Kong not only for luxury goods, but also weekly grocery. The absence of sales tax makes it worth the trouble. The Louis Vuitton and Prada enthusiasts can be sure that they will take home only genuine products – the mainland in infested with a plethora of imitations – because strict Hong Kong laws ensure the closure of shops that sell fake goods.

Alice says that many Chinese mothers prefer to buy infant milk powder and other baby food items from this city. And during the mid-autumn festival in September when the Chinese devour Mooncake pastries made with sweet lotus paste, many buy it from Hong Kong “because here there are many innovations with the recipe. We are essentially a mixture of the East and the West and our pastries have the European, Japanese and other influences. And, because it is quite fattening, our bakeries do healthier versions of it too,” she adds.

To Indians’ taste

Hong Kong prides itself on being a melting pot of various cultures; from Filipino maids to British investment bankers, it has a huge population of expats. Like all other countries, Hong Kong too is looking for Indian tourists who have started to flock in.

With sightseeing and shopping, not to miss experimenting with different cuisines being a new passion of young Indians, Hong Kong has a lot of excitement to offer the ubiquitous Indian traveller. We were given a taste of cuisines ranging from Chinese to Italian and some of it was exceptionally good.

This is an expensive city and while for a little less than $100 you can get a comfortable room in an Ibis hotel, it does give you choice of both inexpensive street food and shopping from tiny shops on narrow streets. If you have the time and the stomach, you can bargain your way to take home some pretty great stuff.

But above all, it is a safe city; at no time you feel somebody lurking dangerously close to your handbag, and that is a relief by itself!


> rasheeda.bhagat@thehindu.co.in