It’s time to rethink Hong Kong as a wallet-emptying destination. The throbbing, pulsing, wildly diverse city now offers a host of affordable and free experiences.
Local martial arts students practice in front of a live audience every Sunday at Kowloon Park. // © 2009 Aaron Farr
In the latter category, it costs nothing to enroll in classes and tours with Hong Kong Tourism Board's Cultural Kaleidoscope Program (www.discoverhongkong.com
). Experts share their knowledge in tea appreciation, martial arts, Cantonese opera, architecture, antiques, feng shui and cake making. In the program’s popular Chinese medicine course, participants learn which kind of ginseng is least likely to produce a side effect (American ginseng) and what to take if you are pulling a lot of all-nighters or working into the wee hours (rose-flower buds).
Are your clients interested in meeting and buying directly from established and cutting-edge artists? The Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre (www.jccac.org.hk), a recently converted factory, houses 124 artists and art groups, and their studios and workshops are now open to the public. Clients can wander through its eight floors, meet artists and buy original works at a fraction of gallery prices. How about a traditional Chinese sculpture made entirely from clear packing tape, priced at $40? For the best deals, clients should go by taxi and arrive in the early afternoon. Hours vary for each artist.
If your clients are in the Mongkok neighborhood of Kowloon, they should look into booking a room at the trendy Langham Place Hotel Hong Kong (www.hongkong.langhamplacehotels.com) where room rates start at $135 per night. Only a few doors down is a small sign that reads “Cooked Food Market.” Go upstairs and clients will discover a huge hall with more than l6 food stalls where dishes are cooked to order; it’s where the locals go to chow down. Lunch for two will set them back $6 to $8.
The Renaissance Kowloon Hotel, Hong Kong (www.marriott.com) is offering sizzling Summer Vacation Sale rates that hover around the $100 mark. Downstairs is the Avenue of Stars, where you can stroll and enjoy the free harborside exhibits and art that showcase the history of the Hong Kong film industry. Clients should stop for a picture next to the huge, lifelike statue of Bruce Lee. From there, it’s a short walk to the famous Star Ferry, which will whisk two clients away to Honk Kong Island for under $1.
For ultra-chic after-dinner entertainment, the elegant Peninsula Hong Kong hotel has a bargain basement — literally. Last December, it opened a dazzling cellar club called Salon de Ning (www.salondening.com). Decorated as the 1930’s Shanghai home of the fictional adventuress Madame Ning, complete with her boudoir, dance parlor, ski chalet and African safari rooms, it’s an ideal place for clients to nurse a jewel-colored drink for $10-$15 and enjoy the chanteuse and the jazz/blues band. Advance booking is recommended for seating in Madame’s private theme rooms.
If clients are fans of Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee or the subtle, deep balancing power of tai chi, Kung Fu corner in Kowloon Park has free demonstrations every Sunday from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Here, they can join locals and travelers who come to admire the masters of martial arts. Then, they can enjoy a leisurely walk through the park, which is peopled by picnickers, hip-hop dancers, fashionistas, lovers and Hong Kong residents in their colorful, native dress.