No matter how high you build it, someone in Hong Kong will put a bar on top of it. Just one reason to love this city.
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Hong Kong (CNN)Hong Kong has a loud personality. Kind of like its locals.
No matter if it's food, culture or architectural heritage, Hong Kong (population just more than 7 million) is the world leader in East-meets-West personality.
Now riding the waves of renminbi coming in from its mainland Chinese siblings, the post-colonial city is in the throes of a political and cultural coming of age.
There has never been a more exciting time to visit.
The oldest neighborhoods are gentrifying with hipster hangouts, top notch eateries and meticulously curated boutiques -- conversations over milk tea revolve around the property bubble, politics and Hong Kong's democratic struggle.
For those planning to make a trip, the best of Hong Kong is easy to find.
Grand dame of Hong Kong hotels.
An icon of Hong Kong hospitality, the Peninsula is the place to stay for a definitive "old Hong Kong" experience.
This best of Hong Kong hotel has been a prestigious address since 1928. It retains its old world glamour today, down to the white-gloved doormen and fleet of Rolls Royce Phantoms.
A recent revamp of its Peninsula Tower rooms has brought a contemporary elegance to the decor, with high tech gimmicks throughout, such as touch-screen tablets that control all room functions.
Reservations are a must at fine dining staples Gaddi's and Spring Moon, while Felix has a strict dress code (no flip flops) and the city's best harbor-view men's room.
Although the lobby's high tea is famous, it's also touristy. A traditional colonial-style tea with finger sandwiches and scones, it's worth braving the long queue to try once.
Reservations aren't taken.
For that ultimate touch of decadence, the Peninsula's helicopter sightseeing tour is unbeatable.
Hong Kong's coolest hotel, the Upper House is where stylish celebs sleep when they visit.
It's one of those effortlessly hip places, with paperless check in and check out, seamless connectivity, a maxi-bar (where everything is already included in the room price) and an aesthetic that's contemporary and sexy without being intimidating.
Rooms are located on Level 38 and above, which means each one has a stunning panoramic view of the city and harbor.
Room sizes start at 68 square meters and feel much bigger.
The top floor of The Upper House is the setting for Cafe Gray Deluxe by chef Gray Kunz.
It's one of the best places to watch Hong Kong's nightly Symphony of Lights.
You'll never notice that Hotel ICON is a teaching and research hotel for the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
It looks sleek and is run professionals.
A team of celebrity designers dreamed up the dramatic interior touches that can be found throughout the building.
A lush vertical garden by celebrity botanist Patrick Blanc unfurls across the walls of the lobby.
Next to it is Green, the café by local designer William Lim who used folding metal shop gates typical of old Hong Kong in the interior design.
Starting at 36 square meters, guest rooms at Hotel ICON are spacious.
Bathrooms are hidden behind a movable wall of dark wood.
The only shortcoming is the location, which is a little far from public transport.
But the hotel offers a shuttle bus service to remedy this.
Hotel ICON, No.17 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon, Hong Kong China; +852 3400 1000
If a Chinese moon goddess teamed up with Lady Gaga to build a hotel, the result might look like the Miramar Group's second Hong Kong property, Mira Moon.
Marcel Wanders (dubbed the Lady Gaga of the design world by the New York Times) and international property design firm you are the masterminds behind the hotel's whimsical design.
Brimming with Chinese culture and tradition, Mira Moon was inspired by the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival's fairy tale about the immortal Moon Goddess.
Guests are surrounded by antique Chinese fabrics and prints, peony flower wall details and staff wearing "Moon's fashion collection" -- the hotel's version of a uniform.
Mira Moon has 91 rooms ranging from 221 square feet to a 1,247-square-feet penthouse suite on the 36th floor.
Mira Moon Hotel, No.388 Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong China; +852 2643 8888
Tai O Heritage Hotel
One of Hong Kong's newest and best examples of architectural conservation, the Tai O Heritage Hotel was formerly a marine police station dating to 1902.
It's located in Tai O, a fishing village on the western tip of Lantau Island that hasn't changed much in the last century.
The stilt houses and worn wooden boats are like a backdrop to a movie about prewar Hong Kong.
The hotel operates as a non-profit social enterprise that supports the Tai O community.
Vestiges of its past are everywhere, from strategically placed cannons to guard towers and holding cells.
This best of Hong Kong boutique hotel has just nine rooms and one rooftop restaurant.
Ground floor rooms open onto a sea-facing veranda.
The hotel is close to sights on Lantau Island, including Disneyland and the Big Buddha.
Tai O village itself is a popular attraction that draws crowds during the weekends.
Tai O Heritage Hotel, Shek Tsai Po Street Tai O, Lantau Island, Hong Kong Hong Kong China; +852 2985 8383
Hotel Indigo's glass-bottom infinity pool on the 29th floor has attracted a lot of attention since opening in May.
Next time you're in Wanchai, look up and you might see a person seemingly swimming in mid-air.
Hotel Indigo was awarded the Best Hotel Architecture Hong Kong prize at the 2013 Asia Pacific Hotel Awards.
The facade of this newbie -- located next to the Star Street Precinct, one of Hong Kong's hippest districts -- resembles a dragon wrapping itself around the building, with a glowing pearl (the pool) in its mouth.
Interiors and furniture were inspired by the neighborhood.
Art meets food at Duddell's, a two-story venue that is part traditional Chinese restaurant, part fashionable lounge and art gallery.
This is where diners can indulge in a lobster soup dumpling or bulldoze through a plate of stir-fried noodles slick with soy sauce, all while oggling the impeccable collection of Chinese ink paintings culled from the MK Lau Collection in Duddell's first-floor dining room.
It gets particularly busy when dim sum is served (daily, noon to 2:30 p.m.) and the lunch crowd descends for steamed baskets of goodies and the famous mandarin orange pastries.
The second floor contains a rotating exhibition of art work by contemporary artists and a competent cocktail bar adjacent to a large terrace decadently filled with greenery.
Duddell's, Levels 3 & 4, Shanghai Tang Mansion, 1 Duddell Street, Central, Hong Kong China; +852 2525 9191
Under the Bridge Spicy Crab
That fried garlic will be seeping out of your pores tomorrow -- but it's totally worth it tonight.
This place is named after its original location and signature dish -- a fried crab smothered in a small mountain of fried garlic and spices.
The addictive crab dish originated in Hong Kong's typhoon shelters where a community of boat people who made their homes on sampans cooked freshly caught seafood served with plenty of spices and "wok hei" (good wok-wielding skills).
Little remains of Hong Kong's boat people today, but their excellent food culture remains popular.
Sure the crab is great, but it's the deep-fried garlic that truly enslaves.
It goes great with everything and diners usually find themselves uncontrollably shoveling the stuff into their mouths, just mixed with plain rice.
Opened in 1933, the three-story restaurant is dripping in nostalgia, with its art deco embellishments, stubbornly old fashioned menu and urban legends (something noir about the mafia, revenge and murder).
The food served here is rare in the Hong Kong restaurant scene these days.
Items like liver siu mai for the dim sum service and deep-fried dumplings in soup were a la mode five decades ago.
The Cantonese-style soups are particularly famous, such as the pork liver and almond soup.
It's outstanding for including almond puree, which results in an extra rich and fragrant soup.
Service can be slow for non-regulars.
Luk Yu Tea House, No.24-26 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong China; +852 2523 5464
Tai Ping Koon
When our parents were young and dating in Hong Kong, they didn't have tiny French bistros or swanky supperclubs to choose from.
Back in the day, a special night out was all about the soy sauce Western restaurant.
Tai Ping Koon is representative of this sub-genre of Hong Kong cuisine.
The food is old school Western reimagined with Hong Kong nuances.
There's the Swiss-style chicken wings, which aren't Swiss at all. Wings are braised in soy sauce and sugar, resulting in a sticky, honeyed wing.
There's also an oversized souffle, bigger than your head, which every table orders.
This more than 700-square-meter-large establishment is the place to head when you've got tapas cravings.
Catalunya's out-of-way location makes it a celebrity magnet, while the consistently excellent dishes attract local foodies.
With former elBulli chef Alain Devahive Tolosa in the kitchen, there are unexpectedly few foams, jellies and powders on the menu here.
Instead, the menu is filled with hearty dishes such as a roast suckling pig with crackling skin and meat so tender it can be cut with a plate.
A moan-inducing Tortilla de Trampo transforms simple potatoes and egg into a luscious dish.
A few dishes typical of menus by elBulli alumni are also thrown in, such as the "spherical" olive, a bubble of olive juice, and the lethal Bikini sandwich -- the Catalonian version of a ham and cheese sandwich made from Iberico ham and black truffles.
Catalunya, 32 Oi Kwan Road G/F, Guardian House, Morrison Hill, Hong Kong China; +852 2332 3078
Tai Wing Wah
We may live in a weight-loss obsessed world, but in Yuen Long, Tai Wing Wah is making a killing off of hearty "walled village cuisine."
This type of food features lard, prominently.
Punti and Hakka villages that were settled in Hong Kong during the Ming and Qing dynasties were protected by high village walls.
The food originating from these walled villages is the focus of Tai Wing Wah's menu.
Hugo "To To" Leung is the culinary brains behind the restaurant and he's adamant about maintaining authenticity.
His restaurant is one of the few places in Hong Kong where you can still order white rice mixed with lard and soy sauce -- pure addiction. It's a rustic representative of local cuisine.
Completely renovated in 2014, pre-war tenement building The Pawn continues to be one of the most popular lounges in the city.
The bar and restaurant reopened in collaboration with British celebrity chef Tom Aikens, serving traditional and modern British food.
The new space is light and airy, fitting with modern furniture designed by Michael Young -- so long, the much-loved Chesterfield sofas.
A rooftop farm where fresh products are grown sits atop the three-story building . It can also be transformed into an event space.
The best seats in the house are on the terrace, overlooking the tram tracks that run through the Wanchai neighborhood.
The Pawn, 62 Johnston Road,Wan Chai, Hong Kong China; +852 2866 3444;
With its British colonial past, Hong Kong does a great pub.
The best one to go to for beer selection is The Globe.
Hong Kong's leading beer bar and sports pub has a huge variety of British and Belgian in bottles and on tap.
The city's only hand-pumped cask ale, the Lantau-brewed Typhoon T8 English bitter, is available here.
It sells out quickly, so call ahead to see if it's available.
The selection of roughly 75 bottled brews stands out. '
Some worth trying include the rich and chocolaty Fullers London Porter, the crisp, hoppy Thornbridge Jaipur IPA and Theakston Old Peculier, a bittersweet old ale with hints of dried fruit.
Prices are reasonable given the quality and lack of service charge, with pints between HK$60 to $80 during regular hours.
The Brit pub food is pretty decent, too.
The Globe, Garley Building 45-53 Graham Street, Central, Hong Kong China; +852 2543 1941
When it comes to live music in Hong Kong, The Wanch is a true institution.
Set among the weary girlie bars of Wanchai, this tiny live stage is the last thing you'd expect.
It's a total dive, if we're honest, and the sound system really isn't the best, but The Wanch is passionate about showcasing local indie musicians and its intimate setting is perfect for getting to know new talent.
Many nights, you'll find standard cover bands churning out rock classics, which also makes for a fun, unpretentious night out.
San Miguel beer in a plastic cup is the drink here, preferably enjoyed while standing up with feet tapping.
The Wanch, No.54 Jaffe Road, Hong Kong China; +852 2861 1621
Honi Honi Tiki Lounge
A tiki bar is great antidote to the cookie-cutter chrome-and-neon nightlife scene in Hong Kong.
Honi Honi cures that after-dark ennui with its fruity, spirit-lifting cocktails, and dramatic-yet-soothing bamboo interior design.
It's impossible to take life seriously when confronted with the "Honi Honi All The Way," a huge hollowed-out watermelon holding spiced rum, passion fruit purree, Cointreau and watermelon and orange juice meant to be shared.
Or try the energizing effects of the Aztec Breakfast, a made with coffee, Aztec chocolate bitters and tequilas by Jose Cuervo as well as Patron.
The Star Ferry and the tram are two old modes of transport still used everyday in Hong Kong.
They're also the best ways to explore the city.
Operating since 1888, the ferry was the main way to get between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon peninsula.
Today, there are faster ways to get across (MTR and cars both tunnel beneath the harbor), but rocking on a ferry at night is the most relaxing, and brings you close to Hong Kong's gorgeous skyline.
The slow-crawling tram was founded in 1904 and runs only on Hong Kong Island. Avoid peak hour to secure a seat on the upper deck of the tram.
The whole route, from Shau Kei Wan to Kennedy Town, may take more than an hour to complete, traversing the oldest neighborhoods of Hong Kong.
The route along North Point passes through the middle of an outdoor wet market (Chun Yeung Street market).
Star Ferry, Kowloon Point, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong China;
Dodgy neighborhood for old school food and fun.
Temple Street presents a perfect exotic fantasy of Hong Kong.
Everything here looks old, filthy and somewhat threatening.
There's the trinkets market, the cheap sex toy vendors, the rows and rows of stalls offering fortune telling.
Street food -- hot, fresh, of questionable hygiene and totally irresistible -- beckons.
Neighboring the eateries are old school karaoke parlors where HK$100 ($13) gets you access to center stage, a live band and an audience of geriatric regulars who have been attending nightly for decades.
Take the MTR to Jordan and take exit A. Turn right onto Jordan Road and walk three blocks to Temple Street.
The market is open from around 4 p.m. till midnight.