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Last updated : Nov 2009
 
Hong Kong Nightlife
Hong Kong Nightlife - TravelPuppy.com
The ‘City of Life’ lives by night – most popular hot spots don’t even get going until midnight. Enterprising Sinophiles can try to get an invitation to tag along to a local karaoke night out and warble into a mike, over buckets of beer, to Cantonese pop videos, or try one of the fabulous local discos in darkest Kowloon. Lan Kwai Fong, the popular square inch of Central with the most liberal drinking hours and the most intense partying, is now losing its popularity to other locations and its main developers are now expanding further afield to Shanghai. Soho (‘South of Hollywood Road’) is a bit more chic and relaxed concentration of chill-out spots, just off the Mid-Levels Escalator. Chinese locals seem to favour Tsim Sha Tsui, dotted with bars and clubs. And anyone desiring such things will be happy to hear that they can find action in the girlie bars and joints of Wan Chai – haven of many a poor Filipino or Thai peasant maiden. Despite the ridiculously strict noise level restrictions on open-air events – testament that well-connected locals have huge clout with city hall – live music is also very popular and well catered for. Check the free listings in BC Magazine and HK Magazine for current information.

Opening hours in Hong Kong vary from location to location and many have restrictive dress codes and entrance policies, particularly in the smarter clubs. Some Lan Kwai Fong venues remain open all night long, in contrast to Soho, where the authorities placate local residents by ordering bars to close around 2400 on weekday and 0200 at weekends.High drinks prices are almost uniformly constant – often at least HK$40 for a glass of beer or wine. Bar owners attribute this on high rates – extortionate property prices effect prices in every department. Bars often compensate by offering happy hours, with two-for-one or 1/2-price deals before 20:00 or 21:00.. The legal minimum drinking age in Hong Kong’s public bars is 18 years.

Bars

Escalator watchers will enjoy people watching in terrace-like comfort at Stauntons, 12 Staunton Street, the prime Soho-watching place. Mes Amis, 81–85 Lockhart Road, is the most layed-back and civilized of the Wan Chai bars. Drinkers looking for a more raw experience should try Dusk Till Dawn, 76 Jaffe Road. La Vie, 9a Sharp Street, is among the more chic venues in Causeway Bay’s classy bar strip. The staple venue of Lan Kwai Fong, Insomnia, 38–44 D’Aguilar Street, creates a quality atmosphere with its stonework and Florentine-style loggia, that contrasts with Filipino girl bands and relentless disco. Agave, 33 D’Aguilar Street, just opposite, offers a fine selection of margaritas and tequilas – a staple during the hot summer months. The Fong, a short walk down at 34–36 D’Aguilar Street, is an upmarket bar-restaurant. California, 30–32 Lan Kwai Fong, long the destination of investment bankers and the women they attract, has recently been refurbished, while 2121, at 21 D’Aguilar Street, has an exclusive and relaxed vantage point over the Lan Kwai Fong. Over in Kowloon, Rick’s Café, 4 Hart Avenue, has unbelievably e long queues on Saturday night, which have to count for something.

Casinos

There are no casinos in Hong Kong; instead they are all located in Macau, a 50-minute jetfoil ride away, which is a famous gambler’s paradise (see Excursions). Jetfoils operate all night just to service the Chinese passion for gambling. Passports are required for both the trip and the casinos – the minimum age is 21 years. Gambling in Macau is not suited for the young or the faint hearted. Macau boasts nine casinos in total, with dress codes varying from smart casual to formal.

Among the best casinos include the Hotel Lisboa and Casino, 2–4 Avenida de Lisboa, Macao City, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Casino, 956–1110 Avenida da Amizade, Macao City, and the Hyatt Regency & Taipa Resort, 2 Estrada Almirante Marques Esparteiro, Taipa Island. However, the increasing trend is for major international chains to down play down their gambling facilities and promote a broader spa-and-convention strategy.

More adventurous types can always try one of the discreet but popular Star Cruises ‘leisure’ cruises into international waters (tel: 2317 7711; fax: 2317 5551; email: sales@starcruises.com.hk), specifically packaged to drop references to gambling and a very Chinese experience.

Clubs

Dragon-I, in the upper ground floor of the newly built development, The Centrium, above Lan Kwai Fong, 60 Wyndham Street, is the new venue of the stars; socially exclusive however, surprisingly ordinary. C Club, 30–32 Lan Kwai Fong, is still Lan Kwai Fong’s most reliable dance venue. Liquid, 1–5 Elgin Street, stays open till 04:00 in crowded Soho, by creatively soundproofing itself with a big metal airlock. Drop, 39–43 Hollywood Road, directly down the hill, under the escalator, is another late-night spot with an exclusive door policy and hugely overpriced drinks. The timid should avoid Joe Bananas, 23 Luard Road, a pick-up joint par excellence and haven for cheesy model nights, where leggy Suzie Wongs cruise fat cats in three-piece suits. JJ’s, in the Grand Hyatt Hotel, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, has a like rep and crowd. Meanwhile, One-Fifth, at Starcrest, 9 Star Street, is on a higher on the scale of Wan Chai nightlife. Club Ing, 4F Convention Plaza, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, is a very inconsistent glass and chrome hotel disco still, its Thursday hip-hop ‘Ladies’ Night’ is a favourite for ex-pat teens and the businessmen who love them.

Live music

What passes for rock music in Hong Kong can be usually found at the Hong Kong International Trade and Exhibition Centre (HITEC), 1 Trademart Drive, Kowloon Bay, or the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, 1 Expo Drive. Filipino live bands, from very good to unbearable, swarm across Hong Kong – Dusk Till Dawn, 76 Jaffe Road, has among the best, while its strongest nearby competition is The Wanch, 54 Jaffe Road. The Edge, in The Centrium, 60 Wyndham Street, has recently added roster of Filipino band venues to it's roster. The Jazz Club, 34–36 D’Aguilar Street, plays much more than just trad and offers a more civilized atmosphere.

Music

The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (tel: 2721 2030) is the town ensemble and its frequent performances at corporate galas at least finance a full year-round programme. The company is resident at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, 10 Salisbury Road (tel: 2734 2009), from September to July. It is backed by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (tel: 3185 1600). Visiting orchestras of varying standards regularly tour through Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, 1 Gloucester Road (tel: 2584 8500), also hosts frequent concerts. Traditional Chinese opera is offered at the China Club, 13F Old Bank of China Building, Bank Street (tel: 2521 8888). It is not easy to obtain an entrée here but it is well worth trying, if only to admire the modern chinese art display.

Theatre

The Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts (see above), the Hong Kong Cultural Centre (see above) and the Hong Kong Arts Centre, Upper Basement, 2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai (tel: 2582 0200), are staples of high theatrical culture. The Star Alliance Theatre, Fringe Club, South Block, Lower Albert Road, Central (tel: 2521 7251), offers many of the more wacky acts.

Dance

Hong Kong’s classical ballet troupe is the Hong Kong Ballet (tel: 2573 7398) and the best venues include the Hong Kong Cultural Centre (see above) and the Ko Shan Theatre, 77 Ko Shan Road, Hunghom, Kowloon (tel: 2330 5661). The Hong Kong Dance Company (tel: 3103 1888) offers a traditional Chinese repertoire, while the City Contemporary Dance Company (tel: 2326 8597) is the much more modern dance ensemble. Both perform at many venues.

Film

Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are still the much-imitated idols of the local film industry, however production lately has diversified into more reflective fare. Meanwhile, John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat sky-rocketed the Cantonese gangster genre into A Better Tomorrow (1986). The UA and Golden Harvest cinema chains are Hong Kong’s major screening venues. Their main multiplexes include UA Pacific Place, 1 Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty (tel: 2869 0322), UA Times Square, Times Square, Causeway Bay (tel: 2506 2822), and Golden Gateway Multiplex, The Gateway, 25 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui (tel: 2956 3428).

English-language movies are usually shown in the original language with Cantonese subtitles, but some screenings are dubbed. Likewise, Cantonese-language films almost always have English subtitles. Arthouse films are usually screened at the Lim Por Yen Film Theatre, in the Hong Kong Arts Centre (see above).

Cultural events

The Hong Kong Arts Festival (tel: 2824 3555), mainly based out of Hong Kong City Hall, is the official yearly catch-all jamboree of events, with international acts and a large variety of events, takes place from February to March. A little earlier, in January through February, is the City Festival, which showcases local acts. Sponsored by the Fringe Club, it now rivals its respectable brother in variety and content and arguably exceeding it in entertainment value. The Festival of Asian Arts, in October/November, brings together the traditional arts of the region, sometimes dovetailing with the Hong Kong Folk Festival in November. The Hong Kong Youth Arts Festival runs from October to December.
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