Hong Kong goes retro

Hong Kong is truly the city of the future. The city’s ubiquitous skyline of shiny beveled-angle skyscrapers towers above you like a giant wall of steel and glass. Meanwhile, residents tap their Octopus cards at cash registers, magically paying for purchases without bills or coins. Yet lying beneath Hong Kong’s fancy neon wizardry is a puzzling trend. It seems these days, Hong Kong is not looking to the future. Instead, the city’s residents have decided to look to the past.

Perhaps it’s inevitable in a city as amazingly dense as this bursting Asian megalopolis. The city sits on a series of tiny islands leaning precariously onto the South China Sea, meaning there’s simply never enough space. The city’s modern skyscrapers and futuristic bridges exist side-by-side with ancient colonial tenement homes and incense-shrouded Buddhist temples. But whether you’re in search of a souvenir, checking out a museum or simply looking for food and drink, you’re likely to encounter a slice of Hong Kong’s growing love for all things vintage.

But “old and musty” vintage this is not. Hong Kong retro is all about reinventing and reusing the pieces of its textured past, providing visitors with a unique slice of checkered history in a decidedly modern way. If you’re in search of a unique taste of days gone-by or a one-of-a-kind souvenir, Hong Kong’s retro style is ready to be discovered. Keep reading to see where to find it…Retro Dining
For many food is the ultimate source of nostalgia, a reminder of our youth and days gone by. It’s a fact that’s been well-absorbed in retro Hong Kong, where a cuisine of fresh ingredients and age-old family recipes prevails. Nowhere is this better evident than at Kowloon’s Tai Ping Koon restaurant, an eatery defiantly still around after more than 150 years of business. But this is no tourist trap. Each evening Tai Ping Koon’s elegant Mid-Century modern dining room is packed with locals enjoying the restaurant’s signature chicken wings in Swiss Sauce and its light, puffy souffles. It’s the original example of East vs. West eating – a distinctly Hong Kong take on Western food.

Retro Shopping
Those looking to experience Hong Kong’s retro past need not only find it on a plate. These days, Hong Kong’s high-energy shopping experience is going retro too. It all starts at Goods of Desire (G.O.D.), a popular home goods store dedicated to “increasing interest in Asian lifestyle and culture.” The products for sale at G.O.D. aren’t your average spatula or cooking utensil. Instead, many items like the store’s retro textiles, kitschy selection of Mao Zedong postcards and old-school furniture pay homage to an earlier era of Hong Kong, a time when it was “the world’s factory,” producing cheap goods for sale in Europe and the U.S. It’s a great place to learn more about the city’s history and pick up a unique souvenir.

Just down the street from G.O.D. is Shanghai Tang, a clothing store that references Hong Kong’s famous reputation for custom-made clothing. The chain takes much of its inspiration from traditional Han Chinese apparel, updated with modern touches. Inside the stores’ Art Deco interior you’ll find both men’s and women’s clothing as well as an array of leather goods, stationery and household goods referencing traditional Chinese symbols and design.

Retro Drinking
The Pawn in Hong Kong’s Wan Chai neighborhood offers another example of the city’s reverence for its historic roots. Pawnshops are a particularly iconic fixture of Hong Kong life. Long before the city’s mammoth banks like HSBC were established, pawn shops played an important role as money lenders for a growing city of merchants and traders. The spartan interiors, high counters and darkened lighting have became a common sight for the city’s residents.

These days, many of Hong Kong’s pawn shops have been replaced, or as is the case with The Pawn, remade into fun hangout spots. The Pawn’s comfy interior pays tribute to Hong Kong’s days of old, offering visitors a wood-paneled interior, leather armchairs and old-school rickety foosball table inside what used to be a working pawn shop. A selection of international beers and cocktails rounds out the menu.

Hong Kong might be the city of the future, but it’s a place that hasn’t forgotten its unique past. From retro eating to shopping to drinking, visitors will find opportunities to enjoy a one-of-a-kind trip through time in this world-famous city.

Make yourself a Hiltini in the Bahamas

The British Colonial Hilton in Nassau is looking for help celebrating both its 10th anniversary and a multi-million dollar renovation. So, every Thursday night through February 25, 2010, from 8 PM to 9 PM, show up to at the Bullion Bar for a Hiltini Night experience. The bartenders are ready to create top-shelf cocktails from the traditional to the unique and will even offer classes about martini-making to those who express some interest. And, each Hiltini night will include a martini-making contest, where guests can compare their skills in the pursuit of bragging-rights riches.

If you miss the Hiltini nights, don’t sweat it. The British Colonial Hilton will have something new every Thursday night this year at the Bullion Bar.

Alone or not, Kimpton brings deals to NYC for Valentine’s Day

Kimpton’s offering you two ways to spend Valentine’s Day in Manhattan this year: one if you’re inclined to recognize the holiday, the other if you’re flying solo. Let’s face it; Valentine’s day isn’t designed to appeal to everyone, and the single folks shouldn’t get screwed just because the only way they could get a “date” that night involves several appearances by Benjamin Franklin.

If you’re interested in a more traditional Valentine’s Day getaway, take a look at the “Sweet Savings” deal at Kimpton’s 70 park avenue hotel. For rates starting at a mere $179, you’ll get not only a great room in Manhattan, you’ll pick up a complimentary dessert for you and your guest at silver leaf tavern.

Now, this doesn’t do much for you if you’re alone, unless you really like two desserts. Fortunately, there’s the “Cupid Is Stupid” deal at Kimpton’s The Muse New York. For a rate of $239, you’ll get two free cocktails at NIOS restaurant and a complimentary in-room movie.

So, how do you make this work? Use one of those cocktails to chat up a lonely hottie — she’s hanging out in a hotel bar, it shouldn’t take much more than this. Then, invite her up to your room to enjoy the free movie with you. Choose your movie wisely.

Both deals are open for the entire month of February. The booking code for “Cupid Is Stupid” is PCPL, and the code for “Sweet Savings” is PSSP.

Undiscovered New York: Best rooftop bars

With so many drinking options in New York, it’s easy to get dizzy with all the choices. Here at Undiscovered New York, we’ve covered some of the Big Apple’s many drinking dens before. But there’s something particularly special about drinking in New York in Summer. Nothing better epitomizes those balmy nights than holding a chilled highball glass or beer in hand, watching as a fiery orange dusk melts into the humming yellow lights and steel grey of the skyline below. And if outdoor drinking is your goal, there’s nowhere better to do it than one of the city’s many rooftop drinking establishments.

Whether you choose to patronize New York’s many hotels with chic rooftop bars, or an al fresco rooftop museum space with some artwork to boot, New York boasts a surprisingly diverse assortment of outdoor drinking spaces. In a city crowded with skyscrapers and world class architecture, you’re also sure to be rewarded with not only a new perspective on the city but some killer views to boot. And while rooftop drinking is by no means a cheap pursuit, (your beverage will typically set you back $3-5 extra on average) if you choose the right spot and right happy hours it can be surprisingly affordable.

This week at Undiscovered New York, we’re elevating our look at the city to a new level. Just in time for Summer, join us as we take you up to five our favorite rooftoop drinking spaces. Ready to rise to the occasion? Grab your sunglasses and we’ll take you through our picks after the jump.
Rooftop #1 – The Pool Deck @ Empire Hotel
The neighborhood near New York’s Lincoln Center has long been regarded as a nightlife dead zone. That has changed in recent years with the opening of The Pool Deck at the Empire Hotel. In addition to boasting stellar views of the nearby Lincoln Center and Manhattan traffic artery Broadway,The Pool Deck is of particular note for its awesome vintage neon sign. Visitors can enjoy a cocktail right underneath the imposing red glow of this historic landmark.

Rooftop #2 – Bookmarks @ Library Hotel
The Midtown Library Hotel is a bastion of calm and cool in an otherwise bland area of Manhattan. In addition to the hotel’s literary decor, (the lobby is lined with shelves of books) visitors can enjoy some downright poetic scenery at the hotel’s rooftop Bookmarks bar. The mahogany paneling and fireplace will ensure your creative juices (or at least conversations) are flowing in no time.

Rooftop #3 – The Met Rooftop Bar
New Yorkers and visitors alike respect New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art as a treasure trove of culture and creativity on the city’s Upper East Side. But not quite as many patronize the museum’s beautiful rooftop bar with stunning views of Midtown Manhattan and nearby Central Park. In addition to soaking up some alcoholic beverages, guests can take in outdoor art exhibitions from the museum’s diverse collections.

Rooftop #4 – Mé Bar @ La Quinta Inn
On first glance, the La Quinta Inn on Manhattan’s 32nd Street appears to be nothing special. But New Yorkers in-the-know pay this first impression no heed. Up on the roof of this nonchalant budget property is one of New York City’s most killer views of the nearby Empire State Building. Sip a cocktail while this iconic landmark rises above you like a massive steel giant, brightly glowing with its trademark lights. Anyone in need of a snack can order some delicious Korean food from the area’s many nearby eateries. Check Undiscovered New York’s recent look at Koreatown for more info.

Rooftop #5 – Rare View @ Shelburne Murray Hill
Hip New Yorkers have written off the Murray Hill neighborhood for dead. All the better for you – the Shelburne’s Rare View rooftop bar is the area’s secret weapon. Though this rooftop can get crowded during the post-workday rush, it offers blissful up-close-and-personal views of some Manhattan’s most famous architectural landmarks. As you sip your drink it will be hard to miss the imposing silhouettes of the nearby Chrysler and Empire State Buildings. It’s a free architectural tour of New York’s greatest hits, all for the low price of a refreshing beverage in a plastic cup.

Undiscovered New York: Romance in the Big Apple

Given that this Saturday is Valentine’s Day, it’s only fitting that we dedicate this week’s Undiscovered New York to a closer look at some of the city’s most amorous locations.

At first sight New York (especially in February) can seem a vast, cold and lonely place. But this initial impression held by many visitors is an oversimplification. Delve beneath the “hard” exterior of pushy, fast moving New Yorkers and you’ll discover a city of warmth and surprises that spring from just about every corner. In other words, New York is the perfect place to explore and uncover with that “special someone.”

But once you’ve taken the carriage ride around Central Park and been to the observation deck of the Empire State Building for your Sleepless in Seattle moment (I swear, I’ve never seen it), what else is there do? A city this big is bound to have dark corners, fabulous panoramic views, and hidden activities where you and that special someone can spend some quality time alone, right? And what about the staunchly single? What’s there to do that’s not overly cheesy and romantic? Step inside Undiscovered New York’s guide to “Romance” in the Big Apple, plus a special guide for the “proudly unattached” at the end of today’s post.
Drinking the Night Away

New Yorkers are the first to admit – nothing loosens the tongue and warms the heart better than a good alcoholic beverage. And befitting a city of its size and scope, New York has some astoundingly good candle-lit cocktail lounges where you can sip an artfully crafted beverage with the one you love. Here’s three of our favorites:

  • Angel’s Share – inside an unassuming Japanese restaurant in the East Village, up a flight of stairs, through a huge throng of tables and past a side door is Angel’s Share. This Japanese cocktail lounge, which specializes in artfully crafted cocktails made from scratch with fresh ingredients, practically guarantees you a romantic night out. If it’s not too crowded make sure to ask for a table near the windows to watch the symphony of life pass by below.
  • Temple Bar – perfectly hidden on busy Lafayette Street, Temple Bar beckons visitors inside with a sumptuous wood paneled interior and lush, moody lighting. Though not particularly well announced outside (the only clue giving it away is a metal lizard and tiny sign), the interior and bar’s expertly blended drinks seem to speak for themselves (and for your date).
  • Apotheke – down a non-descript sidestreet in Chinatown behind a inconspicuous door lies Apotheke, a parlor of artfully blended cocktails arranged around an antique drug store theme. Apotheke seems to carry the cure for whatever might ail you – behind the bar sit hundreds of bottles special blended herbal concotions and flavor-infused liquors, perfect for that totally unique cocktail and that totally unique Valentine’s Day.

Taking in the View
Nothing better embodies the unique feeling of a “New York moment” better than its many panoramic vistas. Whether viewing the city laid out from atop one of its many skyscrapers or confronting it head-on from the perspective of one of the many sweeping harborside views, you’re sure to be confronted with a scene that both inspires and delights. Here’s where you can do it best:

  • Brooklyn Heights Promenade – one of the most stunning views in all of Manhattan can only be seen from Brooklyn, at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. This stunning walkway runs along the Brooklyn waterfront, affording visitors with amazing views of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, downtown Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. It has to be seen to be believed.
  • The Rainbow Room – high atop New York’s famous Rockefeller Center sits one of the more amazing vistas of New York at the Rainbow Room. Sure, the drink prices are ridiculous. Yeah, the music might be cheesy. And yes, the property’s future might be in danger. But you know what? When you see that vista of all of downtown New York laid out before you, glittering in the twilight, it can make up for a multitude of sins.
  • Staten Island Ferry – 25 minute trip to Staten Island, one of New York’s least visited areas? Free. 2 bottles of Corona beer? $6. An amazing, trip around New York Harbor? Priceless.

Unexpected Activities
Sure, February 14th is supposed to be all about love. But those of us not so lucky to be partnered or still feverishly pursuing that special someone might feel a bit left out so far. Here’s a few unique New York activities for non-believers and lovebirds alike:

  • Chelsea Flower District – along a short two block stretch of West 28th Street is the Chelsea Flower District, New York’s principal business area for the wholesaling of floral and fake floral products. Nothing better embodies the gritty industrial charm and symbolic weirdness of Valentine’s Day than a visit to this odd street. Stop by early any morning (6-8am) and you’ll be confronted by huge bouquets of exotic flowers, the manic activity of shop workers and the rusted facades of fading floral shop storefronts. It’s a fun commentary on the meaning of romance and an interesting sidetrip if you’re looking for something different.
  • Museum of Sex – everyone might say Valentine’s Day is about love. But let’s face it, New Yorkers like to get to the point – it’s really about sex. And what better way to explore your carnal desires (or lack thereof) than a visit to New York’s Museum of Sex? The museum’s permanent collection houses over 15,000 “sex artifacts” including everything from art to photography to clothing and costumes as well as an extensive “multimedia library” (euphemism anyone?) of sexually related material. Perfect for partners and perverts alike.