Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Hong Kong magic: Get a taste for the coolest city in the world with direct flights from Dublin

Cathay Pacific's new route means it has never been easier to get to the buck-list destination.

By Geoff Frazer

Cooler than a polar bear’s toe nails and more kickin’ than a Red Bull-powered Jackie Chan, Hong Kong has long been my favourite city on the planet.

Throw in what I believe to be the best food in the world and you’ve got a city which appears on most people’s bucket list of places to visit.

Getting there from Northern Ireland, however, has always been something of a pain — but not anymore.

Cathay Pacific is now offering direct flights from Dublin, which means for the first time you can enjoy a Hong Kong city break without wasting precious time on more convoluted routes.

The service operates on a four-times weekly basis, departing from Dublin every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, arriving in Hong Kong at 7am the next day.

That’s perfect if you’re hoping to get an early start to see the sights of the city or if you want to fly out for a long weekend.

The service uses the airline’s new fleet of Airbus A350-900 planes, which feature state-of-the-art technology to enhance in-flight wellness and help passengers to sleep better.

Every seat comes with the latest generation HD personal TV, with an extensive range of on-demand entertainment as well as in-flight wi-fi for all passengers.

My friend Francois and I flew premium economy out and economy back, but both flights were relaxed and stress-free, with a few beers helping us grab some much-needed sleep.

We began our Thursday-to-Sunday trip just like the VIPs we dream of being — thanks to Dublin Airport’s Platinum Services.

For anyone wanting the ideal beginning to a short break or longer holiday, it really can’t be beaten.

With prices starting at €204 per person, Platinum Services is the exclusive, 24-hour, private terminal at the airport.

As well as shower rooms, individual suites, conference rooms and family-friendly facilities, you are treated to complimentary refreshments and can park your car directly outside.

The staff are amazing, but the biggest bonus is the fact that there are absolutely NO queues — no check-in queues, no security queues and no queuing to board the aircraft. To me that’s absolute bliss.

There is private check-in and luggage handling as well as a private security screening area. And, believe it or not, you are even chauffeur-driven in a very fancy BMW to the aircraft.

Arriving in Hong Kong so early and in 30-degree heat, we decided to grab a cool drink and some breakfast before setting off for the nearby Big Buddha — the giant bronze statue situated next to the remote Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island.

It has been a major tourist attraction ever since its completion in 1993 and is the second largest outdoor sitting Buddha in the world.

The strongest thing about me these days is my password, so the 286 steps up to the 34-metre high Buddha did take their toll. But with views that will take your breath away, trust me it is worth the effort.

We stayed in the Ozo Wesley Hong Kong right in the centre of Wan Chai, which proved to be a great choice.

The hotel rooms were comfortable, the buffet breakfast was top notch, catering for both Asian and western tastes, and the staff were particularly helpful with any queries we had about getting the most from our trip.

Perhaps more importantly, though, is the hotel’s brilliant location.

It’s within walking distance of Hong Kong Park, the Star Ferry and the many, many bars of Lan Kwai Fong.

Speaking of bars, two really stood out on our trip.

The Ozone Bar at the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong is world-famous as the ‘highest bar in the world’, and although this may or may not be true it’s definitely worth travelling up to the 118th floor of Hong Kong’s tallest building, the ICC Tower in Kowloon, to have one of their famous cocktails.

Even though it’s absolutely gorgeous inside, most people visit for the unforgettable views over Victoria Bay and Hong Kong Island. At night it is simply stunning.

Not to be outdone on levels of coolness, PDT (Please Don’t Tell) is based in The Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Central.

The speakeasy-style bar is accessed through a phone booth, and serves up drinks and gourmet hot dogs that will blow your mind.

I’ve travelled extensively throughout China over the last 10 years and would like to think I have a decent knowledge of Asian cuisine.

I’m by no means an expert, but it’s like learning the Hokey Cokey — I’ve got the ins and outs. I always try to book a food tour on every city I visit, though, and Hong Kong provided me with the absolute best I have ever experienced.

Hong Kong Foodie Tasting Tours are a must-do, and their signature foodie tour of Central and Sheung Wan is an incredible experience.

For around four hours on Saturday

afternoon, we found ourselves completely absorbed in the flavours, smells and sights of this amazing city.

Our local guide Cliff took us through busy markets and tiny streets, where we stopped to sample heavenly wonton noodle soup, barbecued pork and rice, sugar cane juice, preserved fruits, a selection of dumplings and deliciously crumbly egg tarts.

For me, the highlight was the roast meat restaurant, where we were given a demonstration on how the cooks roast whole pigs in giant cylindrical ovens.

Cliff’s knowledge of the area is encyclopedic, and he went out of his way to take us to some of the most interesting attractions in the area, including the famous Man Mo Temple.

On Sunday, the final hours before catching our flight home were spent walking along the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade.

Starting at the colonial-era Clock Tower and stretching all the way to Hung Hom, there’s no better place to enjoy the Hong Kong Island skyline and Victoria Harbour.

Make sure to hang on for the Symphony of Lights multimedia show, though, which has set the harbour ablaze every night since 2004.

It’s the ideal way to end a long weekend in Hong Kong and captures the glamour of this incredible city perfectly.

Travel factfile

Cathay Pacific offers four weekly non-stop flights between Dublin and Hong Kong, and onwards to over 80 destinations in Asia Pacific. Return flights direct to Hong Kong from £679, book via www.cathaypacific.co.uk.

The starting room rate at OZO Wesley Hong Kong is from £118 per night including breakfast.

Price is exclusive of VAT and service charge. Subject to season and availability. To book, visit www.ozohotels.com/wesley-hongkong.

To book a tour with Hong Kong Foodie Tasting Tours, go to www.hongkongfoodietours.com.

To book Dublin Airport Platinum Services, log on to www.dublinairport.com.

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