Jan-Philipp Sendker was the American correspondent for German magazine Stern from 1990 to 1995, and the magazine’s Asian correspondent from 1995 to 1999. He is the author of Cracks in the Wall, a nonfiction book about China, and his first novel, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, was an international bestseller. His newest novel, Whispering Shadows, is out now from sister company Simon & Schuster and available wherever books are sold. He lives in Berlin with his family.
Travel alert: Hong Kong has no first-class museums, no world-renowned orchestra and no ancient temples to visit. The beauty and incredible fascination of this city lies in its boundless energy, its people and the surprising versatility of its sights and sounds.
Here are some of the best places to discover them.
Lamma Island is so close to Hong Kong Island and still worlds apart. Take the ferry from busy and bustling Central to Yung Shue Wan and within 25 minutes you are in a tranquil fishing village. There are no cars and no high rise buildings on Lamma. Take your time, stroll around and go swimming on Lo So Shing Beach. The beach is one of the most beautiful in all of Hong Kong.
1 Lugard Road
Hong Kong, China
Take the bus or tram or walk to The Peak. No matter at what time of the day or night you come up here, the view takes your breath away, again and again. To get away from the crowds, take the two-mile Peak Circle Walk. You will see countless skyscrapers, view hundreds of boats in the harbor and hear the city humming below. The lush vegetation smells of the tropics. It’s certainly one of the most spectacular cityscapes in the world.
East Side Tseung Kwan O New Town
You won’t find it on any tourist map, but this is a place where most of the Hong Kong people live. Explore this new town for a little while, you will get a better feeling for the city and a sharpened sense for what it means to live in such a densely populated place. Have a drink in one of the coffee shops in the shopping malls.
Tsim Sha Tsui
There is not much left of old Hong Kong in this ultra modern city. The ferry across the harbor is one exception. It is a relic of another world and a bygone era. The boat is so slow and inefficient that taking it is almost an act of defiance against the laws and the logic that define this city. But it is a journey you won’t forget.
Temple Street Night Market
Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
Markets are always a good way to feel the pulse of a city and this popular street bazaar is no exception. Mingle with Chinese opera singers and fortune tellers as you shop for menswear, electronics, jade and antique. Or, just sip a noodle soup in one of the street kitchens and enjoy the show.