HONG KONG is all about shopping, dining and sightseeing. Unless your hotel is in the New Territories by the Chinese border, you are bound to be surrounded by shopping opportunities everywhere you go.
Well, guess what? Two new malls are adding to the retail therapy experience in Hong Kong: 1881 Heritage and K11.
Few shopping malls come grander than 1881 Heritage which is located in Kowloon, facing Hong Kong island. It occupies what was the Marine Police Headquarters from 1884 to 1996.
The building, declared a national monument in 1994, is one of the four oldest surviving government buildings. Following a full-scale renovation, the Main Building, Stable Block, Time Ball Tower, Old Kowloon Fire Station and Fire Station Accommodation Block have been transformed into a 12,077sq m, high-end shopping centre, with luxury boutique hotel, Hullett House, thrown into the mix.
Named after the year in which the foundation for the place was first laid, 1881 Heritage, is among Hong Kong's most exclusive establishments.
The main tenants are mostly jewellers and watch dealers, with only two fashion retailers among them - Vivienne Tam and Shanghai Tang (which has its flagship store here). Bling comes in many forms, and the finest are here: Cartier, Tiffany, Van Cleef & Arpels, Paspaley Pearls, Emperor Jewels and Freywille.
Breguet, Tudor, Rolex, IWC and Vacheron Constantin offer some of the best timepieces money can buy. Bags and leather goods are represented by Dunhill, Lancel, Montblanc and Kwanpen.
As Hullet House Hotel dominates the compound, you can have an edifying meal or cocktails from the hotel's verandah before or after shopping. The Parlour is the hotel's glamorous and lavishly appointed chinoiserie lounge for snacking and watching Hong Kong's tai-tai living the gilded life. In the evening, dinner al fresco at Busy fSuzie offers a magnificent view of Hullet House and the environs from its elevated terrace.
Once you've done the round here, walk or take a taxi to K11, the world's first art mall. The owner of the place is a major art enthusiast and treats his shopping centre as a gigantic gallery. K11 has a permanent collection of works by young artists on display and offers an ongoing, ever-evolving calendar of exhibitions, art demonstrations, installations and live performances.
Designed with an urban jungle concept in mind, K11 boasts vertical greens, urban farms, green roof and enough plants to live up its concept of Art, People and Nature. Despite its 31,586sq m space, K11 does not have a grand entrance as it is off Nathan Road, Kowloon's main shopping artery. Locating it is easy enough, though.
Inside, you cannot escape the much-touted "K11 Kollection", a motley selection of 13 artworks personally picked by K11 owner, Adrian Cheng. Worth RM10mil (S$4.2 million), these art pieces include an 8.5m steel tree, seats sculpted as clouds or seed pods, acrylic fruits that dangle from the ceiling and a mural of birds.
Unlike 1881 Heritage, K11 offers merchandise that's affordable enough to pay with cash. The building is comprised of six storeys but fear not, the atrium is small so you can check out all the shops within an hour. While some brands may be familiar, you will be thrilled to discover that some 65% are new flagship stores not found in Malaysia, like Laosmiddle, Imaroon, Biba, Y-3, D-Mop and Dymocks.
MixTRA is a super-duper multi-brand sports store and Marketplace by Jason is perfect for stocking up your hotel fridge. High-end stores include Tiffany, Thann, Omega, Dormeuil and the 465sq m Chow Tai Fook jewellery store whose golden creations range from a bouquet of solid gold flowers to a gold Christmas tree.
The name K11 apparently came about because owner Adrian Cheng once had a childhood dream of owning a little kingdom. K is for "kingdom" and it's the 11th letter in the alphabet, so there you go.
Once you have had your fill of shopping, go to Pier 2 and take a relaxing 25-minute ferry ride (RM11) or a bus (RM12) to Ma Wan island. Why? Because Noah's Ark, a theme park, exhibition centre and hotel, is located here. Noah's Ark Shuttle service (RM19) starts from the Grand Century Place in Mongkok, but the ferry is the best option to get there.
The first sighting of Noah's Ark can be quite stunning as the place, shaped like a ship, appears to be stranded on dry land below the impressive Tsing Ma Bridge. Noah's Ark is an interesting, if odd, attraction in a city where Christianity and flooding of biblical proportions are never big topics of discussion.
Noah's Ark may not be in the same league as Hong Kong Disneyland, but this Christian-based attraction is worth a visit even if you have no kids and don't believe in Creationism. The attraction is funded by three devoutly Christian billionaire brothers, the Kwoks, whose father was founder of Sun Hung Kai Properties, once the world's largest property developer by market capitalisation.
Unlike the movie 2012, this ark does not float. It is anchored on solid ground and built based on the original biblical description. Though it looks wooden, the world's first life-sized ark is in fact crafted from concrete and reinforced with fibreglass. Its proportions are exactly as described in the Bible.
In the King James Bible, the ark is 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high, with a window and door, and made up of three storeys. Translated, it is 137m long, 23m wide and 14m high. The 67 pairs of fibreglass animals are life-size as every detail is done to scale.
Set over four floors, the ark's interior retells the story of Noah and the Flood using high technology. The interactive multimedia presentations are bound to be a hit with children. Even adults will be impressed by the 180° movie showing Noah's faith in God during the flood. There are sections devoted to ark discoveries (it is believed to have landed atop Mt Ararat in Turkey), ark models from across the globe, antique Bibles and the one and only perfectly preserved copy of Empress Dowager Qixi's own imperial edition of the New Testament.
The Light of the World is a 3D, three-screen theatre filled with high-tech wizardry that shows realistic images of historic scenes, while The Legend is a panoramic film that magically reveals the Tabernacle-like Ark of the Covenant and golden lamp stand.
Ever thought of attending your own funeral? Experience the Coffin Journey, which allows you to get a feel of what it's like to be inside a coffin. Rather morbid, but you will not find this in your neighbourhood funfair!
Just as bizarre and unnerving is the 2-Head Castle. No, it does not have two towers, but is a mini-aquaria filled with freaks of nature! You may find yourself spending a full hour gazing in morbid fascination at the animals here, including two-headed tortoises, a fish with one eye located on its forehead, conjoined twin fish, snake-neck turtle, even a tortoise with one head at each end!
Apparently, the management even tried to create a permanent rainbow using artificial means but gave up after several failed attempts. It seems some things are still in God's domain! Tickets are RM50. Allocate around three to four hours for a leisurely experience.