In the shadow of the city's glittering high-rises, Hong Kong's coolest neighbourhoods are coming into their own.
First impressions of Hong Kong can be overwhelming. Amid the towering skyscrapers and thronging crowds of the Central district it's easy to feel lost. And that's before you've even attempted to gain entrance to the private member's clubs or score a table at one of the astronomically expensive restaurants.
But if you're willing to explore a little further, you'll see another side of Hong Kong: a city made up of unique neighbourhoods, all with their own surprisingly laid-back charm.
Try heading to Kowloon, the tiny peninsula connecting Hong Kong to mainland China. Mongkok's lively outdoor markets have long tempted visitors with their knock-off designer goods and traditional fortune tellers. Today the ultra-classy hotel bars of Tsim Sha Tsui are also drawing the punters. If the Ritz-Carlton's swanky Ozone lounge is out of your price range, try a local favourite: the Cocky Bar. Situated on the 18th floor, it may be about 100 storeys lower than Ozone, but the views are still as intoxicating as the cocktails.
If you prefer your thrills closer to the ground, charming low-slung Soho is worth exploring, although many galleries and boutiques have drifted west to Sheung Wan. In this rapidly gentrifying hood, one-seat barber stores double as intimate jazz venues throw block parties that last into the night. Among the underground clubs and bars you'll still find the traditional antique dealers and dried-fish vendors that give the area its distinctive feel – and aroma.
Looking for seedy fun? Visit neon-lit Wanchai, where hostess bars and cheap electronics vie for your money. For more refined entertainment, take a flutter on the horses at the Happy Valley racecourse or watch the boat people from the floating restaurants of Aberdeen.
For all its bustle, Hong Kong is incredibly safe and friendly. Get yourself some good shoes and a decent map, and start exploring. You never know where that strain of Cantopop or smell of beef brisket might lead you.