Barbra Austin

Correspondent

  • Hong Kong, China, Asia

Barbra Austin is a Forbes Travel Guide Correspondent who is based in Hong Kong and covers the city for Forbes Travel Guide. A former pastry chef, she lived in New York City for many years before decamping for Paris, where she began writing about food. Now in Hong Kong, she is filling up on char siu and cheong fun but hasn’t tried snake soup just yet. She has written for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Frommer’s and Zagat, among others.

  • On February 21, 2013
    Barbra Austin answered the question: Barbra Austin

    What are the best local dishes in Hong Kong?

    For a real taste of Hong Kong, start with these foods:

    Congee This comforting rice porridge is eaten around the clock, garnished with all kinds of meat, fish, or vegetables. To breakfast like a local, have it with a side of fried dough strips, called yau zha gwai.

    Char siu and other roast meats Char siu, or barbecued pork, is one of the glories of Cantonese cooking. You’ll see slabs of of pork belly and other cuts hanging next to crispy-skinned geese and chickens in countless shops and restaurants around the city.

    Dim sum is not a dish, of course, it’s a meal. But it’s a showcase for some quintessential HK eats, including char siu bao (bbq pork buns), rice noodle rolls, har gau (steamed shrimp dumplings), and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf.

    Egg tarts Forget about your cholesterol levels and bite into this favorite treat. The flaky crust is rich, the egg yolk custard center even richer.

    Wonton noodle soup A classic quick lunch, this dish is all about texture. The egg noodles have a snappy, almost squeaky quality, and the delicate wonton wrappers are plump with sweet shrimp (and sometimes pork, too).
  • On February 21, 2013
    Barbra Austin answered the question: Barbra Austin

    What are the best bars in Hong Kong?

    So many bars, so little time. Here are a few of Hong Kong's best:

    001 No, there’s no secret password, but you’ll feel part of a special (and lucky) club if you manage to find this signless speakeasy on Graham Street.

    The Bar at Café Gray Deluxe For superb drinks with a view, but without gimmicks, this comfortable lounge is hard to beat. Nestled high in the Upper House hotel, on the hillside above Admiralty, you'll feel in the middle of everything but far above the fray.

    Executive Bar Hidden in a Causeway Bay highrise, this clubby bar has a serious selection of Japanese whiskies poured over carved-to-order ice cubes. Service is professional and discreet.

    The Globe If craft beer is your thing, you can't do better than this lively pub in Central.

    Sevva It's not the highest roof bar in Hong Kong, but this lounge atop the Prince's Building is one of the best, serving creative cocktails with a view over Statue Square and the harbor.

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  • On February 14, 2013
    Barbra Austin answered the question: Barbra Austin

    Where is the best shopping in Hong Kong?

    There aren’t many places in HK that don’t offer some kind of shopping opportunity.

    For an unrivaled concentration of luxury brands, head to Tsim Sha Tsui, where you’ll find the massive Harbour City complex, home to some 700 shops selling everything from Leica lenses to Ladurée macarons. Also in TST you’ll find the 1881 Heritage House, a renovated colonial building that houses a hotel, jewelry stores, and Shanghai Tang’s flagship store. If Vuitton is not what you’re after, venture further into Kowloon along Nathan Road for a high-low mix of both familiar brands and bargain knock-offs.

    For a slightly more subdued experience that’s no less luxurious, try the Prince’s Building or The Landmark, both in Central. From there, wander over to Gough, Aberdeen, and Elgin streets for a hip collection of smaller boutiques selling designer housewares, clothing, and accessories.

    For the best of both worlds, head to Causeway Bay for a mix of indie boutiques, local brands, department stores, and malls, including Times Square and the new Hysan Place.
  • On February 13, 2013
    Barbra Austin answered the question: Barbra Austin

    What are the best activities to do in Hong Kong?

    Eat, hike, shop, repeat. Here are just a few ways to make the most of a trip to Hong Kong.

    Eat There’s something for every palate and every budget in Hong Kong, from noodle shops to banquet halls to fine dining. For a truly local taste, try specialties like congee, dim sum, wonton noodle soup, and char siu (barbecued pork). Regional Chinese and Asian cuisines are well-represented, and some of the world's most renowned chefs have outposts here. It's not a question of what's available, but what you're in the mood for.

    Hire a Junk To escape Hong Kong's oppressive summer heat, charter a junk (a well-equipped party boat, basically) for a day of catered cruising.

    Take a Hike Hong Kong’s urban density is set against a backdrop of verdant hills, criss-crossed by well-maintained trails to suit every ability. Try Dragon's Back for sweeping South China Sea views, or venture out to the Sai Kung peninsula, the site of HK's most pristine beaches.

    Shop Luxury brand junkies will feel at home in this city, but there’s more to HK than Hermès. Visit the jade market in Yau Ma Tei, shop for curios and antiques (some precious, most not) on Cat Street, gallery hop on Hollywood Road, or brave the frenetic streets of Causeway Bay, where endless street-level boutiques go shoulder to shoulder with high-rise malls and department stores.
  • On February 8, 2013
    Barbra Austin answered the question: Barbra Austin

    What are the best attractions in Hong Kong?

    Victoria Peak
    If you do one thing in Hong Kong, head up to the Peak for fantastic views over both the north and south side of Hong Kong Island and, on a clear day, across to Kowloon and the hills beyond. Part of the fun is getting there: The Peak Tram, a funicular railway in operation since 1888, is the way to go.

    Lantau Island and the Big Buddha
    Lantau offers plenty in the way of hiking trails, and the fishing village of Tai O certainly merits a visit, but the island's biggest attraction is the 34-meter, 280-ton bronze Buddha that sits above Ngong Ping village. The neighboring Po Lin Monastery is worth exploring, too, though you may leave thinking that the road to enlightenment is paved with souvenir shops. To get there, either take a ferry from Central to Mui Wo, where you can have lunch by the water before catching a bus or taxi up to Ngong Ping. Or if you're brave, take the Ngong Ping 360, a hair-raising gondola ride that carries riders over Tung Chung bay and drops you (almost) at Buddha's feet.

    Street Markets
    If Hong Kong starts feeling like one giant, air-conditioned mall, visit one of the many street markets for a dose of local life and culture. The Temple Street night market in Yau Ma Tei is among the most lively, selling all manner of food and trinkets (and jade of dubious purity).

    Victoria Harbour
    One of the best ways to take in Hong Kong's extraordinary skyline is a cross-harbour trip on the Star Ferry. For extra glitz, aim to be on the Kowloon side at 8p.m., when the towers on the Hong Kong side put on a nightly choreographed light show.
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