SG: 'We own the night'
Lan Kwai Fong – don’t laugh – is widely thought of as one of Hong Kong’s best nights out. Which, on the face of it, doesn’t sound too far-fetched. Until you arrive to find that the street’s distinctly white-collar bars lack any real edge or music policy – unless you count some slack-jawed, still-got-it rock dad having a crack at ‘Wonderwall’. The district’s reboot came some time in the ’80s and there it firmly resides, stuck in an eternal groove somewhere between a Simply Red and a Chris de Burgh track. It’s unsophisticated and one-note, the Ford Cortina and fluffy dice of going out in Asia.
Singapore, on the other hand, is a much more forward-thinking, rarefied concern with a clubbing scene firmly rooted in both local and global fashion, art and youth culture. Zouk is a long-standing superclub that comfortably stands alongside such boundary-pushing musical institutions as Tokyo’s Womb and London’s Fabric. On any weekend of the month, you’ll find a number of world-class DJs playing to the city’s young, musically astute crowds who smirk at more commercial, mainstream imports and favour more left-field bookings.
More new openings come in the shape of multi-genre music space TAB and yet another wildly ambitious club behemoth, Avalon – which, after hosting a two-night super-fest for F1 in 2010, opens properly in early 2011 and is set to cement Singapore’s reputation as a nightlife titan that towers above the rest of Asia. Hong Kong looks quaint in comparison. Alexander Barlow
HK: 'Keeping it real'
Squeaky-clean, robot-efficient and safe as utopia, Singapore has many good qualities, all of them uniformly bland when cast against Hong Kong’s Mong Kok hustle and flow. While our sister to the south-west has made great strides in improving its cultural profile in recent years, Singapore’s shady boulevards, tidy storefronts and well-ordered streets still remain most evocative of a retirement community run by ex-military officers rather than a vibrant city of energy and intrigue.
Hong Kong, by contrast, is seething with street-level allure. Chungking Mansions palpitates with multicultural flux and immigrant ambition; Mong Kok is a frenetic mélange of bumping shopping bags and swarming teenagers – with stinky tofu stands and smoking, bare-bellied deliverymen asquat on every corner, all adding their own pleasing character to the evening air.
And although it’s now given way to gentrification by day, Wan Chai after dark shows no sign of giving up the ghost of Suzie Wong. Both cities are safe, but which has a powerful world of organised crime lurking in its shadows – a gangster syndicate to rival the Yakuza or Camorra in international repute – and which city has inspired its own innovative, world-renowned crime cinema? Patrick Brzeski
SG: 'All eyes on us'
If we had to pick between schmoozing over a game of rugby with a bunch of beer-bellied business folk, or mingling among a sexy crowd of booty-shaking, fast-racing, party animals at the only night race on the Grand Prix circuit, we’d go for the latter. Oh, and Hong Kong may have scored the deal with Disney, but we’ve got Universal Studios now.
If it hadn’t been such a flop, we would boast about hosting the first Youth Olympic Games…but let’s try and keep that one on the DL. Our rate of expansion is just as rapid as Hong Kong’s, if not greater (check out our two casinos), and we have breathable air and clear views to boot. Looking at us now, you might think we started way back when opium was still the cause of wars. But – believe it – we’re still only 45. James P Ong
HK: 'Global renown'
Ask anyone in the world to say something about Hong Kong and even a farmer in Botswana would probably be able to come up with at least one thing to talk about. The most popular answers would likely involve Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan but while most of us are not action stars, it shows our reach as a global city and entertainment capital. Films made by Hong Kong directors and actors have gone on to receive critical international acclaim.
Another common perception of Hong Kong is one of a fast-moving, hustle and bustle metropolis where its citizens are packed in like sardines. It’s because of our high population density in a relatively small living space that we had to started building up – which culminated in our picturesque skyline.
While it might not be environmentally-friendly, our brightly-lit skyline tops that of other big cities like New York or Shanghai as the best in the world. On any particular night, a stroll along both sides of the Victoria Harbour would feel like a walk in a dream as thousands of glittering lights dance on the surface of the water. Leon Lee
SG: 'We built this city'
Anything that doesn’t come naturally, Singapore makes it a point to create on her own. Snow City provides the missing ski slopes, Wave House hooks the city up with surfing waters, East Coast Park’s manmade lake offers makeshift waterskiing and inside Jurong Bird Park rushes the tallest man-made waterfall in the world. This city is flooded with doers: if there’s something we want, we make it ourselves. It may lack high mountains and breathtaking beaches, but Singapore can still astound with its flora and fauna.
The city-state stands beside Rio de Janeiro as one of only two cities in the world with a rainforest inside its city limits. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve has monkeys swinging from the branches of more species of trees than the entire North American continent. And mangroves that have been preserved weave through the city centre as well. Four reservoirs also flood the island with more lush greenery and animals. Oh, and if we're looking to see this city from above, at 282m above ground, our latest rooftop bar, 1-Altitude, was just crowned the tallest alfresco bar in the world. Who needs mountains anyway? Alexandra Karplus
HK: 'We've got it all'
The summit of Sharp Peak swirls above the pristine sands of Tai Long Sai Wan. The geologically unique Ninepin Islands jut dramatically from the blanket-smooth sea in our eastern waters. While many may consider the forest of skyscrapers that comprise the skyline as the city’s most defining aesthetic facet, Hongkongers know differently. For, outside the mere 25 per cent of the territory that’s developed, the balance of Hong Kong is home to beautiful beaches, sweeping summits, other-worldly waterways, wetland reserves and jungle-esque escapes. The breadth of Hong Kong’s geographical variety is arguably unmatched by any other city. But it’s not just the variety – it’s the proximity. Hong Kong is blessed with this complete spectrum of geography existing side by side. Where else can you go from the most vibrant of urban centres to a breeze-filled hiking path within minutes; completely transform your surroundings with a short bus or tram ride? Singapore isn’t without its own natural beauty, but as a largely flat state, little of it rising beyond 15 metres above sea level, it comes in well below the bar set by Hong Kong. No shame – it is a lofty touchstone. Mark Tjhung
SG: 'Cultural diversity'
Officially, our language of instruction is English, backed up by one of three native tongues: Putonghua, Tamil or Malay. But really, we’re a nation of tri- and multi-linguists; our most effective, and distinct, language of communication being Singlish. Cannot help it lah, our city-country is made up of myriad ethnicities: 73.2 per cent are Chinese, 13.6 per cent Malays, 8.8 per cent Indians and the rest include Peranakans, Eurasians, Caucasians and Arabs. With all ethnic groups under one roof, it’s only natural our languages have become pow ka liao (an amalgamation of all). And so has our cuisine – step into one of our 100+ hawker stalls and you’ll find the local fare reflects this melting pot of cultures. The originally Malay laksa, Indian mee goreng made with Chinese egg noodles, and rojak – a Chinese- or Indian-style prawn paste salad that is also slang for ‘a messy mix’. Which city, nay country, can truly claim they celebrate public holidays for every one of their ethnic groups? Steady pom pee pee, I think liddat Cultural Diversity we win oreddy. Xueling Li
HK: 'Chow now'
Hong Kong’s dining scene is about as multi-dimensional as it gets. High-end eateries plating up perfectly seared foie gras share the same streets as shabby cha chaan tengs doling out ping pong ball-sized wontons and oven-fresh pineapple buns sandwiched with a huge hunk of butter. While we have some of the best haute cuisine at our fingertips, we never forget the comforts of our own local food. It’s mesmerising how glisteningly crispy the skin off a freshly roasted duck can be, or how meltingly perfect the fat-to-meat ratio is on a piece of suckling pig. And when you can get a giant bowl of beef brisket noodles at 4am after a long night’s clubbing, you’ll know why – for Hongkongers – no other city compares. Dorothy So