15 ways to blow your millions in Hong Kong

15 ways to blow your millions in Hong Kong

Just because you've got it, doesn't mean you know how to flaunt it -- let Hong Kong's multi-billionaires show you how it should be done with the most expensive shopping list in the world

With 5.6 per cent of the population becoming millionaires, there's no shortage of demand for Hong Kong's most expensive things. From Rolls-Royces to luxury apartments, here are 16 of Hong Kong's most expensive things to top wealthy folks' list of essentials: 

Hong Kong most expensive thingsGraves crowd a mountain side in Hong Kong.1. Planning ahead 

Even death doesn't come cheap in Hong Kong. This city is so short on cemetery space, the government has taken to offering families online plots to commemorate their loved ones after they scatter their ashes at sea. What that means for the dearly departed billionaire is that finding a spot with good views, a nice atmosphere and brilliant feng shui is harder to get than ever. At the Chinese Christian Cemetery in Pokfulam, which has glorious views overlooking Sandy Bay, a plot will cost you more than HKD$650,000 -- if you can get it.

2. Youth

Botox is so five years ago -- and really, do you want to be injecting yourself with poison just to look a bit younger? Better to go the all-natural way and get a shot of human placenta. Packed with hormones and nutrients, it is said to make wrinkles vanish and perk up your skin, and local beauty centre Sau San Tong offers injections of human placental extract. Sure, it costs HK$100,000 a dose, but getting some baby juice pumped into your face might just be your only shot at immortality.

3. Exercise

Beyond taking tea at the Landmark and perusing the latest collection of Hermes Birkin bags, it may surprise you to know that many of Hong Kong's rich ladies are also secret dancing queens. Stories abound of idle wives who offer to pay extortionate amounts for the best teachers out there, luring them from all over the world so that they might be the star of Hong Kong's glitzy charity ball circuit. If this sounds too good to be true for any budding dance teachers out there, take note -- in 2006 a veteran HSBC private banker successfully sued her salsa teachers to repay HK$62 million worth of dance lessons after a bitter falling-out. Hell hath no fury like a wealthy lady scorned indeed.

Hong Kong most expensive thingsMoney does grow in the ground, in the form of ginseng.4. Virility

Resembling something like a deformed miniature human being at first glance, the ginseng root is one of many delicacies that Hong Kong's rich are prepared to splash huge amounts of money on. For thousands of years, Chinese emperors have sworn by the root for, well, pretty much anything from fatigue to virility to eternal life. Roots of the highest quality are sometimes given as gifts to clients or old people and can cost thousands of dollars. It is rumoured that one of the longevity secrets of media mogul Sir Run Run Shaw, who is over a century old, is his frequent consumption of ginseng. The older the root, the costlier -- a 300 year-old ginseng reportedly sold for US$400,000.

5. Car

Considered gaudy or flashy in many places, Rolls-Royce cars are an admired status symbol of Hong Kong's wealthy. The city has for many years held the title of most Rolls-Royces per capita, with the Peninsula Hotel easily being the biggest customer, owning an iconic fleet of 14 Phantom models. In 1970 when the hotel ordered eight, it was the largest single order ever for Rolls-Royce motor cars. At the height of the economic boom in 2007, Rolls-Royce sold 106 cars -- or 10 percent of the company's worldwide sales -- in China, with 26 in Hong Kong.

Other famous purveyors of the British car include the late Mr and Mrs Chau Kai-bong. As well as the golden toilet mentioned below, the couple are known for their pink and gold Rolls-Royces. 

6. License plate

Okay, so you've got your Rolls-Royce and you're ready to start cruising up Magazine Gap Road towards the Peak. But wait -- is that an ordinary licence plate on your car? Shame. For Hong Kong's spendthrift set, a vanity license plate is a must, and you can get yours at regular government auctions. Last year, a licence plate bearing the lucky number of 2318 went for HK$1.7 million, a bargain compared to the high-flying days of 2007, when a mainland businessman snapped up the number 18 for HK$16.5 million.

Only the biggest of big-shots have single-digit numbers, including Run Run Shaw at number 6, Albert Yeung at number 8 and the Commissioner of Police at number 1.

7. Fungi

You may not have heard of lingzhi, yunzhi or matsutake, but like truffles, these are all fungi that are highly prized in Hong Kong. The former two are traditional Chinese medicinal herbs used for thousands of years as people believe in their powers of immortality, but with scientific tests showing anti-cancer properties, Western medicine too has woken up to their health benefits. Matsutake, a Japanese delicacy, is highly sought for its taste and rarity, but it too possesses medicinal properties that make it a highly prized fungus. It's not always about health, of course. Casino tycoon Stanley Ho paid US$200,000 for an Italian white truffle weighing 1kg in November 2008 during the height of the recession, having paid a record $330,000 the year before for a 1.5kg truffle. In November last year, a Hong Kong consortium paid $129,000 for a 760g white truffle, subsequently enjoyed at an eight-course truffle dinner. The proceeds from that sale, however, all went to charity.

8. Home

There's no better place to park your money than in a luxury apartment or three. Mainland Chinese have been on a buying spree of late, snapping up one in five luxury flats in the city. Locals are catching up by going on a luxury apartment shopping spree. One-bedroom apartments at The Masterpiece in Tsim Sha Tsui have been selling for almost HK$25 million. Nearly a thousand flats were sold at YOHO Midtown despite its far-flung location in Yuen Long, the most expensive of which is selling for HK$11 million. Still, for all of these luxurious arrivistes, nothing can touch the Peak, which offers fresh air, magnificent views and a sense of colonial privilege. For the modest sum of HK$350 million, you can have a 4,600 square foot villa all to yourself.

9. Noodles

Is a noodle soup worth HK$150? Who cares? At this price, you're buying it for the bragging rights more than anything else. Reviews are mixed about Wan Chai restaurant Olala's selection of "superior" noodle soups, which range from Taiwanese-style braised beef to pork chops. Some reviewers say they're too salty, but others claim them to be the best noodle soups they've ever tasted. Or check out the brand new Mist for chef Yasuji Morizumi's award-winning, HK$100 and above, bowl of ramen. In any case, if you're going to splurge on Hong Kong's most expensive bowl of noodles, you might as well make sure that other people are there to see it, so corral up a bunch of friends and order up a bunch of bowls. 
Olala, 33 St. Francis Street, Wanchai, tel +852 2294 0426
; Mist, 4 Sun Wui Rd., Causeway Bay, tel +852 2881 5006

10. Stones

Hong Kong tycoons fill the record books when it comes to diamonds. When property developer Joseph Lau bought the 'Star of Josephine,' he set the record for the largest amount ever paid per carat, paying US$9.48m for a 7.03 carat stone. His record was broken at the end of last year, when a new per carat record for any gemstone was set when an undisclosed Chinese buyer paid $10.7m for a five-carat diamond at a Christie's auction in Hong Kong.

Just last week however, Hong Kong's rich showed they were back in the game when well-known local jeweller Chow Tai Fook forked out $35.3m for a 507-carat diamond, the highest paid for a rough cut diamond. There's little doubt however, that Chow Tai Fook's sights, just like the big auction houses, are set firmly on the Chinese market. Just take a look at who's packing the jewellery shops day after day and it becomes clear why.

Hong Kong most expensive thingsDe Beers' Talisman Ice Watch11. Timepiece

Nothing says "I want to be rich!" like a bit -- or a lot -- of glitter. So if you really are rich, how can you set yourself apart from the riff-raff sporting their vulgar US$500 Swarovski timepieces? Easy. Go for broke with Chopard's HK$194 million diamond extravaganza. This watch packs in a 15-carat pink diamond, a 12-carat blue diamond, an 11-carat white diamond and 163 carats of white and yellow diamonds. Or show your impeccable taste with De Beers' Talisman collection, which uses rough diamonds in-laid with polished diamonds for a spectacular effect. The Talisman Ice Watch shown here is absolutely unique -- only one exists in the world (price available upon request). 

12. Tea

If you're put off by the latent craze for wine that Hong Kong has been experiencing in the past few years, there's a more traditional Asian alternative to showing off bank balances via beverages: tea. Just like wine, tea is strongly influenced by its terroir, with complex, ephemeral flavours depending on the variety of tea and how it is prepared. And like wine, a rare, exquisite cup of tea will set you back a pretty penny. The world's most expensive tea is Iron Buddha, an oolong known for its light, flowery aroma, the best batches of which will set you back HK$20,000 per kilo.

13. Education

Blame it on over-ambitious Asian parents, a haphazard and ever-changing local education system or just a shortage of school places, but the days of getting a place at a good school by academic merit are long over. In December last year, the Independent Schools Foundation Academy set a record price for a debenture issue -- interest-free debt to pay for the school's capital expenditure -- at HK$1.6 million. Debentures sold in the secondary market, traded by specialist agencies, can cost even more. While some schools justify the prices as necessary investments for expansion, others are calling for an end on the trading of debentures to keep prices in check. Not only do runaway prices prevent many able students from attaining school places, but some believe the practice is undermining Hong Kong's attraction for expats.

14. Friends

What if you were rich and nobody knew about it? That would be a tragedy. So join a club and automatically obtain a group of peers to show off to. Hong Kong has one for every taste and creed. If you like to sail, join the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. If you're Indian, join the India Club. If you're an old white man in a safari suit, join the Hong Kong Club, which banned Chinese until the late 1970s and kept women out until 1996. Every club has its own perks -- the Foreign Correspondents' Club has a great bar for boozed-up journalists -- but they don't come cheap. The Yau Yat Chuen Garden City Club charges HK$500,000 to join. And the Hong Kong Club? You need more than just money to get in there.

Hong Kong most expensive thingsGood cash begets good feng shui.15. Luck 

Hong Kong's wealth might have been generated by a combination of hard work, savvy investing and endless property development, but many still believe that feng shui -- the traditional Chinese practice of geomancy -- has a lot to do with it. Supposedly, good feng shui can harness the laws of heaven and earth to increase the flow of positive energy in your life. To make that happen, many opt to hire a feng shui master to consult them. Most feng shui masters offer rates tailored to your specific needs -- expect to shell out a few thousand bucks in any case -- but if you really want to blow a lot of cash, we hear that Tony Chan might be looking for work.