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Proudly proclaiming to be 'Asia's world city', Hong Kong is a unique territory where east meets west. Formerly a subject of British colonial sovereignty, Hong Kong is now a 'Special Administrative Region of China'. Visitors will be immersed in a capitalist utopia of Western ideals punctuated by pockets of traditional culture and architecture. The different regions of the territory provide a surprising diversity of landscapes to explore.
Hong Kong Island is modern and wealthy, backed by Victoria Peak watching over the city. Site of the original British settlement, the island has developed rapidly to form the iconic skyline of the present day. Tourists flock here to experience endless shopping, exotic cuisines, and a truly cosmopolitan culture. In contrast, Kowloon is gritty and chaotic. Extremely densely populated, this former fishing and farming community is actually quite friendly. It may not have the skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island, but it certainly offers the best vantage point, particularly from the modern high-rise bars of Tsim Sha Tsui.
The New Territories, claimed by the British from China in 1898, form a curious mix of of farms, villages, towns and countryside. This region is all about experiencing life in rural Hong Kong. Sai Kung peninsula in particular moves at a slower pace, and is the gateway to the best countryside in Hong Kong.
Most of the 234 Outlying Islands, such as Lantau, are renowned for their beaches. Cheung Chan, formerly the domain of pirates, now hosts windsurfers and sunbathers. Lamma is king for beaches, seafood and hiking. Locals and tourists alike frequent the islands to relax and take a break from the crowds of the city.
It is easy to forget that Hong Kong is so much more than just bright lights and skyscrapers. Each region has its own unique character and attractions. Visitors arriving on Hong Kong Island can admire the city from the deck of Star Ferry, or take Peak Tram up to the summit of Victoria Peak for panoramic views. Tourists can take in Man Mo Temple, the oldest temple in Hong Kong, visit the traditional outdoor street markets of Wan Chai or head to Happy Valley for the horse racing. To the south, Stanley Beach hosts Dragon Boat racing every year during Tuen Ng festival.
Across the bay to the north lies Kowloon, diverse and atmospheric. Shanghai Street offers a fascinating insight into local life. Shopping is king in the popular night market of Temple Street and the vast retail destination that is Harbour City. Guinness World Records recognise 'A Symphony of Lights' as the biggest permanent sound and light show in the world. Kowloon also hosts the Avenue of Stars, celebrating icons of Asian cinema.
Sai Kung peninsula in the New Territories provides a welcome change of pace. Rural life carries on as it always has, and this is the gateway to some spectacular countryside. The Ping Shan Heritage Trail, to the northwest, tracks past old face brick homes and forts, and abandoned towns from the agricultural age of the region. Tourists will enjoy a trip to the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery, home of course to nearly 13,000 Buddha statues.
Of the Outlying Islands, Lantau is the most popular, not least due to the presence of Disneyland. The Lantau Trail is ideal for adventurous hikers. Visitors will also enjoy Po Lin Monastery, home to the largest seated Buddha statue in the world.
Victoria Peak is Hong Kong's number one tourist attraction and its popularity is unwavering. Much of the pleasure derived from a trip to Victoria Peak lies in the journey to its summit. The funicular railway or peak tram has steadily made its way up the mountain since 1888 and the route is extremely steep and rather thrilling, with spectacular views. Energetic travellers can scale the real peak that extends 140m (459ft) above the tram terminus. From the top, marvellous vistas open out onto central Hong Kong and across to Kowloon.
Victoria Peak used to serve as a hill station in colonial times and later became the location of exclusive summer homes. Today it is a popular tourist spot offering a cooler vantage point from which to contemplate the pleasures of travel to the region. The Peak Tower on the summit houses numerous attractions, like a Ripley's Believe it or not 'Odditorium', shops and restaurants. The Sky Terrace offers a stunning 360-degree panoramic view across the Hong Kong skyline - probably the best view of the city you could find - and there is the added attraction of The Sky Gallery, which showcases the works of the city's talented artists. A lot of people choose to go up Victoria Peak at night when the city lights are at their most magical.
The fifth Disneyland Resort in the world, but also the smallest, Hong Kong Disneyland offers a magical adventure in four themed lands similar to other parks, namely Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Adventureland and Tomorrowland. Two additional areas, designed exclusively for Hong Kong, are The Grizzly Gulch and Toy Story Land. In Toy Story Land kids can enjoy a number of new attractions, including the Toy Soldier Parachute Drop and the scary RC Racer. In the Grizzly Gulch area the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars will draw shrieks of delight. Classic rides like Space Mountain can also be enjoyed, and kids can explore Cindarella's Castle, Tarzan's Treehouse and the world of Winnie the Pooh, among other things. Mickey Mouse and many other famous Disney characters welcome visitors of all ages to the happiest place on Earth. Particular care has been taken to incorporate Chinese culture into the design, such as a feng shui layout, and the omission of the number four in the numbering of floors in each of the hotels. In addition to the numerous rides and various events and attractions, shops sell Disney souvenirs and restaurants offer a variety of food throughout the park.
One of the best places to buy souvenirs in Hong Kong, this indoor market is held in a four-storey red brick colonial building that was constructed in 1906. After extensive renovation it re-opened in 1991 and now occupies an entire block at the western end of Central Hong Kong. The building houses a variety of shops and stalls that sell a range of products from jade curios and cloissan jewellery to assorted silks and fabrics. The fabric stores are particularly exciting and the second floor of the building is taken over by a veritable mountain of colourful fabrics of all kinds. There is a small restaurant on the first floor, and toilets on the fourth floor. However, if you aren't interested in shopping then this attraction will hold little appeal for you - if you are an architecture enthusiast you can pop in quickly to see the vaulted ceilings but there isn't much to see in the Western Market apart from the merchandise. Admiring the building from the outside will be sufficient for most, and it is often included in walking tours of the area. From the site one can hop onto Hong Kong's ancient double-decker tram headed for Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and Happy Valley.
The Hong Kong Police Museum showcases a display tracing the development and history of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force from 1844 to today. The main exhibit encompasses a significant number of artefacts relating to the Hong Kong Police Force from uniforms and firearms, to historical archives and photographs. Other exhibits look at the major factions which have influenced the status quo, namely the triad societies and narcotics (Hong Kong was founded on the narcotics trade), including a unique look at how heroin is produced.
The Police Museum is an interesting visit, providing insight into the dedication of the officers who have served within this elite force. It is a small but informative museum with a little gift shop attached. It is not an interactive, multi-media exhibit so much as a simple but interesting archive of police history which will delight those interested in the subject but probably bore small children or those indifferent to the subject. There is a pleasant park next door to the museum where you can enjoy some shade and refreshments.
Statue Square is an amalgamation of Hong Kong's contemporary architecture. It reaches its most spectacular manifestation in the designs of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and the Bank of China Tower. The most significant feature of the HSBC building is that it has been designed without a central core, a feat of structural engineering blended with the ultimate in aesthetic principles. There is also a statue of Sir Thomas Jackson outside the building. The Bank of China Tower became a much-debated conversation piece following its construction, largely because of the asymmetrically-designed pinnacle that acquires differing perspectives depending on one's vantage point. The square also contains the Cenotaph, a memorial to those who lost their lives in the two world wars.
It is a popular gathering place for locals who meet to share meals and socialise; there is a fountain and seating areas. Over Winterfest there are usually Christmas displays, trees and lights put up in the square, although visitors have reported that the displays have become less impressive recently and other squares and malls have better Christmas arrangements. For those interested in architecture Statue Square is a treat, and the attraction is almost always included in walking tours of the city.
The Hong Kong Museum of History showcases Hong Kong's archaeological, cultural and natural history through a display of cultural objects, artefacts, photographs, traditional costumes and models that span 6,000 years. Glorious period sets tell the story of Chinese life in replicas of village houses, streets and stores. These memorials to the past are contained within an incredible building opened in 2000. The museum was established much earlier, however, in 1975, and contains artefacts which were originally housed in the City Museum and Art Gallery, which was established in 1962 and became the Hong Kong Museum of Art.
The main museum has five interesting branch museums in Hong Kong: the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence at Shau Kei Wan, the Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum at Sham Shui Po , Law Uk Folk Museum at Chai Wan, Fireboat Alexander Grantham Exhibition Gallery inside the Quarry Bay Park, and Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum at Mid-levels in Central. There is a museum shop selling a selection of souvenirs and replicas, and a cafe for refreshments on the premises.
This grand Taoist temple is one of the most frequently visited temples in Hong Kong. It is dedicated to Wong Tai Sin, a legendary hermit who reputedly had healing powers and could foretell the future. A number of fortune tellers ply their trade in the temple complex and there is also a large pharmacy. There are some English-speaking fortune tellers (although they are more expensive) and they offer a number of soothsaying techniques including palm and face reading. The ornate temple with its red pillars, gold ceilings and decorative latticework is in the traditional Chinese style and is usually full of people burning incense and making floral offerings.
The temple is known as a place where 'wishes come true' and locals come to pray for good health, success in business and happiness. Visitors can buy incense to burn just outside of the temple but there are usually lots of spare sticks left over from previous visitors within the temple itself so buying more may prove a waste of money. Those who do buy the incense need not purchase the whole kit as everything other than the sticks themselves will be taken by the guards at the entrace to the temple proper. The temple also has a lovely adjacent park called the 'Good Wish Gardens', a peaceful green spot with waterfalls tumbling over rocks.
The Ocean Park is a theme park spread over two parts, connected to each other by a cable car. A spectacular aquarium, reputed to be one of the largest in the world, is complemented by a funfair containing multiple roller coasters, a space wheel, a swinging ship and much more. Ocean Park is Hong Kong's most popular theme park, and is regularly ranked as one of the best in the world. Indeed, when Hong Kong Disneyland opened, Ocean Park renovated extensively and has managed to maintain its top spot.
The variety of rides is impressive, ranging from big thrill rides to mild fun, and lots for children and adults alike. The rides are interspersed with other attractions, like the animal enclosures - the pandas are a highlight for many visitors, as is the Dolphin Show. Areas in the park include Marine World, Polar Adventure, Adventure Land, Thrill Mountain, and the Rainforest. The cable car rides which transport you from one side of the park to the other are really splendid in their own right. There are many restaurants and stalls in the park. Note that although crowds and queues are usually manageable at the park it is much better to visit on a weekday if possible, because on weekends and public holidays there will be long queues for rides and attractions.
Some 200 years ago, Hong Kong's Aberdeen district was a haven for pirates. Located on the southern shore of Hong Kong Island, it is home to the Tanka boat people and has become a popular tourist destination. Visitors can experience the traditional lifestyle of boat dwellers and sample fresh seafood. Aberdeen is a lively marina crammed with junks, sampans, water taxis (kai do), cruisers and yachts. The fishing harbour is a wonderful way to experience the activity of life on water. Tours along Aberdeen's watery stretches can be enjoyed onboard one of the many sampans offering half-hour trips around the harbour. The sensory delights of Hong Kong cuisine can be sampled within the unique environment of the famous, ornately decorated Jumbo Floating Restaurant.
Recently some tourists have complained that this attraction is not as compelling as it once was, partly because the population of people living on the water seems to be decreasing and witnessing this traditional lifestyle was one of the primary draws of the area. If you are a lover of boats and harbours you will no doubt still find much to interest you in Aberdeen, but if you are going solely to experience the authentic living conditions of local fishermen you may be disappointed.
This fascinating museum is consistently ranked highly by tourists. Four floors of exhibits cover a range of hands-on science and technology related subjects, including light, sound, motion, magnetism, electricity, robotics, virtual reality and much more. This museum is extremely popular because of its hands-on approach, allowing children and adults alike to learn through involvement. The most prominent exhibit is a 72-foot (22m) tall twin tower Energy Machine which, when activated, triggers a series of displays to produce spectacular audiovisual effects demonstrating various forms of energy.
The Science Museum is a great option for entertaining and educating young minds (and old ones) when the weather is bad, and should keep the whole family occupied for a few hours. For young children there are fun play areas and a toddler's tumble area.
The Avenue of Stars is Hong Kong's version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, celebrating famous icons of Hong Kong cinema. Situated along the seaside promenade, there are great views of Victoria Harbour. The Avenue is also a good place to view the Symphony of Lights, a music and laser show staged every night at 8pm. The show is presented in English on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays it is in Mandarin; and Sundays in Cantonese. Although the Avenue is a lovely place to stroll and has some interesting landmarks, foreigners should bear in mind that they may not recognise many of the celebrities being honoured on the walk. Still, names like Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Jet Li may produce excitement - there's even a statue of Bruce Lee. The real reason for making the effort to visit the Avenue, however, is the spectacular view. It is worth doing the walk at night, even if you don't intend to see the Symphony of Lights show. It's also a good people-watching post and it is fun to watch the locals celebrating their favourite stars.
Children on holiday in Hong Kong who want to see crocodiles, butterflies, birds and mangroves should head to the Hong Kong Wetland Park. The Wetland Park showcases the incredible diversity of Hong Kong's wetland ecosystem and the park's main objective is conservation and the education of the public about the importance of preserving this natural system. The park is comprised of a visitor centre, Wetland Interactive World, and a big Wetland Reserve. The Wetland Interactive World has themed galleries and exhibitions, a theatre, a gift shop, and an indoor play area (theme: swamp adventure). Interactive and educational games are a great feature of the centre, as are the sound booths where kids can compose wetland symphonies using the sounds of this fascinating ecosystem. All the games and displays can be absorbing so be sure to actually go outside and enjoy the beautiful walks and the three bird hides, which children will love. The park also hosts some fun events, like bird watching festivals.
This attraction is consistently popular with tourists and makes for a really lovely break from Hong Kong's indoor, urban attractions - it'll delight people of all ages interested in nature and animals and will allow kids to blow off some steam outdoors.
Established in 1962 and originally housed in the City Hall, the museum was moved to its current, purpose-built location in 1991. The Hong Kong Museum of Art's five permanent galleries have a large collection of ceramics, cloisonné, bronzes, lacquerware, bamboo carvings, jade, and textiles, as well as beautiful scrolls and examples of calligraphy. While it isn't the biggest art museum in China, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, conveniently located on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, is a great place to visit if you want a taste of Chinese art history on a limited schedule as you can see much of the collections in about an hour. There is also a gift shop and a cafe.
Another branch of the Hong Kong Museum of Art is the Museum of Tea Ware, located in a grand old house in Hong Kong Park. It is an interesting place to visit for those captivated by the finer points of one of China's most refined traditions. The Greek revival architecture and decor is typical of the colonial British buildings of over 160 years ago, and houses more than 600 examples of traditional tea ware, ranging from earthenware to delicate porcelain and dating back to the 7th century. Also described are the methods of tea-making and elaborate tea ceremonies that revolve around the beautiful pieces. The museum shop has a good selection of tea ware to take home with you. The whole museum is rather small, and can be seen in under an hour.
The climate of Hong Kong is sub-tropical, with hot humid summers and cool dry winters. Monsoon winds blow in from the north between September and March, and from the south between April and August. The winter months of January and February are generally wet and cold, while in the height of summer it is hot and humidity is very high. From June to September (the peak summer months) temperatures average 86°F (30ºC) with 95 percent humidity. Some rain and humidity can be expected throughout the year. Even during the height of summer it is worth bringing some warm clothing to combat the fierce air conditioning in shops and offices.
The best time of year to travel to Hong Kong is in the mild autumn months of October and November when the temperatures are pleasant. It is generally considered a year-round destination though, particularly as some of Hong Kong's main attractions, such as shopping facilities, are indoors. As the Hong Kong streets are known to get dirty, especially when it is wet, it is advisable to wear dark shoes when exploring the city, and always to have an umbrella handy.
The Bostonian has been included in the influential dining handbook The Hong Kong Best Restaurant Guide and has been a Hong Kong favourite for more than a decade. The restaurant has a lively atmosphere and its menu offers a wide choice of American fare, from the signature US prime rib to Boston lobster - all in huge portions! Creole dishes are also popular here, as is the award winning collection of Californian wines. The Bostonian is tucked away in the basement of the Langham Hotel, with a bar upstairs serving lunchtime sandwiches, and tapas in the evening. Bookings recommended for dinner.
Dim Sum is a Chinese tradition: an array of steaming baskets of dumplings and other delicacies from which diners make a selection, usually for late breakfast or a light lunch. Dim Sum is one of the specialities for which the Michelin-starred Yung Kee is famed, along with the restaurant's renowned Cantonese roast goose served up with sweet, tasty stewed beans, nick-named the 'flying goose' because so many visitors have insisted on taking a sample of this delicious dish home with them. Enjoy the clean Asian décor of this restaurant while being served by their well-mannered staff.
Hong Kong's famous floating restaurant, gently riding the swells in Aberdeen Harbour, consists of three sections which are all brightly lit by a myriad of dazzling lights making a fairy-tale night-time spectacle for the thousands who come to dine here every week. Jumbo in Chinese means 'gem' or 'treasure', but the western meaning fits it just as well with its massive capacity for seating 2,300 diners simultaneously. The cuisine on offer is varied, but mainly seafood, which diners can pick out themselves from a selection swimming in a tank - the Flamed Drunken Shrimp is extraordinary. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Homesick Americans visiting Hong Kong will find solace in the carnivorous cuisine served up at Dan Ryan's Chicago Grill. The menu tempts with sumptuous feasts such as rack of lamb roasted with rosemary, or char-grilled porterhouse steaks. Not-so-meaty specialities on the menu include homemade pasta dishes, as well as thick satisfying soups served in bread bowls. The bar is also popular for its informal beer-swilling atmosphere. Reservations are essential for this taste of gratifying down-home cookin'. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
This elegant and trendy restaurant's sleek interior boasts a long table occasionally used as a catwalk, suggesting Felix's fashion-venue ambitions match its culinary aspirations. The Dungeness crab cake, with an avocado and jalapeño remoulade, and the lobster risotto top the haute cuisine list but there's no telling what the haute couture has to offer. Reservations are recommended, open every night for dinner.
One of the most popular restaurants in Hong Kong for local cuisine, Din Tai Fung specialises in dim sum - small tapas-style dishes like Xiao Long Bao (steamed pork dumplings). Earning a Michelin star in 2011, Din Tai Fung is known for its excellent service and child-friendliness. Be prepared to wait at least 30 minutes for a table however, and even longer at peak times.
The unit of currency is the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD), which is divided into 100 cents. Major banks are open from 9am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to 12.30pm on Saturday. Banks and money changers charge commission, as do hotels that provide exchange services. All major credit cards are accepted and ATMs are widely distributed.
The official languages in Hong Kong are English and Cantonese. The other main language is Mandarin.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. The UK-style three-pin plugs are standard.
US nationals: US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond the period of intended stay in Hong Kong. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
UK nationals: British citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond the period of intended stay in Hong Kong. Expired British passports endorsed British Dependent Territories Citizen or British National (Overseas) issued in Hong Kong are accepted, provided they are accompanied by a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card. For British passport holders endorsed British Citizen, no visa is required for stays of up to 180 days. For British passport holders endorsed British Subject, British Overseas Territories Citizen, British National (Overseas), British Overseas Citizen or British Protected Person, no visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
CA nationals: Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond the period of intended stay in Hong Kong. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
AU nationals: Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond the period of intended stay in Hong Kong. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days. Visa exemptions apply to holders of an APEC Business Travel Card, provided that the back of the card states that it is valid for travel to Hong Kong, for a maximum stay of up to 60 days.
ZA nationals: South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond the period of intended stay in Hong Kong. No visa is required for stays of up to 30 days (two months, if in possession of a Hong Kong Travel Pass).
IR nationals: Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond the period of intended stay in Hong Kong. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
NZ nationals: New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond the period of intended stay in Hong Kong. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days. Visa exemptions apply to holders of an APEC Business Travel Card, provided that the back of the card states that it is valid for travel to Hong Kong, for a maximum stay of 60 days.
All foreign visitors to Hong Kong must be in possession of onward or return tickets (except when in transit to mainland China or Macao), the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and proof of sufficient funds to cover their stay in the country. Note that admission and/or transit will be refused to any national holding a passport issued by Kiribati, and endorsed "N-Kiribati" or "Investor". NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
There are no specific health risks associated with travel to Hong Kong. Food and water are generally safe, although visitors should consider only drinking bottled water for the first few days of their stay. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A and influenza. Take precautions against mosquito bites, as there is a slight risk of Dengue fever. Outbreaks of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease are reported annually. Hong Kong's health facilities are first class, but expect to pay cash. High quality medical care is widely available but comprehensive medical insurance is recommended to cover expenses.
A 10 percent service charge is usually added to restaurant bills in Hong Kong, but waiters will still expect some loose change in addition to this. If no service charge is included, a 10 percent tip is expected. Taxi fares are rounded up to the nearest dollar (usually automatically by the driver).
Hong Kong is considered a safe travel destination, although caution should always be exercised when travelling. Pickpockets are likely to target unsuspecting tourists so one should minimise this risk through vigilance and by leaving valuables locked up in hotel safes when possible. Be wary of accepting drinks from strangers, as reports of spiked drinks are on the increase. Robbers have recently targeted walkers in Hong Kong's Country Parks so it is advisable to stay on marked trails and not to carry large amounts of cash or credit cards. All street protests and political gatherings should be avoided.
The typhoon season is usually between April and October, and the heavy rains may cause flooding and landslides.
Littering and spitting are illegal in Hong Kong and will incur spot fines. In Hong Kong the concept of 'face' is very important; avoid causing someone to 'lose face' by publicly insulting them or contradicting them in front of others as this is considered very impolite. The Chinese have great respect for hierarchical relationships.
Despite its close proximity to China, Hong Kong's business culture is worlds apart. There tends to be a heavy British influence on business culture in Hong Kong. However, one typically Asian aspect is the concept of saving face. Saving face represents an awareness of positive appearances and perceptions of other people or companies. Bad news should never be presented in front of others and keeping ones cool is vital. Open displays of emotion, such as anger and irritation, are frowned upon, as is causing embarrassment to another person.
Business culture in Hong Kong is quite conservative. Dress styles are formal and deference to senior members of companies is vital. Business suits are usually in dark colours. Avoid wearing bright ties, or blue or white coloured clothes, as these colours are associated with mourning. When greeting business associates, either shake hands or, if no handshake is offered, bowing is appropriate. Respect for personal space is important and physical contact should be avoided. Gifts are given during introductions, but never opened in front of the giver. Timepieces as gifts are inappropriate as they are associated with death. The business languages in Hong Kong are both Mandarin and English. Tone should always be even and measured and cultural sensitivity and etiquette are vital.
When tea is served at a business meeting never sip from your cup until your host has taken his first sip. Business in Hong Kong is conducted efficiently and formally and punctuality is vital. It is advised to allow for sufficient travel time before meetings considering the high traffic congestion. If you are tardy, effusive and repeated apologies are in order, regardless of whether you caused the delay. It is customary to exchange business cards (printed in English on one side and Cantonese on the other) at the start of a meeting, along with a handshake. Business cards should be given and received using both hands, with the Cantonese side facing the recipient, and should be treated with respect. It is common to greet the more senior person first. Business entertainment is usually in the form of a lunch or dinner that is organised by the hosting partner. Food is also usually ordered and paid for by the host. Finally, the phrase 'have you eaten,' is a subtle form of greeting which generally means 'are you well.' Business hours run from 9am to 5pm during the week and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.
The international access code for Hong Kong is +852. The outgoing code depends on what network is used. City codes within Hong Kong are not required. Prepaid Discover Hong Kong SIM cards are available at any 1010 centres, convenience stores and at Hong Kong International Arrival Hall. Internet cafes are widely available, and free wifi access is available at most coffee shops, shopping malls and hotels in town.
There are no restrictions on the import and export of local or foreign currency. Travellers to Hong Kong over the age of 18 years do not have to pay duty on 1 litre of spirits and a reasonable amount of wine or any other form of alcohol containing less than 30% of alcohol; 19 cigarettes or 1 cigar or 25g of tobacco.
Hong Kong Tourist Office: +852 2508 1234 or www.discoverhongkong.com
Chinese Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 495 2266.
Chinese Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7299 4049.
Chinese Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 789 3434.
Chinese Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6273 4780.
Chinese Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 431 6500.
Chinese Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 269 1707.
Chinese Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 4749631.
United States Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2523 9011.
British Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2901 3000.
Canadian Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2810 4700.
Australian Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2827 8881.
South African Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2577 3279.
Honorary Irish Consulate, Hong Kong: +852 2527 4897.
New Zealand Consulate-General, Hong Kong: +852 2525 5044.
Lantau is the largest of the 235 outlying islands in Hong Kong, being almost twice the size of Hong Kong Island. It is best known for its walking trails and beaches and provides a pleasant respite from crowds and shopping. The main arrival point to the island by ferry is at Mui Wo (Silvermine Bay). The finest beaches are located along the west coast, most notably Cheung Sha. Besides beaches, Western Lantau is the location of the Po Lin Monastery, the largest temple in Hong Kong. Beyond the doorstep of this vast temple is one of the world's largest outdoor Buddha statues. Aptly named Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha), the bronze statue sits contemplatively looking over the reaches of Ngong Ping Plateau.
From the monastery buses will transport visitors to the quaint fishing village of Tai O. Here little wooden houses perch on stilts and much of life flows from the fishing industry that sustains it. Lantau's north shore is predominantly a farming region. The main attraction here, however, is the historical Tung Chung Fort, which was built in the early 19th century as part of a short-lived attempt to suppress the opium trade and defend the coastal area from pirates. Six old Qing Dynasty cannons dating back to 1832 stand on the ramparts. Development has changed the landscape of the Northeastern stretches of Lantau, known as Discovery Bay. Here upmarket housing complexes, shopping malls, yacht clubs and golf courses promise to provide the ultimate designer lifestyle at a price.
The cultural influence of the Portuguese, combined with traditional Chinese life, has produced a unique landscape in Macau. Here Baroque churches and colonial mansions rise from cobbled pavements interspersed with plazas and cafes. Visitors are enticed here by the lure of gambling, but many of Macau's attractions result from its architectural heritage. St Paul's Cathedral is one such legacy that dates back to the early 17th century. It is an Italian-designed building perched on a hilltop that is most spectacular when illuminated against a night sky. The vantage point from the Fortaleza de Monte is a good place to reflect on the defensive role it played against Dutch assault in 1622, and it is worth exploring the museum and meteorological observatory.
The classic Chinese temple of A-Ma rests at the base of Penha Hill. Its name derives from Tin Hau, Queen of Heaven, or the Honoured Mother. Myth has it that a poor girl saved the fishing vessel, on which she was travelling, from the ravages of a storm. In tribute to her this temple was built and has been established as a place of pilgrimage for Macau's fishing community. Another temple dedicated to the power of female intervention is the Kun Iam Temple, built in honour of the Goddess of Mercy, located in the northern reaches of the peninsula. It was here, in 1844, that the first trade and friendship treaty between the USA and China was signed. Macau is 37 miles (60km) west of Hong Kong; ferries take around an hour to get there and leave roughly every fifteen minutes.
The Big Buddha, or Tian Tan Buddha, is one of the tallest outdoor seated bronze Buddha statues in the world, and can be found near Po Lin Monastery. The giant Buddha is a popular tourist destination and a major centre of Buddhism in Hong Kong. The 112-foot (34m) high statue sits on a lotus throne on top of a three-platform altar and is surrounded by eight smaller statues of gods. Inside the three floors beneath the Buddha visitors can access the Hall of the Universe, the Hall of Benevolent Merit and the Hall of Remembrance. Visitors can also climb the 268 steps to reach the platform where the impressive figure is seated, and admire the view from the top.
The Tian Tan Buddha is a lovely excursion from the city and the short trip is a great break from the crowds and noise of Hong Kong. You can take the cable car either one way or both - some people prefer to either hike down through the hills after taking the cable car to the site, or to get there on the ferry and buses before taking the scenic cable car route back down into the city. There are many places to get refreshments at the site with both traditional meals and international fare like Starbucks on offer. Try to visit the Buddha on a clear day, when the views are at their best.
The Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car is a spectacular four-mile (6km) ropeway that affords panoramic views over the bay and surrounding area on its 25-minute journey to the Ngong Ping Village. As visitors approach the cable car terminal on top of the plateau views will include the huge Tian Tan Buddha Statue and the Po Lin Monastery. The Ngong Ping Village is situated right next to the cable car terminal, which features attractions such as 'Walking with Buddha', the 'Monkey's Tale Theatre', and the 'Ngong Ping Teahouse', as well as an assortment of shopping and dining options. Walking with Buddha plunges visitors into a multimedia presentation that follows the life of Siddhartha Gautama (the man who became Buddha) and his path to enlightenment, while the Teahouse provides demonstrations of traditional Chinese tea ceremonies. The Monkey's Tale Theatre presents a charming and comical show inspired by famous Buddhist Jataka stories that will enchant both old and young.
The cable car is an incredible experience and there are a variety of packages to choose from. For instance, you can choose between the more expensive Crystal Cabin - which has a transparent floor - and a regular one. Note that queues for this attraction can get very long.
One of the most dramatic sacred sites in Hong Kong, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is perched at the top of a hill in the town of Sha Tin. Visitors must climb more than 400 stairs to reach the temple and the famous nine-storey pagoda. The monastery actually contains nearly 13,000 Buddha statues within its walls alone, and many more stand sentinel along the pathways and stairs. The statues come in a great variety of shapes and sizes and the temple complex is breathtakingly colourful with beautiful views. Sadly, there are no resident monks and the temple is managed by laypersons; you do not therefore feel as though you are visiting an active monastery. However, unlike many famous temples in Hong Kong, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery has retained its tranquil atmosphere and still feels like a holy place. It is not commercialised and is seldom swamped by crowds. This is partly why it tends to make such an impression on tourists. There is a small restaurant selling simple refreshments at the top but it is advisable to bring your own water for the climb, which some find tiring. In some parts of the complex photography is not allowed - be sure to take note of the signs.
Located just 40 minutes from downtown Hong Kong by bus, the small fishing village of Stanley is a popular day trip for tourists looking to escape the congestion of the city. A bustling village, Stanley is home to a number of attractions and diversions, including several scenic temples and museums.
The famous Stanley Market is a winding maze of stalls selling souvenirs like t-shirts, keychains, and knock-off goods, although there's a better selection in Hong Kong City. Bars and restaurants along the waterfront provide good food with great views of the harbour, and the amphitheatre hosts free concerts on the weekends.
Stanley is also popular for its beaches. Stanley Main Beach is a pleasant sandy beach only ten minutes' walk from the centre of town. It has good facilities and shark nets, but can get crowded with locals on the weekends. Stanley Main beach is good for windsurfing, and hosts dragon boat races each summer. St Stephens Beach, on the western side of the peninsula, is more secluded but just as popular.
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