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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 a 'Special Administrative Region' of China. Pockets of traditional culture and architecture punctuate a society heavily influenced by its former colonial rule, with different regions providing 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, the former fishing and farming community of Kowloon is gritty, chaotic and densely populated. 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 form a curious mix of farms, villages and towns. 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, with both locals and tourists frequenting the islands to relax away from the big city crowds. Formerly the domain of pirates, Cheung Chan now hosts windsurfers and sunbathers while Lamma is king for beaches, seafood and hiking.
It's easy to forget that Hong Kong is more than just bright lights and skyscrapers, with each region having its own unique character and attractions. Visitors arriving on Hong Kong Island can admire the city from the deck of Star Ferry or take a tram up to the summit of Victoria Peak for glorious panoramas.
There is also the Man Mo Temple, the oldest temple in Hong Kong; the traditional outdoor street markets of Wan Chai; or the horse racing at Happy Valley. To the south, Stanley Beach hosts Dragon Boat racing every year during the Tuen Ng festival. Across the bay to the north lies Kowloon, diverse and atmospheric, while 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 of 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. Serving as the gateway to some spectacular countryside, rural life carries on here as it always has. The Ping Shan Heritage Trail tracks past old face-brick homes and forts, and abandoned towns from the region's agricultural age. Tourists enjoy trips to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, home 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 adventurers, as is Po Lin Monastery which is home to one of the largest seated Buddha statues in the world.
Victoria Peak is Hong Kong's number one tourist attraction and its popularity is unwavering. The funicular railway has steadily made its way up the mountain since 1888 and the route is extremely steep and rather thrilling. More energetic and athletic travellers can scale the real peak extending 140m (459ft) above the tram terminus. The summit's iconic Peak Tower houses numerous restaurants and shops, while Sky Terrace 428 offers Hong Kong's best skyline panorama. A lot of people choose to go up Victoria Peak at night when the city lights are at their most magical.
Hong Kong Disneyland offers magical adventures in seven themed settings: Adventureland, Grizzly Gulch, Mystic Point, Toy Story Land, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Main Street USA. Kids will love exploring Tarzan's Treehouse, braving scary RC Racer and riding the classic Hyperspace Mountain, as well as spending time with their favourite characters like Mickey Mouse, R2D2 and Winnie the Pooh. 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.
This indoor market is held in a four-storey red brick colonial building constructed in 1906, now occupying an entire block at the western end of Central Hong Kong. It houses a variety of shops and stalls selling a range of products from jade curios and cloissan jewellery to its celebrated mountains of silks and fabrics. 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 since 1844. The main exhibit encompasses a significant number of artefacts from uniforms and firearms to historical archives and photographs. Other exhibits look at the major factions which have influenced the status quo such as the triad societies and narcotics trade, including a unique look at how heroin is produced. The museum also provides insight into the dedication of the officers who have served within this elite force. There is a pleasant park next door to the museum ideally suited for shade and refreshments.
Statue Square is an amalgamation of Hong Kong's contemporary architecture, spectacularly manifest in the designs of the HSBC Building and the Bank of China Tower. The former has no central core, a feat of structural engineering blended with the ultimate in aesthetic principles while the latter is much-debated because of the asymmetrically-designed pinnacle. The square also contains the Cenotaph, a memorial to those who lost their lives in the two world wars. It's a popular place for locals to meet, share meals and socialise around its fountain and seating areas. Over Winterfest, there are usually Christmas displays, trees and lights put up in the square.
The Hong Kong Museum of History showcases Hong Kong's archaeological, cultural and natural history, exhibiting artefacts, photographs and traditional costumes spanning some 6,000 years. Glorious displays tell the story of Chinese life in replica houses, streets and stores. The main museum has five interesting branches 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.
This grand Taoist temple 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 here, offering palm and face reading. The ornate temple's red pillars, gold ceilings and decorative latticework are in the traditional Chinese style, and it's usually full of floral offerings and visitors burning incense or praying. The temple also has a lovely adjacent park called the Good Wish Gardens, a peaceful green spot with waterfalls tumbling over rocks.
Ocean Park is Hong Kong's most popular theme park, regularly ranked as one of the best in the world. A spectacular aquarium, one of the largest on the planet, is complemented by a funfair containing multiple roller coasters, a space wheel, a swinging ship and more. The variety of rides is impressive, ranging from big thrill rides to mild fun, and lots for children and adults alike. 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 splendid in their own right, as are the many restaurants, shops and cafes.
Some 200 years ago, Hong Kong's Aberdeen was a haven for pirates. Located on the southern shore of Hong Kong Island, it's now home to the Tanka boat people who offer visitors a chance to experience the traditional lifestyle, sample fresh seafood at the Jumbo Floating Restaurant or embark on sampan tours. Aberdeen is a lively marina crammed with junks, sampans and water taxis (kai do), along with cruisers and yachts.
This museum has four floors covering a range of science and technology-related subjects, such as light, sound, motion, magnetism, electricity, robotics, virtual reality and 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 can trigger spectacular audiovisual effects demonstrating various forms of energy. The Science Museum is a great option for entertaining and educating the young and the old, especially when the weather is bad and there are a few hours to spare. For smaller children, there are fun play areas and a toddler's tumble area.
The Avenue of Stars is the local version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, celebrating famous icons of Hong Kong cinema. Situated along the seaside promenade, it's a great place to view the Symphony of Lights, a music and laser show staged every night at 8pm. Names such as Jackie Chan and Jet Li are obvious standouts, while there's even a statue of Bruce Lee. It's worth doing the walk at night too, even without intentions to see the Symphony of Lights show. But the real reason for making the effort to visit the Avenue are the spectacular views of Victoria Harbour.
Showcasing incredible biodiversity, the Hong Kong Wetland Park's main objectives are conservation and education. The park consists of the Wetland Interactive World and the Wetland Reserve, home to an array of fascinating fauna such as fearsome crocodiles, a range of butterflies and many birds observed from the three bird hides. The Wetland Interactive World has themed galleries, exhibitions and a theatre, along with interactive games and sound booths where kids can compose wetland symphonies using the nature's soundtrack. This attraction is consistently popular with tourists and makes for a really lovely break from Hong Kong's indoor, urban attractions, delighting people of all ages interested in nature and animals.
The Hong Kong Museum of Art's five permanent galleries have large collections of ceramics, cloisonné, bronzes, lacquerware, bamboo carvings, jade and textiles, as well as beautiful scrolls and examples of calligraphy. Conveniently located on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, it's great to visit for a quick taste of Chinese art history as it's possible to see most of the collections in about an hour. Another branch of the museum is the Museum of Tea Ware, located in a grand old house in Hong Kong Park. The Greek Revival architecture is typical of the colonial buildings of over 160 years ago, housing more than 600 examples of traditional tea ware, ranging from earthenware to delicate porcelain dating back to the 7th century.
The climate of Hong Kong is subtropical, 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's worth bringing some warm clothing to combat the fierce air conditioning in shops and offices.
The best time travel to Hong Kong is in the mild autumn months of October and November. But it's generally considered a year-round destination, 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 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. Hong Kong's health facilities are first class but expect to pay cash. High quality medical care is widely available but comprehensive travel 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 destination but caution should always be exercised when travelling. Pickpockets are likely to target unsuspecting tourists so leave valuables locked up in hotel safes when possible. All street protests and political gatherings should be avoided. The typhoon season is usually between April and October, and the accompanying 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 and more akin to the West. But one regional aspect is the concept of 'saving face', an awareness of positive appearances and perceptions of other people or companies. Bad news should never be presented in front of others and keeping one's 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, with business suits 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. Watches 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 their first. Business in Hong Kong is conducted efficiently and punctuality is vital. If you are late, 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. Business cards should be given and received using both hands, with the Cantonese side facing the recipient. It's common to greet the more senior person first.
Business entertainment is usually in the form of a lunch or dinner organised by the hosting partner, and food is also normally ordered and paid for by the host. Finally, the phrase 'have you eaten,' is a subtle form of greeting which generally means 'are you wel?'. 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. Some of the more popular mobile service providers are CMHK, CSL, Smartone and Birdie. Free WiFi access is available at most coffee shops, shopping malls, restaurants and hotels.
Travellers to Hong Kong over the age of 18 years do not have to pay duty on the following: 1.1 litres of spirits with 12 percent or more alcohol content; and 100 cigarettes, 100 cigars and 500g 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. It's best known for its walking trails and beaches, providing 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. Western Lantau is also the location of the Po Lin Monastery, where one of the world's largest outdoor Buddha statues stands. Wooden houses perch on stilts in the quaint fishing village of Tai O, while much of Lantau's north shore is predominantly a farming region. The main attraction is the historical Tung Chung Fort, built to suppress the opium trade and defend the coast from pirates. Six old Qing Dynasty cannons dating back to 1832 stand on the ramparts. In Discovery Bay, upmarket housing complexes, yacht clubs and golf courses provide the ultimate designer lifestyle.
The cultural influence of both traditional Chinese and Portuguese has produced the unique region of Macau. Baroque churches and colonial mansions rise from cobbled pavements interspersed with plazas and cafes, while St Paul's Cathedral perched on its hilltop dates back to the early 17th century. The vantage point from the Fortaleza de Monte is excellent, and it's worth exploring the museum and meteorological observatory. The classic Chinese temple of A-Ma rests at the base of Penha Hill, built as a tribute to a poor fishing girl who saved the Queen of Heaven from a storm. It serves as a 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.
The Big Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha) is one of the tallest outdoor seated bronze Buddhas in the world. Found near Po Lin Monastery, it's a popular tourist destination and a major centre of Buddhism in Hong Kong. The 112-foot (34m) high statue sits on a lotus throne atop a three-platform altar, surrounded by eight smaller gods. Inside, visitors access the Hall of the Universe, the Hall of Benevolent Merit and the Hall of Remembrance. They can also climb the 268 steps to reach the platform where the impressive figure is seated and admire the views. Some prefer to either hike down through the hills after taking the cable car, while others get there on the ferry and buses before taking the cable car back down into the city.
The Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car is a spectacular four-mile (6km) ropeway affording panoramic views over the bay, the Tian Tan Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery on its 25-minute journey to the Ngong Ping Village. The Ngong Ping Village 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. The cable car is an incredible experience and there are a variety of packages to choose from, with the more expensive Crystal Cabin enjoying a transparent floor. 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 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. Unlike many famous temples in Hong Kong, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery has retained its tranquil atmosphere and spiritual atmosphere.
The small fishing village of Stanley is a popular day trip for tourists looking to escape the city. It's home to a number of attractions and diversions, such as several scenic temples and museums. The famous Stanley Market is a winding maze of stalls selling souvenirs like t-shirts, keychains and cheap goods, while bars and restaurants along the waterfront pair great food with great views. Stanley is also popular for its beaches. Stanley Main Beach is a pleasant sandy beach but can get crowded on weekends. It's good for windsurfing and hosting 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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