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It is hard to believe that what was once a sleepy, sparsely populated area of farmland and fishing villages has now become arguably the world's most influential financial capital and commercial port. Past and present fuse in Hong Kong to create a capitalist utopia embedded within the world's largest communist country. There is nowhere on earth quite like Hong Kong, which is reason enough for anyone to travel here.
The city, or 'Central' as it has become known, sits on the north shore of Hong Kong Island, the tourist capital and the original territory colonised by the British. Central is backed by the green hills of Victoria Peak and looks out over Victoria Harbour, home to annual firework displays and promenades forming natural meeting points for tourists and locals alike.
The city of Hong Kong, despite its surviving traditional enclaves, feels delightfully futuristic. The vast majority of the more than 350 skyscrapers in Hong Kong are concentrated in Central, and this glittering night-time skyline is one of the most iconic in the world. The speed of modernisation and construction means that few colonial buildings now remain, with the oldest surviving being Flagstaff House, dating back to 1846 and now home to the Museum of Tea Ware.
Hong Kong is a booming business hub, a fashion centre and a celebrated foodie destination. The diversity of its population and cultural influences add hugely to its unique appeal. In addition to all its impressive sightseeing attractions visitors will be happy to discover just how well everything works. Most notably, the efficient transport system makes getting around a pleasure.
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.
Bustling Hong Kong may seem best suited as a holiday destination for adults but it also has more than enough to entice the younger ones. Children on holiday in Hong Kong will be enthralled by a medley of zoos, museums and markets, not to mention the incredible amusement parks and the nearby beaches, islands and nature reserves.
There are a number of museums, including the Hong Kong Science Museum and the Hong Kong Toy Library, situated on the second floor of Central Library. Children can learn about traditional Chinese culture in Aberdeen and the outer islands, which are also very picturesque. Other adventures include the fun-filled Victoria Harbour tours, while Central Hong Kong and Kowloon have markets selling clothes and toys. Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park will thrill children for whole days, and the inner-city Kowloon Park is a great place for kids to let off some steam on a day of urban sightseeing.
The best time of year to take children to Hong Kong, with good weather for outdoor activities and attractions, is between October and December: the days are warm, sunny and dry, and the evenings are comfortably cool. Children's Day is celebrated in Hong Kong on 4 April each year, a very festive time for families to visit.
The climate of Hong Kong is subtropical for half of the year and temperate for the rest, with hot, humid summers and cool, dry winters. Winter lasts from December to February. The coldest month is January, when the temperatures average between 58°F (14°C) and 66°F (19°C) and the city gets cooled by strong, cold winds from the north. In spring the wind blows from the south, bringing in warm, humid air and a rainy season that extends through summer. Temperatures in summer, between June and August, regularly climb above 86°F (30°C) and typhoons are possible.
Hong Kong is a little too hot and humid in the peak summer months to be comfortable, but in late spring (May) or autumn (September) the temperature is just right, making these the best times to visit Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is quite simply one of the best places on earth to dine and experience international cuisine. Some writers have dubbed the city the 'World's Fair of Food' and a 'Gourmet Paradise'. There are over 10,000 licensed restaurants and countless more traders, stalls and mobile eateries in the city.
Hong Kong is best known for its outstanding Cantonese cuisine. The freshest ingredients and finest chefs can be found here, with the city's cosmopolitan nature also ensuring a dynamic mix of other cuisines. Sushi joints abound, as do pasta houses, bakeries, sandwich shops and just about every other style of food you can imagine.
One experience you should not miss is trying the local dim sum. These are delicious snacks prepared in steaming bamboo baskets and eaten as breakfast or lunch along with copious quantities of Chinese tea. Typical dim sum includes favourites like steamed pork buns, shrimp dumplings, beef balls and pan-fried squid with spicy salt.
Hong Kong residents generally eat five times per day and most meals are eaten outside the home. Meals are typically small and accompanied by a generous portion of carbohydrates such as rice or noodles. For the visitor this means plenty of places to snack and experience a diversity of dishes in one day.
In a Chinese restaurant, waiters will commonly bring tea, condiments and snacks to your table, which will be added to the bill. Most restaurants will automatically add 10 percent to your bill as gratuity. During Chinese New Year, this charge may be a bit higher. Make reservations whenever possible, especially over lunchtimes.
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.
When it comes to Chinese New Year celebrations, nobody does it better than Hong Kong. The streets are jammed with dragon dancers, street performers and illuminated floats. Doors are hung with colourful messages of good fortune and lights are draped over all the city's skyscrapers. Markets and temples become magical places filled with flowers, incense and celebration. The highlight of the festivities is the glittering night parade that is complemented by special lighting effects and concluded by traditional fireworks over the harbour, which is said to scare away demons and ensure good luck. Chinese New Year is a truly special time to visit Hong Kong and allows visitors to see the city at its most glittering, vibrant and colourful. Hong Kong's celebrations run for much longer than the three days usually set aside for Chinese New Year on official calendars.
As a major international arts festival and the city's premier arts event of the year, the Hong Kong Arts Festival presents a fabulous assortment of music, theatre, dance and a wide range of creative visual arts by top international and local performers. The festival is renowned for the richness and diversity of its programme, ranging from classic entertainment to modern and innovative forms of performing arts. The festival is opened with the Piazza Party, which is a special open-air extravaganza of music, dancing and free entertainment. The Hong Kong Arts Festival also sees unofficial performances spring up all over the city, with street musicians and performers adding to the atmosphere, and smaller art and theatre venues contributing their own artistic gems. For lovers of the arts this festival is an exciting international event showcasing some of the very best that the world, and especially Hong Kong, has to offer.
The Dragon Boat festival commemorates the death of a national hero, Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in protest against the corrupt rulers of the 3rd century. Legend has it that the villagers threw rice dumplings into the river and beat drums to scare the fish away from his body in an attempt to rescue him. There are many variations of this myth but the main festival activities today bring to mind the event. Rice dumplings are eaten and teams of local and international racers compete in fast and furious dragon boat races to the pounding of drums, as well as competing in various other water-based activities. The elaborately carved, brightly painted dragon boats are the highlight of the festivities, combining heritage, sport and spectacle. It has become quite a prestigious sporting event and teams come from foreign countries and clubs to compete. Recently the event attracted nearly 5,000 athletes, representing 180 clubs and 20 countries. The Dragon Boat Festival is also a huge party and the Victoria Harbour event attracts around 400,000 spectators all intent on a good time. The festivities in Victoria Harbour are the main event in Hong Kong, but the festival is celebrated all over China and some races are held in rivers in the New Territories as well.
One of the major festivals celebrated in Hong Kong, the Moon Festival is also one of the most widely celebrated festivals for Chinese all over the world, and is traditionally a time for family reunions. At this time of year the moon is thought to be the biggest, brightest and most beautiful, and to celebrate this sighting colourful lanterns in a variety of traditional shapes are lit and all open spaces and hilltops are crowded with families and bright lanterns, watching the full moon rise and eating traditional sweet moon cakes. As with many Chinese celebrations there are numerous ancient myths and legends to explain the festival. In Hong Kong the traditional ceremony retains its charm but the city also adds its own modern, neon touches to festivities, with light and laser shows and impressive exhibits. Moonlight cruises in Victoria Harbour are a popular Moon Festival activity and a delightful way to experience the bright lights and floating lanterns - not to mention the full moon over the harbour.
It is believed that the gates of the underworld open for a month, once a year, and the discontented and vengeful ghosts of those who died without proper funeral rites, who met a violent death, or whose living relatives neglected their after-life spirits, roam the earth looking to satisfy their hunger for attention and peace. The purpose of the festival is to prevent these ghosts from inflicting harm on the living in order to gratify their needs. Elaborate religious parades with food offerings fill the streets, and roadside fires are built to burn gifts of money and crafted paper objects such as cars or furniture to appease the wandering ghosts. Various types of entertainment also take place to keep them happy. The festival's origins are similar to Halloween but the Chinese culture of ancestor worship makes it a far more personal festival in some ways; families often leave out food for their lost loved ones. One of the main highlights of the festival is the Chinese opera. Operas in honour of the dead, showcasing their great deeds in life, are performed all over the city.
The Hong Kong Sevens is one of the biggest sporting events in the city and one of the most exciting rugby events on the international calendar. Top national teams compete in this famed event, while enthusiastic spectators party it up in the stands, particularly in the legendary South Stand where the music blares and the beer flows among the outrageously dressed fans intent on enjoying the rugby as well as having a good time.
All the world's best rugby nations compete in the event and the competition is furiously contested. The games are short (15 minutes long) and fast - quite different to regular rugby matches - and the atmosphere for spectators is more light-hearted and festive than in big international matches. 40,000 spectators can pack into the stadium but this is just the centre of festivities and the event spurs a carnival feeling all over the city, with the party spilling into the streets and venues of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is synonymous with shopping, so it is only fitting that the city would choose to dedicate a festival to it. Special offers and big sales are in abundance, from retailers to restaurants across the city. The diverse shopping experience features a host of summer events and promotions. The festival lasts the whole of the peak summer period in Hong Kong and incorporates the Hong Kong Spring/Summer Fashion Week. The celebrations of the sizzling season also incorporate the Dragon Boast Festival, which is a very popular event at Victoria Harbour and a giant party for spectators. Big music events and international concerts are always staged in Hong Kong during this period. The whole city comes alive with celebrations, sales, special deals and events during the Hong Kong Summer Spectacular, which has become a general celebration of summer and all that the city has to offer - it is no coincidence that it occurs in the busiest months of the year. For many people, however, it remains first and foremost a shopping and fashion extravaganza and the best time to find bargains in Hong Kong's famous variety of shops.
Hong Kong is renowned for its jam-packed nightlife and the city covers all its bases for after-dark entertainment, with a feisty nightclub scene, lots of good live music and some world-class performing arts for more sophisticated tastes.
Notorious Wan Chai has calmed down a lot over the last few decades. Although it has retained some of its seediness, there are also many British-style pubs frequented by expatriate locals in the area. The Central district's Lan Kwai Fong is known for having one of the biggest drinking crowds in Hong Kong and the bars to sustain it. SoHo has a number of ethnic bars and restaurants, and off-the-beaten-track Knutsford Terrace is popular for its open-fronted bars and cafes.
Live music has become a standard feature of so many restaurants, cocktail lounges and bars in Hong Kong so actively seeking it out is seldom necessary. The Fringe Club is Hong Kong's most well-known venue for all things alternative and live acts can be seen here on most weekends. As the night wears on, most of Hong Kong's small bars tend to evolve into raucous nightclubs. Trendy dance clubs impose a strict dress code and often only grant entrance to members.
Those looking for a quieter night out may enjoy seeing Chinese opera, performed at City Hall in Central and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui. The Hong Kong Ballet Company and various theatre groups also stage performances throughout the year, though the highlight of the arts calendar is definitely the Hong Kong Arts Festival in February and March.
Hong Kong is considered by some to be the shopping capital of the world. Most goods, other than alcohol and tobacco, are tax-free, and there's an unparalleled concentration of high-quality products and vigorous competition. The customer is king in Hong Kong, where they can indulge in their shopping empire like nowhere else on earth.
Best buys include jewellery and wrist watches, especially pieces using gold, jade and pearl; and custom clothing and haute couture. Electronics and gadgets are not the deals they once were, but you may still find some great prices.
The most popular shopping districts in Hong Kong include Causeway Bay, containing giant department stores like Sogo and WTC More; Central, with high-end boutiques and haute couture; the Admiralty, with a number of shopping malls; and Tsim Sha Tsui, which has an abundance of souvenir shops and brand-name stores. Mongkok is the place to go for bargain shopping on clothing and electronics, but be aware of what you're buying as many products do not come with warranties.
The contrast between the gleaming modern stores and old-world markets gives variety and excitement to a Hong Kong shopping experience. Don't miss Stanley Market's historic fishing lanes, filled with vendors selling Chinese handicrafts. silk creations and souvenirs. Yuen Po Street's melodious Bird Garden is a magnet for songbird owners, while Hong Kong's Flower Market is a bright and busy scene making for wonderful photo opportunities.
The Ladies' Market in Tung Choi Street is renowned for its handbags, but the touts are just as famous for their pushiness. Other great markets include the Temple Street Night Market and Jardine's Crescent. There are several regular Hong Kong weekend markets that have great shopping opportunities too.
With one of the best public transport systems in the world and a compact city centre, getting around Hong Kong is easy enough for even inexperienced travellers. The underground Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is efficient and inexpensive. Double-decker and single-decker buses cover all of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories, with final destinations displayed in both English and Chinese. Bus fares are low and distance-based. Small mini-buses are more expensive but also more flexible, stopping for passengers to board or disembark on request.
Hong Kong's old-fashioned trams are also a cheap and convenient way of getting around. On the water, fleets of ferries connect Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the Outlying Islands. Last but not least there is an abundant supply of taxis, colour-coded according to their area of operation. Taxi fares are low but many drivers don't speak English and visitors are advised to have their destination written down in Chinese characters.
Visitors can opt to purchase a contactless Octopus Card, making it easy to pay for trips on the MTR, buses, minibuses, ferries, trams and a few taxis.
Hong Kong is many different things to many different people. Its status as a commercial capital means business travellers arrive in their droves while it's also increasingly popular as a holiday destination for China's mainland population, with international tourists looking for unparalleled shopping deals and renowned cuisine.
For those heading over to Hong Kong Island from Kowloon, crossing the harbour by ferry is unforgettable, especially in the evening with the lights of Central on dazzling display. Just beyond the skyscrapers sits Victoria Peak, affording spectacular panoramic views over the city. Peak Tower itself can be busy and pricey, but Lions View Point Pavilion, just a brief walk from the summit, is equally stunning with beautiful gardens nearby offering peace and quiet.
Hong Kong is a shopping paradise, with an endless array of malls, boutiques, vintage stores and bazaars to trawl through. Western Market is a must see, and all the leading fashion brands can be found during an immersive shopping experience at Pacific Place. Ambitious sightseers can also get an HKTB Museum Pass, valid for one week, which gives unlimited admission to a host of museums and provides discounts in the museum shops.
Hong Kong is one of the culinary capitals of the world. Many come to taste the divine inspiration given to a range of Cantonese, Sichuanese and Japanese food, enjoying unique offerings such as its dim sum, pineapple buns and stinky tofu.
There are many wonderful attractions just outside of Hong Kong too, the city serving as a great base for excursions and getaways. For a fashionable day out, horse racing season runs from September to July with weekly races to attend, while March and April sees the Hong Kong Sevens come to town, the most prestigious rugby sevens tournament on the calendar and one massive party.
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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