Visiting Hong Kong - What to See and Do
(Hong Kong International Airport HKG, China)
The sprawling archipelago of Hong Kong
comprises in the region of 260 islands set in the South China Sea. Once the home of pirates, smugglers and the China traders' magnificent 'Tall Ships', Hong Kong island itself and its Kowloon mainland district is now the gateway to China
and one of the world's most spectacular tourism hubs.
Hong Kong's multiple personalities and cultural diversity are partly the result of 150 years of British rule, with the archipelago ceded to the British Empire as a colony after the First Opium War. Since 1997, the archipelago has been a Chinese Special Administration Region, subject to laxer laws than the rest of the vast country.
The residents of Hong Kong enjoy western-style freedoms and are committed to an open society. With its urban developments covering only a small area and packing in a population of over seven million, the city is crowded, noisy, neon-drenched and totally fascinating.
As an Asian tourism destination, it is unparalleled, offering traditional culture mixed with ultra-modernism, unrivalled shopping and eating, modern tourist attractions and activities of all kinds, in a uniquely picturesque tropical setting. Victoria Harbour features a stunning skyline at its heart, while visitors shouldn't miss the chance to explore the island's spectacular interior and other nearby islands, as well as Kowloon and the New Territories, taking in all the city has to offer.
Ten things you must do in Hong Kong
- In the colony's formative years, The Peak represented prime real estate for the mainly Scottish Taipans of the great Hong Kong trading companies dealing with Chinese tea, silks and opium. Nowadays, this is one of the most appealing places in town, combining breathtaking views with historic sites, nature trails and authentic eateries.
- Hong Kong Disneyland is unique in that it was placed according to the rules of Feng Shui, and attracts many millions every year to its combination of the best of Disney's attractions worldwide. Fantasyland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland and Main Street USA are the four principal zones. Christmas, Chinese New Year and Halloween are all celebrated here in truly extravagant Hong Kong style, complete with massive fireworks displays.
- Hong Kong is culinary heaven for foodies and includes the huge floating Jumbo Kingdom in Aberdeen Harbour. These colourful, adjoining Chinese barges, divided into five themed restaurants, have welcomed movie stars, royalty and some 30 million diners over the years. This is a must-visit for ambience, delicious food and entertainment.
- The Happy Valley Racecourse is as much a part of local history as the city's famous temples. Established by the trading companies, this is the only place in town where gambling is legal and is beloved by all Hong Kong Chinese as a result. Horse races take place every weekend and the course is packed with serious studiers of form.
- The Tian Tan Giant Buddha on scenic Lantau Island is well worth the short boat trip, since it is the largest seated outdoor Buddha image on the planet. Set in the peaceful Po Lin Monastery, it is just under 35 meters / 115 feet tall and is the focus for Buddhism in the region, as well as being a major visitor attraction.
- Local markets such as Stanley and the Temple Street Night Market are a bargain-hunter's treasure trove, buzzing with visitors for all over the globe. Everything is for sale here at incredible prices and bargaining is mandatory, as well as great fun. Look out for brand-name fashions, jewellery and accessories, antiques, souvenirs and endless Oriental bric-a-brac.
- Take a harbour cruise at dusk and watch the amazing nightly light show start up. Searchlights, laser beams and coloured lights illuminate the stunning skyline and its high-rises, all synchronised to music and a commentary. It is an unforgettable spectacle best seen from the water and typifies the city's unique charm.
- A visit to the city's museums provides an informative overview of this endearing destination and its long history. The Hong Kong Museum of Art displays antique treasures of Chinese art, including ceramics, jade carvings and Chinese paintings, while the Hong Kong Museum of History gives a glimpse of colonial life via interactive displays.
- The enchanting world of a traditional Chinese stilted fishing village is found on Lantau Island, where the Tanks peoples still live above the tidal flats as they did generations ago. Tai O village is a journey back in time, with visitors being able to take traditional hand-pulled ferries to mangrove swamps and nature trails around wetlands and heritage sites.
- Kowloon, the grittier side of Hong Kong, is a great place for affordable shopping and the cheaper side of authentic Asian cuisine, including endless street stalls serving local dishes. The district is more 'Chinese' than the city itself, and is a hub for Chinese opera street performers and fortune tellers, most of whom do readings in English.