Hong Kong

 Hong Kong skyline by CC user kudumomo on Flickr

Introduction

Widely touted as being the New York City of Asia, Hong Kong is one of China’s headline cities, just 15 years after rejoining the country after spending centuries as a colony of Britain.  Commonly perceived as being wall to wall skyscrapers (and it’s not totally unwarranted, as the main urban district is one of the most densely populated places on earth), Hong Kong officially consists of 260 islands, many of them pristine and uninhabited.

Nonetheless, with this being a former trading enclave, and presently a centre for big finance, this place is hella expensive, as incomes that are many times higher than mainland China and a lack of build-able land have combined to drive up prices on real estate and other staples of life.  As such, travelers jetting in from Southeast Asia and smaller centres in China will be in for quite the shock shortly after arrival here.

Despite the elevated cost of living in this diverse metropolis, Hong Kong is well worth the visit, as this subtropical urban archipelago delivers on multiple accounts, from cuisine to historical and modern attractions, as well as some surprising natural assets that will please the visitor that are unaware of their presence.

Those worrying about China’s strict rules on visitor visas needn’t worry, as this Special Administrative Region possesses different rules than Mainland China regarding visas, allowing for visitation from a wide range of nations for varying periods, without having to secure a visa first.

With that out of the way, make some time for an extended layover in one of the great Alpha cities of the world … trust us, you’ll be glad you did!

dim sum hong kong style by CC user soyousay on Flickr

Cultural Experiences

Before we get into some of the primary sights found within the labyrinthic streets of this Asian megacity, drop by the Hong Kong Museum of History to get a through education on this place’s rich history.  With exhibits delving into subjects ranging from the geography and ecology of the area, to this trading hub’s long commercial history, and its tragic fall to the Japanese in World War II (among other subjects), this place will take up much of the afternoon for buffs on any of the aforementioned topics.

After getting your learn on indoors, hit the streets and go culture hunting in the New Territories, where many of the area’s ancient historical sights wait for you to discover them.  These treasures include places like the walled Hakka village of Tsang Tai Uk, the always busy bazaar on Fu Shin Street, and the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas, where Buddhism fans will wilt at the visage of so many representations of their religion’s founder!

Finally, it would be a crime if you departed Hong Kong without sampling some dim sum, its mouth-watering contribution to the wide world of Chinese cuisine.  A favourite treat that is enjoyed primarily in the morning and lunch hours (but is awesome at any point of the day!), dim sum are bite-sized morsels of food made to delight their customers, and to encourage grazing of a wide variety of creations.  Watch out … it is easy to stuff yourself silly this way, but then again, isn’t that what is beautiful about travel?  Ok then, dig in and enjoy!

Big Buddhist Statues on a mountain by CC user firepile on Flickr

Other Attractions

Once you’ve hit all the major cultural attractions that Hong Kong has to offer, it’s time to go and experience the other things that make this city one of the hottest destinations in Asia!  After spending a day snaking through the urban core of Hong Kong, skyscrapers, malls, noodle shops and all, make your way towards the high ground on this mountainous island by ascending Victoria Peak.

If trekking isn’t one of your strong suits, fear not!  There are less strenuous ways of making it to the top then climbing it in your workout gear, as civic planners have installed a tram that will spirit you from the base up to the tower at the top of the peak, which has shops, restaurants and killer views of the city beneath.

In the equestrian world, Hong Kong reigns supreme as one of the world’s prime destinations for horse racing. Happy Valley is at the epicentre for this and for the low admission price of $1 if you bring your passport, you can gain admission to this frantic place, with plenty of cheap beer suds and pleading by the masses on behalf of their horse to go around.  Pick a horse, cross your fingers, and may the odds be ever in your favour!

Earlier, it was mentioned that Hong Kong consists of many islands, some of which are uninhabited, and many more that only have a sparse population of residents.  This makes for some unanticipated trekking, camping and beach going opportunities for those up for a break from the stressful aftereffects of urban life that comprise life in this massive city. Lantau Island is one such place where you can do all three activities, as it much of the land here has been set aside as protected land.  Serious hikers may want to tackle the Lantau trail, a 70 km loop that encircles the entire island, taking you past secluded beaches, between misty mountains, and quiet shrines.

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