Postcard from Hong Kong
4 Jul 2019
Global connection hub, autonomous country of China, former British possession, favourite amongst travellers, erstwhile haunt of opium merchants and pirates, Hong Kong comprising Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and surrounds is all this and more. Hong Kong Island itself, with its world-famous skyline, is the jewel of this archipelago set in the South China Sea, and just off the Chinese mainland. Once a prize reluctantly given to British traders by the former Chinese Emperor after the first Opium War, Hong Kong was returned to the motherland in 1997, very much under its own terms and with freedom from government interference unrivalled in China.
Navigate its teeming, tightly packed sidewalks and labyrinthine streets and you’re met at every turn with neon signage shrieking Cantonese and English slogans. Busy canteens, markets stuffed to the gunnels with goods and chattels and a Babel of chatter form the fabric of downtown Hong Kong be that Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui or Mongkok. English-speaking visitors to Hong Kong won’t have trouble getting around as English is the joint language with Cantonese. Hong Kong is a place of multiple personalities, with aspects of its culture seeming purely British and other facets inscrutably Chinese. Dotted along many streets in Kowloon and indeed Hong Kong Island are little cash and carry grocery stores stocked floor to ceiling with British food and drink and nestled alongside party packs of ‘dimsum in a hurry’, Tiger Balm and lotus root.
Immediately exciting, Hong Kong offers a roll-call of must-do’s. Ancient and modern attractions are crammed into Hong Kong Island and its smaller nearby neighbours extending to the mainland Kowloon Peninsula and New Territories.
Kowloon waterfront is a must-see for visitors to Hong Kong, with a Star Ferry trip across spectacular Victoria Harbour the best way to get here. The waterfront is also a favorite place to watch the famous nightly Symphony of Lights light and sound show. Close by are the Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong’s answer to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
Taking the Peak Tram to the Sky Terrace at the top of Victoria Peak is an all-time favorite. The observation deck is almost 1,400 ft. above the city, affording unforgettable views as far as the New Territories and panoramic vistas of Hong Kong’s archipelago.
Lantau Island is a fascinating place to visit for its Ngong Ping cultural village, as well as the gargantuan bronze likeness of Buddha at Tian Tan. Reaching over 100 ft. tall, it’s the world’s largest seated image of the Sakyamuni Buddha. Also on Lantau Island are fascinatingly traditional stilted fishing villages, set out over waters of the bay.
Then there are the shops and markets. Hong Kong is a retail paradise. Offering glitzy malls, elegant designer stores, trendy boutiques, huge covered markets, and traditional Chinese product stores, dedicated shopping districts abound on Hong Kong Island, across the harbor in Kowloon, and in the New Territories, all of which have malls, department stores, and shops lining dense streets. Haggle for electronica, jewels, clothing, shoes, watches. Take your pick. It’s all here.
If you fancy a bit of a breather, shore up at Kowloon’s grand dame - The Peninsula Hotel and enjoy their legendary afternoon tea. Or perhaps drink in the famous views on the famous Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour. With or without kids in tow head across to Uncle Walt’s dream – Disneyland Hong Kong and discover the love at Fantasyland or Tomorrowland.
And if all this activity is making you feel a little hungry, relax. Hong Kong is famed for its seafood, Cantonese and International cuisine, not to mention Jumbo – the biggest floating seafood restaurant on the planet. Every day is treat-and-eat day in this food-obsessed city, from breakfast to lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and the obligatory late-night munchies. No less than 20 restaurants here are Michelin-starred, with five awarded the coveted three stars. For a culinary bargain, head to Tim Ho Wan (2-20 Kwong Wa St., Mongkok, Hong Kong) – Michelin taste, yum-cha price. Then head to Aqua (1 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong) – An ultra-stylish bar with the most spectacular views of Hong Kong for some bodacious post-dinner drinkies.
And, if you want to leave your comfort zone, try stinky bean curd or even stinkier durian fruit and maybe some hair gel-like jellyfish, splash some cash at Happy Valley on the horses or join in a dawn tai chi class.
Transportation options are wide, from Hong Kong Island’s efficient metro system covering almost all major attractions to regular bus services, innumerable taxis, and water-taxis plying their way across the harbor. The public transport system is reasonably priced with opportunities to purchase all-inclusive tickets to save money. All things said and done, if you don’t ride the Star Ferry even once, it’s sort of like chop without the suey.