Hong Kong: When East Meets West

Hong Kong: When East Meets West

Written By: explore_with_kazi

Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China and one of the richest financial and trading centre in Asia. You will never run out of things to do in Hong Kong, and like many other tourists, you might find yourself revisiting and unravelling its countless treasures.

Situated on the southeast coast of China, Hong Kong’s strategic location on the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea has made it one of the world’s most thriving and cosmopolitan cities. Hong Kong as we know it today was born when China’s Qing dynasty government was defeated in the First Opium War in 1842, when it ceded Hong Kong Island to Britain. A look at the city’s history could give a strong impression that change is the only constant here. Yet, despite all its reinventions, Hong Kong’s spirit has never changed. In fact, the same energy and dynamism that turned a group of sleepy fishing villages into a crossroads of international trade is now taking Asia’s world city into the 21st century. Experience that spirit and Hong Kong’s story yourself by exploring the city’s rich culture and heritage.

Chinese and English are both official languages. Chinese, especially Cantonese in the spoken form, is the common language, however, and is almost universally understood. A variety of dialects and other languages are used among the ethnic minorities. Apart from Cantonese, common dialects such as Teochew, Hakka, and Tanka are used within separate communities of the Guangdong and Hong Kong Chinese.

Hong Kong’s is truly a mixed culture. Not only does the territory celebrate festivals and holidays of the East and the West, such as the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Chinese Lunar New Year, Christmas, the Western New Year, and others, but it also enjoys hundreds of annual cultural events ranging from traditional Cantonese and other Chinese regional operas and puppet shows to performances of ballet, theatre, and music and exhibitions of paintings and sculptures by nationally and internationally renowned performers and artists.

Hong Kong is composed of different districts. Some districts most likely to be visited include:

Kowloon – If you are a budget traveller, this is a good base as it is packed with budget hotels and hostels especially in Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui. This place is also oozing with local restaurants, a perfect place for a food trip, however be warned though as this area can get too chaotic because of the crowd it brings. In fact, it is dubbed as one of the most heavily populated places on Earth!  Kowloon is also home to the famous shopping district – Mong Kok.

Hong Kong Island – Modern and swanky, Hong Kong Island is where most skyscrapers, banks, posh boutiques, high-end bars, restaurants and clubs are concentrated. Many tourists go here for the sweeping panoramas at Victoria Peak. Also in Hong Kong Island is Causeway Bay, a lively stretch of shops, restaurants and park. While here, you can check out the famed Times Square at the corner of Russell and Matheson Street.

One of the famous attractions in Hong Kong for tourists is the Symphony of Lights, organized by Hong Kong Tourism Board at 8:00 PM. This is where you’ll see a free harmonious display of lights, laser lights, fireworks and music lasting for a few minutes. The best place to watch this is at the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui Harbour. You can also watch this on board sightseeing ferries passing by Victoria Harbour.

Victoria Peak, also known as ‘Mount Austin’ or ‘The Peak’ is where famous actors, politicians, consul generals, bank CEOs and businessmen live. Nonetheless the main reason tourists flock here is because of the scenic view of the city skyline and Victoria Harbour. You can use the coin-operated telescopes installed at the viewing deck to view the cityscape.

Lantau Island – The biggest island in Hong Kong is Lantau Island, home to Disneyland, Ngong Pong and the airport. Ngong Ping highland in Lantau Island is home to 3 of the top attractions in Hong Kong – Ngong Ping Village, The Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tan Buddha. Po Lin Monastery was established sometime in 1960 by 3 monks, this famous Hong Kong attractions has grown to be the biggest Zen Buddhist temple in the country. The front hall decorated with coiled dragons leads to the main Ten Thousand Buddha Hall. Beside the monastery, you can find the colossal Big Buddha called Tian Tan Buddha, another top attraction in Hong Kong. This bronze statue weighs 250 tons and stands at 35 meters high. Ngong Ping Village is a culturally themed village, established to showcase the spiritual and cultural integrity of Ngong Ping. Here, you can find many interesting attractions such as the Walking with Buddha, Stage 360 and restaurants.

Hong Kong Disneyland is undoubtedly one of the famous attractions in Hong Kong. This theme park boasts of 7 themed attractions like Fantasyland, Adventureland, Main Street, Mystic Point, Toy Story Land, Tomorrowland and Grizzly Gulch. Being here is like fulfilling a childhood dream, especially seeing the fireworks display.

Tai O Fishing Village is somewhat untouched by Hong Kong tourism boom and boasts tranquil surroundings where the Tanka people, who have constructed their traditional houses on stilts in the north western coast of Lantau Island. This place is known to locals for its best seafood, shrimp paste, dried fish and snacks. If you want to see what the old Hong Kong looks like, this is the place to be, as the style of the stilt houses here dates back to the 19th century. It is one of the few remaining traditional fishing villages in Hong Kong.

Macau: If you plan to travel to Macau from Hong Kong, the cheapest way is by ferry. Enjoy a day tour to Macau, while visiting Macau’s age-old tourist attractions like the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of A-Ma Temple and the Ruins of St. Paul’s. The tour includes a quick stop at the Macau Tower – the world’s 11th highest tower! Indulge on a sumptuous lunch at a 4 star hotel in Macau.

The IVenture Card allows you to access Hong Kong and Macau’s leading attraction including the Sky100 Observation Deck, Ngong Ping 360, Ocean Park, Noah’s Ark, Macau Tower and many more!

Transport: Hong Kong’s MTR is pretty convenient for getting around and transiting to Hong Kong’s top attractions. You will most likely use this most of the time. I highly recommend getting the Octopus Card or the Airport Express Travel Card for convenience and discounted fares.

Best Time to Travel: Hong Kong is a year round destination, you can visit it any months of the year. However, just to give you an idea about its climate and clothes to pack, spring in Hong Kong falls around the months of March to May – Hong Kong is quite humid and rainy during this season. Summer in Hong Kong is hot and humid and falls around June to September – storms are also typical around these months. Autumn/Fall in Hong Kong is around November to December is a pleasant season to travel to the country. Winter in Hong Kong is around January to February, but worry not as the weather is typically mild at day time – bring jacket/coat as the temperature can get cold at night.

As a former British colony, the prevalence of English speakers and signage alongside its compactness makes it very easy to navigate. One could fill weeks exploring Hong Kong’s many islands, markets, restaurants, sights, and nightlife and still not see it all. Though impossible to condense a city so vast, I’m hoping this will help you experience the most Hong Kong has to offer!

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Countries: China
Cities: Hong Kong
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