If Hong Kong truly is the place where “East meets West,” then it’s a hybrid made in heaven. With countless festivals, cultural exhibits, world-class restaurants and shopping venues, Hong Kong is a destination that will please every traveler. Whether you’re the type to be dazzled by a lightshow over the city skyline or a groundbreaking ecological presentation at a nature preserve, this “city country” is as inviting as the smell of its “hotpot” restaurants.
Although Hong Kong first took shape as a small collection of fishing villages, it was a hot commodity by the 1800s. Fought over by Great Britain and China for decades, the region eventually settled under Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Today, in the spirit of “One Country, Two Systems,” Hong Kong’s seven million residents enjoy strong connections with China, as well as a great deal of economic, judicial and social independence.
Simply getting acquainted with Hong Kong’s geography is an unforgettable journey in itself. Hop aboard the Peak Tram (imagine a cross between a trolley, train and gondola) while steel cables pull you 1,200 feet above the city. Once at the top, soak in the stunning architecture of The Peak Tower, which stands high above the skyline in all its avant-garde glory. Inside, enjoy restaurants, shops and entertainment – you’ll feel like the king of the mountain in more ways than one. At the Sky Terrace, visitors have access to a 360-degree viewing platform with panoramic shots of every outlying island and downtown skyscraper. If you’re worried about bad weather, make the most of Hong Kong’s subtropical climate by visiting in autumn and winter when temperatures are mild and stable. Check out www.thepeak.com.hk for photos, nature walk guides, Peak history and more.
If you can’t stand to be high above such spectacular scenery, then head to Hong Kong Wetland Park in northern Tin Shui Wai. Dedicated to conservation, education and green tourism, the park features a variety of exotic birds, amphibians, butterflies, fish and other colorful creatures. At the Wetland Interactive World, kids will enjoy “visiting” frozen tundra and tropical swamps while also learning about species adaptation and biodiversity. Everyone in the family will be fascinated at the theater where presentations and films like Insect Wars tell exciting stories of the natural world. For more information about special exhibits and ongoing research at the Hong Kong Wetland Park, visit www.wetlandpark.com.
At Stanley Market, shopping becomes an adventure. Located within an old fishing village made up of narrow historic roads and waterfront views, the market is a must-see whether you’re browsing or looking to buy. The creative-minded will be spellbound by all the Chinese artwork for sale while souvenir-hunters will have their hands full with silks and toys. The market can be a quick-paced environment, but getting around usually isn’t a problem since English is one of Hong Kong’s official languages (in addition to Cantonese). After taking in all the sights and sounds, refuel at one of the restaurants in the Murray House, a beautifully restored colonial building that also serves as home to the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. If there’s still some lingering sunlight after dinner, couples will enjoy a romantic walk along Blake Pier located alongside Murray House.
If you’re looking for something more than the clichés of typical first-class destinations, check out www.discoverhongkong.com; you’ll find a brand of exotic luxury that’s worth every penny. Traveling last minute? Just grab your passport – while trips into China require a visa, Americans visiting Hong Kong for 90 days or less will not need one. Check out http://hongkong.usconsulate.gov/acs_hkvisa.html for more information.
Whether you’re bringing the whole gang or searching for the perfect honeymoon spot, Hong Kong is sure to inspire each and every visitor.