The world’s original ‘exotic’ Asian city, Hong Kong is still all that – with a twist. There were concerns that this former colony of the British Empire would become more like China after its handover to the People's Republic of China (PRC). However, as a special administrative region (SAR) for the PRC, Hong Kong has a high degree of autonomy, meaning the city-island has simply become more of what it was before – chaotic, contradictory and utterly captivating.
After the First Opium War (1839–42), Hong Kong Island became a British colony, later expanding to include Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories in 1898. While many British traditions were adopted, such as the schooling system and a laissez-faire economy that was central to the colony's prosperity as a business hub, Hong Kong stayed essentially Cantonese in spirit and culture – but a version of Cantonese that was unique to the region.