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Hong Kong Holidays
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.Read more
One look at the Hong Kong skyline and the prosperity of that era is very apparent. Hong Kong (or ‘heūng gong’ – Cantonese for fragrant harbour) had to grow skyward to house the 7,000,000 inhabitants, 95% of which are ethnic Chinese, making it one of the most densely populated territories in the world for its compact size.
Taking the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour – one of the world’s busiest harbours – is essential to understand the scope and size of the city. On the ride over from Central on Hong Kong Island to Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon you can take in the skyline that’s just as famous as that of Manhattan or Paris. Every day you’ll find dozens of photographers – amateur and professional – with cameras on tripods lined up along Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade trying to capture that perfect shot of the city lights going on at dusk and the city spectacularly illuminated. Taking the somewhat hair-raising Peak Tram to the top of Victoria Peak gives you another perspective on the city, from the highest point on Hong Kong Island.
However, it’s at the micro level that you really begin to make sense of Hong Kong. Essentially there are three main parts to Hong Kong that are of interest to the visitor: Hong Kong Island, which is on the southern side of Victoria Harbour; the Kowloon Peninsula, on the mainland across from Hong Kong Island; and the New Territories, to the north of Kowloon.
You could spend your time in Hong Kong noting the countless contrasts, such as rickshaws and Rolls-Royces sharing the same road, but you’re better off just embracing everything that comes your way. From local dim sum places with plastic tablecloths to glamorous Michelin-starred restaurants with degustation menus, dusty Chinese medicine shops to shiny mega-malls; it’s all authentic Hong Kong.