Hong kong province -> Hong kong city
The first thing that strikes most visitors to Hong Kong are the very different cultures and societies at work here. It would be easy to dismiss Hong Kong simply as a fascinating combination of East and West but it is much, much more than this with a unique and distinctive culture of its own.
Over the years, Hong Kong has maintained and established a fascinating and intriguing Chinese culture. Traditional food, clothing, ceremonies and values existing here are an almost idealized version of Chinese culture as it is seen in the west. From the active little Temples such as the Man Mo on Hong Kong's winding streets, to the bustling alleys in Mongkok, the existence of a very genuine and real Chinese way of life is evident here.
Sitting side by side with this traditional culture, is a vibrant, efficient and modern side to the city. Hong Kong is incredibly productive and advanced. The economy here, (while no longer booming as it was in the 1980s) is still remarkably buoyant despite the threat from Shanghai on the mainland. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is the center of financial power in East Asia and the thousands of well dressed workers who pour in and out of Central's office buildings and banks every day are a living symbol of the wealth at work in the city. In terms of commerce, the selection of shops and the range of goods and clothing available here is among the best in the world. The subway, trams, train system and business centers are remarkably efficient and among the best in the world. Hong Kong's new architecture too is a fabulous example of the fashionable and contemporary importance of this territory. The Bank of China and the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank are design masterpieces recognized throughout the world. The people living this modern way of life are a unique bunch too.
| Hong Kong's Beaches|
|Many of Hong Kong's beaches are a real pleasure. After a few days in the middle of the city surrounded by smog, a day trip to one of the island's bays is a pleasant way to break up a trip. |
From the west of the island, the beaches stretch around in a curve. The first bay that you arrive at from Hong Kong, Repulse Bay is of course, the most popular. There is a reasonable beach here but it is consistently busy, especially on weekends and holidays. The two small beaches (mid bay and south bay) just a ten minute walk in either direction, offer a little more peace and quiet. The area around here is home to many of Hong Kong's most rich and famous residents. Luxurious villa's and apartments dominate the hills and there is also a big shopping arcade and park close to the bay.
How to get there: To reach Repulse Bay take bus No. 6,6A, or 61 from Exchange Square or the Star Ferry terminus in Central.
The next beach to the east is Deep Water Bay. There is a nice beach here, and the bay is only a few kilometers east of Aberdeen. Trees along the edges of the beach offer shade from the heat of the sun and there are some nice restaurants and bars to eat around here too. Visitors can also set up their own barbecue at the end of the beach.
How to get there: Take bus No. 6A, 260 or 262 from Exchange Square in Central.
The last two beaches in this stretch are the prettiest. It is worth making the effort to get out here, especially if it is peace and quiet that you seek. The beach in Shek O in the southeast is one of the best beaches on the island. It is quiet, clean and the town here is very pleasant too. There is a great laid back feeling about this place, and there are a few great restaurants to try including the Black Sheep. This is a very small, family run place serving up great Mediterranean style cuisine at reasonable prices. The restaurant can be found at 452 Shek O Village.
Just 2km north of here is an even nicer beach, Big Wave Bay. To get here you can either walk or hire a bike from the village. It is usually lovely and quiet and the sea is clear and great for swimming.
| Hong Kong Park|
|Hong Kong Park, tucked discreetly behind Central and the imposing Bank of China building, is one of the most charming and surprising areas in the city. This is a gorgeous and lush urban park, beautifully designed with modern fountains, bamboo and palm trees but also incorporating some fantastic colonial style buildings. |
The Park sits in a dip and is sheltered by the huge tower blocks and mountains shooting up into the horizon that surround the area. The Park contains a lovely aviary, and the Museum of tea ware in Flagstaff House. Hong Kong Park also has over 2000 types of plant and there is a pottery and plate-painting center here too.
It is free to enter the Park and it's a gorgeous place to take a break from the high rises and hectic streets of Hong Kong. If you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of a bride as Hong Kong newly-weds love to have their photographs taken here.
| Victoria Peak|
|Victoria Peak provides the most famous views of Hong Kong. It is a must see for any traveler to the island and it's almost worth making the trip twice- once in daylight and once at dark. |
The Peak has long been the most expensive and exclusive area of Hong Kong. Before the arrival of the Peak tram in 1888, the wealthy were carried up the mountain in sedan chairs. In colonial times too, this was the most prestigious district and many governors and business men bought extortionately priced houses up here, away from the smog and heat below. Today, nothing much has changed and this remains THE place where the fashionable and rich make their homes-snapping up houses at prices which are among the most expensive for real estate anywhere in the world.
It is not hard to see why this area is so popular when you reach the top. The views from the Peak Tower are truly spectacular and this is also a great place to get your bearings of Hong Kong and Kowloon. The Peak Tower stands at 400 m above sea level and was built to withstand all typhoons. This is where the Peak Tram terminates and the Tower contains various entertainment facilities (most are great fun for kids), shops and a few cafes. Check out the prices in the estate agents window in the Tower for property on the Peak if you fancy a pad up here!
Standing next to the Tower is the Peak Galeria. This is another complex filled with restaurants, bars, shops and even a McDonalds. Both these shopping complexes slightly spoil the area and it can be nice to take a walk away from the crowds and commercialism to the real peak of the mountain.
Walking half a kilometer to the west of the Tower brings you to the Old Governors Mountain Lodge and Gardens. This is actually the real Peak, situated 140 meters above the Tower. The lodge itself is a ruin today, but the gardens are very pleasant, offering an alternative to the tower but equally impressive view in a more peaceful setting. There are numerous paths and tracks around the Peak and this is a popular spot for jogging and walking with the ex-pats who live up here. A particularly nice walk is around and down to Hong Kong University. Walk west of the peak along Lugard Road and follow the path down hill. Finally, there is also a popular walk with locals slightly lower down the hill at Bowen Road. This route affords great views and eventually takes you down to Hong Kong University.
If you get hungry and thirsty up here, the Peak Cafe is a nice place to try. In summer, there are tables out the back with gorgeous views over the island bays and it is especially nice at sunset. The food and drink are good though expensive. The other restaurant that is good up here is Cafe Deco. This restaurant serve all kinds of international cuisine. Again, prices are not cheap, but the views (if you get a window seat) are spectacular.
| The Bank of China and the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank|
|The Hong Kong Shanghai Bank (HKSB), was the first building designed in Hong Kong by the British architect, Norman Foster. Since the fantastic success of this building in 1985, Foster has added the International Airport to his list of fabulous designs here. At the time of construction, this was reportedly the most expensive building in the world ever to have been built, costing a staggering US$1 billion. This site was always the home of the HKSB and Foster's radical design is hugely popular on the island. This is partly due to his strategic consideration of the principles of Feng Shui. The building stands on stilts, like a spaceship poised for take off. The HKSB is directly opposite the entrance point of the island and it is inviting and accessible. A Feng Shui consultant advised Foster on the positioning of the escalators inside the building and the lions that guard the entrances. |
The Bank is made from a combination of glass and aluminum and is slightly reminiscent of the Pompidou Center in Paris in that you can clearly see the intricate workings of the elevators, escalators and even the workers. Yet this is a much more exciting and spacious building than the one in Paris. Looking up into the building from underneath, the Bank looks something like an ant hill- with busy workers and machinery scurrying away. Visitors can ride the escalators up to the first floor for views of the interior and down on the entrance below. It is well worth doing this and entrance is free.
In 1985, this place was built to outshine the Bank of China. In 1990, the Bank of China was renovated to dominate the HKSB. What the next stage in the competition will be remains to be seen but for now, despite its inferior size, the HKSB is generally regarded as the better (or at least the more popular), of the two architectural wonders.
| Happy Valley Horse Track|
|Happy Valley Racecourse is hugely popular during gambling season (September-June) with rich businessmen, holiday makers, locals and hard gambling addicts all throwing their money at the horses galloping around this famous track. It is quite an experience to visit here, even if you don't take part in the betting. A racecourse was first built here in 1846 and before the one at Shatin was constructed, this was the only place to watch the horses in Hong Kong. It is still a popular past time and the area around the course has recently been gentrified. The name of the district "Happy Valley" seems a little ironic considering that this was once a malaria infested district. There are many old cemeteries here commemorating those who died from the disease and also in the great fire at the racecourse in the 1920s.|