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Source: Croatian Traveller
Hong Kong is a very schizophrenic city, but in the best possible sense. With every new step you encounter something new – either you go from a typical British pub into a traditional Chinese tea-house, or into the empires of office buildings that are true business centers, not just symbols of a chief banking of banking. Among them you will find improvised stands with counterfeited merchandise and cheap toys. You should also add that this is one of the areas with densest population in the planet, but it is still a very safe city, with an unbelievably low crime rate.
The name of the town could be translated as “fragrant harbor”, because of numerous incense stick factories that used to line the coast, but that name has long ago lost its sense and is now referenced only by the romantics. Today, the harbor around which the city was built does not smell all that good. Apart from being an important port and banking center, Hong Kong is also a big hub for airline companies, with one of the best airports in the world. Although it is formally a part of PR China, Hong Kong has a high autonomy status with its own immigration policy, which basically means that most of western state citizens do not need a visa. In the end, this makes your trip easier.
The first investment that really pays off is the Octopus card – it is used as a small credit card during your stay in this subtropical city. You can use it to pay public transportation, even some taxis, you can shop in certain stores, put money on it... the possibilities are endless. Getting around town is easy, and it is best seen it from the tram. The trams are rather unique – very archaic, double-decker ones, reminding of double-decker buses of London. There is plenty to see there, but Hong Kong is probably best known for its magnificent skyline, either from the sea or the mountains. If you want to use the former, you should head to the harbor and take a local boat and travel to the nearby Kowloon and visit its promenade, called the Avenue of Stars.
This copy of Hollywood hosts all the stars of Hong Kong film industry – two probably most famous among the people who got their stars here are Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. There is also the Bruce Lee monument, which is the second in the world, because the Bosnian town of Mostar won the somewhat bizarre race of who is going to erect the monument first. It beat Hong Kong by a day. “A Symphony of Lights”, a spectacular laser light show synchronized to music starts every evening at exactly 8 o’clock. Guinness claims it is the biggest of its kind in the world.
The second popular vista point you shouldn’t miss is the Victoria Peak. We recommend you visit it when the night falls, because the view of the city you will have then is unforgettable. A ride to it is also a kind of attraction. A train has been taking passengers up the hill for the past 123 climb, climbing the amazing 50 percent incline. All you need to do is lean back and reach almost a lying position to feel like the British aristocracy that came here in the 19th century for a cup of tea.
Among the museums, the most important is the Hong Kong Museum of Art, where you will find excellent examples of Chinese pottery and paintings, as well as works of modern artists. It is also good to visit the museum of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, dedicated to the father of modern China, but probably the most interesting one is Dialogue in the Dark where you will see nothing at all – the exhibits are placed in the dark. To experience them, you need to use other senses, like touch or hearing. The local very much like to bet – that is just another relic of the colonial rule that left a deep trace – the most important betting sports being horse or dog racing.
An excellent way to get to know the city are the escalators, i.e. to be precise the famous Hog Kong escalator, some 800 meters in length, making it the longest system of moving walkways in the open. It takes its passengers from the city center into the part of town called the Mid-levels, and on its way it cuts some of the oldest streets in Hong Kong, and goes through the part of town called Soho. Soho is a place you simply have to visit. Located in the historical part of town, it is full of pubs, bars, restaurants, galleries, night clubs and all other institutions calling you to come to this city. Bars work late into the night, and the mild climate enables the people to sit outside on the street or stairs in the already packed place, drinking their cocktails in a merry chatter, or if it suits you better, to comment results of rugby matches.
To experience a more peaceful Hong Kong, go to the New Territories, a portion of land bought by the British in 1898. Here you can get to see the rural life, enjoy the beautiful nature or perhaps some of the ancient temples that are up to a thousand years old – like the Castle Peak Monastery or much younger Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (that actually has 12,800 sculptures of Buddha).
Hong Kong is an excellent shopping destination. Tax Free and great competition has made this small territory one of the best destinations for the shopaholics around the world. There are plenty of huge shopping malls, and all of them seem to be competin, who will have a better offer of global brands, but you should also visit the street vendors that trade in top quality teas, medicinal herbs, as well as the antique shops on Hollywood Street.
However, Hong Kong is actually a big name in good food. Yes, there are talks that Hong Kong is the center of banking and good shopping. Some say that it has a good artistic scene and museums worthy of visit. Apparently the nature and the skyline are also not bad. But one thing is for sure – the food in Hong Kong is fantastic. Bad food is considered here to be a personal insult, and that is not just an empty phrase. The concentration of Michelin restaurants, these temples of cuisine, is frighteningly huge. Peking Duck in the Peking Garden is divine, and so are the truffle filled dumplings in Din Tai Fung. Perhaps someone prefers those filled with shark fins, sprinkled with gold leaves? The flavor of gold isn’t that special. Indeed, it can be very harmful for the organism, especially the kidneys, but in some moments it is not important at all. It looks good, it sparkles, and in a bizarre way, it suits this city.
What’s even more bizarre is that most of these restaurants can compete with the ones in Zagreb when it comes to price.
With more than 50,000 hotel rooms, there is a great possibility you will find something for anyone’s budget. The prices range from 70 Hong Kong dollars (somewhere around 45 kuna), to much, much more. Just like anywhere else, the quality of offer is very much connected to the price, but it is typical that the passengers will not be deprived of anything.
Since the British tried very hard to destroy anything food related, tea was no exception. The question why the British put strawberry jam with rose petals in their tea is not a viable one here. Order one such tea, like for example in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, and you will get your answer. It is so because it goes perfectly together, just like those golden leaves on the shark fin.