Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hong Kong

A typical park on Hennessy Road in Hong Kong Island.
A view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak.  Kowloon is in the distance and Hong Kong Island is in the foreground.  Victoria Harbor is the body of water separating the two.
Chinese lanterns dangle above the Sik Sik Yuen Temple in Kowloon, Hong Kong.
A view of Hong Kong Island from the iconic Victoria Harbor ferry.
The Tian Tian Buddha sits above the tourism area below on Lantau Island, Hong Kong.
Lantau Island is a gorgeous mountainous place that also holds the Tian Tian Buddha (on the right) and the airport.

The city is loosely translated in Cantonese as “fragrant harbor,” but it is commonly referred to all foreigners as Hong Kong.  However, Hong Kong is not just a city but a deepwater harbor consisting of over 200 islands, 426 square miles of land, and vast areas of open space ripe for hiking.  Furthermore, Hong Kong is not just a city in China but officially known as the Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Hong Kong.  This classification gives the Hong Kong SAR complete autonomy in all governance aspects except foreign affairs and defense.  Hong Kong citizens have a Hong Kong passport, not a Chinese passport.  The Hong Kong SAR has borders, visa regulations, and a currency.  Example: American citizens can obtain a 30 day visa upon arrival, but are required to obtain a visa prior to entrance to mainland China.
This special jurisdictional classification has given Hong Kong a unique free market fast moving a-la-Manhattan feel while infusing Chinese culture.  The food and local language are all entirely Cantonese, yet all signs are in English along with most citizens having a high level of fluency.  You’ll feel a banking center with people walking and filling the sidewalks on all streets, yet if you are savvy enough you can figure out how to walk around Hong Kong using sky walks and underground tunnels (especially in Hong Kong Island).  There are markets serving local food next to gorgeous malls like the IFC where every high end western store is available and connected to a Four Seasons Hotel. 
Lantau Island is the largest and farthest island from the mainland but one of the most important.  The new high end airport is located there along with Disneyland Hong Kong and the highly popular Tian Tian Buddha.  Hong Kong Island is the most famous section and well known part of Hong Kong due to its famous skyline.  Victoria’s Peak, the new amazing Hong Kong Convention Center, and the International Finance Center are all on the iconic island.  Separating Hong Kong Island from the peninsula is Victoria Harbor and the ferries giving amazing views of the city.  The most famous area of the peninsula is the southern section of Kowloon.  Hosting a night market, temples, and a main commerce section, this area is lively at all times. 
The city can be explored in a few days, but you can add a day or two to take the hour long ferry to Macau.  Public transportation is fantastic but very crowded, yet is catered to foreigners for ease of access.  You’ll benefit from great food, lively atmosphere, and great weather in winter.

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