Over 150 years ago, Hong Kong was described as a “barren rock.” Today, it’s a dynamic, 21st century city that has 中港車預約 gone from British Colony to one of the world’s must-visit tourist destinations. Its colonial charm is still to be found in the historic mansions dotted around The Peak and quaint customs like firing the Noon Day Gun, yet this is an international city proud of its Chinese heritage and Cantonese gusto.
After the handover from Great Britain in June 1997, Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. While some things have changed, you’ll marvel at this melting pot of east meets west.
Where else can you gaze in awe at a Manhattan-style skyline filled with iconic modern architecture by IM Pei and Norman Foster, and just a few streets away, bargain your heart out for silk and jade at a local laneway market. That’s Hong Kong for you. It’s fast, efficient, entrepreneurial, yet truly Chinese at heart.
Location is everything.
Situated at the south-eastern tip of China on The South China Sea, Hong Kong is actually just one island out of a group of 263. Most visitors spend their time on Hong Kong itself, the popular Kowloon Peninsula and the more rural New Territories. Take a ferry trip to one of the outlying islands such as Lamma, Lantau or Cheung Chau and see how lush and green the scenery is. Hong Kong offers the nature lover wonderful treks across mountains tops and amazing scenery, so when you’ve had enough retail therapy, head for the hills.
When it comes to serious shopping, Hong Kong has it all.
What hasn’t been said about shopping in Hong Kong! Right across the Island, you’ll discover that retail must have been invented here. In Central, slick designer shopping malls such as Landmark and Prince’s Building, cater to expensive tastes. A who’s who of labels, brands and temptations that will entice your credit card time and time again. In contrast, there are street markets like Li Yuen East and Li Yuen West, not forgetting factory outlets where you can go bargain spotting at great prices.
Wan Chai: Wan Chai’s streets are steeped in history and you can happily spend an afternoon exploring the shops and the “wet” market. (It sells food, fruit, flowers, fish, meat – quite different from a US supermarket experience.) Spring Garden Lane between Queen’s Road East and Johnston Road, is a good place to pick up clothes at very competitive prices. The market stalls sell products originally meant for export, meaning quality and price are very competitive.
Causeway Bay: This has become known locally as “Little Japan” because of the major Japanese department stores in the area. It is hip and young, with stores specializing in shoes, electrical appliances and fashion. Don’t miss the small street market called Jardine’s Bazaar, filled with low-cost fashion and accessories.
Stanley Market: Jump on a bus or take a taxi to Stanley, famous for its warren of stalls, shops and restaurants. (The ride along Repulse Bay Road is spectacular with superb views across the sea to outlying islands.) Here you’ll find paintings, curios, cashmere, silks and ceramics, along with cut-price fashion. Open from around 10:00am to 6:00pm daily.
Hungry for more. A world of exquisite, mouth-watering dining options.
As you would expect, good Chinese restaurants are found everywhere in Hong Kong. Some of the best can be found in major hotels and shopping complexes. Most specialize in one or more of the following: Cantonese, Chiu Chow, Hunan, Szechuan, Peking, Shanghainese or Chinese Vegetarian. If you’re hungry for a taste of home, you can find just about everything – from American-style burgers to homemade Italian pasta. Day and night, Hong Kong’s gourmet delights are plentiful – whether you want to pick up a snack or get dressed up and hit the clubs of Lan Kwai Fong, it’s all waiting for you.
What’s new to see and do in Hong Kong now. A Symphony of Light.
As if Hong Kong wasn’t colorful enough, at night’s it’s electrifying. This new multimedia show creates an all-round vision of lights, laser beams and searchlights, performing an unforgettable spectacle synchronised to music and narration that celebrates the energy, spirit and diversity of Hong Kong.
Already named the “World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show” by Guinness World Records, it has been expanded to involve 33 key buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbour. If you are in Hong Kong during a festival, special pyrotechnic displays launched from the middle of the harbour add extra sparkle to the show.
Hong Kong Disneyland. Visit the magical kingdom.
Hong Kong Disneyland on Lantau Island, the fifth in the world, opened in September 2005.It has proved to be a huge draw card for both international and local visitors, so if you’re planning to go, it will busy. You can discover a magical kingdom of thrilling adventures, wonderful journeys and beloved Disney Characters. The park consists of four themed lands similar to those in the other Disneyland parks: Main Street, USA, Adventureland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. By the way, this Adventureland is the biggest one out of all the Disneyland parks.
If you’re keen to actually stay here, you can. There are two enchanting hotels offering unique shopping, imaginative dining and family recreation — all delivered with the style and service you expect from Disney.
Take a journey of enlightenment.
Ride the stunning 5.7km cable car ride up the side of a mountain on Lantau Island to a culturally themed village next to the Giant Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. The Ngong Ping Skyrail travels from Tung Chung adjacent to the airport over spectacular countryside offering panoramic views, across the South China Sea, the mountains and monastery. This is planned to open in mid 2006.
Hong Kong Wetland Park.
Located next to the internationally recognised Mai Po Marshes bird sanctuary, this huge park is designed to demonstrate the diversity of Hong Kong’s wetland ecosystem. You can get closer to nature through integrated themed education and recreation facilities, with audio visual shows, interactive demos and wetland simulations.
Hong Kong Hotels to match every budget.
Hong Kong is one of the world’s top ten travel destinations. You’ll find every type of accommodation available to suit your budget – from major 5 star international names to smaller hotels offering great value rates. Book online and see what hot deals you can find. During holiday time and special Chinese festivals, it pays to book ahead.
They call Hong Kong the ‘City of Life’ because it has always been so vibrant and full of energy. It’s a city that’s both exotic and cosmopolitan making it a perfect destination for first time travelers to Asia. Being a former British colony, there’s enough English signs and people able to speak the language there to make it a user friendly place. At the same time, it’s foreign enough that tourists will definitely feel that they are not on a typical beach vacation. Even after the U.K. gave Hong Kong back to China, this Chinese government designated ‘Special Administrative Region’ has not lost its dynamics. The communist government realizes the importance of Hong Kong as an economic giant and is so far adhering to a two system coexistence for China. ‘Hong Kong’ means ‘sweet harbor’ in the Chinese Cantonese dialect which is fitting as there’s so much in the city to stimulate all of the senses.
There are actually two main areas of Hong Kong. One being the Hong Kong island itself and the other being the Kowloon peninsula which is on the mainland across the harbor. The new international airport is yet on another island and transit to the city can be via train, bus or auto. The bridge that connects to Kowloon is the world’s longest road and rail bridge.
Once in the city, one will realize that Hong Kong is a very busy place with people everywhere. It has one of the densest populations as most of the 6.5 million inhabitants live in high-rise buildings due to the lack of land available. In fact, one reason why there seems to be people on the streets during all hours including the evenings is because people there want to take a break from their tiny apartments and get outside for some space. Hotel accommodations are in every budget range on both the Kowloon and Hong Kong island sides. Getting across the harbor is fairly easy. One can take the harbor ferry which actually has different class levels (the higher levels are slightly more expensive but the views are better). There’s also an underground tunnel that taxi cabs can take and like many other major cities around the world, Hong Kong also has an underground subway transit system. This subway also goes underground beneath the harbor connecting the island to Kowloon. There are double decker buses in Kong Kong as well as double decker rail street cars over on the island. One way to see the various commercial districts on the island is to stay on the streetcar for an entire loop which will take riders right across the downtown areas including some of the street markets.
Hong Kong is a contrast of old and new. There are old temples and monasteries scattered throughout. But there is also that gigantic modern skyline of tall skyscrapers that will make most North American cities appear small. There’s even the world’s longest outdoor escalator here. A must do in Hong Kong is to go to the top of the mountain of Victoria Peak on the island either by bus, auto or a special tram they have there to see spectacular views of the entire region. There are also tours of the boat village where a local will take tourists around the bay in one of their boats. One thing that is very interesting to see in Hong Kong is the early morning exercise sessions in some of the local parks. Every morning, there are crowds of locals, many of them seniors, who meet up at the parks to exercise and do tai chi.
With over 9,000 restaurants, dining in Hong Kong is also an exciting experience. There are all types of international cuisine but of course, the Chinese fare is what most visitors come here for. From elegant dining to busy dim sum houses to street stalls, there’s so much variety of food that it’s impossible to sample everything. There are even the large floating restaurants which serve the freshest seafood catches.
Of course, there’s the shopping experience in Hong Kong. Being a duty free port, there are many bargains in Hong Kong especially for textiles and electronics. Hong Kong is famous for its custom tailors who can make up a new suit within a day or two. As for electronics, for some reason Hong Kong always receives the latest models first even before North America does. Browsing through the many outdoor markets for souvenirs is another favorite activity. Be aware that bargaining is common in the markets so it is recommended to get an idea of typical prices from the retail stores first before going for deals at the markets. Kowloon has a few specialty markets worth visiting including the jade market, bird market and flower market. One must be extra careful at the jade market because if the prices are too good to be true, the pieces are probably not real jade. The night market which operates only during evenings is also fun where there are all sorts of merchandise available from clothing to toys to gadgets. There may also be entertainment such as Chinese opera on the streets during the night.
The Po Lin monastery on Lantau Island near the airport has the world’s largest outdoor Buddha. Visitors climb the steps up to the statue and there are some nice views of the scenery up top. Lantau Island can be reached by ferry via local tour companies who will also take tourists to local fishing villages. Hydrofoil crafts can take casino enthusiasts to Macau which has also been returned back to the Chinese government. There are also tours into the New Territories beyond Kowloon to see more secluded temples and countryside farms as well as other shopping opportunities located in nearby Chinese mainland towns.
It’s incredible how much there is to see and do in Hong Kong even within its relatively compact geographical area. There are so much more exotic sights and cuisine there that one simply cannot experience at the usual North American Chinatowns. At the same time, Hong Kong is so easy to get around with its efficient modes of transportation and wide range of services available in English. Tourists will never feel too lost even in a high activity place like Hong Kong.
In 1997 Hong Kong rejoined main land China, which resulted in it becoming more international, and a popular holiday destination. With an approximate 100, 000 expat community living in Hong Kong, and as a former British Colony, its high standard of living and low tax rates it is a trendy alternative for expats from Europe.
Expats however, will find most things are more expensive here than in their home country, especially if trying to maintain the same standard of living as experienced back at home. Hong Kong is ranked as the most expensive place to live in the world according to Xpatutualor.com’s latest cost of living rankings for July 2012.
While Hong Kong used to be a major manufacturing centre before WWII this only contributed towards 9% of the countries GDP, today 90% of this comes from the service sector. Hong Kong has one of the world’s largest financial hubs, as well as an important trade and cultural hub. It is considered as one of the Four Asian Tigers in terms of its rapid industrialisation and impressive growth rates. The Hong Kong dollar is also linked to the US Dollar, ensuring its strength even in the economic crisis of today, with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange ranks 6th in the World.
Hong Kong is approximately 5% more expensive than Tokyo based on the overall cost of living including household accommodation. Household accommodation comprises 30% of the overall cost of living index. A huge contributor to this cost is the lack of space, with the majority of the population residing in apartment buildings and housing enclaves. The choice of where to live varies enormously, a single-bedroom apartment of 500 sq ft in Happy Valley will cost you around $2 000, while for the same amount you can have a 3 bedroom village house in the New Territories. If budget is a concern, many expats live in communities such as Discovery Bay on Lantau Island, rather than living on Hong Kong Island. Even further out in the Mui Wo, Sai Kung or Cleanwater Bay prices are lower, but you will have to commute a fair distance to get to work. These areas do have fully formed communities, which include schools. The luxurious hilltop village, which overlooks the China Sea, houses some of the wealthiest people in Hong Kong.
The state relies heavily on imported goods and products from Mainland China and other nations. Imported meat products, canned foods, fresh fruit and vegetables are very expensive and can cost twice as much in comparison to other Asian countries. Beverages such as wines, beers, tea, coffee and water, are all imported, making them expensive to purchase. Imports from China are however relatively less expensive than those from other Western countries. There are a number of supermarket chains in Hong Kong these include Wellcome and ParknShop. There are also Westernised supermarkets such as ParknShop International, where expats can find most products from their home countries, but you will pay up to double or triple for the most basic item. The best advice is to find local wet markets where low cost produce and goods are available, and buy fresh fruit and vegetables once or twice a week to ensure quality and freshness.
Restaurants abound in the city and are roughly divided into East and West Style cuisine. The Western style restaurants are regarded as international and are therefore much pricier. To experience true bargains and the local eastern cuisine, go to one of the many tiny noodle bars, where you can get a dish for $3, while at the larger Cantonese style restaurants meals go for $10 a head.
Tea shops are easily recognisable by their huge shining brass kettles and supply piping hot or cold drinks for only $2. Alcohol at local shops is significantly lower than in cities such as Singapore, New York and London, however they are twice as expensive in the international hotels and trendy bars.
Transportation in Hong Kong is reliable, with Taxi’s and MRTs (Trains) being the most used mode of transport. Taxi’s have a starting price of $2.50 and have a quirky colour code system – Red will mostly take you to Hong Kong Island and Kowloon areas, Green only serve New Territories and Blue run exclusively to Lantau which includes the airport and Disneyland. The MRTs cost between $0.30 and $3 per journey, while a ferry shuttle across the complex of Hong Kong Islands can be as cheap as $0.15. An Octopus Card, which covers all public transport, will help you save any more on transport costs and allow you to easily manage without a car.
Clothing is enjoyably affordable, as most wares such as clothes, footwear, cosmetics and accessories come from Mainland China and can be found in the local flea and night markets in the downtown areas. Jewelry, gadgets and electronics are also cheap but the quality is questionable. Labels and brands abound in the Kowloon district shops and malls, where designer wares are popular as the styles and patterns are very much updated with British standards.
Healthcare is also given importance, medical and rehabilitation services are not subsidized and medical insurance is recommended.
There are a number of notable schools in Hong Kong, including ESF schools, American, Japanese, Chinese, German, and Canadian International Schools of which many are affiliated with British Universities.
The best way for most expatriates to keep costs low is to adopt a local attitude and live as the locals do. Look for bargains, buy from local shops, go to local restaurants and live a local lifestyle.