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Visiting Hong Kong

iStock_000020332697MediumThe most common impression of Hong Kong is that it’s a big bustling city, all skyscrappers, crowded streets, endless neon lights and largely about shopping and business with little focus on arts or culture. That common belief is true, on the surface Hong Kong is all of those things – but venture a little further and you’ll find a whole lot more.

The sight of Hong Kong’s skyline is one of the great wonders of the modern world. It’s not just the sight of hundreds of skyscrappers reaching up to the sky. It’s the added challenge that they’re all perched on the edge of Hong Kong Island on a thin strip of land between Victoria Peak and the deep harbour.

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Catching a cable car up the incredibly steep incline to ‘The Peak’ viewing platfrom will give you a stellar view over the skycrappers across Hong Kong Bay to Kowloon. Since the handover from the United Kingdon is 1997 Hong Kong’s landmarks have gradually been dropping their English names, so what used to be ‘Victoria Peak’ is now just ‘The Peak’.

Mong Kok MarketHead across the bay on a super cheap Star Ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui and you’ll get the even better reverse veiw back to Hong Kong Island. Time your trip to coincide with Chinese New Year and you’ll be rewarded with one of the most amazing light shows, entire buildings are works of art.

Over in Tsim Sha Tsui you’ll find one of the worlds great shopping precincts, inside the massive Ocean Terminal, where the cruise ships dock, are over 700 individual shops, and if you keep walking through the streets you’ll come across pretty much every designer label known to man. Be adventurous, check out the little independent shops in underground arcades – where Hong Kong’s up-and-coming fashion designers display their creativity.

Catch one of Hong Kong’s super fast subway trains down to Mong Kok and when you return to ground level you’ll be in the middle of a fabulous street market packed with everything from clothes, knick knacks and an incredibly interesting vegetable market. Don’t worry about getting too lost in the maze of markets, eventually you’ll stumble over the entrance to the train station again and be able to make your escape.

Venturing further a field a ferry ride can take you over to Lamma Island, a tranquil beach filled island that is the complete opposite of Hong Kong’s concrete pavements. Lamma is where you can feel the sand beneath your feet and get back to nature. The island’s got a more hippy attitude to life, stores are filled with great handmade crafts, and the seafood resturaunts feature the freshest produce.

If you’re staying for more than a few days explore the fun that is Disneyland Hong Kong, and the popular Ocean Park – which has been voted one of the world greatest theme parks.

Getting around Hong Kong is easy, there are superfast subway trains, ferries across the bay are cheap, as are taxis, and most good hotels will have free shuttle buses to take you to popular spots. The weather will be different depending what time of the year you visit, right now it’s hot and humid, but visit in winter and you’ll need a scarf and jacket.

Graeme Watson visited Hong Kong in March, and was based in the city in 1999 and 2002.     

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