Hong Kong City, Hong Kong - Stein Travel
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Hong Kong City

Hong Kong perches on the edge of mainland China occupying an anomalous position as a territory straddling two worlds. Since the handover in 1997 Hong Kong has become a 'Special Administrative Region of China' and no longer a subject of colonial sovereignty. Past and present fuse to create a capitalist utopia embedded within the world's largest Communist country.

Hong Kong offers a dense concentration of stores and shopping malls with a cross-pollinated cosmopolitan culture that embraces Nepalese and British cuisines with equal enthusiasm. It is the perfect gateway for travellers to Southeast Asia and China, providing a smooth transition from west to east. As one of the key economies of the Pacific Rim, Hong Kong Island showcases a gleaming landscape of skyscrapers and boasts a highly developed transport infrastructure that makes commuting around it a dream.

Hong Kong consists of four sections, Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, the New Territories and the Outlying Islands. Kowloon and the New Territories form part of the Chinese mainland to the north of Victoria Harbour. Hong Kong Island, containing the central business hub, lies on the southern side of the harbour facing Kowloon. The Outlying Islands comprise a composite of 234 islands.

Information & Facts

Climate

Hong Kong has a sub-tropical climate, with hot, humid summers and cool, dry winters. Winter lasts from January to March, the coldest month being February, when the temperature averages 57°F (14°C) and the city gets cooled by strong, cold winds that blow in from the north. In summer the wind blows from the south, bringing in warm, humid air and a rainy season that extends from spring through summer. Temperatures in summer climb to a maximum of around 82°F (28°C) and Typhoons are possible during both the spring and autumn months.

Eating Out

Hong Kong is quite simply one of the best places on earth to dine out and experience dishes from across the spectrum of cuisines. Some writers have dubbed this the 'World's Fair of Food' and a 'Gourmet Paradise'. One thing is certain: with over 7 million residents, Hong Kong is the third most densely populated place in the world and that means cut-throat competition and very competitive pricing. There are over 9, 000 licensed restaurants and countless more traders, stalls and mobile eateries.

Hong Kong is best known for its outstanding Cantonese cuisine and the freshest ingredients and finest chefs can be found here. The city's cosmopolitan mix also ensures that there is a dynamic mix of other cuisines. Sushi joints abound, as do pasta houses, bakeries, sandwich shops and just about every other style of eating you can imagine.

One experience you should not miss is trying the local dim sum. These are delicious, mouth-watering snacks prepared in steaming bamboo baskets and eaten as breakfast or lunch along with copious amounts of Chinese tea. Typical dim sum include steamed pork buns, shrimp dumplings, beef balls and pan-fried squid with spicy salt are just some of the local favourites.

Hong Kong residents generally eat five times per and most meals our eaten outside the home. Meals are typically small, and always accompanied by a generous portion of carbohydrates such as rice or mein(noodles). For the visitor this means plenty of places to snack and experience a diversity of dishes in one day.

In a Chinese restaurant waiters will commonly bring tea, condiments and snacks to your table, which will be added to the bill. Most restaurants will automatically add 10 per cent to your bill as gratuity. During Chinese New Year, this charge may be a bit higher. Make reservations whenever possible, especially over lunchtimes.

Getting Around

With one of the best and most varied public transport systems in the world and a compact city centre, getting around Hong Kong is extremely cheap, fast and efficient and is easy enough for even inexperienced travellers. It includes buses, minibuses, ferries, trams, light railways and an underground subway. The underground Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is fast, clean, efficient and inexpensive. Single-journey tickets or travel passes like the electronic Octopus card can be used on the MTR to easily access attractions, shopping and dining locations. Bus routes serviced with double-decker or single-decker buses cover all of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories with final destinations displayed in both English and Chinese on the front. Bus fares are low and distance-based; exact change is required, or you can use the ubiquitous Octopus card, which covers all public transport options. Small mini-buses are more expensive but also more flexible, stopping for passengers to board or disembark on request. Hong Kong's old-fashioned trams still follow the same tracks as they have since 1904 and provide visitors with wonderful views of the city from their upper decks. They are also a cheap and convenient way of getting around. On the water, fleets of ferries connect Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, the Outlying Islands, Macau and Mainland China. Last but not least there is an abundant supply of taxis, colour-coded according to their area of operation. Taxi fares are low, but many drivers don't speak English and visitors are advised to have their destination written down in Chinese characters.

Travellers can use the Octopus Card to pay for transportation, as well as some restaurants and convenience stores. The Octopus Card is rechargeable, and stays valid for up to three years beyond the last date of use. Visit www.octopus.com.hkfor more info.

Kids Attractions

Bustling Hong Kong may seem best suited as a holiday destination for adults but this fun city also has more than enough to entice and amuse kids. Children on holiday in Hong Kong will be enthralled by a medley of parks, zoos, museums and markets to enjoy. And then there are nearby beaches, islands and nature reserves to explore... With such entertaining options, Hong Kong is a great holiday destination for kids!

There are a number of museums near the Kowloon Peninsula for kids to enjoy. Children can learn about traditional Chinese culture in Aberdeen and the outer islands, which are also very picturesque. Other adventure include the fun-filled Victoria Harbour tours, while Central Hong Kong and Kowloon have markets where children's clothes and toys can be found.

The best time of year to take children to Hong Kong, with good weather for outdoor activities and attractions, is between October and December when the days are warm, sunny and dry, and the evenings are comfortably cool. Children's Day is celebrated in Hong Kong on 4th April each year, a very festive time to visit on holiday.

Language

The official languages in Hong Kong are English and Cantonese. The other main language is Mandarin.

Money

The unit of currency is the Hong Kong dollar (HKD); HK$1 is divided into 100 cents. Major banks are open from 9am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to 12:30pm on Saturday. Banks and moneychangers charge commission as do hotels that provide exchange services. All major credit cards are accepted and ATMs are widely distributed. Some HSBC 'Electronic Money' machines provide 24-hour cash withdrawal facilities for Visa and MasterCard holders.

Night Life

Mellow in comparison to Tokyo or Beijing, the nightlife in Hong Kong is somewhat modest, yet there is still plenty to tempt those with an appetite for a party. With plenty of bars for locals and foreigners to choose from, Hong Kong serves its own unique brand of entertainment.

Notoriously naughty Wan Chai has calmed down a lot over the last few decades, and although it has still retained some of seediness and a few girlie bars can be found, there are also many British-style pubs frequented by expatriate locals. The Central district's Lan Kwai Fong is known as having one of the biggest drinking crowds in Hong Kong and the bars to sustain it, and is also a well-known people watching spot. SoHo has a number of ethnic bars and restaurants, and off-the-path Knutsford Terrace is popular for its open-fronted bars and cafes.

Live music is has become a standard feature of many restaurants, cocktail lounges, and bars that actively seeking it out is futile. The Fringe Club is Hong Kong's most well known venue of all things alternative and live acts can be seen here on most weekends, for a price. As it gets later and more alcohol is consumed, most of Hong Kong's small bars tend to evolve into raucous nightclubs while trendy dance clubs impose a strict dress code and often only grant entrance to members.

Those looking for a quieter night out may enjoy seeing Chinese opera, performed at City Hall in the Central district and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui. The Hong Kong Ballet Company and various theatre groups also stage performances throughout the year, though the highlight of the arts calendar is definitely the Hong Kong Arts Festival in February and March.

To find out what's happening in Hong Kong, pick up a copy of the weekly What's On Hong Kongfrom any HKTB branch; or the free HK Magazine, distributed weekly at restaurants and bars.

Shopping

Hong Kong is considered to be the shopping capital of the world. Two factors translate this bold claim into reality: firstly, all goods, other than alcohol and tobacco, are tax-free. Secondly, there is an unparalleled concentration of high quality goods and vigorous competition. The customer is king here, and with credit card in hand you can rule a shopping empire like no where else on earth.

Best buys include jewellery and wrist watches, especially pieces using gold, jade and pearl; and custom clothing and haute couture. Electronics gadgets and audio-visual gear like cameras and ipods are not the deals they once were, but you may find some good prices.

Some of the most popular shopping districts in Hong Kong include Causeway Bay, which contains giant department stores like Sogo and WTC More; the Central district, with high-end boutiques and haute couture; the Admiralty, with a number of shopping malls; and the Peak area, which has a number of souvenir shops and brand-name stores. Mongkok is the place to go for bargain shopping on clothings and electronics, but be aware of what you're buying as many products do not come with warranties.

The contrast between the gleaming modern stores and old-world markets gives variety and excitement to a Hong Kong shopping experience. Don't miss Stanley Market's historic fishing lanes, filled with vendors selling Chinese handicrafts and silk creations (a great place to buy gifts and souvenirs!) Yuen Po Street's melodious Bird Garden is a magnet for songbird owners while Hong Kong's Flower Market is a bright and busy scene that makes for wonderful photo opportunities. The Ladies' Market in Tung Choi Street is renowned for its handbags, but the touts are just as famous for their pushiness. Other great markets include the Temple Street Night Market, Stanley Market, and Jardine's Crescent. There are several regular Hong Kong weekend markets that have great shopping opportunities as well, including the Sunday market outside the Gold Coast Hotel in Tuen Mun, and the Pokfulam Market, held the first Sunday of every month at Level 4 CyberPlaza, Cyberport 2.

If you have any problems, queries or disputes, hang on to your receipts and call the Consumer Council Hotline on +852 2929 2222 for assistance.

Sightseeing

Although better known for its shopping and restaurants, there is plenty to see and do in Hong Kong. The best way to see the city is on foot. It's compact and there are plenty of alleys and interesting detours to explore. When you tire of walking, hop onto the extensive metro system, or catch a ferry into the harbour.

One of the highlights of your sightseeing experience is the exciting contrast between the ultra-modern urban side of Hong Kong, evidenced by the soaring sky-scrapers and luxury shops, and the old-world charm of centuries-old temples like Wong Tai Sin and the thriving traditional markets.

The heart of the city is the bustling Central district, where Western Market and many corporations and gleaming malls are situated. Over to the east are the Wan Chai and Causeway Bay districts where many top restaurants and nightclubs can be found. For museums visit the Kowloon peninsula, and for a glimpse of traditional Chinese culture head out by ferry to Aberdeen and the outer islands.

Ambitious sightseers should get their hands on a HKTB Museum Passwhich gives unlimited admission to a host of museums and provides discounts in the museum shops. Valid for one week, the pass is available from HKTB offices and participating museums.

Time

Local time is GMT +8.

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