Looking at the map of China, most of the city names may not be familiar to you, apart from Beijing of course (I hope…), but there’s one small dot on the map that everyone should have heard of. It’s the port city in the very South of China – Hong Kong. If you’re currently interning in Zhuhai, or will be going there soon, you’ll most likely fly to Hong Kong first and then travel over to Zhuhai by ferry. It’s that close.
So what exactly is Hong Kong? If you’ve been to Hong Kong before, you might be wondering why you don’t need a visa to enter Hong Kong, but you do as soon as you want to go anywhere else in China (except Macao, but that’s another story). It’s full name is actually Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Yes, that’s quite a mouthful. In short, this means that Hong Kong presides under the One China, Two Systems principle, meaning Hong Kong has its own government, legal system, police force, monetary system, official languages etc. To understand how this came to be, we need to go back in time a little… a lot.
Back in 1839-42 China was caught up in the First Opium War with the British Empire. When China was defeated, Hong Kong as well as the Kowloon Peninsula were ceded to the Brits and hence became a British colony. There was a bit of back and forth between the British and the Japanese during the second World War, but essentially the British Empire kept control of Hong Kong until 1984 when the Sino-British Joint Declaration transferred the port city to the People’s Republic of China. Hong Kong officially became part of China under the One Country, Two Systems principle in 1997.
So there’s your History Lesson. Let’s move on…
Where to go?
Firstly, a word about transport. Although, it’s more expensive than China, buses, taxis and the MTR (Underground) are still relatively cheap in Hong Kong. It’s a very well connected city, and although it can be daunting at first, the MTR map is easy to navigate. Most people travel by MTR, so I would avoid taking the trains at rush hour. Nevertheless the trains are very frequent and punctual.
Before I came to do my internship in Chengdu last year, and again before I came to Qingdao this year, I visited Hong Kong for a few days. Here’s my 3 favourite places I would include in your holiday planner:
If you go to Hong Kong, you can’t not go to the Peak. If you haven’t been up there, then you haven’t seen Hong Kong. Take the Peak Tram up to the top (this is half the fun!) and once you’re up there, take a deep breath and be amazed. The peak offers you an incredible view of the impressive cityscape and sparkling Victoria Harbour all the way to the New Territories. It is also beautiful at night. One word of advice though, don’t go when it’s foggy or cloudy…
Tsim Sha Tsui or TST
This part of town is right by Victoria Harbour, and the Star Ferry Pier. TST is basically Hong Kong’s shopping area. Hong Kong is already riddled with shopping malls, but here, you can go from mall to mall without ever stepping outside. Apart from shopping though, I would definitely recommend taking a walk along the Avenue of Stars, where various celebrities (including Jackie Chan) have left their handprints, and there’s even a statue of Bruce Lee! As a bonus, you also get a beautiful view of Central on the opposite side, which is especially scenic at night.
This funky place is only three stops away from Tsim Sha Tsui, and it definitely has its own character. You’ll find old and new high-rise buildings, shopping malls and pedestrian areas, street vendors, night clubs, bars and massage parlours. With it’s incredibly high population density Mong Kok has actually made it into the Guinness World Records as the busiest district in the world! What makes Mong Kok famous, however, is its Ladies Market. The street to look for is Tung Choi Street, where you can bargain yourself through over 100 stalls selling everything from suitcases to underwear…
Of course this is not all Hong Kong has to offer. Want to go somewhere quiet and remote? Yes, Hong Kong has that too! Stay tuned for my next blog on some more interesting places to see, and as a special treat, I’ll be talking about food… Dim Sum, anyone?
Night market: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/56498339