Hong Kong is Asia's 'world city'; an ancient past but a modern powerhouse. The first human settlements date back 30,000 years and it has continued to attract a multinational population since its return by the British to China in 1997. The city is one of the most densely-populated regions on the planet. The energy pulsing through Hong Kong Island, across Victoria Harbour and into Kowloon – the frequently-visited parts of Hong Kong's territory – is palpable. It's not all skyscrapers and bustle though, Hong Kong does have wild outdoor places that the more intrepid visitor will enjoy.
Of the many things to do in Hong Kong, if you only do one, go to The Peak. Catch the Peak Tram (it's been running since 1888) up to the highest point on Hong Kong Island. Admire the stunning view across the harbour, to Kowloon and out to the New Territories. For colour, bustle and bargain, go to the Ladies' Market on Tung Choi Street, Kowloon for 100 stalls selling clothes and accessories. Hong Kong Disneyland is a family adventure world on Lantau Island and while there, for an experience at the other end of the spectrum, visit the Po Lin Monastery and 'big Buddha'. To see traditional performances and rituals to appease ghosts, come to Hong Kong during the seventh month of the Chinese calendar, for the Hungry Ghost Festival.
You could eat your way through Hong Kong, one bite at a time, and still be spoiled for choice. Dim sum means 'touch your heart' and with about 2,000 of these snack-sized (mainly steamed but some fried or baked) morsels in the full range, you'll find something to love. Seafood fans are rewarded with fresh catches and carnivores should try seasoned meats spit roasted at a Chinese barbecue restaurant. Hong Kong restaurants also excel at fusion food – East meets West here and the flavours collide too. Look out for Hong Kong-style tea houses also: they can serve Chinese and localised Western dishes in 5 minutes.
Where to Stay
From historic quarters and commanding waterfront positions to rooms tucked away in the Outlying Islands, Hong Kong accommodation spans more than 200 hotels, guesthouses and hostels. Note Hong Kong does luxury particularly well and 'budget' here does not translate in the same way as in some other Asian countries. Major international chains represented here include The Peninsula, Four Seasons, W, InterContinental, Ritz Carlton and Shangri-La. If you're looking for a hostel, it's a good idea to check if it's part of the Hong Kong Youth Hostel Association; they run 7 across the region.
Having been at the crossroads of trade for centuries, Hong Kong shopping is a treat. Antiques hunters will enjoy Cat Street and Hollywood Road on Hong Kong Island; for silk garments, porcelain, seals and handicrafts, check Chinese department stores such as China Arts and Crafts. Electronics and communications technology trends can be seen and purchased around Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha and Mong Kok. You'll find fashion and beauty products everywhere from towering malls to market stalls. Locals are in the know about what to find and where; don't hesitate to ask.
Hong Kong like a Local
Many locals like to get out of town on the weekend. Here's a quick guide to the great outdoors, Hong Kong style: Silver Mine Bay Beach on Lantau Island is an urban escapee haunt; on the same island, hike 2 hours to Lantau Peak pre-dawn so you catch the sunrise at the top; take a Northeast New Territories Geopark tour to see the remote, curious landforms. If you don't have time to get out of the bustle but still need some 'green time', Hong Kong Island's Victoria Park is a popular spot for locals – there are even tai chi sessions in the mornings.