If tranquillity and serenity are adjectives you would use to
describe the perfect trip, leave Hong Kong out of your itinerary.
The boisterous energy of 14 million inhabitants leaves the visitor
wondering if insomnia is contagious in this city.
Hong Kong is the quintessential representation of east meets west,
boasting its own Times Square along with artefacts from the Palaeolithic Age.
The far-reaching history and booming capitalist economy has propelled
Hong Kong to the forefront of modern technology and commerce. The best way to navigate
this urban jungle is to allow extraordinary diversions to lead where they may, while
visiting a few key sites when you travel to Hong Kong.
Since the Stone Age, the island of Hong Kong has supported a
society rich with influences from Europeans and the Portuguese through steady and moderate
During the 1700s, increased commercial value of Asian luxury goods
sparked heightened global interest in this once-neglected corner of China. Following the
Opium Wars of the mid-19th century between the British and Chinese, Hong Kong was
officially ceded to the British Empire as a Crown Colony; beginning in 1898, for a term of
During that term, Hong Kong's economy blossomed onto the international
stage to become one of the most prosperous free markets of today.
After 1997, Hong Kong was returned to China as a Special Administrative
Region under the conditions that the market and government would remain free and
democratic (non-Communist) while Beijing would only handle national security and foreign
diplomacy ('one country, two systems').
Today, Hong Kong has maintained a majority of its autonomy and
travel to Hong Kong has remained relatively easy for Western nationals.
At this time a visa is still not required unless travelling through
China as well.
English is still an official language along with Chinese.
The constant buzz of modern life and the ghostly prevalence of
ancient life on the island will keep any traveller occupied without a moment to spare.
A unique attraction that pays homage to the Chinese fixation with
caged song birds is the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden; where 70 different bird stalls, each
elaborately decorated, fill the air with their own harmony.
From anywhere in the city it is impossible to miss the looming Bank of
China Tower, now Hong Kong's national monument and a modern declaration of China's
mounting role in the global economy.
In the centre of the city is Times Square, a monumental 9-story
shopping complex that dwarfs Western commercialism. Hong Kong museums do not skip a beat,
ranging from science and space to history and art.
When the sensory overload of the city centre begins to take a numbing
effect it is easy to escape to one of Hong Kong's many parks and monasteries.
Victoria Peak is by far the most popular asylum, standing 1,810 feet
above the city lights - only to offer more distractions of a smaller commercial district.
The famous Man Mo Temple and the Miu Fat Monastery provide a
mind-calming sanctuary while Kowloon Walled City Park, which once protected a private
Chinese enclave during British rule, is a true natural refuge from Hong Kong's concrete.
Once in Hong Kong, the city will guide you along its commercial
corridors and through its ancient alleys.
Tradition and history are alive in every corner of this modern
municipality, as long as you can turn away from the neon distractions.
By Frank Johnson.
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