In 1997, the world watched Great Britain hand over the keys of its Crown Colony, Hong Kong, to the People’s Republic of China. What was the end of an era for Great Britain was only a new beginning for Hong Kong which has continued to evolve at its usual protean pace. In those days as now, travelers swarmed over such central Hong Kong attractions as the Peak and its tram, Stanley Market, the Kowloon water front at Tsim Tsa Tsui, the floating colony of Aberdeen and its jumbo Floating Restaurant and the shopping in Kowloon and Central District.
But since then, the city, which is really only the center of a 250-island archipelago, has added attractions and improved its infrastructure with one of the best new airports in the world, a Disney theme park and an ever expanding range of hotels. And the growth doesn’t stop there, as only recently Hong Kong announced plans for a new major cruise terminal that promises to put it at the center of Asia’s growing cruise travel.
There’s no easier place in Asia to move among the people than Hong Kong and that’s the city’s secret ingredient. Public transportation on buses, subways, ferries and taxis are all easy and inexpensive. Signs are in English; and just about everyone speaks some English. Exploring the city begins with a priceless ride on the Star Ferry that will set you back about 15 cents.
In Kowloon travelers explore museums, malls, stores and the Tsim Tsa Tsui waterfront, one of the great urban promenades in the world. High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel is a world unto itself, a place where live chamber music filters down from the rafters over a tea service in the full British regalia of cucumber sandwiches, raisin scones and clotted cream. In Kowloon’s back streets you’ll find the Jade Market and the Bird Market where tea and canary songs waft between the staccato clicking of mah jong tiles. On Hong Kong Island, the feeling is more British Colonial on the ground and above the towering skyscrapers touch the sky.
At Lantau Island, there is the Disney Park and Ngong Ping 360, a cultural themed village with easy access to the Po Lin Monastery, the world's largest, seated, outdoor, bronze Buddha statue. Gong Ping 360 incorporates such family attractions as Walking with Buddha, Monkey’s Tale Theatre and the Ngong Ping Tea House. The village uses traditional Chinese architectural features with a variety of shopping and dining venues. Away from Disney and Ngong Ping, Lantau is a home to fishing villages, beaches and the monastery. Be sure to ride the four-mile cable car out to Lantau.
Hong Kong’s 150-acre Wetland Park features 70 walking trails lined with bird hides which allow those wanting to watch the birds in Asia’s top birding site an up close chance. Hong Kong, along with Taipei, is generally recognized as having the highest quality Chinese food in the world. The truth is though that Hong Kong’s global nature gives it great cuisine from all over the world. As one of Asia’s top airport hubs, virtually all of the international airlines that fly to Asia have flights to Hong Kong.