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A sample of Hong Kong

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hong Kong is where east meets west. It is China's richest region and a major centre of international finance of trade. It was a British colony from 1842 until 1997 when its sovereignty was transferred to the People's Republic of China. Hong Kong is on the eastern side of the Pearl River Delta, facing the South China Sea in the south and bordering Guangdong province in the north. It is sophisticated, exciting, busy, alive, noisy, and offers tourists as much variety as they can cope with.

Getaway visited Hong Kong and its surrounds, and we've put together a good cross-section of things to do and places to see when you visit this fascinating place.

We found getting around very easy. The Airport Express Link came into service in 1998. It provides services to the airport and also in-town check-in facilities at some stations. The AEL has a route length of 35.3km and a maximum speed of 135km/h. An average journey takes about 23 minutes and you don't have to wait long for a train — they come every five to 10 minutes and carry over 21,000 passengers each day.

Hong Kong Mobile Host is an audio service making touring easy for the DIY visitor. It provides visitors with an in-depth appreciation of the city's multifaceted attractions, anytime and anywhere. It offers on-the-spot commentaries on key attractions, shopping offers, dining recommendations and major events.

Visitors can choose a three-day pass which offers unlimited audio access to the service using a roaming SIM card without any additional charges, or dial up on a call-by-call basis at prevailing airtime rates.

The Octopus card is a good purchase. It can be used to pay for public transport and in some retail outlets. It eliminates the need to carry coins and is so popular there are over 10 million cards in circulation (millions more than there are people).

Duk Ling
Duk Ling is the last of the junks built in Hong Kong 150 years ago. They are a reminder of the days when taipans and opium traders settled on the barren rock.

Hong Kong Tourism Board created The Cultural Kaleidoscope program to provide exciting ways to enjoy the city. Visitors can board an authentic junk and set sail into the busy harbour. Rides last around an hour and carry just 30 passengers and are free on Thursday and Saturday.

Visitors should register in advance and will need to produce their passport. They can board at Kowloon Public Pier, Tsim Sha Tsui or Queen's Pier on Hong Kong Island.

Duk Ling offers the perfect way to get the feel of the city and to take in its breathtaking skyline. While the boat uses just wind power to make its way around the harbour, it does have a powerful engine and propeller if for any reason it needs to return to shore. Sails are hoisted and lowered manually, as is the anchor.

Thanks to changes in marriage licensing regulations, Duk Ling is now a legal wedding venue. Couples can now tie the knot in Hong Kong's most romantic surroundings.

Peak Tower
Once you've seen the layout and skyline of Hong Kong, the next step is to visit The Peak. The Peak Tram is the city's most popular tourist attraction and carried its first passengers in 1888. A ride on the funicular railway takes seven minutes from the city centre to the top. It winds past skyscrapers and greenery to reach the summit, where you have magnificent views of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

The Peak Tower is wok-shaped and sits at an elevation of 396 metres. There are viewing terraces at different levels, each offering excellent outlooks.

There's no shortage of restaurants, ranging from Asian to the well-known American burger chains, coffee and juice bars, retail shops and there is a year-round calendar of events.

It's hard to know where to begin here. Hong Kong is a shopper's paradise. You can buy anything from the cheapest little plastic souvenir to almost priceless relics from various dynasties. In between is clothing, shoes, jewellery, luggage and electronic goods.

Locals seem to live for eating and shopping. Both are social activities and forms of recreation. There are two extremes — markets filled with copy bags and clothing through to expensive designer labels. There is no sales tax in Hong Kong, so the price you see is the price you pay — unless you choose to bargain for something lower.

A good place to begin is Ladies' Market in the busy area of Mong Kok. Once devoted to women's clothing, it now sells things for everyone, and boasts Hong Kong's largest selection of toys, cosmetics, watches, bags, household items and toys. It's close to Mong Kok MTR station, so gives you the chance to ride the city's metro.

Hollywood Road is full of antique stores and SoHo (south of Hollywood), is a lively dining district, has coffee shops, bars, boutiques and local designers.

Ranee Kok is called the Princess of Textures. Her designs blend east and west and reflect her Oriental roots and love for art deco. If something takes your fancy but doesn't quite fit, Ranee will make it in your size. Amours Antique, just next door, is a treasure-trove of Victorian and Edwardian antiques. Worth a look!

Sam's Tailor is an institution and possibly the most famous in Hong Kong. Sam, (whose real name is Manu Melwani), is the son of Indian immigrants and has been tailoring for 47 years. Pictures of the rich and famous adorn the walls of his nondescript shop. His staff of 55 boasts 12 Shanghaiese tailors who include hand stitching in the garments they make.

You can have a suit made in three days, with just one fitting and they use the finest of European fabrics.

Think Hong Kong — think jewellery. Henry Cheng at Premier Jewellery has the business in his blood. His great-grandfather began collecting gold and jade over a hundred years ago. His parents bought a jewellery store and Henry studied gemmology in London. He now runs the family business.

Jewellery attracts no sales or luxury tax, so check out jade, pearls, diamonds, rubies, emeralds — whatever takes your fancy.

Ngong Ping
This new cable car cost $HK1 billion. It even has locals buzzing. A ride on Ngong Ping shows a pristine side of Hong Kong that most didn't know existed. Built by the company that built Queensland's Kuranda Skyrail, the project was protecting the park which is in an area called the Green Lung of Hong Kong. In the initial stages, equipment was carted by donkeys, minimising impact on the land.

The 25 minute 5.7km trip across Lantau Island takes a carefully selected route which glides over the South China Sea, North Lantau Country Park, panoramic views to Hong Kong International Airport, the Tian Tan Buddha statue and the verdant, mountainous terrain of Lantau.

Lantau Island
Lantau is the largest outlying island in Hong Kong, and almost twice its size. More than half of Lantau has been designated as country park. Its tranquil, green environment makes it a popular place for nature lovers and hikers.

Beginning at Ngong Ping with views over Shek Pik, a trail winds around the northern slopes of Lantau Peak. It descends into Tung Chung Valley, through woodland, past mountain streams, an old fort and monasteries.

A highlight is the 34-metre Giant Buddha. The world's tallest, outdoor, seated bronze Buddha sits on a lotus throne above a three-platform altar. A steep climb up 260 steps takes you to the 250-tonne Buddha, and those who do it say every step is well rewarded.

Admission tickets include a vegetarian snack or meal. The nearby Po Lin Monastery on the Ngong Ping Plateau has a large vegetarian restaurant.

Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland opened a year ago. It covers 126 hectares on Lantau Island overlooking Penny's Bay. While it is very similar to other Disney parks around the world, this one was designed under the watch of a feng shui master.

Visit Main Street USA, Adventureland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and see the Disney Parade and nightly fireworks display. All the old favourites are there — Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Daisy, Pluto and Goofy, Winnie and Tigger and all their friends.

The Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is the place to stay for easy access, and you're sure to want more than just one day there!

Cultural Hong Kong
Amongst all the glitter and glamour of Hong Kong, tradition plays a very strong part in its being. The new Cultural Kaleidoscope Program created by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, gives numerous ways to experience less-obvious enjoyments of the city. The program covers feng shui tuition, tea appreciation, Chinese medicine classes, massage and a tai chi lesson with a master.

Visitors can visit six of Hong Kong's best museums with a special, low-cost museum pass. Experience the museums of art, heritage, history, space, science and coastal defence.

Hong Kong Chinese cling to their roots, their traditional beliefs and religions. They pray and make offerings at over 600-year-old and new temples, shrines and monasteries scattered across the territory.

Chinese medicine is very popular. Its aim is to maintain or restore harmony in the body and the balance of yin and yang, the two types of energy. Tai chi was developed centuries ago. Its graceful, fluid movements help balance the yin and yang and is a favourite means for keeping fit. It is an excellent means of relaxation.

Feng shui — literally wind water — aims to balance the elements of nature to create a harmonious environment. It influences the design of buildings, highways, parks, tunnels and grave sites.

The Blind Society operates two health massage and treatment centres. Masseurs are visually impaired or totally blind and trained in the 2000-year-old Chinese tradition of massage. Their sightlessness heightens sensitivity of touch, and there is no chance of missing a vital pressure point. Money made is put into training beginners, and furthering the studies of people already practising the trade.

Herbs and medicines are available all over Hong Kong. Consultations take around 10 minutes and a concoction will be made up to ease your ailments. Most seem to look and taste ghastly, but if they work — it has to be worth a try!

Aqua Spirit Bar
When you've done all the touristy things you may fancy a night on the town. Aqua Spirit Bar is the glamorous newcomer in town and has it all. Japanese and Italian cuisine, served in ultra-stylish interiors 30 storeys up, accompanied by designed drinks.

The mezzanine level bar plays chill-out Buddha bar-style sounds and has plush lounge seating. They offer an enormous range of cocktails — old favourites and some wild new creations.

Hong Kong dining
The Chinese and food combination represents 5000 years of tradition and philosophy, and the cuisine culture is so strong it has penetrated every corner of the globe.

Every morning, markets are packed with people buying fresh vegetables, meat and seafood. Chefs, housewives and amahs search for the best produce at the local wet market, and even if you aren't buying, it's worth visiting one.

Opia Restaurant in the Jia Boutique Hotel was recently voted Best Restaurant in the South China Post/Harper's Bazaar Style Awards. Executive Chef Dane Clouston arrived there via Ezard in Melbourne. His style of modern Australian cuisine with Asian influences, has captured the imagination and Andre Fu interiors make it quite the place to go.

Rainbow Seafood Restaurant in the fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma Island has a seating capacity of up to 800. They specialise in steamed grouper, lobster and abalone and prices are moderate. They offer a free ferry shuttle service from Kowloon and Central.

Nan Xiang at Causeway Bay is incredibly popular, and always packed. You take a ticket and wait to be called. They specialise in dumplings and steamed buns, pork belly in soy and hot and sour soup with noodles.

Food carts were once seen all over Hong Kong, but these days there are only around 33 of them. The Lan Fong Yeun cart at mid-levels serves a mean pork fried bun and a special blend of tea.

Symphony of Lights
Hong Kong is certainly a city of lights, but they wanted to go one step better. They have the world's biggest sound and light display. It began with 17 buildings being involved, and that has grown to 33 on both sides of Victoria Harbour, and growing. It is a definite must-see.

The music and narration is broadcast every night along the Avenue of Stars at Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. Narration is in English on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.


In the South China Sea.


Creative Holidays and Travelscene American Express have a Hong Kong holiday package including four nights' accommodation at the Stanford Hillview Hotel, a day tour around Hong Kong Island, late check-out and return airport transfers. Prices start at $216 per person twin-share. Valid for sale until March 31, 2007, and for travel between November 1, 2006-March 31, 2007.

Duk Lingcruises are free on Thursdays and Saturdays. Book through Cultural Kaleidoscope program.

Peak tram return rides to the Peak Tower are around $6 for adults and $3 for children.

Ngong Ping cable car ride is around $15 return for adults and $8 for children.

Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery entry is free.

Hong Kong Disneyland regular day tickets are around $50 for adults and $35 for children.

Cultural Kaleidoscope offers a range of free classes and activities.

Hong Kong Mobile Host is $HK60 for three days.

An hour-long massage at the Health, Massage and Treatment Centre is around $30.

Octopus cards can be purchased from public transportation companies' customer service centres. They require a $HK50 deposit which will be refunded along with any unused money. Just top it up when the amount is getting low.

Prices quoted are correct on October 19, 2006

More information

Hong Kong Tourism Board
Ph: (02) 9283 3083 and 1800 251 071

Virgin Atlantic
Ph: 1300 727 3400

Travelscene American Express
Ph: 13 13 98 during business hours

Cultural Kaleidoscope

Duk Ling
Ph: 0011 852 2573 5282
Fax: 0011 852 2572 9209

The Peak Hong Kong
128 Peak Road
The Peak
Hong Kong

Ladies' Market
Tung Choi Street
Mong Kok

47K Staunton Street
Ph: 852 2108 4068

Sam's Tailor
Ground Floor, Burlington Arcade
92 -94 Nathan Road,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Ph: 852 2367 9423

Premier Jewellery Co Ltd
Holiday Inn Golden Mile Hotel
50 Nathan Road
Tsim Sha Tsui
Kowloon Hong Kong
Ph: 0011 852 2368 0003

Hong Kong Disneyland Resort
Lantau Island
Hong Kong
Ph: 0011 852 1 830 830

Blind Massage
Health Massage and Treatment Centre
248 Nam Cheong Street
Shamshuipo Kowloon
Ph: 852 2779 1888

Aqua Spirit Bar
Penthouse, 1 Peking Road
Tsim Sha Tsui
Kowloon Hong Kong
Ph: 852 3427 2288

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