Hong Kong Travel Guide - Hong Kong thrives on the magnetic fusion that blends the West with the Orient. You are offered a tantalising glimpse of the city's colonial past in the architecture, pubs and cocktail bars that can be found squatting alongside the steel towers, and yet somehow there is still room for the pockets of traditional Chinese life found on the streets.
Huge amounts of cash have been invested into this city, from the architectural wonder that is Chek Lap Kok airport to the skyscrapers that glitter in Central, the economy is on the up and the excitement is palpable. But this is a city of paradoxes; the consumerism and cash that coat the streets is counteracted by the zen-like calm of the temples and the obsession with feng-shui - the art of building in harmony with nature. The buildings may look ultra modern, but they all adhere to the ancient construction recommendations dictated by the revered feng shui experts.
Hong Kong is also beautiful in a manic, packed and frenetic kind of way, particularly at night when the famous skyline is picked out by the twinkling and flashing neon lights that wink and blink at their reflections in the water. An absolute must-do is to take the Star Ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central and gawp at the dark mountains rising up from behind the glowing metropolis as people have done since the nineteenth century. Hong Kong island is at the very heart of the territory, with the Central district at the core of that. Characterised by flashy modern structures - particularly Sir Norman Foster's HSBC building - juxtaposed with crumbling colonial mansions, this area exudes financial prosperity. However, traditional Chinese life can be found just down the road in Sheung Wan, Kennedy Town and along Hollywood Road. Climb to the top of the hill using the world's largest escalator and find yourself watching old men telling people's fortunes, exotic concoctions bubbling away on hawker stalls and learned physicians touting all manner of medicines.
For more fantastic views of the landscape take the furnicular railway up Victoria's Peak (known simply as 'the Peak') where Hong Kong's wealthiest families reside among the shady trees. Cooler than the fetid streets below, the paths provide welcome relief, particularly during the humid spring and summer months.
To the east of Central is Wan Chai and Causeway Bay, where the city decamps after dark as the eating establishments and bars are numerous and superb. To the south lie Hong Kong's most picturesque beaches, especially Shek-O, and enjoy a bite to eat at one of Aberdeen's floating restaurants. Across on the mainland peninsula lies the district of Kowloon and Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui East has a good selection of museums.
If it's shopping that you're looking for then prepare to be intoxicated by the retail delights of Nathan Road, or 'the Golden Mile' as it is known locally, which attracts the masses searching for bargains. If you're prepared to dive in and be swept away with the current then you'll be intrigued at the sheer selection and volume of products on sale. For a slightly more 'authentic' Chinese shopping experience then explore one of the day or evening markets with their labyrinthine paths that weave around stalls selling snake soups and sweet-singing birds.
If the concrete pavements wear you down and you crave greenery then head for the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens with its fascinating array flora and fauna. The Hong Kong Park also offers landscaped gardens and a gorgeous aviary with cafe''s and restaurants dotting the lawns.
In the rush to see the Hong Kong, don't forget to experience magical Macau across the Pearl River. Aesthetically prettier than its sister city and filled with pastel houses built by the Portuguese, Macau seems almost more Mediterranean than Asian. The hundreds of casino's that line the streets attest to the popularity of gambling in the city but if you want to spend your cash elsewhere then visit the exceptional Macau Museum. It takes just one hour on a ferry to reach the Outer Islands for a day trip. They are far more relaxed than the metropolis and offer swathes of countryside where Chinese life carries on as it has done for centuries. Hire a bike if you're feeling energetic and take in the National Parks, coastal paths and pretty villages along the way.
A short stay in this engaging city will not be enough. Geographically it may be compact, but Hong Kong's lights, glitz and infectious spirit will draw you back to the region and time after time.
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