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A City Of Museums.

Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong Panorama Nearly a decade after Hong Kong reverted to Chinese ownership the city is still thriving. At the time of handover many locals were worried that the departure of the British authorities would lead to Chinese oppression, and that ‘HK’ would become repressive and totalitarian. Despite some problems, that hasn’t happened. The Chinese are quite happy to maintain Hong Kong and Kowloon as a ‘Special Economic Zone’ – and life goes on rather as it did before.

Geography doesn’t change, for a start, and the descent into Hong Kong airport remains one of the most dramatic in the world. Because Hong Kong is surrounded by mainland forested hills, there is rather a shortage of flat space. Several years ago, when it became apparent that modern jets were having to cut landings rather fine on the old airport runway it was decided to build a new one – in the ocean. The terminals themselves are on dry land, but the runway is extended out into the sea surrounding Hong Kong island. When your plane lands it seems until the very last moment that you’re going to put down in the sea. Unnerving, maybe, but no plane has missed the runway yet!

Hong Kong at Night Hong Kong belongs very much to both the past and the future. The modern city is thriving, and can seem incredibly alive, intense and crowded. The shopping opportunities are seemingly endless: everything is available here in venues that range from tiny, bustling markets in the shadow of mighty skyscrapers to the most plush and exclusive department stores you can imagine.

If you like to eat and drink Hong Kong is a whole world in one city. The Hong Kong Tourist Board – a Beijing-supervised operation that is quickly learning how to appeal to the instincts of western consumers – describes the city as a ‘gourmet paradise’. This isn’t a clumsy exaggeration: it is genuinely one of the greatest places to eat out in the world. The atmosphere is as great as the food. Every world cuisine that you can imagine is here, from Chinese to German, South American and Icelandic. You can dine in the heart of Hong Kong or Kowloon, or in one of the city’s floating restaurants. If you feel like a little peace and quiet there are several great pubs and restaurants in the small seaside town of Stanley on the south side of Hong Kong island.

Once your appetite for eating and exploration is sated, you might be interested in wandering around some of Hong Kong’s great museums. They are among the best in the world – and all displays are in English as well as Chinese, the two official languages of the city. Probably the finest museums are:

  • The Hong Kong Heritage Museum. It’s in Sha Tin, in the so-called New Territories on the mainland north of Hong Kong island. There are great exhibitions of local art and audio and visual displays covering the unique art-form that is Cantonese opera. The museum is a little way out of the center of the city, but is well worth the short journey.
  • The Coastal Defense Museum is inside the old Lei Yue Mun fort, set among wooded hills on the east side of Hong Kong island. It was one a group of batteries built by the British to protect the approaches to Victoria Harbor. Until a few years ago the fort was derelict, but now it has been converted into a fantastic museum with exhibits from 150 years of Hong Kong history
  • The Science Museum is great for kids, as it contains a wide range of ‘hands-on’ exhibits and activities they can get to grips with. Perhaps the feature they’ll like best is the 60-foot high Energy Machine, which gives a stunning display while teaching about the various forms of energy. It’s in Kowloon, on the mainland north of Hong Kong island.
  • The Space Museum on Salisbury Road. No moon shot has ever blasted off from Hong Kong island, but this is one of the best museums of space and space exploration in the world. It features one of the world’s largest planetariums in the world, with shows several times daily.

Hong Kong Street Life When staying in Hong Kong it’s worth trying to locate yourself centrally. The territory is surprisingly large, and there are plenty of interesting things to see and do beyond Hong Kong island itself. The city has almost as many hotels as it has restaurants; some very good ones are available at prices that can be considered reasonable by western standards.

Above all, it’s a good idea to stay somewhere where you can occasionally get away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong street life. It’s one of the most vibrant places in the world – but all that energy and enthusiasm is best absorbed in small doses!

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