A City Of Museums.
Hong Kong, China
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 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
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
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
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.
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!