Visit China > Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a kaleidoscope of life; a sophisticated fusion of East and West; a city of diversity where new and old meet at every turn. It is a unique experience shaped by a distinctive past and dreams of the future; an age-old synthesis of cultures and traditions that opens a window into what will be, while embracing what has passed.
The city of Hong Kong is the southern gateway to China. This sparkling territory is divided into four main regions: Kowloon, the island of Hong Kong, the New Territories and the adjacent islands. Kowloon and the New Territories occupy a peninsula of the Chinese continent and share a 20 km border with China. The island of Hong Kong lies off the south of this peninsula and its capital, Victoria, situated in the north of the island, faces Kowloon. The adjacent islands form an archipelago of 234 islands.
The Climate is subtropical, hot and humid in the summer (up to 31° C) and cooler in winter (13/20° C). The dry season goes from October to December and the rainy season from April to September. Typhoons are possible from June to October. Late autumn or early spring are the best times to visit Hong Kong.
Special administrative region of China
Hong Kong has about 6.6 million inhabitants, 96% of whom are Chinese. The remaining 4% are expatriates of all nationalities, principally westerners. Chinese is spoken (mainly Cantonese, though Mandarin is on the increase). English is spoken in the business and tourism sectors.
Chinese opera, made up of songs, dance, acrobatics, spoken dialogue and mime, is completely different from its western counterpart. This form of performance is regularly staged in Hong Kong.
A mixture of styles and sugary melodies aimed at teenagers, "Canto-pop" actually is popular among the whole population.
More traditionally, the lion dance, a symbol of luck and good fortune, is presented at all important events such as weddings or the launch of a new business. It is an acrobatic feat presented by kung fu troupes.
Contemporary artists who once had to battle the capitalist mindset of business interests now have to face the return of official Chinese propaganda art. There is one exception: the seventh art… Hong Kong, as the new capital of Asian cinema, produces more films than all of China. Aside from action films from Jackie Chan, Tsui Hark and John Woo, who have all moved to the US, the work of Wong Kar-Wai (Chun King Express, Happy Together, In the Mood for Love) has achieved international fame.
Most of the population (more than 95%) is Buddhist; there are small groups of Christians and Muslims.
Habits & Customs
Many Chinese are superstitious, so you'll encounter in the predominantly Chinese neighborhoods such as Mongkog many fortune tellers' stalls, and you may surprised by the respect given to masters of feng shui (geomancy). The expression feng shui literally means wind and water, and refers in general to mastering the forces of nature. Almost nothing is decided in Hong Kong, business included, without these geomancers. Don't balk: the Chinese attach a lot of importance to these beliefs.
If you're invited to a private house, it's usual to arrive with a small gift. When at table, never touch food with your fingers: use your chopsticks. Don't give in to the temptation to go nude on the beach, which locals consider particularly shocking.
In case of disagreement with a local, avoid getting angry, raising your voice or making him lose face. Never touch a child's head (the most "noble" part of the body.)
Preparing for your trip
A passport valid for six months after your planned return date is necessary to enter Hong Kong. Visa requirements vary according to your nationality. Check when planning your trip.
The Currency is the Hong Kong dollar (HKD). There are many exchange bureaus and cashing travelers cheques is not usually a problem. The use of credit cards is widespread and there are many cash machines where you can withdraw money using international credit cards.
No vaccinations are required to enter Hong Kong. There are no specific Health risks. Nevertheless have good Health insurance since if you require medical attention while in Hong Kong, the costs can be very high.
220 V, 50 Hz. Bring along multistandard adaptors.
During the summer when it is hot and humid, bring along light cotton Clothing and a light raincoat. Pack warmer clothes in winter.
You can obtain almost all major brands of color film and have them developed at a reasonable price in Hong Kong.
Tipping is not widely practiced in Hong Kong. A service charge of 10% is usually included at hotels and restaurants.
Few people rent a car without a driver. Driving on your own can be a real Chinese puzzle. Driving is on the left.
Hong Kong has many large luxurious Shopping centers like Pacific Place (Admiralty neighborhood) or Time Square (Causeway Bay), filled with many chic shops and large department stores. Watchmaking has been an important local business for decades, and you'll find an abundance of outlets in parts of the Kowloon peninsula such as Mongkok. The nearby Tsimshatsui area has many electronics stores. For antiques head to the interesting sector of Hollywood Road on Hong Kong island. And for good deals on cosmetics visit a store in the Sa Sa chain.
The bustling city of Hong Kong was just a collection of fishing villages when claimed by Britain in 1842 following the First Opium War with China. This failed attempt by the Ching Dynasty to stop the British trading in opium led to Hong Kong being ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Nanking that year. The Kowloon Peninsula was handed over in 1860 and a 99-year lease on the New Territories, comprising the area north of Kowloon up to the Shenzhen River plus 235 outlying islands, was granted in 1898.
Under the unique principle of 'One Country, Two Systems', Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty on 1 July 1997 as a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. This arrangement allows Hong Kong to enjoy a high degree of autonomy, retaining its capitalist system, independent judiciary and rule of law, free trade and freedom of speech.
Photos : Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB)
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