Hong Kong provides one of the most diverse and dramatic urban traveling experiences the world has to offer. The abundant natural and cultural attractions will keep visitors entertained from morning till night.
Victoria Peak and the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront are the two biggies on almost every tourist's schedule in Hong Kong. The 552-meter-high Victoria Peak is the highest point of Hong Kong Island. From there, visitors can get that postcard-like view of the bustling city. The Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade is the vantage point to watch the nightly light and sound show, A Symphony of Lights. It's also the home of the 440-meter-long Avenue of Stars, China's answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. To cross the harbour from Tsim Sha Tsui, Star Ferry is the most relaxing and popular transport.
Hong Kong is an extremely family-friendly travel destination. Besides two state-of-art amusement parks, Ocean Park at Aberdeen and Disneyland on Lantau Island, the city has a number of great museums providing interactive activities in English, Cantonese and Mandarin. The Hong Kong Science Museum and Heritage Museum, both in Tsim Sha Tsui East are top of the bill. Ladies Market in Mongkok is a treasure chest of souvenirs.
For a taste of nature, both Sai Kung in the eastern New Territories and Lantau Island have lush mountains, brilliant beaches and idyllic, old-school fishing villages.
Sai Kung Seafood Street
One of Hong Kong's more laid-back attractions, this fishing town is where Hong Kongers retreat for sea-swimming, kayaking and some of the city's best seafood. The town's main drag is a 1,000-meter-long street lined with seafood stalls. Each looks like a mini aquarium as the boss displays an amazing array of freshly-caught seafood for diners to order. Across the street, fishermen sell curious looking catch right off the boat at the pier. Many fisher folk also offer sailing trips around the surrounding islands for around US$20. Some six kilometers south of the seafood street, Trio Beach is a nice soft-sand stretch with calm and clean water, a relaxed atmosphere and opportunities for seaside barbecue. For truly energetic types, Sai Kung Country Park provides some of the most challenging but rewarding hiking experiences through mountains to beaches. (No phone)
Hong Kong Disneyland
Escape the city center for a family day trip to fantasy by the overly cute Disneyland Resort Line from Sunny Bay metro station. Currently the smallest of all Disneylands, the 240,000-square-meter park is compact and easily navigated (like everything else in Hong Kong). The wonderland consists of seven sections including two world exclusives: Mystic Point and Grizzly Gulch. The former is the latest addition to the park and features a haunted Victorian-style castle owned by fictional explorer Lord Henry Mystic as well as the most advance trackless ride Disneyland has built. The latter is another original story designed just for Hong Kong. Set in the American West, the sandy yellow section has a hair-raising gold mine roller coaster. The comprehensive resort also contains two large-scale hotels for ultimate Mickey fans: 600-room American-style Hollywood Hotel and 400-room Victorian-style Disneyland Hotel.
Po Lin Monastery
Situated on the picturesque Ngong Ping Plateau, the grand temple stands as the pinnacle of Hong Kong's Buddhist culture. The absolute highlight is to pay a visit to the monastery's Big Buddha. The bronze structure stands 34 meters high and weighs 250 tons and is the world's largest outdoor seated Buddha statue. Sitting on a three-story altar modeled after the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, the religious landmark cost about US$7 million and took some 12 years to complete. Legend has it that the giant Gautama faces towards Beijing so it can give good fortune to the whole of China. (852-2985-5113, 852-2985-5248)
Happy Valley Racecourse
Surrounded by high rises, this downtown racecourse is one of the greatest stadiums on earth to enjoy a sweaty, noisy and adrenaline-pumping horse race at night. Dating back to 1844, the 55,000-seat racecourse is one of the earliest public facilities in colonial Hong Kong. Regular races take place every Wednesday and Saturday from September to June on the 30-meter-wide grass track. A 978-seat iPad-equipped betting hall is located on the second floor of platform one. Visitors can either pay HK$10 (US$1.3) to sit on the public spectator seats or HK$100-150 (US$13-19) to enter the member-only zone. There are a total of seven restaurants and bars in the complex from Cantonese dining to al fresco drinking. On the second floor of the Happy Valley Stand of the racecourse, there is a 670-square-meter museum, Hong Kong Racing Museum, tracing the past and present of the city's enduring pastime. (852-2966-8111, 852-2895-1523)
Occupying three blocks of Tung Choi Street every night, this enclave of more than 100 stalls represents the epitome of Asia's market culture: a bit crowded, a lot noisy but totally stimulating. Rather than what its name might suggest, the 1,000-meter-long market sells a wide selection of clothes, shoes and travel souvenirs, from US$5 sandals to Chinese necklace pendants to the "I Love Hong Kong" T-shirts. Although it's been running for about three decades, this government-licensed street market is still set up from scratch every day. Vendors build their canvas stalls at noon and pull them down when the market closes around midnight. Best time to go is after 7pm when tourists and merchants are at their optimal size. Nearest metro station is Mongkok via exit E2.
This massive Chinese wonderland is a combination of amusement park, aquarium and zoo. It has enough activity to keep everyone in the family busy for an entire day. Built over and around several hills besdie the South China Sea, the 780,000-square-meter park is divided into two sections: The Headland and The Lowland. They are connected by a 1,400-meter-long cable car system. The Lowland houses two giant pandas, a variety of fun animal shows and Dolphin Encounter, 90 minutes of up-close-and-personal time in a pool with the friendly cetaceans. The Headland section is equipped with several thrilling ocean-side scream machines (roller coasters, water rides, etc), a vast aviary with more than 1,000 birds and Marine World, a massive aquarium with a fabulous jellyfish exhibit, a shark tunnel and a gigantic reef tank with some 2,000 fish. (852 2552 0291)
Star Ferry is the loveliest attraction in Hong Kong. This 115-year-old service is one of these rare attractions that are appreciated by both tourists and locals. Shuttling between Tsim Sha Tsui on Kowloon side, and Central and Wan Chai on Hong Kong island, these ten-minute boat rides represent a lifestyle of the past: slow, soothing and stress-free. That's exactly where the excitement and enjoyment lies. It's fascinating to see the hyper-busy city from these boats: century-old colonial buildings rub shoulders with glass-walled skyscrapers on the two jam-packed waterfronts. Even with the MTR efficiently connecting Kowloon and Central, locals still choose to ride the Star Ferry now and then for that classic Hong Kong moment. And the ride costs only a couple of dollars, making it one of the world's great sightseeing bargains. (852-2367-7065)
Symphony of Lights
The 15-minute light and sound show is the top free activity in Hong Kong. Every night at 8pm, spectacular lights, lasers and digital fireworks shoot out from 45 buildings beside Victoria Harbour on both sides of the water. The US$5.7 million project is dubbed by Guinness Word Records as the "World's largest permanent light and sound show." All lights are controlled and displayed as a visual reflection of the eponymous music symphony which is broadcast at the same time. The best places to enjoy the show are along the Avenue of Stars on Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, the Golden Bauhinia Square in Wai Chai or, better yet, from any cruise boat on the harbor. (852-2508-1234, 2810-2555)
The 552-meter mountain boasts that classic Hong Kong view. Near the summit at 396 meters there is an entertainment and viewing complex called Peak Tower where travelers can snap that perfect souvenir photo. In the foreground, a forest of skyscrapers rises in eye-stretching density beneath your feet while Victoria Harbour glitters in distance. Go on a nice day, and you can also make out the outlying islands scattered over the South China Sea. Various modes of transport reach the top but the 1,350-meter-long Peak Tram line is the most popular. The century-old track is said to be the first funicular railway in Asia and the eight-minute ride can reach as steep as 30 degrees. The Peak Tower also houses a view-fantastic Cantonese restaurant and a Madame Tussauds Museum featuring Jackie Chan, Jet Li and various other Asian celebrities. (2522-0922)
About Ed Peters
Ed Peters has been based in Asia for most of his adult life, and counts Hong Kong as his second home. While he lives in a farming village on one of the outlying islands, getting to the city center takes only half-an-hour by ferry. And it's only 30 minutes by taxi to Hong Kong's futuristic international airport. These are just two of Hong Kong's many attractions -- the blend of urban and rural, and the ease of getting around what must be one of the most exciting cities on the planet.
Read more about Ed Peters here.