The 44-meter-tall red-brick structure is one of the most historic buildings in fast-growing Hong Kong. Although visitors can't access the building nowadays, it's a mandatory pit stop for tourists en route from the Star Ferry terminal to Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade to take in the contrast between now and then. Hong Kong's very own "Big Ben" is the only remaining structure of the now-demolished Kowloon-Canton Rail Terminus. This was the original railway to have connected Hong Kong with mainland China. Millions of mainland Chinese immigrated to Hong Kong through here between 1910-1949 before Communist China shut its door to the outside world for the next 30 years. The railway station is now relocated to Hunghom.
Chinese history has taken dramatic twists and turns over the past three millenia, and this museum offers detailed exhibits that take you through every aspect of the country's development. Beginning in Neolithic times and running right up to today, some of the top attractions include a recreation of a Hong Kong street of a century ago and photo exhibits showing how certain areas have changed. Many clans and ethnic groups are represented. As Hong Kong tends to change very quickly, with rapid construction and population growth,the History Museum acts as a good point of reference, tracing the city's development over the years.
This small, but well-designed park offers a welcome break from the concrete and glass buildings that are surrounding it. Built into the side of a small hill, top attractions include an aviary with a large selection of exotic birds, and a conservatory, which is among the most extensive in the world. It recreates various climates and includes many of the plants indigenous to each area. Also within the park's boundaries is Flagstaff House. Built in 1846, it's the oldest remaining colonial building in Hong Kong, and today is home to a fascinating tea ware museum. Contact the museum at 852 2869 0690.
Situated on the "Golden Mile" of Nathan Road (the southern-most mile of the thoroughfare until it reaches harbor-side Salisbury Road), Chung King Mansions is an alternative landmark to witness the city's extending heritage as a colony and crucial trading port. The 17-story block is the ground zero of cheap hostels (with more than 80 budget accommodations crammed inside), together with chaos and eye-opening globalization. The bottom two levels of the building houses wholesale stores that sell everything you can think of. This is the most multi-cultural part of the city and otherwise very much homogeneous China. The majority of the residents and shop owners are immigrants from all parts of Asia and Africa and most hostel guests are young backpackers from Europe, North America and Oceania.
The 15-minute light and sound show is the top free activity in Hong Kong. Every night at 8pm, spectacular decoration lights, laser lights and digital fireworks shoot out from 45 buildings along the Victoria Harbour on both the Hong Kong Island and Kowloon side. The US$5.7 million project was 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 name time. The best places to enjoy the show are around the Avenue of Stars on Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, the Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai or, better yet, from any cruise boat on the harbor.
Stanley is possibly Hong Kong's best-known market. And with good reason. It's part of a community set by the sea, with plenty of restaurants and cafes so you can pause for refreshment. The goods on sale are fabulously varied, and the traders generally cheery and not averse to bargaining. There's no charge for entry, of course, so visitors are free to wander about and enjoy the spectacle. There's a beach nearby, and Murray House, a Victorian building which was moved here lock, stock and barrel from Central, stands by the shore. One way or another, Stanley is a great day out.
Po Lin translates to "precious lotus," and this monastery is one of the most famous of Hong Kong's numerous attractions. In addition to being one of the most opulent and grandest temples in the country, this is also home to the famous "Big Buddha," which measures more than 100 feet high. Made of bronze and seated in the mythical cross-legged repose, this statue is an attraction on its own. The views of the countryside are spectacular, and an excellent vegetarian cuisine is served by monks in the canteen. Get here first thing before the tour groups turn up for a rather more serene experience.
This fishing town is where the Hong Kongers retreat for swimming, kayaking and some of the city's best seafood. The center of the town is a 1,000-meter quay lined with endless seafood stalls. Each of them looks like a mini aquarium as the boss displays an amazing array of freshly caught seafood for diners to order from. Across the street, fishermen sell their curious looking catch right off the boat at the pier. Many of them also offer sailing trips around the surrounding islands for around US$20. Some six kilometers west of the seafood street is Trio Beach, a nice soft-sand stretch with calm and clean water, a relaxed atmosphere and seaside barbecue pits. For the truly energetic type, Sai Kung Country Park provides some of the most challenging and rewarding hiking experiences with mountains to beaches.
Taking up 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 suggests, 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 construct their tents with canvas 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 MTR station is Mongkok via exit E2.
The 552-meter mountain has 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 rise in eye-opening density beneath your foot while the sapphire blue Victoria Harbour glitters in distance. Go on a nice day, and you can also make out the outlying islands scattered on the South China sea on the 360-degree observation deck. Various modes of transport run here, but the 1,350-meter-long Peak Tram line is most popular. The 125-year 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 Sky Terrace 428 and a Madame Tussauds Museums featuring Jackie Chan, Jet Li and various other Asian celebrities.