Hong Kong

Where two worlds meet in one green metropolis

Hong Kong is one of the most remarkable cities in the world. Besides being a melting pot of cultures, Hong Kong in China is also surprisingly green.

It’s a city to enjoy some fine cuisine. Or dare to drink snake wine. Hong Kong is ideal for a city trip, or as a stopover on your way to other places in China, Southeast Asia or even Australia. These are the must-see highlights to visit. And some of the best tours for your trip.

Victoria Peak

The tram at Victoria Peak.

Victoria Peak (also known as simply The Peak) might have the best view over Hong Kong. This 552-metre-high hill has been a popular tourist attraction for centuries thanks to its forest, but mostly because of its formidable views.

Actually, it is the largest attraction of the city, so now there are even shopping centres on top of the hill. If you’d like to see the view you can take the steep walk through the woods, but taking the Peak Tram is actually an experience of its own.

This tram has been climbing and descending this hill since 1888, and goes to the Sky Terrace. It’s a great spot to see the city, the harbour and the surrounding islands. Victoria Peak is on Hong Kong Island.

Po Lin Monastery

The Po Lin Monastery is a Buddhist temple and monastery in Ngong Ping on Lantau Island. It is located on a520-metre-high hill that’s part of the Ngong Ping plateau. In 1993 the monastery was extended with a huge Buddha statue, called Tian Tan Buddha, and you can visit this statue when you go to the monastery.

The Po Lin monastery was founded in 1906 by three monks from Jiangsu, and was given its current name in 1924. There are three golden Buddha statues in the main temple, representing the past, the present and the future. There is also a large number of ancient scriptures on display here. The monks of Po Lin are known for the wooden bracelets that they wear, which can be bought near the Tian Tan Buddha.

Tian Tan Buddha in Hong Kong.

Tian Tan Buddha

The Tian Tan Buddha is a 34-metre-high bronze statue in Ngong Ping in Hong Kong. Some say it’s the largest sitting outdoor Buddha, though it’s disputed, because others day the Buddha statue in Leshan in China is the largest. That one is also a sitting Buddha and it’s higher (71 metres), but it’s not freestanding like Tian Tan Buddha, that one is hewn out of a rock.

The building of the Tian Tan Buddha statue started in 1990 and was finished on the 29th of December 1993, the birthday of Gautama Buddha. Tian Tan is one of the five large Buddha statues in China.

This Buddha is resting peacefully on a throne of lotus leaves, surrounded by six smaller statues named The Offering of the Six Devas symbolising generosity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation and wisdom, which one needs to reach enlightenment.

The Tian Tan Buddha symbolises the harmony between man and nature, people and religion, and was named after the Temple of Heaven (Tian Tan) in Beijing. Visitors can climb the 268 steps up to the statue, and on a clear day it can be seen from as far as Macau. The Tian Tan is located just near the Po Lin Monastery.

Ngong Ping Cable Car

The Ngong Ping Cable Car in Hong Kong.

The Ngong Ping Cable Car (also known as Ngong Ping 360) was opened on the 18th of September 2006. This cable car with gondolas soon became of the biggest attractions in Hong Kong. It offers a fantastic view of the city and its surrounding area by the South-China Sea.

The Skyrail departs near the Tung Chung metro station, and the 25-minute trip takes you right past the Tian Tan Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery, and ends in the town of Ngong Ping. You can get off here and explore the area.

Sha Tin Che Kung Temple

This Che Kung temple, or Che Kung Miu, in Hong Kong is the most famous of all the Che Kung temples. Che Kung was a general during the Song dynasty. These days he is revered by followers of traditional Chinese religion as the god of protection. He was known for bringing stability to the south of China.

The original temple was built in Hong Kong in the 17th century, and renovated two centuries later. There now is a new temple in front of the old temple, which was added in 1993. On the second and third days of the new Chinese year thousands of people flock to this temple to honour Che Kung.

The temple is located right in the middle of Che Kung Miu Road, between the Tai Wai and the Che Kung Temple metro stations.

Ho Chung Che Kung Temple

The Che Kung temple in Ho Chung is the one of the oldest Che Kung temples in Hong Kong. It was built during the Ming dynasty, probably around 1540, though this cannot be proven yet.

Some archaeologists believe the temple is only 400 years old. This Che Kung temple is right on the Ho Chung river, with a Feng Sui forest behind it, an auspicious location.

Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Disneyland Resort

Hong Kong Disneyland Resort is the largest theme park in Hong Kong. This Walt Disney park was opened on the 12th of September 2005, and is similar to the other Disney theme parks around the world. It comprises the theme park itself, several hotels, shops, restaurants and an entertainment complex. It was built in Penny’s Bay, in the north-east of Lantau Island.

To avoid any cultural clashes, this park has been laid out following Feng Shui principles. But Hong Kong Disneyland had to take shark fin soup off the menus when nature conservationists complained. Hong Kong Disneyland is the second park by the Walt Disney Company that built in Asia, after the Tokyo Disney Resort was opened in 1983 in Japan.

More information: hongkongdisneyland.com

Hong Kong Heritage Museum

The Hong Kong Heritage Museum shows the history of Chinese culture, clan culture and Tibetian Buddhism in China. You’ll also learn about Hong Kong’s history. It’s a modern museum, opened in 2000.

Besides its displays there are also more contemporary ways they’re bringing culture to life: for example, you can get your face painted (virtually) to look like one of the colourful characters in the Cantonese Opera. The Hong Kong Heritage Museum is located on Man Lam Road in Sha Tin.

Chi Lin Nunnery

The famous Chi Lin Nunnery in Hong Kong.

The Chi Lin Nunnery is a convent complex in Diamond hill. The impressive timber building was built in the style of the Tang dynasty (618 to 907 AC). The temple is popular with tourists because of the golden statues in the four temple halls and the tranquil lotus ponds. The nunnery is right next to the famous Nan Lian Garden.

Bank of China Tower

This skyscraper is one of the tallest in the city, rising up 315 metres. It’s the headquarters of the Bank of China, and was the tallest building of Asia from 1989 until 1992. It was also the first building outside the US to be higher than 1000 feet (around 300 metres).

It was designed by renowned Chinese-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei. It was quite a challenge as this style of building was not at all familiar in Asia. The irregular structure didn’t help things either, and the reflecting glass was also uncommon.

Remarkable is that the building was criticised as not following Feng Shui, because some angles of the building resemble a meat cleaver, so Pei adapted the building slightly.

An evening in Hong Kong.

Nan Lian Garden

Just like the Chi Lin Nunnery next door, the Nan Lian Gardens are inspired by the Tang dynasty. But these gardens are actually quite young, as they were planted in the eighties.

The park is around 35.000m2 and set up to display a mixture of architecture and nature. It’s a great place to wander around, and you can combine your visit with the Chi Lin Nunnery next to it.

Tai O

When you visit the village of Tai O, you’ll immediately notice the stark contrast with Hong Kong. In this traditional fishing village, you’ll see lots of small traditional aluminium houses on stilts, perched above the water.

They are known as pang uks, and they are home to the Danja peoples. You’ll see boats moored here and there. Notably, the locals like to keep their traditional lifestyle alive. A large fire in 2000 destroyed many homes, but lots of those have been restored or rebuilt. Tai O is on Lantau Island.

Lamma Island

Lamma Island close to Hong Kong.

This is a great haven to escape the busy city. You can get a taste of what life would have been like a century ago. There are no skyscrapers, and in some places, not even any cars! The many fishing villages, such as Sok Kwu Wan and Yung Shue Wan, offer a mix of traditional crafts, markets and fish restaurants.

But the island is also great for walks along the bay. The Hong Kong locals also like to visit this island on the weekends. The best way to get to Lamma Island is by ferry.

Mai Po Wetlands

This area is a protected wetland in the south-east of Hong Kong. It’s an important resting ground for birds, who land here during their winter migration. They take a break and look for food in the marshes. One of the more interesting birds you can see here is the rare black-faced spoonbill.

It’s also a great area for walking. The area has been classified as Ramsar wetlands in 1995, and it’s managed by the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong and the government.

Wetland Park

Nature as a theme park. It may sound strange, but that’s what the Wetland Park actually is. It’s a mixture of nature reserve, exhibition area and education centre. You can look out for wild animals, including many water birds, but also learn all about local conservation efforts. You can also take a guided tour along the many eco displays, or the simulated habitats for the different animals that live in the area.

History of Hong Kong

Hong Kong was a small fishing village when the English came to trade in 1699. From that time on, the history of the town was turbulent. At the start of the 19th century, trading between England and China reached its peak. England sailed the world’s seas, but the British East India Company was always short on silver, which was immensely popular and often purchased illegally, using opium.

A street restaurant in Hong Kong.

The commissioner for trade at the time, Lin Zexu, tried to persuade Queen Victoria of England to take measures against this, but the mutual relationship kept deteriorating. This resulted in the first Opium War from 1839 until 1842, when Hong Kong was English property. After a prolonged conflict, a second Opium War followed (from 1856 until 1860).

England won both and after further negotiations, it also took hold of neighbouring Kowloon. In the years that followed, Hong Kong became a safe haven for all sorts of refugees, including economic ones. This continued after the Japanese occupation during World War II. The city flourished, as its central position was favourable to many large companies.

England versus China

Hong Kong’s most recent history is also one of turmoil. It has been back under the rule of China since 1997, after the United Kingdom signed a treaty in 1984 to hand it over, only as a Special Administrative Region. The international community insisted on this, as Hong Kong had earlier been a part of the free west.

A visit to Hong Kong is an experience.

Among other things, China accepted that for at least 50 years, other laws would apply here to the laws of communist China. The majority of existing English laws are still in force. What is most notable is the disappearance of the red mail boxes and the images of the English royal family on the local currency. The flags have now all been exchanged for Chinese flags.

The many islands of Hong Kong

Hong Kong including its suburbs now covers an area of approximately 1,100 km². What once started as a small fishing village has grown into a mature city throughout the centuries, a metropolis, spread across 236 islands, many of which are not even inhabited, remarkably enough.

The city of Hong Kong consists of the island with the same name, east of the Zhujiang river. The Kowloon peninsula is the biggest of them all, followed by Hong Kong Island. The city skirts the South China Sea.

Hong Kong offers a notable mixture of Asia and Europe. English colonial buildings stand next to Asian temples, while there are daily traditional street markets in front of the Western skyscrapers. The Chinese influence has increased since 1997, the differences are noticeable for the residents, but are only minor.

Hiking at High Peak in Hong Kong. ©Corno van den Berg

Talloze parken

What is notable is that more than half the city is green. Many of the surrounding islands are uninhabited. And there are over twenty city parks and protected nature reserves. It makes this Asian metropolis an ideal stopover for those travelling to Asia, or those who want a different city trip.

Hong Kong is a great city for real food lovers. Visit Aberdeen where the largest floating restaurant can be found, select fresh fish for your meal at Lei Yue Mun’s fish market, or treat yourself to a visit to the chic Soho area where you can find the nicest bars and restaurants in narrow streets.

Best time to visit

  • March, April, October and November are warm (about 25°C) and pleasant, with low humidity.
  • January, February and part of March are the wettest and coldest times (about 16°C).
  • It may feel muggy here from June to October when the wind carries hot and humid air from the sea.
  • This place is very busy in July and August.
  • Please note that typhoons (end of May until October) can bring everyday life to a halt.

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