It turns out California isn't the only destination with beaches, mountains, and a Disney theme park. Across the Pacific lies Hong Kong, one of the world's most fascinating places. The former British colony is a global financial center with a blend of cultural influences, and it also has plenty of activity choices for tourists, from shopping to outdoor adventures. Plus, you can find world-class art, restaurants, and nightlife. Hong Kong is well worth a visit. So, what should you do while you're there?
Without question, the traveler to Hong Kong must spend time beholding the glorious Victoria Harbour (spelled the British way, naturally). Water defines the geography of the islands that have come to be known collectively as Hong Kong. On the Kowloon side, stroll along the waterfront and gaze across to gleaming skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island. If you'd like to splurge on your lodging, you can find a hotel room overlooking the water, but it's a great experience from ground level, too.
Start your walk at the Kowloon-Canton Railway Clock Tower and head down the Avenue of Stars. It's similar to Hollywood's Walk of Fame, but with a focus on the actors and filmmakers who have made Hong Kong cinema great. Don't miss the Bruce Lee statue - which would be hard to do, thanks to the people gathered around snapping photos of themselves with the martial arts master's likeness. Enjoy a beverage on the waterfront, pop into the Hong Kong Museum of Art, and stick around through early evening to catch the famous laser light show. (For a different perspective, you can see the lasers from the other side of the water the next night.)
Victoria Peak and the Peak Tram Ride
In the 19th century, the British who then possessed Hong Kong named Victoria Peak for their English queen. They also built a tramway to the top of the island mountain, and the Peak Tram remains a popular tourist excursion. After riding the funicular railway from the area down below known as Central to the top of the mountain, you're ushered into a building with lots of souvenir-buying opportunities but very few good viewing areas.
Don't just walk around this enclosed tourist trap; instead, head outside the building to the left where it's just a few meters to a free lookout point. You can wander the paths on top of Victoria Peak for a few minutes or a couple of hours before catching the return leg of your tram journey, or, if you haven't purchased a round-trip ticket, you could even hike back down to the city streets.
Some tourists spend time on Lantau Island only for airport arrivals and departures, but that's a mistake, as two of the most recognized faces in the world await here: Buddha and Mickey Mouse. Tian Tan Buddha, perhaps more commonly known as the Big Buddha, is Hong Kong's famous 112-foot bronze statue at the village of Ngong Ping, reached by the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car. It's a great place to spend a few hours walking and snacking, whether you prefer noodles, a tea house, or international chain favorites that serve sandwiches and coffee.
As for Hong Kong Disneyland, it's smaller than the Anaheim original but features many of the same rides and the same happy, welcoming Disney spirit, from (bilingual and trilingual) costumed cast members to the nightly fireworks show.
Happy Hour in Lan Kwai Fong
Lan Kwai Fong refers to both a cobblestone street and the area immediately surrounding it, which is definitely a festive one. In Central near the Mid-Levels Escalator, Lan Kwai Fong is packed with bars, restaurants, and clubs; happy hour lasts until 8:00 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. at most places. You probably won't have time to hit all the bars that catch your eye in one evening, but try a few different spots and you'll come across DJs, drink specials, comedy shows, music, sidewalk seating, and all kinds of travelers and young professionals enjoying the evening.
It's hard to say what qualifies as the quintessential Hong Kong shopping experience. Poking around the Stanley Market? Wandering through gigantic, gleaming malls such as Times Square and Pacific Place? Popping into the tailor shops on Nathan Road? In Hong Kong there are tiny stores that specialize in kitchenware, t-shirt sellers under tarps, fancy handbag displays on long tables, electronics markets, and pretty much anything else you can think of buying. Get your friendly bargaining shoes on and start strolling, because all manner of goods await.
With its vibrant mix of business and pleasure, Hong Kong is one of Asia's most desirable destinations. It's easy for visitors from many countries to stay in Hong Kong for ninety days without a visa. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region, with its own political and currency systems that differ from Mainland China. Whether you combine it with other places on a multi-city adventure or just concentrate on the former British colony itself, there's plenty to do when Hong Kong is your vacation destination.