The clash of ages at the heart of this urban sanctuary are well worth discovering.
Had it not been for a business conference I had to attend with my coworker in 2009, I would probably never have discovered Hong Kong on my own.
The city of skyscrapers growing out of the land like the mountains behind them did not particularly appeal to me. Truthfully, I expected the whole atmosphere and charm that a city can have to be swept out by the fumes, lights and what I perceive as Chinese kitsch. That was my perception, until I let myself delve into Hong Kong’s wonders. With time, as I returned there, I dug deeper and deeper and I guess I have seen enough to claim that I have a more in-depth understanding of the city than a statistical tourist to Hong Kong.
Below I list the spots that have remained in my memory for longest and that I will come back to when the next opportunity to go there arises again.
I must admit that even my eyes, unused to the Asian style, needed only a few moments to fall in love with Hong Kong’s cityscape. The city is most breathtaking at night. A walk along the promenade over the harbour is a great idea for your first evening in Hong Kong, as nothing will impress you more than the city skyline visible best from this place. Every evening at 8 pm a truly spectacular light show illuminates the wall of the skyscrapers. Accompanied by music and the “aaaaaws” of other tourists, it was a highlight of my first night in Hong Kong. Although willing to see it again to this day, recently, I have been more inclined to explore other places at night. Nathan Road, for instance is a famous Hong Kong street cluttered with an impossible amount of neon lights and signs. Being stuffed with thousands of shops and commercial centres, Nathan Road is equally interesting during the day, but still more impressive at night when it beams with innumerable lights and neons looking like a dream.
Also the Temple Street Night Market is a fascinating place to discover, so much so that it deserves a separate point on the list. During the day, visit some of the Hong Kong’s museums. My favourite ones were the Maritime Museum and the Museum of Tea Ware. Coming from a mariners’ family as I do, I could not refuse myself the pleasure of viewing the collection of nautical instruments and hand made ships’ models. Also, I could not imagine visiting the tea empire without delving into the exhibition of modern and traditional tea ware accessories available at the Museum of Tea Ware. If you think shelves of cups, kettles and pots cannot be more boring, it is not a place for you but the charming atmosphere inside will certainly benefit the enthusiasts of Chinese tradition and offer a breath of relief after the garish cityscape. Finally, in this sanctuary of the urban and technological spirit which Hong Kong is, it is worth visiting a traditional Chinese taoist temple such as Wong Tai Sin where you can, for instance, listen to a prophecy of your future.
Do not go to Victoria Peak before you walk along the Promenade at night. If you do, the Promenade, however great, will not match the experience of a night time view from the Peak. From its top, you can observe a panorama of the city and gain a totally different perspective of the forest of majestic skyscrapers. Apart from offering a marvellous view, the Peak features also a large number of shops and restaurants but, believe me, you would not sell your five minutes of wonder while watching the panorama for the worth of all of them, even though, I admit, the Peak deserves its reputation as shoppers’ paradise.
Temple Street Night Market
If you want to discover the real face of Hong Kong at night, you must not miss seeing the Temple Street Night Market. The colourful stalls offer basically anything you can think of, including food, jewellery, clothes, underwear, antiques, cheap electronics, toys, medicines, tea accessories, knick knacks, souvenirs and many more. Do not expect the place to be just another market, though. Temple Street Night Market will uncover the night culture of the city for you as you will be rubbing arms with the locals and observing the curiosities of the street artists and other peculiar personalities. This is where you can pass opera singers and prostitutes on one lane, and where Chinese fortune tellers and gamblers are beckoning you with their slightly wicked or mysterious glances. Although poverty looms in the market’s avenues, you will not be able to resist the atmosphere and charm of this place.
The floating village in Aberdeen
Floating villages are not such a rarity in Asia. The one in Aberdeen is exceptional, though, as it thrives at the very centre of this flabbergastingly modern city. The harbour around which the boats float is surrounded with hundreds of skyscrapers. The clash between this super-modern architecture and the “architecture” of the village is most bizzare, and at first my eyes ached at this sharp contrast. The more often I observed the boat people in this setting, however, the more I loved this combined scenery. Despite the lack of similar experiences where I live, seeing the most casual daily life of the boat dwellers made me feel homely in this crazy city and the coexistence of the two worlds from different epochs of humanity was strangely touching. Year by year the village changes a little as a satellite antenna is added here and there to the poor wooden constructions. Since tourism has become the second main occupation of the boat people, sightseeing tours on traditional sampans are one of the worthy attractions provided.
The Tai O fishing village on stilts (Lantau Island)
Another, quite similar, place worth visiting in Hong Kong is the Tai O fishing village. Based on Lantau Island, this village is surrounded by a completely different panorama, though. Mountains and greenery dominate the landscape. The houses themselves are built on the wooden stilt construction above the harbour’s waters. Apart from enjoying this pleasantly idle and picturesque view, you may want to visit the villagers’ seafood market which offers really delicious dried food, or any of the souvenir stores, as this traditional community, too, adapts well to the demands of Hong Kong’s modern life.
The fishing village is certainly a distinctive attraction on the island but a whole lot of its other qualities should not be overlooked. For me, visiting the island was like taking a deep breath again after the wonderful but still somewhat overwhelming climate of the city. Natural parks with waterfalls, beaches and cliffs on the one hand, and the historical and philosophical ambience of the Wisdom Path, the monastery and the Big Buddha on the other, ensure a detox from all the city’s temptations. Finally, it is one of the rare places where you can still see the pink dolphin in its natural habitat.
The above list by no means exhausts Hong Kong’s greatest charms and sightseeing opportunities. Being very subjective, it only offers what I have considered the highlights of my several trips to the city that scrapes the sky. Whether a first time visitor or a frequent guest, while touring around Hong Kong appreciate it for its bright spectacle of modern urbanity and search for the flavour of the local life in the traditional fishing or floating villages and on the markets.
About The Author: This article was contributed by Monica Wells of http://www.bizdb.co.uk/
Photo Source: Google Commons/Wikimedia