Bucket List: Hong Kong

Bucket List: Hong Kong

Four ways to make the Far East unforgettable

by Kevin Revolinski

PH 189In 1997, Hong Kong ended 156 years as a British colony and became a Special Administrative Region of China. The operative word here is “special.” The energy of this city, one of the most densely populated in the world, is tangible. Breathe it in: The air off the South China Sea, the aromas of open food stalls, and the incense smoke drifting out of temples amid towering displays of modern architecture create a metropolis like no other on earth. A whirl of humanity, neon, and concrete, amid a setting of islands, mountains, and a deep blue sea. It’s a shoo-in for anyone’s bucket list.

Hong Kong is divided into three main areas: Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula on the mainland, and the New Territories, which include Lantau Island. Each offers its own experience and should be part of your visit.

For the Eyes

Separating Hong Kong Island from Kowloon is the magnificent Victoria Harbour, a deep natural port, China’s largest and busiest. A boat ride across its waters is a must, whether you ride the ferry or book a cruise. Out on the island, more than 40 modern skyscrapers line up to create one of the world’s most impressive skylines. On the Kowloon side, head down to the waterfront to marvel at the architectural lineup while strolling the Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong’s answer to Hollywood’s promenade. The best time to see it is in the evening, when many of those buildings of the Central District participate in the Symphony of Lights, a show of coordinated colored buildings, blinking lasers, and sweeping spotlights. This happens every night at 8 pm. Kill two birds with one stone: see the Symphony and the harbour from the deck of a traditional Chinese junk.

The views are a major attraction of the city and nothing may be more spectacular than the vista from Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island. Rising over 1,800 feet, “The Peak” is Hong Kong Island’s highest natural point and offers a 360-degree view. The steep funicular ride up is an attraction in itself, beginning near St. John’s Cathedral in Central District and ending near the seven-story, ship-shaped Peak Tower.

Travel to the south side of the island to Repulse Bay, where you can enjoy a swim off the sandy beach. Visit the Taoist temple of Kwun Yam, the goddess of mercy. Statues of gods, icons, and animals have a lovely seaside perch. They say if you cross Longevity Bridge there, you will get three extra days to work on your life’s bucket list.

For the Wallet

Shoppers will enjoy the various night markets, but be sure to check out Kowloon’s Jade Market. Hundreds of stalls inside these covered market halls sell everything from cheap trinkets to large ornate and expensive carvings. The market is great for souvenir shopping, but unless you know your jade, this is probably not the best place to shop for a big-ticket item.

On Hong Kong Island, visit Cat Street (Upper Lascar Row) and wander among the antique dealers and galleries. This neighborhood market once was the place to find black-market and stolen goods, or “rat” items. Thus, the market to go if you were a cat looking for such things. Today’s offerings range from ancient Chinese furniture to affordable silk and jade. 

For the Spirit

Venture out to Lantau Island to visit the Po Lin Monastery, a Buddhist spiritual center founded in 1906 by three visiting monks. Situated high up in the hills, the monastery’s architecture and Buddha imagery shouldn’t be missed. But stealing the show is the adjacent Tian Tan Buddha….

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