Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hongkong: A Unique Experience

I can say that the best thing about Hongkong is that I can go on vacation, but still be at work. Yes, the Office of General Counsel – Asia has its main office in Hongkong and I have a place to stay for a free accommodation during those pleasure visits only. Because of these I had been a frequent visitor and have brought friends who learned to love Hongkong’s unrivalled shopping, superb dining and unique blend of Eastern and Western heritage and culture, matched by spectacular harbor vistas and rural splendor of mountains, beaches and outlying islands.

Hongkong is such a fantastic destination I can never forget. With a land area of more than 1,100 square kilometers and over 260 outlying islands, Hongkong is compact and accessible. It consists of Hongkong Island, separated from the Kowloon Peninsula by Victoria Harbour, and the New Territories that begin north of Kowloon and extend to the Mainland China. There are so many convenient ways of enjoying all the exciting sights and activities of Hongkong, day or night. So here’s my ‘Top Ten’ of what’s unique in Hongkong that makes it my favorite destination.

1.New Territories topped my list of why Hongkong is unique for me. During recent visit to Hongkong last September 28 to October 5, 2008 (a birthday treat for me by my prince!), we decided to stay away from the places we have previously visited. We decided to venture to the new territories by just following the map. After an MTR ride and a bus, we found ourselves at Sai Kung Town/Sai Kung Promenade, Clear Water Bay, Mai Po.

Sai Kung Town, once a gathering spot for local fishermen and villagers, is now a trendy rural retreat famous for its collection of sea food restaurants and European and Asia eateries. It is great to walk along the town’s waterfront promenade (appropriately called “ Seafood Street” because of many seafood restaurants along it) and soak up the small town ambiance. The promenade connects the town to beaches and has wonderful views out over the bay to offshore islands. Visitors may also hire sampans for leisure trips at Saikung Public pier.

2.Tempting Dim Sum. No visit to Hongkong would be complete without tasting its assorted dim sum (meaning “touch of heart”) – light snacks such as dumplings, buns and pastries that are often served in bamboo baskets. My firm favorites are shrimp siomai and cheung fan, a steamed rice flour roll often flavoured with barbequed pork or shrimp.

3.Mass Transit Railway (MTR) & Hongkong’s Octopus Card. The MTR is very efficient underground rail system that covers all major urban areas and provides a convenient jumping - off point for getting to leading tourist attractions. Hongkong Octopus Card is an electronic fare card accepted by almost all public transport, including the MTR and at many restaurants and stores and for parking. It is easy to use; no need for small change. Add money to it when you need to, and any unspent value is refundable. I use my Octopus card to take the Express train, eat at 711, mcdonalds, take the tram, bus. You just cannot use it for taxis.

4. Open-air Markets/Shopping. Hunting for clothes and toys is a real treat in Hongkong. During my first visit, I find it a true treasure to find a staggering selection of toys (my fave stuffed toys!)and clothes in numerous open-air markets all over the city.

5.The Peak. The Peak tower offer some of the views from its rooftop platform with its 360-degree vistas over Hongkong. There’s also a wide range of shops and year-round of fun and festive events occurring there.You can also enjoy a spectacular dining experiences at various restaurant offering fabulous views of the harbour.Take the Peak Tram from Central. It is a cable - pulled tram going up to the Peak for the most scenic transport routes.

6.Ocean Park -One of Southeast Asia’s largest oceanariums and them parks, featuring the region’s first sea jelly aquarium, atoll reef, dolphin shows, thrilling ride, giant pandas An An and Jia Jia, and much more.

7.Surprising Stanley. A charming village at the Southern tip of Hongkong Island, Stanley is a gentle blend of Eastern and Western cultures amidst relaxing beaches, colonial heritage, al fresco dining and a bustling market. The Stanley Plaza with three complexes – Shopping Centre, Murray House and Village Square – overlooks Stanley Bay. Stanley’s relaxed ambiance, sea environs and bargain buys in the Main street market have made Stanley to my top ten list.

8.Outlying Island Giant Buddha/ Po Lin Monastery/ The Wisdom Path (Lantua). The world’s tallest outdoor seated bronze Buddha sits serenely atop Nongong Ping plateu amid spectacular mountain scenery, and can be visited daily. The nearby Po Lin Monastery is a scared spot for devout Buddhist in Hongkong.
Not too far away is Wisdom Path, an outdoor replica of the centuries-old Heart Sutra, one of the world’s best-known prayers that is revered by Confucians, Buddhists and Taoists alike. The sutra displayed on wooden pillars placed in the form of a figure “8” to symbolize the idea of immeasurable splendor and infinity.

9.Avenue of Stars (Tsim Sha Tsui).The Avenue of Stars along Tsim Sha Tsui promenade pays tribute to the stars of the silver screen and the people who make the magic happen. There a plaques, handprints of stars, sculptures, including a two-metre-tall statue of the legendary kung-fu action star, Bruce Lee, a century of movie history milestones, souvenirs for sale, and panoramic views of the harbor and Hongkong Island skyline. It is also a great vantage point to watch A Symphony of Lights from Kowloon Side.

10.Symphony of Lights. This spectacular multimedia event, named the world’s largest permanent light and sound show by Guinnes Book of Records, covers more than 30 buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbour. They are decked out in lights, which at the flick of a switch, glow in a myriad of colours depicting Hongkong’s vibrancy. The best views are along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront between the Avenue of Stars and the Hongkong Cultural Centre, the promenade at Golden Bauhinia Square in Wanchai, or from sightseeing boats in the harbor.

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