For years, Hong Kong, a British colony until 1997, was the West’s window onto China, a place where Americans and Europeans could capture a tantalizing glimpse of Chinese culture. But now this teeming city-state — the financial hub of Asia — has been transformed into China’s window on the West. Luxury stores like Louis Vuitton are so mobbed with mainland Chinese customers that velvet ropes are installed on the sidewalk for crowd control. Outposts of Tiffany, Starbucks and other Western companies have pushed egg tart vendors, florists and silk shops out of gracious stone buildings, which have been replaced with opulent shopping malls and high-rises connected by aerial walkways. Stanley Market, where snakes lurked in apothecary jars and pigs were slaughtered in the alleys during my boyhood in Hong Kong in the early 1970s, is now a warren of touristy stalls selling cheap paintings and T-shirts.
While downtown Hong Kong feels like a more frenzied and costlier version of Midtown Manhattan, this metropolis of 7 million inhabitants — one of the most densely populated places in the world — still has much to offer visitors, especially those who know when and where to look. The secret is to visit as many places as possible in the morning, before the tides of Chinese visitors — 28.1 million of them last year, compared with 1.8 million visitors from the Americas and a similar number from Europe — flood tourist sites and stores. Then have an afternoon nap to cope with jet lag before heading out to dinner, with reservations made well in advance.
And, whatever you do, avoid visiting on or close to Chinese holidays, like National Day on Oct. 1, when even larger crowds of mainland visitors come. Culture Situated close to where the Pearl River pours its muddy waters into the island-dotted expanses of the South China Sea, Hong Kong is justifiably famous for its harbor, but the city has a colorful background as well. For great views and an introduction to Hong Kong’s history — from the British conquest in the early 1840s to the Japanese attack hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor — try the Museum of Coastal Defense, which stands at the eastern entrance to Victoria Harbor, where craggy bluffs plunge into the sea. Largely undiscovered by tourists, the museum is actually a series of half-ruined British fortifications. With exhibits ranging from a wire-guided torpedo concealed in man-made caves to a gun battery at the crest of the hill, it is a great destination for children. The museum has a simple cafe with a balcony overlooking the South China Sea, and sells delicious grilled cheese sandwiches for 19 Hong Kong dollars (about $2.50).
To get there, take a taxi or catch the Island subway line to the Shau Kei Wan stop. Right outside the subway stop is one of the oldest sites for the worship of Tin Hau, a local sea goddess who protects sailors and fishermen. The current temple dates from the 1870s; inside, it is black with soot from decades of incense burning. On the three-block walk to the museum, you’ll pass Hong Kong’s oldest temple to Tam Kung, a fishing god believed to have power over the weather.
Can’t Miss Arriving early is especially important for what is justifiably one of Hong Kong’s top attractions, the Peak Tram, a funicular railway to Victoria Peak that offers stunning panoramas of Hong Kong Island and the surrounding area. Long lines form by 10 a.m. and last into the night. To avoid the crowds, get there soon after the tram starts running at 7 a.m. After reaching the terminus, take a hard right onto Lugard Road for a stroll around Victoria Peak. Lugard changes its name to Harlech three-fifths of the way around the mountain, and the two roads form a fairly flat two-mile circuit with magnificent views of downtown, the bustling harbor and the South China Sea. The path is seldom crowded except on Sundays, as most mainland tourists are met by tour buses after reaching the top of the Peak Tram.
If you want to know some other information on Hong Kong, you can contact with China tour agents.
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