17 November 2014 by Tim Tan
The last great outpost of the British Empire, now a shining light of the People's Republic, Hong Kong has long been Asia's commercial and cultural hub. It's a thriving, multi-cultural city with one of the world's greatest skylines and several of its finest restaurants. It's the easiest of all Chinese cities to reach from the UK and a cinch to get around when you're there; the public transport system is superb, taxis are cheap, and thanks to years of British rule, most signs are in English and most shop keepers and taxi drivers speak at least some English too. It's ideally placed for exploring mainland China and South East Asia, and makes an ideal stopover en route to Australia and the South Pacific. But before thoughts turn to travel further afield, be sure to make time for these essential Hong Kong highlights:
1: Victoria Peak
Take a ride on the famous Peak Tram to the top of Victoria Peak for breathtaking views of the city.
2: Symphony of Lights
Every evening at 8pm, Hong Kong puts on a stunning laser show, using the city's skyscrapers as a canvas. Head to the Avenue of the Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui for some of the best views and the chance to hear the accompanying soundtrack. This spectacular show comprises five major themes and celebrates the unique spirit and diversity of the city.
3: Star Ferry
Cross Victoria Harbour through an ever-growing melee of tugs, barges, junks and sampans on Hong Kong's famous Star Ferry, enjoying some of the best views in the city.
4: The Big Buddha
Visit the largest outdoor bronze Buddha in the world at the Po Lin Monastery on tranquil Lantau Island. Bypass the gaudy restaurants and gift shops at Ngong Ping village and head up to the monastery and Buddha itself, where you'll discover wonderful views across Lantau's mist-shrouded hills and sandy bays, and a number of magnificent walking trails.
5: Happy Valley
Spend an evening at the races at Happy Valley on Hong Kong Island, where racing was introduced by the British in 1846, or head to the Sha Tin racecourse in the New Territories, home to the richest day of turf racing in the world.
6: Shek O
Explore the backstreets, visit the temple, walk up to the headland and breathe in the sea air at this authentic village on the eastern shore of Hong Kong Island.
7: Street markets
Test your bargaining skills at any number of Hong Kong's many street markets, including the Temple Street night market in Kowloon, where everything you never knew you is sold to a soundtrack of Cantonese opera singers, or the Ladies' Market where "designer" handbags and clothes can be found fighting for space with all manner of gadgets, trinkets and souvenirs.
8: Tai Chi
Try an early morning Tai Chi class in one of Hong Kong's beautiful parks, like Victoria Park or Hong Kong Park.
9: The Hong Kong Story
Discover the city's secrets at the permanent exhibition The Hong Kong Story at the Museum of History.
You can eat out in Hong Kong three times a day for ten years and never eat at the same restaurant twice. Treat your taste buds to anything from Michelin Star dishes to weird and wonderful street food.