A city of mod­ern sky­scrap­ers, the wealth­i­est urban cen­tre in the People’s Repub­lic of China; an impor­tant cen­tre for inter­na­tional finance and trade, with the great­est con­cen­tra­tion of cor­po­rate head­quar­ters in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong lit­er­ally means ‘fra­grant har­bor’ in Chi­nese

By Fareeha Qay­oom

Pho­tographs cour­tesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board (www.discoverhongkong.com)

H

ong Kong (HK) tops the list of most fre­quently vis­ited cities in Asia. I think there are four other cities that are in the same cat­e­gory: Sin­ga­pore, Tai­wan, Bangkok, and Dubai. HK is a unique com­bi­na­tion of 150 years of colo­nial influ­ence and 5,000 years of Chi­nese tra­di­tion. HK was once a ‘bar­ren rock’ hous­ing a col­lec­tion of fish­ing vil­lages when claimed by Britain in 1842 fol­low­ing the Opium Wars with China.

HK Island was then ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Nanking. It was returned to Chi­nese sov­er­eignty on July 1st 1997, and is now a Spe­cial Admin­is­tra­tive Region of the People’s Repub­lic of China under a ‘one coun­try, two sys­tems’ prin­ci­ple. With a land area of 1,100 square kilo­me­ters and over 260 out­ly­ing islands, HK is com­pact and acces­si­ble. It con­sists of HK Island, sep­a­rated from the Kowloon Penin­sula by Vic­to­ria Har­bor, and the New Ter­ri­to­ries that begin north of Kowloon and extend to main­land China bound­ary; (see map).hong kong 3

I never vis­ited HK for fun; it was always on busi­ness; to some peo­ple, HK can be a cul­ture shock. I never felt it, a lot of my col­leagues didn’t either, even the first time they vis­ited the place; how­ever, I do remem­ber the reac­tion of one assis­tant who had never trav­eled any­where before in her life – not even to Karachi on busi­ness, I remem­ber enjoy­ing her open mouthed reac­tion to the city. Those busi­ness trips always had to be fly­ing vis­its only and so I couldn’t pack much sight­see­ing, cul­ture or shop­ping into my days while over there but, it is always fun to visit such a beau­ti­ful city on busi­ness.

Here’s my take on HK.

1. GOOD URBAN DESIGN AND PROACTIVE TOWN PLANNING – the Town plan­ners are very active and involved in the city. I got a chance to explore Tsim Sha Tsui, Hung Hom, and Mong Kok in the Kowloon Penin­sula and Cause­way Bay, North Point and Cen­tral on the Hong Kong Island on foot. Although, the city is full of tall build­ings, some­how, it still can’t beat nature – the city sky­line looks cool against the back­drop of tow­er­ing moun­tains and ocean at the front gives a whole new mean­ing to Hong Kong sky­line – its pic­ture per­fect.

2. PLEASANT CLIMATE — You can’t see the sky – well you can, but the build­ings are so tall over there…it usu­ally blocks the sun. The weather is always mild, even in June and July; you can be out on the streets on foot, though the first time I was there, it started rain­ing in the morn­ing. It looked ordi­nary rain to me but they had posted typhoon warn­ings in the hotel lobby. I thought it was kind of neu­rotic because they had moved our meet­ings to late after­noon because of some light rain but what do I know? I was just a vis­i­tor. Another  time, I had to visit Hong Kong in Decem­ber; unfor­tu­nately, I had under­es­ti­mated the win­ters in Hong Kong. It was cold. Brrr.

3. MODERN ARCHITECTURE — The one thing com­mon for all dis­tricts is that all urban devel­op­ment is very struc­tured, mod­ern and uni­form. There are com­mer­cial build­ings, indus­trial build­ings, and res­i­den­tial build­ings; they all co-exist and are struc­tured in blocks; all of them attain­ing a cer­tain level height. You see a lot of con­struc­tion going on each time you visit. You can get lost in the city because after a bit, all the blocks start look­ing the same. You can be totally dis­ori­ented and start think­ing you are going in cir­cles. You prob­a­bly are! A map is essen­tial when you are on foot.

4. EFFICIENT INFRASTRUCTURE – the first thing that hits you is the new air­port when you land. It’s huge. In fact, to cross it, you have to take the Mass Tran­sit Rail­way (MTR) to get from point A to B. Loads of shops dot the ter­mi­nals – all top global brands are rep­re­sented there. Many hotels pro­vide a lim­ou­sine shut­tle ser­vice to and from the air port. How­ever, the cheap­est way to travel from the air­port to your des­ti­na­tion is prob­a­bly the MTR but if you are going for the first time to HK, take the shut­tle instead – it gives you the bird’s eye view of the whole city. I sim­ply loved it and pre­ferred walk­ing and the MTR over taxis. I never tried the trams, how­ever, I tried the Star Ferry once just for the expe­ri­ence. HK is very con­nected. Walk­ing is a way of life; they even have traf­fic sig­nals to reg­u­late foot traf­fic. Most peo­ple walk in the city, catch a bus or a train to com­mute to their work places. Peo­ple do run cars – seri­ously cool cars or maybe only seri­ously rich peo­ple run cars. You don’t see any ordi­nary cars only top of the tree brands like Lexus, Fer­raris, Mer­cedes, Rolls etc, and of course, taxis, trams and double-decker buses on the roads.

5. SHOPPING AND ENTERTAINMENT GALORE- Hong Kong is one giant shop­ping mall – at least the com­mer­cial dis­tricts that I vis­ited in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island felt like that. You can shop and have fun on a shoe string too. I never took more than PKR 5K for shop­ping and only shopped in the street mar­kets. I am not a shopa­holic; the only thing that I had to buy were presents for friends and fam­ily, how­ever, all my col­leagues turned into mad-shopper freaks the minute they stepped into HK. I always picked up cool ‘fake’ bar­gains for a song. There are street mar­kets like Ladies mar­ket in Mong Kok and Tem­ple mar­ket in Jor­dan, bou­tiques, depart­men­tal stores, spe­cialty shops and high end stores like Ralph Lau­ren, Donna Karen etc, in Cen­tral and Cause­way Bay in Hong Kong Island – do visit Sogo Depart­ment store and Times Square malls. I espe­cially made a point of vis­it­ing a cin­ema each trip. Food was never high on my list of pri­or­i­ties but there are many veg­e­tar­ian or seafood options for you. There’s the pricey Indian restau­rant called ‘Gay­lord’ on Ash­ley Street in Tsim Sha Tsui, there are some great mod­er­ate Indian and Pak­istani restau­rants in the spooky Chunk­ing Man­sion. I made a point of vis­it­ing the Star­bucks cof­fee shop in Har­bor City, and Hard Rock Café. You could also try the Chi­nese and Con­ti­nen­tal cuisines. There are hotels, restau­rants and cafés to suit most pock­ets. I was for­tu­nate enough to stay at four and five star hotels on com­pany expense so never felt inse­cure and scared in the big city even when I had to travel alone on busi­ness. Crime is vir­tu­ally none exis­tent. ■

hong Kong

Val­uemag, issue 3, July 2008, Global Sky­line: Mag­a­zine Lay­out by M. Asif

hong kong 2

This arti­cle was orig­i­nally pub­lished in the print edi­tion of Val­uemag, issue 3, July 2008




GD Star Rat­ing
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Fra­grant Har­bor, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rat­ing