Besides being a well known business destination, Hong Kong offers tourists a range of shopping, fantastic attractions and a plethora of food from all over to choose from.
A small island off the coast of mainland China, Hong Kong provides tourists with a taste of China's culture, while retaining a cosmopolitan environment. It serves as an amazing vacation destination, for those living in India especially, because it has an international feel, while still being quite close to home (a four-hour flight from Chennai).
However, the main reasons why 35 million tourists visit the island every year are the incredible shopping, cuisine, and tourism opportunities that await.
Samvitha is a student of American International School.
Bargains to Burberry
Besides business, Hong Kong is well known for its amazing shopping malls, displaying designer brands from all over the world. These shopping centres feature the big designer labels such as Gucci, Burberry, Prada, Juicy Couture and many more. Many travel guides/websites state that Hong Kong is one of the cheapest to buy these labels' products.
My advice: Don't fall for it! Products of these brands such as bags, shoes and clothes are priced internationally in Hong Kong as well. However, a good thing about Hong Kong is that it does have a few factory outlets, where past seasons' stock is kept, and sold for a less expensive rate. But for those of you out there looking for a good bargain and value for money, fear not, because Hong Kong has got that too. Ladies Street, located in a well-known shopping district of the island, is a two-km road overflowing with bags, shoes, clothes, accessories and antiques. Of course, most of these are “inspired” by the designer goods available in the big malls.
A few lanes away from Ladies Street, in the same area, are many tiny shops, filled with electronic goods. If you're looking for an inexpensive watch or cell phone, then it's definitely worth taking a look at these shops for their prices are unbeatable anywhere else in the world. Finally, those looking to splurge a little on “Chinese culture” and antiques should look no further, because Ladies Street, as well as the nearby market of Temple Street, have several jade statues and colourful ceramic masks, to take back as a memento.
My Best Buy: A small pink clutch for $7 only! (approx. Rs. 310)
Taste of the island
Shopping is just one aspect of this amazing island that attracts millions of tourists each year. The other is the grand variety of international cuisine that the city has to offer.
Street vendors offer many local Chinese delicacies to those passing by. Being a vegetarian, there was not much variety of local food, as the cuisine is mainly meat-based. However, for those adventurous non-vegetarians out there, there are many choices, with fried insects and crumbed bugs being at the top of the list. In addition to these ‘out-there' dishes, there are, of course, the expected servings of dim-sum, dumplings, rice and noodles, all catered with the appropriate amount of meat.
Besides local Chinese cuisine, the unique thing about Hong Kong is that it offers cuisines from around the world. Many small alleyways soon turn onto terraces with tiny cafes and restaurants, serving international cuisines. A few cuisines that were especially popular were Mexican and Italian, evidenced by the fact that there seemed to be a “Spaghetti House” (a fast-food chain serving Italian food) on every major street.
Another enjoyable fact about many of Hong Kong's restaurants, is that they are set in prime locations, that overlook the harbour and the sea, so that one can enjoy a soothing view of the twinkling night and bright skyline of the nearby islands while one sits with a bowl of pasta and some bread.
My Best Eat: Caprese salad, at a small restaurant overlooking the Kowloon harbour
Parks and recreation
Like most tourist destinations, Hong Kong does have its fair share of sight-seeing locations. Two that really stood out were Ocean Park, and of course, the beloved Disneyland.
Ocean Park is a unique combination of a wildlife viewing park and an attraction park. It has both the rides and the sanctuaries that give a wholesome feel to the place. One of the favourites there is the Carp Garden, a peaceful, soothing area that contains giant ceramic and terracotta bowls filled with golden carp fish of many sizes. What is unique about this garden is that there are large plate-glass “window” structures, on which people may write their wishes. The mythology behind this is that in many Asian cultures, the carp symbolises a divine being that can grant wishes.
As for Disneyland, it is exactly how every child imagines it would be. Smaller than its counterparts in Paris and the U.S., Disneyland Hong Kong manages to encompass all that is classically Disney — the rides, the shows, the mascots, and of course, the world-famous parade. Don't worry being the oldest there, as there are many adults, teens, and children from the globe over who visit the park every day. It just goes to show that you're never too old for a little Disney magic!
My Best Attraction: The Disneyland ‘Flights of Fantasy' parade, in celebration of Hong Kong Disneyland's fifth anniversary.