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Hong Kong is a city that continues to reinvent itself. Literally. What they say about weather — if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute — applies to the Hong Kong skyline, and even more so to its harbor. With 7.1 million inhabitants and 55 million visitors per year, Hong Kong is busting at the seams. You’d think there’s nowhere to go but up, but you’d be wrong. There’s always out. Out into the water, that is. It’s called “reclaiming land,” which implies that it is the oceans that are imposing on Hong Kong, not the people.
Like most big cities, Hong Kong offers two very different faces — the westernized hyper commercialism and the old school cultural experience. That doesn’t mean the old school cultural experience isn’t also quite capitalistic, minus brand names, 80-foot neon billboards, and credit card purchases. Do both and you just might understand both where this city came from and where it’s going, because the old school experience won’t be around for much longer.
Without stepping foot in a casino, there is plenty to entertain visitors of all ages. See for yourself why Macau receives 30 million visitors a year. It’s so much more than the Vegas of the East!
Long billed as a gambling destination, I was surprised to find that Macau is a city rich with European history, having been occupied by the Portuguese for 500 years. One minute you’re in a multi-billion dollar entertainment complex like Sands and the next you’re walking down narrow cobblestone streets in search of hot street food. To call Macau diverse is an understatement.
With its iconic skyline, I was very much looking forward to seeing Hong Kong. It mattered not that the fog rolled in and didn’t roll out. The weather was cooler than Guam and that’s all that mattered to us! For a panoramic view of one of the world’s most famous skylines, we hopped aboard the Star Ferry. Transversing the Victoria Harbour in 15 minutes, it’s the best way to take in both the dramatic mountains and the skyscrapers lining the Kowloon and Hong Kong islands. And for only $2.50, we rode the Ferry a couple times to give our aching feet a respite from all the pavement pounding.
One of the highlights of our Hong Kong visit was a leisurely ride through the mountains in a glass gondola. It was a relief after navigating the über crowded Victoria Harbour area. Whether your destination is the Big Buddha or you just want to take in the fog-laden scenery, riding in a glass gondola is a spectacular visual treat. The cable car links rural Ngong Ping with urban Tung Chung.
Hong Kong is not the kind of city you visit without an agenda. Even if that agenda is as simple as sightseeing and shopping, you need a reference point to navigate the bustling city streets and crowded alleys. Fortunately, Hong Kong’s metro (MRT) is one of the best and cheapest in the world. Just purchase an Octopus card for multi-rides and map out your destination before you get packed like sardines into a subway car in this cosmopolitan city of 7 million.