Hong Kong - Reviving The City of Life The Gateway to Asia

On September 12, 2005, the Magic Kindgom meets Hong Kong when Disney opens its new $1.8 billion amusement park on Hong Kong's Lantau Island (www.hongkongdisneyland.com). Though the Hong Kong government largely financed the project after the 1997 Asian economic crisis and in order to revive tourism after the territory's handover to China, a record 25 million people will visit Hong Kong this year, and the tourism frenzy does not figure to let up in anticipation of 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. The newest installment of the 'The Happiest Place on Earth' is just another one of the many reasons to visit the metropolis deservedly known as 'The City of Life.'

Ritz Carlton Hong Kong - courtesy of Ritz-Carlton

Where to Go and What to Do
While Hong Kong is best known for its skyscrapers and commercial fortitude, three-quarters of the region is still undeveloped. You will get a taste of both worlds as you explore the province that consists of Hong Kong Island, separated from the Kowloon Peninsula by Victoria Harbor, and the 'New Territories,' which begin north of Kowloon.

Hong Kong Sunset - by Chris Eric Ng

Some visitors come to Hong Kong just for its incredible variety of affordable shopping. While Hong Kong is generally considered to be one of the most expensive cities in the world, the province's status as a free port, where most products come in without an import tax, and its access to a skilled and inexpensive labor force across the border in China, together cultivate a shopper's paradise.

Hong Kong Skyline - by Chris Eric Ng

Though there are only a few historical landmarks and cultural attractions, Hong Kong Island is the place to be, where bustling business, luxury shopping and an impressive nightlife coalesce. Until the arrival of Disneyland, the most popular tourist attraction on the island was The Peak, offering breathtaking views of the city skyline, Victoria Harbor and Kowloon. The landmark is accessible by bus or the historic funicular railway called the Peak Tram that escalates 1223 feet. Gawk at the landmark skyscrapers and enjoy an afternoon of luxury shopping in the Central and Western districts, and spend the evening in Mid-Levels, which includes SoHo, to enjoy a wide range of cosmopolitan restaurants. The hustling Wan Chai district is home to the Expo Promenade and the imposing Forever Blooming Bauhinia Sculpture and Reunification Monument, marking the return of Hong Kong to the Peoples Republic of China. From Central, grab a seat in the front of the upper deck on Bus Number 6 to the south side of the island to get an unforgettable view of the coastline as the bus descends from the peaks of the busy shopping and business districts into the sandy coves of Stanley and Repulse Bay.  Wander through Stanley Market, a buzzing flea market packed with locals and with stall after stall of high-quality and inexpensive souvenirs. When the sun goes down, the Symphony of Lights brightens the sky nightly at 8:00 p.m. as Hong Kong's skyscrapers illuminate in an unparalleled rainbow of colors. In Central, Lan Kwai Fong comes to life after dark as a vivacious center of restaurants, bars and clubs. The curiously L-shaped cobblestone lane packed with locals and tourists is the center of nightlife and dining in Hong Kong where you can enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail at one of the more than 20 bars, followed by dining in some of the city's best restaurants and concluding with a nightcap or a spin on the dance floor at Club C, Volar or Dragon-I.

Plateau Resort - by Chris Eric Ng

Meanwhile, the Kowloon Peninsula boasts a vast array of shopping options. Pay a visit to the Flower Market, Ladies Market or Night Market (starting around 6 p.m.). If you are looking for better luck and more prosperity, check out Jade Market, featuring 450 stalls selling jade of all shapes, sizes and prices. Not far from the commercial madness of Nathan Road are the temples of Wong Tai Sin, where you can catch a glimpse into your future by visiting a fortune-teller, and Tin Hau, the oldest temple in Hong Kong.

While you could spend days exploring the New Territories, the best way to see the province is through an organized tour. The area offers visitors a glimpse of traditional rural life in partially restored villages, along with magnificent parks and lush nature walks. For another day trip, take the ferry from Central to the western side of Lantau Island. Hike or take a bus to Po Lin Monastery, home to Tin Tan Buddha, the world's tallest outdoor seated bronze Buddha, situated peacefully among the surrounding mountains.

In addition, Hong Kong is an ideal base from which to explore other cities on the mainland or elsewhere in Asia. Dragon Air (www.dragonair.com) is one of the most reliable carriers in Hong Kong offering frequent flights from Hong Kong to local destinations such as Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Bangkok, Phuket and Taipei.

A typical guest room at the Plateau Resort at the Grand Hyatt - courtesy the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong

Where to Stay
Tucked into the 11th Floor of the magnificent Grand Hyatt Hong Kong hotel, lies an unmatched urban refuge called The Plateau (www.plateau.com.hk; from $550) that redefines standards of excellence in the hotel industry by stylishly providing the ultimate privacy for those seeking sanctuary while visiting Hong Kong. The Plateau is an 80,000 square foot oasis dedicated to relaxation and fitness, offering a 400-meter jogging track, two tennis courts, two squash courts, a golf driving range and even the complimentary use of iPods or DVDs for workouts in the workout room fitted with state-of-the-art Technogym equipment. There are 23 sleek rooms and suites, any of which can convert to luxurious spa treatment rooms, fitted with futon bends, oversized tubs and LCD flat- screen televisions. In addition, most rooms offer stunning views of Victoria Harbor.
The Plateau's spa menu offers both Eastern and Western treatments everything from Swedish massage and hot stone treatments to Vichy showers, Decleaor facials and salt and pepper scrubs. French-brand Carita products, exclusive to Plateau, are used for treatments. Try the Plateau Scrub, which uses a combination of raw sugar an green tea to exfoliate, soften and nourish the body, followed by a steam treatment and a massage using a toning body balm (90 minutes; $150), or the Renovateur Protection Eclat Combination Skin Facial, designed to delay the aging process by using products to maximize skin protection and preventative care (75 minutes; $140). 

Ritz Carlton Hong Kong - courtesy of Ritz-Carlton

The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong (www.ritzcarlton.com/hotels/hong_kong; packages from about $240) is conveniently located in the heart of Central and perennially garners critical accolades for its exceptional personal service and attention to detail. This intimate five-star hotel, featuring polished 'Asian-style service,' is walking distance to the Peak Tram, Star Ferry, antique markets of Hollywood Road and Cat Street and world-class shopping centers such as Prince's Building, The Landmark and Pacific Place. The outdoor swimming pool and spa offer views of the towering Hong Kong skyline. Be sure to enjoy an evening cocktail in the hotel's Charter Lounge, featuring exquisite Chinese art and live music every night. The hotel even offers guests a customized aromatherapy bath selected from the hotel's extensive bath menu including the Chinese Herbal Bath, the Flu Fighter, The Gentlemen's or Ladies' Bath or the Honeymooners Bath, which includes scattered rose petals, a bottle of champagne, strawberries, candlelight and a dozen red roses.

Ritz Carlton Hong Kong Swimming Pool - courtesy of Ritz-Carlton

Hong Kong is a unique reflection of 5,000 years of Chinese tradition, colored by 150 years of British influence. Whether you plan a separate trip to Hong Kong or just schedule an extended stopover on the way to another destination in Asia, you will quickly learn why Hong Kong is called the 'City of Life.'

For more information, contact the Hong Kong Tourism Board at www.discoverhongkong.com.


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