Hong Kong is one of the busiest and most dynamic cities on the planet, one of the world’s leading financial centers. It became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China following the handover by the British in 1997.
Under the one country two systems principle enshrined in law, Hong Kong operates generally autonomously from mainland China and will continue to do so until at least 2047. Hong Kong will elect a new Chief Executive on March 26 (with a subsequent runoff, if necessary, with the top two candidates). There is no direct election of this official, however. “The final decision will be made by an election committee of just 1,200 members, mostly made up of pro-Beijing elites and wealthy businessmen who have vested interests on the mainland,” Nikkei Asian Review noted. To be eligible, each candidate must first obtain at least 150 nominations from the election committee.
As widely reported in the international media, democracy activists believe that there should be free elections for Hong Kong’s leader.
All politics aside, Frommer’s Hong Kong Guide offers this description of the city.
“Hong Kong is known for its bustling harbor flanked by high rises and hills, streets blazing with neon and surging with humanity, noisy restaurants overflowing with extended families, and markets brimming with everything from live seafood to handbags. Hong Kong is also known as one of Asia’s most sophisticated cities, synonymous with luxury hotels and exclusive designer boutiques.”
The harbor is Victoria Harbor (after Queen Victoria). Ferries, as well as the MTR subway, connect Hong Kong Island with the Kowloon Peninsula. Kowloon is actually on the Chinese mainland but was annexed to Hong Kong during British rule. Beyond Kowloon and stretching to the mainland are the New Territories, which are also part of Hong Kong.
One of the top, must-see attractions in the city is Victoria Peak, overlooking the harbor and the Hong Kong skyline, and easily accessible by the excellent mass transit system (pay your fare with an “Octupus card,” which is like a handheld E-Z Pass). The Peak, as it is called locally, is Hong Kong’s tallest landmark (about 1,800 feet), i.e., the highest point in the SAR. It can get a little foggy up there depending on the weather, time of day, and other factors, as the following images with Central skyscrapers in the foreground suggest. The summit, featuring several radio towers, is closed to the public, but the surrounding area gets all the visitors, both tourists and residents.
Victoria Peak was originally called Ngan Tau Shan (Stiff Head Hill) according to local folklore. It later became known among fisherman as Tai Ping Shan (Peaceful Hill) after a notorious pirate surrendered to authorities.
Shaped like an anvil or a wok as some say, the Peak Tower is an open-air viewing platform in the Victoria Peak area whose Sky Terrace above a consumer mall provides stunning views of the Hong Kong and Kowloon commercial and residential cityscapes as well as the South China Sea and islands to the west.
“If there is only one thing you can do in Hong Kong, go to The Peak. If you have many things to do here, still go to The Peak,” Discover Hong Kong recommends.
Walking/hiking on Lugard Road with its lush vegetation also provides a birds-eye view of the Central business district, the harbor, and Kowloon, at several lookout points. “A nice leisurely walk around the peak can be done in an hour on Harlech and Luggard Roads which loop around it and give you amazing 360 views of the island and beyond,” Hong Kong Traveler explains.
Time magazine sums up the appeal of Victoria Peak.
“If a single image could encapsulate Hong Kong, it would be the panorama from Victoria Peak. Looking down at the city from this famous vantage point, you’ll see one of the finest harbors on Earth and a skyline so improbable, audacious and lofty that Manhattan’s looks provincial by comparison. Beyond the mountains to the north of the city, the rest of China simmers and strains. Everything you’ve heard about Hong Kong’s restlessness and energy is dramatically reaffirmed by the view from the Peak. Even the most cynical locals never tire of visiting.”
In short, Victoria Peak is real, and it’s spectacular.
[Featured Image by Robert Jonathan]