Hong Kong Feature

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Hong Kong Today

You may have caught glimpses of Hong Kong in old Jackie Chan or Chow Yun-fat movies, the city set against a clattering backdrop of surreal high-rises and bamboo scaffolding, but the silver screen only scratches the surface of this fast-paced metropolis. Beneath the iconic attractions and pop-culture phenomena, this multifaceted city is full of surprises, and yet extremely accessible to travelers who haven't spent much time in Asia.

Hong Kong Today

... is truly cosmopolitan. Living up to the title of Asia's World City, Hong Kong is a buzzing stage that attracts millions of visitors from all over the globe. Business travelers pass through frequently because it's so close to China, and Hong Kong's soaring market development makes it one of the world's leading financial hubs. Of course, just as many people come here for leisure travel. Navigation is easy within the city center since road signs, maps, and directions on public transportation are spelled out in Chinese and English. Most major tourist attractions—including museums, parks, and performance venues—also have bilingual directories and information centers. While the city has a distinct tradition of its own, you'll also find foreign influences everywhere, whether it's in the form of European fashion houses, clubs that play the latest American hits, or top-grade sushi restaurants that rival those in Tokyo.

... is a shopper's paradise. You can score great bargains here in Hong Kong on everything from electronics to clothing—and there's no sales tax, which is all the more reason to shop your heart out. You'll find all the world-renowned brands here at large-scale shopping malls and Rodeo Drive—like stretches along Canton Road and Fashion Walk, but it's worth visiting the loud and crowded local markets, where you can haggle for cheap trinkets. If you go to larger markets like the one on Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei and Tung Choi Street in Mong Kok, most of the vendors are used to tourists and can speak basic phrases of English. Cutting-edge fashionistas might want to look into the independent boutiques hidden away in small complexes such as Island Beverly mall in Causeway Bay. These stores sell clothes and jewelry by local designers and one-of-a-kind pieces sourced from Korea and Japan. Be warned though that a lot of these shops don't open until late afternoon.

... is at a political crossroads. Although Hong Kong was officially returned to China in 1997, following 156 years under British rule, there is still some palpable tension between locals and the mainland. A large part comes from the clash of cultures and the feeling that the overwhelming influx of mainland visitors has put a strain on the city's resources (most notably on baby milk formula and hospital space for pregnant women). And despite being classified as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) that is given some political autonomy from China, the Communist Party has made several attempts to impose its policies on Hong Kong—all of which have been strongly resisted by the local community. A recent example of this was the protest against implementing Chinese national education in schools. Thankfully, both sides have remained civil and even when rallies occur, they're usually peaceful and well-organized demonstrations that are effective without being violent.

... is getting greener. Despite its expansive rural landscape, Hong Kong has always been identified more as a concrete jungle plagued by urban development and inner-city pollution than as an eco-destination. But the times they are a-changin' and residents have really stepped up their efforts to turn their home into an eco-friendly city. The most notable change is the increase of interest in farming and a back-to-basics lifestyle, especially from the younger community. Weekend trips to farms out in the New Territories are gaining popularity as a way to relieve stress from the hustle and bustle of city life. And while Hong Kong's size makes it difficult to find arable land, some enterprising farmers are looking up and building rooftop gardens right in the heart of the city. Restaurants are also doing their part with more chefs designing menus based on sustainable seafood and locally grown produce.

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