The pulsating megacity of Hong Kong is a highlight for anyone travelling in Asia. It is much, much more, however – as the perfect springboard for tours of jawdroppingly lovely beaches, ancient cultural sites and through the amazing river and mountain landscapes of southern China.
Narrow alleyways, a sticky, tropical climate, 1,000 different aromas, 7 million people somehow packed into a tiny urban space, water, the din of traffic and vast skyscrapers jostling for room – Hong Kong, the former British colony located where the mighty Pearl River meets the South China Sea, is all these things and much more besides. And when you’ve done the intense megacity, which lies on the Kowloon Peninsula and includes close to 200 islands linked by ferries as well as Hong Kong Island itself, there are a vast number of other interesting places just waiting to be discovered.
The No. 1 tourist destination in Hong Kong is Victoria Peak, a 400-metre-high cliff overlooking the city. The easiest way to scale the peak is by taking the Peak Tram, which has been inching its way up (without a single accident) since 1888. The best view of the skyline and Victoria Harbour, as well as a breathtaking panoramic view right across Hong Kong, is offered by the Mövenpick restaurant, thanks to its location at the very top of the Peak Tower. Other Hong Kong highlights include the markets of Kowloon and a harbour tour, either in a Chinese junk or – by far the best way in the evening – the Symphony of Lights, when the surrounding skyscrapers are lit up. Not one you’ll forget in a hurry!
Also known as the ‘New York of Asia’, Hong Kong is a city of superlatives. It’s home to the world’s longest escalator, the largest free-standing statue of Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha on the island of Lantau – also well worth making time for) and purportedly the highest bar in the world. Drinking a gin and tonic at the Ozone Bar on the 118th Floor of the Hotel Ritz Carlton while looking down on this glittering metropolis of 7 million souls is an experience you’ll never forget.
Three to seven days in the city is usually about right. Thanks to its international airport, Chek Lap Kok, and a vast array of different transport links into mainland China, Hong Kong also makes the perfect springboard if you want to tour the region. And first and foremost, that means the fabulously beautiful south of the country. So here’s an idea of what to expect…
The southern Chinese province of Yunnan is so richly beautiful that the Chinese government renamed the former administrative district of Zhongdiang, in the north of the region, Shangri La – after the fictitious Paradise-like location in James Hilton’s worldwide bestselling novel ‘Lost Horizon’.
And it doesn’t take long to see why they changed its name: Yunnan really is an amazing place. Here, in what is China’s most culturally diverse province, the Yi, Bai and Hani peoples – to name just some of the minorities in the region – live their ancient habits and customs to this day. In the north, soaring snowy peaks and deep gorges surround Jade Dragon Mountain, while the south is home to vast tropical rainforests full of rare plants and animals. At the heart of the province, which borders on Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar to the east, there are countless lakes dotted around the ‘spring city’ of Kunming. Other unforgettable highlights of this culturally diverse province with its beautiful landscape include the ‘stone forest’ of Shilin outside Kunming, the World Cultural Heritage site of Lijiang, Tiger Leaping Gorge and the city of Dali.
The flight from Hong Kong to Kunming takes around two hours, and flights depart daily.
The city of Guilin is in the southern Chinese province of Guangxi. With its clear waters, green mountains, bizarre karst caves and delicately shaped rocks, the landscape around Guilin has been famed for its incomparable beauty amongst Chinese since time immemorial. A boat ride on the Li River, through the karst mountain landscape to Yangzhou, and an excursion to the rice terraces and thermal baths at Longsheng offer some of the loveliest impressions you will get of southern China.
Flights from Hong Kong to Guilin are affordable, always available, and take just an hour and 25 minutes.
Pearl River Delta
The Pearl River is the most important major river in southern China, and leads from Guangzhou to Macau and Hong Kong before emptying into the South China Sea. Pearl River Delta is the most important economic zone in the region today, and also has a huge amount of interest to tourists. Like Hong Kong, Macao is a former crown colony, and comparable to the casino metropolis of Las Vegas. Shenzhen is a shining, modern city on the border with Hong Kong which has been completely transformed as a special economic zone. It is home to the world’s largest golf course, at the Mission Hills Golf Club. Kaiping – north-west of Macao – was entered in the list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites in 2007 thanks to its architecturally unique tower blocks.
Flights from Hong Kong to Guangzhou take one hour, and are always available; you can make the trip from Hong Kong to Macau by car in no more than an hour.
Tropical island of Hainan
Hainan is southern China’s beach and holiday paradise, and hugely popular both with the Chinese themselves and foreign tourists. As Hainan is located south of Hong Kong on the same latitude as Hawaii, it is also known as the ‘Chinese Hawaii’. The island is home to beautiful sandy beaches, crystal-clear water and a wide range of sporting and recreational opportunities, primarily along the south coast around Sanya. The beaches around Yalong Bay, Dadonghai Bay and Sanya Bay are particularly popular. The island has also become a shopping paradise in recent years due to the new duty free regulations.
Flights depart from Hong Kong to Haikou and Sanya on a daily basis.
If you can no longer resist the beauties of southern China or the enticing highlights of the megacity of Hong Kong, then book your flight HERE!