The nerve centre of Hong Kong is Victoria Harbour. Situated between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon peninsula, it has an area of some 6000ha/23sq. miles and a width of between 1.6 and 9.6km/1 and 6 miles. It counts as one of the finest natural harbours in the world and in terms of tonnage ranks at the top ofthe world list. The container terminal (in the north-west of Kowloon) is one of the four largest in the world. An important part of passenger transport within the colony is conducted on water.
The official currency is the Hong Kong dollar (HK $), which is equal to 100 cents (c).
Within Asia Hong Kong plays a very special role on many different levels. With its lively ethnic mix it is possibly the most cosmopolitan of all cities. The green hills of Hong Kong Island and the mountains ofthe New Territories soar up into the deep blue skies above the mists ofthe large city or in the dry season are shrouded in thick clouds. But the attractiveness ofthe scenery contrasts starkly with the wretchedness of the colony’s hopelessly overcrowded built-up areas. As well as the delightful islands ofthe South China Sea, with their unspoilt sandy bays, there are plenty of other attractions created by the hand of man: reservoirs stretch out through green valleys and skyscrapers tower up to a height of almost 375m/1230ft. But there is much that is less edifying: slums, unsightly factories, eroded mountains, quarries, large areas of development, crowds of people and an enormous amount of noise.
Although superficially Hong Kong may appear westernised, it is nevertheless Chinese through and through. Even in the prosperous centres of Victoria and Kowloon there are many streets with shop-fronts and houses which differ very little from those of other East China ports of the last century, save for the incomparably wider range of goods on display.
If Singapore makes an ideal introduction for visitors to Asia, Hong Kong is better suited to the requirements of the more experienced traveller. Those who immerse themselves too hastily into the city’s hectic and feverish whirl can easily be overwhelmed by the scale of their impressions and are quite likely to develop an aversion to the place. Those who take their time to acclimatise themselves to this very different world, will realise the extraordinary riches which Hong Kong has to offer. The city’s charm lies in its contradictions, If you leave behind you the ultra-modern skyscraper surroundings of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon and venture into the New Territories you will find a quite different world: in the fields ploughs will be pulled by water-buffaloes and peasants will still be tilling their land in the time-honoured way. In those areas of the colony which hitherto have not fallen under the grip of modern industrialisation, including the remote offshore islands, the centuries-old way of life of peasants and fishermen continues to survived untouched by the hand of progress. Most Chinese eating-houses have preserved their old customs and usages; only the beer which is on sale everywhere is a concession to modernity. The authentic old Chinese atmosphere can still be experienced
Important seaport Currency Cosmopolitanism and contrasts Hong Kong every evening in the numerous cinemas where the programmes can include both films in Mandarin produced in Hong Kong as well as Cantonese films. Chinese operas are broadcast regularly on the radio and television and the traditional festivals are celebrated every year with a wealth of colour and extravagance.
In the everyday hurly-burly of this vast city, visitors are scarcely noticed -something which is surprising, given the huge number of foreign tourists who pass through. The wheeler-dealing of Hong Kong’s traders is conducted with much hustle and bustle at all levels, the shops being crammed full of every conceivable commodity. Particularly noticeable is the range of hand-crafted goods on offer, while there are outstanding restaurants where probably the very best Chinese cuisine in the world is available. The harbour is packed with ships, yachts, boats, junks and sampans. What probably most impresses the visitor is the sheer bubbling vitality and dynamism ofthe colony’s people. Relaxation and recreations play a relatively minor role in the lives of most of Hong Kong’s inhabitants, and it is to be regretted that courtesy and consideration for others are not infrequently neglected in people’s struggle for prosperity and advancement.
In Hong Kong In spite ofthe dominant role which money and business play in Hong Kong, drive on the the city still possesses attractive, quiet and untouched corners with in- left teresting things to see. The New Territories and the many islands were once oases of rest for the local people. But although they have been increasingly taken over by modern industrial development, they are still very much an alternative for the visitor who is not solely interested in the downtown shops. For the short-stay visitor to Hong Kong there are plenty of fascinating things to see and do and the serious problems which the colony’s infrastructure are posing are scarcely likely to impinge on his enjoyment. One thing, however, will very quickly become clear: Hong Kong is no longer cheap. Over the last few years practically all goods and services have become enormously more expensive, but even so, it is true to say that on the whole the visitor still gets good value for money.