The pearl of the Far East: Hong Kong

After a 10-and-a-half-hour plane ride, we finally reach our destination, Hong Kong.

No visas are required for Turkish citizens traveling to Hong Kong, which made entrance all the easier. The Hong Kong airport is very clean and well-ordered, and there is no noise pollution here; there are none of the back-to-back announcements you might hear at other airports. Hong Kong is six hours ahead of Turkey.

Interestingly, the name Hong Kong can be translated as something like “the sweet-smelling port.” The city’s population is 7.2 million. Hong Kong is made up of three districts — Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories — which together sit on the Kowloon Peninsula. There are 235 smaller, mostly-uninhabited islands that surround the peninsula. Hong Kong is quite hilly.

The winter months here are damp and cool, while the summer months are hot and rainy. The most beautiful season is probably the fall, when it is mild and sunny. It should be noted, however, that here, “sunny” does not mean the clear, blue skies that we are used to; that is very rare here. Generally, Hong Kong tends toward a cloudy and hazy kind of “sunny.”

A general view of Hong Kong.

What you will find in Hong Kong, which is certainly one of Asia’s most popular cities for tourism, is a real synthesis of East and West. The city receives 54 million visitors annually.

For 155 years, Hong Kong was a British colony. Even now, the English language has an enormous influence in the culture and economy.

On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong joined China. Today, its status is that of a special administrative region of China. Residents of Hong Kong have their own passports, different from those of Chinese citizens, and they have their own monetary unit as well.

Hong Kong city.

Perhaps the best spot from which to look out on Hong Kong is Victoria Peak. Many people come to this lookout point, enjoying the view of the green hills, the port below and the beauty that the sea here adds to the city. I first visited Hong Kong back in 1998. Then, I ascended Victoria Peak to look out on the city as well, but in the intervening years, much has changed. The forest of skyscrapers here has seen many more added to it; since 1998, the famous International Commerce Center (ICC) went up, Hong Kong’s tallest skyscraper. Built in 2010, the ICC has 118 floors and is 484 meters tall; it’s one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world.

It’s not surprising to see that the Hong Kong of today is no longer the Hong Kong of 1998. This city is one that seems to be growing and developing on a day-to-day basis.

In a city this crowded, green space is highly valued, and there is a lot of it to find. Even though most land plots are taken up, the forest areas have not been touched. Lots of land is being protected here for future generations. On the lookout point, cigarettes are forbidden, even though it is in the open air. Breaking this law could land you a fine of 5,000 Hong Kong dollars, or roughly $1,750.

A scene from Kowloon Street.

Hong Kong is a colorful, lively city. Its streets are always crowded. One of the most notable features this city is its ultra-developed infrastructure. The metro system here is incredible and has been in use for years, making the traffic situation much better than it used to be. One could definitely say that the standard of life is high in Hong Kong. There are also many international banks, giant shopping centers and all sorts of world-famous brands and stores that fill its streets. While Hong Kong does not actually produce that much, the core of its economy is based on international trade and finance. It places much importance on exports for this reason.

Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay is one of the busiest and most crowded places. It is even regarded as one of the most intensely populated places in the world.

(Previous sentence removed) People are literally flooding the streets of Hong Kong. Just walking becomes a daunting task. One can progress only by bumping into others. It is such an ordeal to walk in these streets. The crowd surges at noon and in the evening. We try to make our way among the crowds in an effort to capture worthwhile images. But it proves no easy task to walk with a camera.

We come upon people distributing newspapers for free. These dailies rely on advertising revenue to survive.

The International Commerce Center (ICC) is open to tourists. Visitors can go up to the 100th floor to get a panoramic view of the city for a few minutes. The 100th floor, where people can see the city at an altitude of 393 meters, has been open since 2011.

Ferries run between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. We go to the island with a ferry. There are elevated pedestrian walkways that serve to ease the burden on traffic and offer easy access to buildings. Using these paths, people can get to many buildings without coming down to the streets. With these walkways, people can get rid of traffic lights and the risks of being hit by a car. Moreover, thanks to their shelters, these walkways can protect people from sunlight or rain.

In Hong Kong, police officers can issue fines to pedestrians for walking against the red light. The fine ranges between 200 and 2,000 Hong Kong dollars, or roughly between TL 70 and TL 700.

The peak tram is the preferred means of transportation for people who like to have a bird’s eye view of the city. The tramcar can easily climb very steep slopes despite being filled with passengers. The fee is 2.5 Hong Kong dollars, or about 90 Kr.

Hong Kong’s currency is the Hong Kong dollar. 1 US dollar equals 7.7 Hong Kong dollars. The banknote with highest value is 1000. But these banknotes are not generally used for shopping. It is not highly circulated. Instead, the 500 Hong Kong dollar banknote is more frequently used. It is interesting to note that currency from the time of British rule is still in circulation. The 1 and 2-dollar coins have a picture of Queen Elizabeth II on them and are still used in Hong Kong.


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