Viewed from Victoria Peak, Hong Kong surely rates as one of the most stunning cities in Asia, if not the world. In the foreground rise the skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island, while beyond them is the incredible bustle of Victoria Harbour, where all manner of watercraft — from the historic Star Ferries to cruise liners, cargo ships, and wooden fishing vessels — compete for space. On the other side is the Kowloon Peninsula, growing by the minute with ambitious land-reclamation projects, housing estates, and ever-taller buildings, all set against a dramatic backdrop of gently rounded mountains.
Every visitor to Hong Kong should eat dim sum in a typical Cantonese restaurant, ride the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour, and, if the weather is clear, take the Peak Tram for the glorious views from Victoria Peak.
At 392m, Victoria Peak is Hong Kong Island’s tallest mountain and offers spectacular views. Since the Peak is typically cooler than the sweltering city below, it has always been one of Hong Kong’s most exclusive places to live. More than a century ago, the rich reached the Peak via a 3-hour trip in sedan chairs, transported to the top by coolies. In 1888 the Peak Tram began operating, cutting the journey to a mere 8 minutes.
Hong Kong Museum of Art
Because of its location on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront just a 2-minute walk from the Star Ferry terminus, this museum is the most convenient and worthwhile if your time is limited. Feast your eyes on ceramics, bronzes, jade, cloisonné, lacquerware, bamboo carvings, and textiles, as well as paintings, wall hangings, scrolls, and calligraphy dating from the 16th century to the present. The Historical Pictures Gallery provides a visual account of life in Hong Kong, Macau, and Guangzhou in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Another gallery displays contemporary Hong Kong works by local artists.
Man Mo Temple
Hong Kong Island’s oldest and most important temple was built in the 1840s and is named after its two principal deities: Man, the god of literature, and Mo, the god of war. Two ornately carved sedan chairs in the temple were once used during festivals to carry the statues of the gods around the neighborhood. But what makes the temple particularly memorable are the giant incense coils hanging from the ceiling, imparting a fragrant, smoky haze — these are purchased by patrons seeking good health or a successful business deal, and may burn as long as 3 weeks.
Yuen Po Street Bird Garden
Birds are favorite pets in Chinese households; perhaps you’ve noticed wooden bird cages hanging outside shops or from apartment balconies, or perhaps you’ve even seen someone taking his bird for an outing in its cage. To see more of these prized songbirds, visit the fascinating Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, Prince Edward Road West, Mongkok, which consists of a series of Chinese style moon gates and courtyards lined with stalls selling songbirds, beautifully crafted wood and bamboo cages, live crickets and mealy worms, and tiny porcelain food bowls. Young children love it here. Take the MTR to Prince Edward Road station and walk 10 minutes east on Prince Edward Road West, turning left at the overhead railway onto Yuen Po Street. Admission to the garden is free and it’s open from 7am to 8pm.