Hong Kong, meaning "Fragrant Harbour" in Chinese, is situated on the south-east coast of the People’s Republic of China. To the north, a river flowing between Lowu (Hong Kong side) and Shenzhen city (Mainland side) separates Hong Kong from the Chinese mainland. The Pearl River Estuary is to the west of Hong Kong, near Macau and Zhuhai, whilst the Hong Kong Island is bound by the South China Sea to the south.
Geographic Coordinates: 22 15 N, 114 10 E
Due to Hong Kong’s limited space, the government has resorted to land reclamation to expand it’s land mass and make room for further construction, especially along the harbour front. Large areas on Lantau Island have been or are being reclaimed for Chep Lap Kok airport and Hong Kong Disney Land.
Between 1851 and 1997, a total of 60 sq. kilometres (23 sq. miles) of land was reclaimed from the sea.
Hong Kong comprises Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsular and The New Territories as well as 234 outlying islands. The current total land area is 1,096 sq. kilometres (423 sq. miles), about 6 times the size of Washington DC, and may be broken down as follows:
Hong Kong Island - 80 sq. kilometres (31 sq. miles)
Kowloon Peninsular - 47 sq. kilometres (18 sq. miles)
New Territories - 794 - sq. kilometres (306 sq. miles)
Remote Islands - 175 sq. kilometres (67 sq. miles)
|Steeply rugged hills and mountains, composed primarily of volcanic rock, dominate Hong Kong’s natural terrain. The highest point is Tai Mo Shan in the New Territories (NT) and stands at 957m (3,140 ft) above sea level.|
Only 3% of Hong Kong’s total land area is agriculturally cultivated, the majority of which is to be found in the New Territories. Lowlands, including floodplains, river valleys, and reclaimed land, occupy less then one-fifth of the total land area.
|Though Hong Kong is situated within the tropics, its seasonal changes are greater than most other places at similar latitudes owing to monsoons and seasonal alternations of winds. Hong Kong has a sub-tropical climate with cool winters and hot, humid summers.|
The average, annual rainfall amounts to roughly 2,200mm (88 inches) with about 80% of this falling from May – September during the monsoon or rainy season. Sudden, violent downpours are characteristic of this season so be prepared and have an umbrella or raincoat with you at all times when you venture outdoors. It is also prudent to carry at least one item of warm clothing, as sustained downpours often result in a short but significant temperature drop. Besides this drop in temperature, air-conditioning in office buildings, taxis and buses can be bone chilling.
June to mid September are the summer months when temperatures range from 26°C - 33°C (78° F - 91°F) and humidity is extremely high – frequently above 86%.
Mid July – August rarely sees the temperature dip below the mid eighties Fahrenheit, which, combined with intense humidity, makes for some very hot and sticky days!
Hong Kong is at its best from mid September to March when the weather is considerably cooler and dryer.
December – February are the winter months when temperatures can drop as low as 10°C (50°F). Sweaters and coats are a must at this time, especially during January, which often sees the coldest of the winter weather.
|As of 2002, Hong Kong’s estimated population stands at 7.3 million. (Estimated population mid-1999 was 6.8).|
Of this seven million, 98% are Chinese, the vast majority of whom are Cantonese from mainland China. Other groups include the descendants of the Hakka, Tanka and Hoklo people, who came to Hong Kong long ago in search of a new life. Despite the unearthing of an ancient burial ground on Lantau island dating back 4,500 years, modern history states that the Han Chinese began their migration to the New Territories in the 12th century.
The Tanka are the ‘boat people’ who used to dive for pearls in the Tolo Harbour. Their descendants still inhabit the junks floating in the waters off Aberdeen, Yau Ma Tei and other typhoon shelters.
The Hoklo – hailing from the northern coast – are a seafaring people whose livelihood came from fishing. In the 17th century, as the place and people were thriving, a new breed of people was attracted to the area: - pirates. In an attempt to keep their families safe, the Hoklo people moved away from the coastal areas leaving behind them vacant land, which was soon claimed by the Hakka or ‘guest people’ from the north.
The Hakka people lived in walled villages and planted pineapples, rice, tea and incense, the aromatic plant that gave Hong Kong its name – Fragrant Harbour.
Of the non-Chinese living in Hong Kong, Filipinos constitute the vast majority. Other nationalities are varied with most being British, American, Canadian, Australian, Swiss and Indian.
Happy Valley : If you are in any doubt about the fact that horseracing is the city’s chief recreational passion, just pay a visit to Happy Valley’s famous racetrack on a Wednesday night during racing season (September - June). Enormous crowds turn out every week to put money on their favourite steed, with a single night’s tote at Happy Valley often being equivalent to an entire year’s betting at racetracks in the west. Happy Valley has been home to the ‘Sport of Kings’ since 1846 and is taken very seriously by the residents of Hong Kong with old and young, rich and poor all participating on a regular basis.
Otherwise, Happy Valley has undergone a certain amount of renovation in the past few years, with lifestyle stores, some good restaurants and bars emerging to form the Happy Valley ‘scene’ popular with a young crowd and Hong Kong celebrities.
Causeway Bay : The big draw here is the selection of Japanese department stores; Seibu, Mitsukoshi and Sogo. The enormous ‘Times Square’ is also a popular destination, with floor after floor of clothes, accessories, sporting goods, electronics, toys and cosmetics. The basement of Times Square houses City Super, an excellent international supermarket that caters to the western taste. There are also several good restaurants in the area.
MTR: Causeway Bay
Wan Chai : Meaning ‘Little Bay’ in Cantonese, Wan Chai is probably best known as being the setting for ‘The World of Suzie Wong’. In former days, the area was considered Hong Kong’s underbelly. Today, Wan Chai has undergone some gentrification with more upmarket restaurants and bars emerging. Commercially speaking, the area, for the most part, consists of small mechanic and printing businesses and home furnishing stores. Lockhart Road is lined with home improvement stores selling the latest in kitchen and bathroom hardware. Wan Chai is also home to two computer super-malls and a large wet market selling local produce.
MTR: Wan Chai
Admiralty : Admiralty houses numerous office blocks, as well as a shopping mall offering mostly clothing and shoes. The Department of Transport is located in United Centre in Admiralty. The MTR, bus stations and the bus to Ocean Park are all located at the bottom of the building.
Across the street in Pacific Place, The Island Shangri La, Conrad and Marriott hotels, as well as the British Consulate, are all clustered atop the exclusive shopping mall. The mall houses plenty of excellent restaurants, as well as a wide selection of designer stores. There are several office towers located here. The Hong Kong Park, with its tea museum, botanical garden, aviary and zoo, is located above Pacific Place.
Mid Levels: This is generally referred to as the area above Central and below The Peak; the belt of residential housing that runs mid-way up the mountain. Mid Levels stretches from Pokfulam in the west to Happy Valley in the east and is characterised by high density apartment blocks, many of which are considered highly desirable accommodation given their stunning harbour views and convenient location relative to Central and Admiralty.
Central: The financial and shopping centre of Hong Kong, Central is packed with skyscrapers, most connected by overhead walkways. Within these buildings, shops, restaurants and cafés abound. Central is where you will find the biggest names in designer clothing and jewellery.
Within Central district, there are numerous smaller areas such as Exchange Square, where the Hong Kong Stock Exchange is housed, Lan Kwai Fong, an entertainment area overflowing with bars and restaurants, and SoHo (south of Hollywood Road), a newly gentrified area of bars, restaurants and small boutique shops.
Central is built at the base of Victoria Peak, and walking around town may involve tackling a gentle incline. Hong Kong boasts the world’s longest escalator, which transports commuters and shoppers from Central to Mid Levels, a dense residential area sitting mid-way up the mountain.
The escalator runs uphill until 10:15am and downhill from 10:15am – 11:00pm.
MTR: Central Station and Hong Kong Station
Sheung Wan: Home to many smaller, family run businesses, Sheung Wan offers you a glimpse of the “old’ Hong Kong. Bonham Strand is well known for its bizarre and exotic array of shops offering ginger, Chinese herbs and birds nests for the famous Birds Nest Soup. Sheung Wan is the last (or first) stop on the Island train line, which runs the length of the island’s north shore.
Pokfulam: Situated on the western side of Hong Kong Island, Pokfulam is predominantly residential. A height restriction on construction means there are fewer high rises and as such it is a less densely populated area than nearby Kennedy Town. With cleaner air and easy access to Central, this is an increasingly popular spot with Westerners seeking a more low-key alternative to Mid Levels.
Aberdeen: Once a fishing village, later boat yards, and now industrial warehousing and high rise apartments characterise this area. The Marina Club and Aberdeen Boat Club are situated here, as is the Jumbo Floating Restaurant. Ap Lei Chao is home to Horizon Plaza where expatriates go to shop for their furniture, Italian food products and more.
Southside: Some of the most exclusive (and expensive) homes and neighbourhoods are to be found on the Southside. It is a popular spot for those wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, with a number of lovely beaches and hiking trails on offer. With fresh air and considerably more greenery, the Southside makes for an ideal day out, if you don’t already live there! Southside districts include:
Shouson Hill: Lovely, green, residential area just after the Aberdeen Tunnel. The area offers mostly town house and low rise living. The Hong Kong Country Club is situated here. Ocean Park is near by.
Deep Water Bay: Reputed to be one of the Island’s loveliest beaches. The Hong Kong Golf Club is situated here. The South Island School is close by.
Repulse Bay: One of Hong Kong’s largest beaches, the bay can get impossibly crowded during summer weekends. Some lovely hikes in this area. The Repulse Bay, once a majestic hotel, now a restaurant and shopping complex, is worth a visit. The area offers some townhouse living, but is mostly high-rise.
Chung Hom Kok: Residential area close to both campuses of the Hong Kong International School. This area consists solely of townhouses and low-rise apartment buildings.
Stanley: Another popular destination for those seeking an afternoon’s respite from the city. Cafés and restaurants line the shore offering the perfect vantage from which to observe the Dragon Boat Races in the summer. Stanley market is a famous tourist destination and offers everything from Calvin Klein underwear to Chairman Mao cigarette lighters!
Tai Tam: Built around the reservoir, this is a picturesque spot. There are some fantastic walks in this area. Tai Tam has its own small beach, Turtle Cove, and is home to the American Country Club and the Hong Kong International School.
The Peak: Last, but by no means least, is The Peak; quite simply the place to live in Hong Kong. Rising up behind the city itself, the views from here are phenomenal, taking in the city, Victoria Harbour, Kowloon peninsula and the New Territories.
There are several restaurants located at the summit that are very popular and constantly fully booked. If you plan to go, make sure you have a reservation.
There are also a number of lovely hikes, requiring varying degrees of exertion, up to the top from various starting points in Mid Levels. The Peak is Hong Kong’s number one tourist attraction and, apart from shopping and dining, offers Madame Tussauds, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and the Peak Explorer Motion Simulator. You can access The Peak by car, taxi, bus or mini bus, although, for your first visit it is worth taking the famous Peak Tram, which has been faithfully ferrying people up the vertiginous ascent since 1888.
Last Updated: 4 March, 2004