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Introducing Hong Kong
A new era
Hong Kong, so long a vestigial colony of the bygone British Empire, reverted to Chinese rule at midnight on June 30, 1997. The pragmatic citizens of Hong Kong took the transition in their stride, and life now carries on as normal while people wait to see what history will bring them. This is an unfolding drama in which you, as a visitor to Hong Kong, can share.
Hong Kong Island is visually stunning. The Central area is filled with an astonishing array of skyscrapers that peer down on a contradictory mix of the materialistic and the spiritual. Everywhere people are frantically trying to make money, while under an overpass an old woman crouches to beat with a shoe a piece of paper that carries the names of her gossipy neighbors whose malicious influence will, she hopes, be crushed by this ancient magic ritual of da siu yan ("beating small people").
Sharing the incredibly congested space with the financial institutions and shopping centers are public housing blocks, where the lives of ordinary citizens have little in common with the surrounding glitz and glamour. Real estate costs in Hong Kong are expressed by the number of thousand dollars to each square foot. Victoria Peak, a wooded 1,800-feet-high hill that looks down on Central and Victoria Harbour from the center of the island, is home to the wealthiest tycoons and commands the very highest rents.
North to the border
Hong Kong Island is only one part of Hong Kong, and just over five minutes by ferry across the harbor lies the tip of the Kowloon Peninsula, called Tsim Sha Tsui. Here ritzy and not-so-ritzy shops and restaurants are packed togetherwith a staggering density. North of this is the residential and shopping area of Mong Kok, which has the highest density of population on Earth. Here you will literally rub shoulders with residents and share in the frustrations and frissons of a truly frenetic shopping experience.
Further north still are the New Territories, which stretch up to what is still the border with China. Now in the post-97 era most Hong Kong people are tied to their forebears across the border more closely than ever, and it is this cultural continuity that gives Hong Kong its unique appeal and fascination. This is no mere Chinatown; it is a Chinese city with pockets of Westernism where you are able to enjoy the best of both worlds.