Hong Kong: Introduction: City of Life

There is no place quite like Hong Kong (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China) on this earth. As a destination, Hong Kong sells itself through contented shoppers, sightseers, and gourmands, who return home extolling the experience of a few days spent in frantic pursuit of pleasures around the perimeter of the world's most exciting harbor. What Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria's foreign secretary, once called a "barren rock" has become one of the 20th century's most astounding products. Its prosperity and vitality result from the city's the ability to bend with political winds from all directions. Great fortunes can be made almost daily.

About 12.5 percent of all tourist arrivals in Hong Kong are from North America, according to officials, and shopping is still the primary interest, although day trips to China are also popular.

With the opening of a superhighway through the New Territories, the rest of China will become an even more attractive extension of Hong Kong visits.

The construction of more and more first-class hotels and the reduction in transpacific airfares also add to Hong Kong's appeal as the second most popular destination on Asia tour programs.

Hong Kong Travel Guide - LukeTravels.com - Luke Handzlik (Author)

The 1990s have been one of Hong Kong's more interesting and eventful periods, as the territory has prepared to become a "Special Administrative Region" of the most populated country in the world—with its own laws, currency, and guarantees of individual liberties. Tourism officials feel that the lease settlement will have a positive effect on Hong Kong tourism, because the city is such an important gateway to travel in China.

"Fragrant Harbour" Hong Kong's English name is derived from two Chinese characters, Heung and Gong, usually translated as "Fragrant Harbour," though the actual origins of the name are obscure. Originally it was only the name of a small settlement near Aberdeen, the main fishing and entry port on pre-colonial Hong Kong Island. Some historians suggest that Hong Kong's Chinese name was inspired by its export of fragrant incense. 

Kowloon: "Nine Dragons." The explanation for Kowloon's name is even more romantic. In Chinese, the peninsula's name is Gow Lung, meaning "Nine Dragons". The name is thought to have been coined by Emperor Ping, one of two boy- emperors of the doomed Sung Dynasty whose court fled to Hong Kong eight centuries ago. He is said to have counted eight mountains in the area, and decided to name it "Eight Dragons" (in accordance with the belief that every mountain is inhabited by a dragon).

The Emperor's tally of the peaks was corrected by a quick-witted courtier who pointed out that as emperors were also believed to be dragons, the place should be named "Nine Dragons" - Ping being the ninth. The origin of Kowloon's name may be a legend, but it is a historical fact that the boy-emperor's traveling palace stayed there. One ancient carved-rock inscription recording the imperial visit stands in a small park on the very edge of Hong Kong International Airport.

Geography & Statistics

Lying at the southeastern tip of China, Hong Kong adjoins the province of Guangdong (Canton), and is just south of the tropic of Cancer. The total land area of Hong Kong is 1,078 square kilometers, comprising Hong Kong Island (77.5 square kilometers); Kowloon (45.5 square kilometers); and the New Territories, including 235 outlying islands (955 square kilometers).

Today Hong Kong has become a great international trading post, a powerful manufacturing base and one of the world's largest financial centers. The population as of 2011 was 7.07 million, almost 95 per cent of which is Chinese. Chinese and English are the official languages. Cantonese is the most widely spoken Chinese dialect, though Mandarin, Shanghainese and other Chinese dialects are also spoken. Many people, especially in shops, hotels, and service industries, speak English.