Hong Kong Today
Hong Kong's skyline of gleaming glass towers, streets plastered with neon signs, and alleys crammed with street vendors have long served as the backdrop for local and international films, but this multifaceted city's charms go beyond its photogenic qualities. Steeped in a hot pot of cultural influences, Hong Kong is full of surprises for everyone from first-timers to those who’ve visited year after year.
Cosmopolitan city. Living up to the title of Asia’s World City, Hong Kong is a buzzing stage that attracts millions of visitors from all over the globe. Business travelers pass through frequently because it's so close to China, and Hong Kong's soaring market development makes it one of the world’s leading financial hubs. And just as many people come here for leisure travel. Navigation is easy within the city center, since road signs, maps, and directions on public transportation are spelled out in Chinese and English. Most major tourist attractions—including museums, parks, and performance venues—also have bilingual directories and information centers. While the city has a distinct tradition of its own, you’ll also find foreign influences embedded in its culture, language, food, and lifestyle.
Shopper’s paradise. You can score great bargains here on everything from electronics to clothing—on top of heavily discounted prices on many items, there’s no sales tax. You’ll find all the world-renowned brands at modern shopping malls and boutiques in the main shopping hubs of Central, Causeway Bay, and Tsim Sha Tsui, but it’s worth visiting the loud and crowded local markets, where you can haggle for cheap trinkets. At the larger markets, like the one on Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei and Tung Choi Street in Mong Kok, most of the vendors are used to tourists and can speak basic phrases of English. Fashion and design connoisseurs might want to look into the independent boutiques hidden away in complexes such as Island Beverly mall in Causeway Bay or in trendy areas like Tai Ping Shan Street, Star Street, and Tin Hau. These shops offer unique items from local and international designers, but be warned that they don't usually open before noon.
Food lovers' delight. There is no reason not to eat well in Hong Kong, regardless of your budget. While Hong Kong's Michelin-starred Asian and European restaurants continue to add names to their wait lists, it's also not unusual to see queues outside humble-looking local eateries and dai pai dongs—the open-air food stalls that line Temple Street and other major arteries. Immigrants from other parts of Asia also marked out their territories on the city's culinary map, with Kowloon City known for its Thai food, Tsim Sha Tsui for Indian and Korean, and Causeway Bay for Japanese. In the hip neighborhoods of Hong Kong many trendy restaurants have opened their doors to an eager clientele. Private kitchens were once the rage, and small restaurants serving artisanal cuisine continue to flourish. Waves of food trends in Hong Kong also mean that every other year or so there's a boom in restaurants serving a particular dish or cuisine, with ramen being the most recent craze.
Getting greener. Despite its expansive rural landscape, Hong Kong has always been identified more as a concrete jungle plagued by urban development and inner-city pollution than as an eco-destination. But the times they are a-changin’, and residents have really stepped up their efforts to turn their home into an eco-friendly city. The most notable change is the increase of interest in farming and a back-to-basics lifestyle, especially from the younger community. Weekend trips to farms out in the New Territories are gaining popularity as a way to relieve stress from the hustle and bustle of city life. And while Hong Kong's size makes it difficult to find arable land, some enterprising farmers are looking up and building rooftop gardens right in the heart of the city. Restaurants are also doing their part, with more chefs designing menus based on sustainable seafood and locally grown produce.
Focused on Health. In recent years traditional Chinese medicine has received a lot of holistic hype in the West. Around here, though, it's been going strong for a while—more than 2,000 years, to be precise. Although modern Hong Kongers may see western doctors for serious illnesses, for minor complaints and everyday pick-me-ups they still turn to traditional remedies. To get to the root of your body's disequilibrium, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner takes your pulse in different places, examines your tongue, eyes, and ears, and talks to you. Your prescription could include herbal tonics, teas, massage, dietary recommendations, and acupuncture.
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