Hong Kong Island

One of the most densely populated places on the planet, Hong Kong is an experience for the senses. Home to over 7.5m people, and by far the largest number of skyscrapers of any city, it was a British colony for just over 150 years before being handed back to China in 1997. I visited just before Christmas in 2010. It has changed significantly in some ways since then, particularly the skyline and political scene, but I also suspect that the unique Hong Kong character remains strong.

Hong Kong Island is the original centre of Hong Kong, but just one of 261 islands (and Kowloon peninsula) that make up the city region. Hong Kong Island is the second largest by size and population, home to 1.3m people. The highest point on the island is The Peak, at 552m above sea level, which is also known as Victoria Peak and Mount Austin. Accessed romantically by tram (the first started in 1888) or more cheaply by bus, there are epic views from the summit of the city below.

Along with views of some ridiculous and ridiculously expensive properties viewed from Peak Tower.

Victoria Park is a pleasant 19 hectare spot converted from a former typhoon shelter, which traditionally is popular on Sundays with domestic workers.

The Bank of China Tower is one of the most distinctive buildings on the skyline, designed by I. M. Pei. The fourth tallest building in Hong Kong at 367m, it opened in 1991 to replace the nearby original Bank of China Building, which was the tallest building in Hong Kong when it was built in 1951.

Close by is the equally iconic HSBC Building, designed by Norman Foster, which open in 1985. Despite not being that tall (180m), when it was built it was the most expensive building in the world, costing ~US$668m.

Close to both is the yellow St John’s Cathedral, one of five cathedrals in Hong Kong. Built 1847-49, it is the oldest Anglican church in the Far East.

Of a similar vintage the beautiful Former French Mission Building was originally built in 1842, but extensively remodeled in 1917.

One of the oldest zoological and botanical centres in the world, Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens are the oldest park in Hong Kong, founded in 1864.

Also dating from the 19th century the Star Ferry is an iconic form of transport, used by 26m people a year.

Junks were the more traditional form of water transport, but only a few remain for the tourists.

From the water is one of the best places to enjoy the city skyline.

Which is home to 482 skyscrapers (buildings over 150m tall) compared with 297 in Shenzhen (the adjoining Chinese province to the north of Hong Kong) and 290 in New York.

Author: jontycrane

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