The Star Ferry can be found just a stone's throw from the Ocean Terminal, where cruise ships dock. Connecting Kowloon to Hong Kong Island, the ferry is used mainly by commuters and is an extremely affordable way to begin a tour of Hong Kong Island. The highlight of the island is Victoria Peak, the tallest mountain in the city, and the most popular tourist attraction in all of Hong Kong. The Peak Tram funicular railway takes visitors to the summit for a fantastic panoramic view of Victoria Harbour, Kowloon and the New Territories.
The Peak Tower and Galleria complex atop the summit is filled with restaurants and even a Madame Tussauds Museum. There are also walking trails at the summit, offering a pleasant stroll through lovely gardens and, of course, a breathtaking 360-degree view on clear days. If you're visiting on your own, it's best to get an early start. Crowds for the tram sometimes make the wait an hour or more.
In Kowloon, the Tsim Sha Tsui area offers vibrant shopping districts, colonial architecture, modern high-rises and lovely parks. It is home to Nathan Road -- a must-see, especially at night, when clubs, restaurants and hotels switch on their gaudy neon signs. Kowloon Park, which is on Nathan Road, is a lovely refuge in the middle of the bustling city, with fountains, a rose garden, a waterfowl exhibit and more. In the morning, you'll encounter folks of all ages performing tai chi exercises near the outdoor sculpture garden and lake.
There are three institutions on the harbor are worth a visit: the Museum of Art, the Cultural Centre or the Space Museum. Banners announce special shows. A bit farther away, you'll also find the Science Museum and the Museum of History.
The Hong Kong skyline is transformed each night at 8 p.m. into a tapestry of colored light by means of computer-controlled lasers. The show is synchronized with music and narration. The best spot for viewing the Symphony of Lights is along the Waterfront Promenade, just beyond the Star Ferry terminal.
Hong Kong encompasses an array of outlying islands within an hour's ferry ride. Each offers a number of outdoor activities that are a marked contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city. Cheung Chau is a perfect getaway for biking enthusiasts, as there are no cars on the island. Lantau Island is home to the ultra-modern international airport, as well as superb beaches, scenic walks and a monastery with one of the world's largest outdoor sculptures of the seated Buddha. Visit Lamma Island for great seafood and scenic surroundings. Sai Kung, referred to as Hong Kong's "back garden," offers numerous outdoor dining establishments. See Viator for day trips to Cheung Chau, Lantau Island and Lamma Island.
If you've got a few days in Hong Kong, consider a trek to Macau. The former Portuguese colony reverted to Chinese rule in 1999. The island is about an hour from Hong Kong by "jetfoil" boat, and makes for an amusing excursion. Macau's primary claim to fame these days is its Las Vegas-style casinos, some operated by Las Vegas gaming consortia. It also has a historic sector that is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Macau is jammed on weekends and holidays with folks coming to party from Hong Kong -- and long waits at customs -- so it's best to visit during the week.
If you'd like more adventure, take a visit to mainland China. It's pretty easy to get to the city of Shenzhen, a special "economic zone" in the southern coast of Guangdong Province. You'll need a visa, obtainable in Hong Kong, though it can take a day or two to process. A 45-minute train ride will take you to the Chinese border, or you can opt for a one-hour ferry ride instead. Shenzhen is a haven for those interested in fake designer goods, and it also has a few noteworthy amusement parks, in addition to thousands of years of history.
Editor's Note: IndependentTraveler.com is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, Inc., which also owns Viator.
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Hong Kong Travel Guide
Shanghai Travel Guide
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