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Hong Kong Living Culture

Published: May 24, 2011
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Nowhere on earth combines traditional customs with modern lifestyles as well as Hong Kong – Asia’s world city. A major commercial centre in Asia, the city is a fabulous mix of 21st-century amenities and Chinese traditions that date back thousands of years. And this fascinating blend is celebrated in festivals and fairs, parades and pageants held throughout the year. Hong Kong’s Signature Events welcome visitors to immerse themselves in the colour, energy and sheer joy of Hong Kong’s cultural, dining, shopping and nature experiences.

Festive Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s cultural calendar is filled with year-round festivals that quite often embody the religious and superstitious beliefs of its people. Events are celebrated with much pomp and pageantry, and certainly make for great photos.

According to folklore, the Bun Festival held on the island of Cheung Chau, came about when a plague hit the area several centuries back. Villagers, disguised as different deities, walked around the island to chase away the evil spirits thought responsible for the plague. Today, this popular festival is highlighted by the “Piu Sik (Floating Colours) Parade”, where children dressed up as venerated gods and current political figures are borne on stilts, to assimilate the act of floating in the air.

The parade winds through narrow streets to Pak Tai Temple, where towers of sweet buns have been erected. At midnight, racers shinny up one of the towers to see who can grab the most “lucky” buns off the top.

To the largely Buddhist population in Hong Kong, the Birthday of Lord Buddha is a huge affair. Celebrations are held in major monasteries in Hong Kong, including Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island. Home to the world’s largest, seated, outdoor bronze Buddha, it draws the biggest crowds. A spiritual and solemn occasion, visitors can participate in a purification ritual, sample vegetarian meals and enjoy kung fu performances by Shaolin monks at the monastery.

In yet another religious context, the Birthday of Tam Kung is celebrated with much fanfare at the Tam Kung Temple in the fishing village of Shau Kei Wan. Known only in Hong Kong, Tam Kung is a god to seafarers. Revered for his ability to forecast the weather, he is said to have calmed the seas and brought fishermen home safely.

From June to August, during the Hong Kong Summer Spectacular, the city is filled with activities like lively dragon boat races during the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival held from June 17 to 19, and a water parade of deities associated with fishermen in Tai O village on Lantau Island. Other events lined up include the “Summer Pop – Live in Hong Kong” concert, Lan Kwai Fong Beer Festival and the Summer International Film Festival. Plus, there are lots of discounts for shopping.

The Mid-Autumn Festival in September is a celebration of harvest time, when the moon is at its brightest and largest. Colourfully lit paper lanterns are hung or carried by children while locals indulge in sweet mooncakes (made from ground lotus and sesame seed paste). The 67-metre long “fire dragon” made of straw and incense sticks during the Mid-Autumn Lantern Celebration that you see in Causeway Bay represents a local legend of plagues, storms and snakes that beset Tai Hang and were only remedied by a three-day fire dance.

In November, Wine and Dine Month features food, wine and live entertainment. The Wine and Dine Festival kicks off the month-long celebration with an outdoor wine tasting and food pairing event. Nighttime hotspots are centred around Lan Kwai Fong, SoHo, Knutsford Terrace and Wan Chai.

Not many people realize that Hong Kong has a vast network of hiking trails. The “Great Outdoors Hong Kong!” campaign is aimed at nature lovers who want to explore places such as the Hong Kong National Geopark with its amazing geological formations.

Up in the sky, festive lighting adorns the city, especially Victoria Harbour during WinterFest. There is also a pyrotechnic display over the harbour for the New Year Countdown Celebrations.

Unique Offerings
Under the “Cultural Kaleidoscope” program created by the HKTB, visitors have the opportunity to learn about the things that make Hong Kong unique.

The Duk Ling offers a ride onboard the “last authentic Chinese sailing junk in Hong Kong” while enjoying views of the harbour for HK $100 per person.

A variety of introductory classes teach tai chi, feng shui (ancient art of positioning objects and buildings in “harmony with nature”), Chinese tea appreciation, traditional Chinese medicine and Cantonese opera appreciation.

For HK $200 per person, you can join a walk through Central led by a member of the HK Institute of Architects and marvel at the various architecture and influences.

Most activities offered in the “Cultural Kaleidoscope” program are free. Check with the HKTB for more details.

Shopping
Hong Kong is a shoppers’ haven with stores ranging from high-end boutiques in large shopping malls to the many unique markets like Temple Street Night Market, Ladies Market, Stanley Market and Jade Market, which test one’s bargaining skills.

The HKTB’s Quality Tourism Services (QTS) Scheme makes it easy for tourists to find shops, restaurants, hair salons and budget accommodation. Only accredited businesses are featured and must pass stringent assessments conducted annually ensuring high standards of product quality and service.

Dining
Hong Kong is the Culinary Capital of Asia. It comes as no surprise then that dining out in Hong Kong is a gastronomic treat. There are more than 11,000 eateries ranging from Michelin-rated restaurants to local street vendors. Of course, when one is in Hong Kong, it is necessary to tuck into the local specialty, dim sum. Other popular Hong Kong local delights include noodles and congees, Hong Kong milk tea, egg tart and Chinese doughnut. One should also not miss the fresh seafood, for which Lamma Island, Lei Yue Mun and Sai Kung are famous.

Product Update
• Hong Kong currently has over 175 hotels, totalling more than 60,000 rooms. This year, 19 additional properties are slated to open, adding some 3,000 rooms to the inventory. The hotels include two Best Westerns – Causeway Bay (260 rooms) and Hong Kong (460 rooms), Cosmopolitan Hotel Kowloon (380 rooms), Hotel ICON, Tsim Sha Tsui (262 rooms) and St Davies Hotel, Western District (217 rooms).
• Floating 100 metres above the ground, the DHL Hong Kong Balloon is a 30-passenger gondola that provides panoramic views of Victoria Harbour, the Peak, Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula.
• For shopping diehards, The ONE is the newest and tallest shopping mall at 29 storeys high, filled with retail shops, entertainment and fine dining.
• K11, the world’s first Art Mall, is where art, people and nature combine. Designer shops, fine dining and fantastic art are all on display.
• SKY100 is Hong Kong’s highest indoor observation deck offering a 360-degree panoramic view of Hong Kong. It is situated on the 100th floor of the 118-storey International Commerce Centre, the fourth tallest building in the world at 490 metres above sea level. The building is also home to the new Ritz Carlton Hotel, and is connected to the W Hotel and the 92,903-square metre Elements shopping mall.
• Under the “Hong Kong Attractions Fun Deals”, visitors to five major attractions – Ocean Park Hong Kong, Ngong Ping 360, Hong Kong Wetland Park, The Peak Tram & Sky Terrace and Madame Tussauds Hong Kong – get discounts on admission prices on subsequent visits to the other attractions and receive a customized “Fun Itinerary” lined with activities for two days. This promotion runs through December 31.

Fast Facts
Getting There: Air Canada offers a combined 21 direct flights per week from Vancouver and Toronto; Cathay Pacific operates twice daily direct services from Vancouver and Toronto starting in May.
• Getting Around: From the airport, the Airport Express Train takes 24 minutes to get downtown. Within the city, the MTR subway system is very efficient and inexpensive. For easy travel, purchase the Octopus Card, a stored-value smart card that can be used on the subway, trams, ferries and most bus services. It can also be used for shopping at fast food outlets, supermarkets and retail stores including Seven Eleven and Watsons, where it can be topped up. Taxis are reasonably priced and readily available.
Visa: Not required for stays of less than 90 days.
Currency: Hong Kong dollar. Canadian bank cards with Plus or Cirrus logos can be used at ATM machines to withdraw cash in local currency. Major credit cards widely accepted.
Electricity: AC 220V. Uses three-pronged adaptors.

More Information: Hong Kong Tourism Board (Toronto), Tel: (416) 366-2389, (800) 563-4582, e-mail: yyzwwo@hktb.com, website: www.DiscoverHongKong.com/Canada

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