Hong Kong

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Hong Kong (Chinese characters: 香港), often referred as HK or HKG, is a de-facto city-state and one of the two special administrative regions (SARs) of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

The territory lies on the southern coast of China, marks the eastern end of the Pearl River Delta, and is embraced by the South China Sea to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the east. In an area of just 1,104 square kilometres, Hong Kong houses a population of seven million, making it the fourth-most densely populated territory in the world.

During the colonial era, the territory espoused minimum government intervention from the British authorities and sheltered immigrants from different parts of the world. The resulting culture, often described as "East meets West", preserves many Chinese traditions; different religions and ethnic groups coexist in it peacefully. The English legal framework and the government's positive non-interventionism economic policy led Hong Kong to become one of the world's leading international financial centres, as well as a hub for regional transport and a famous tourist destination.

Where East meets West

Kowloon Masjid

Originally fishing villages on the edge of the Chinese Empire, Hong Kong was changed forever when it became a crown colony of the British Empire as a result of the First Opium War in the late 1830s and early 1840s, first over the Hong Kong Island, and later expanded to Kowloon Peninsula and the much larger New Territories. The stability, security, and predictability of British rule enabled Hong Kong to flourish as a centre for international trade. This attracted people from all over the world to come and stay in Hong Kong, and bring in their own culture, religion and cuisine.

About 95% of the people of Hong Kong are of Chinese descent, and the remaining 5% includes Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalese, and Vietnamese; there are Europeans, Americans, Canadians, Japanese, and Koreans who mostly work in the territory's commercial and financial sector; an estimated 252,500 foreign domestic helpers from Indonesia and the Philippines working in Hong Kong as of 2008.

There is a high degree of religious tolerance in the territory. The main religions are Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Christianity; Christians are nearly equally divided between Catholics and Protestants. Also Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Bahá'í communities coexist peacefully with each other. Minimal government intervention by the British authorities of the Chinese communities allowed Chinese paganism and traditional customs to be preserved among both indigenous residents of the New Territories and immigrants from different parts of China. Some of these traditions can be observed during traditional Chinese festivals such as Mid-Autumn Festival and Tuen Ng Festival, when various celebrations and associated activities take place across the districts of the territory.

City of Victoria, Hong Kong in 1860–65

Regional hub

Kai Tak Airport in Kowloon City, taken shortly before its closure in 1998
Kwai Tsing Container Terminal, which has stood as one of the three largest ports in Asia in the past few decades

Logistics and trading have always been tightly bound to the history of Hong Kong since its foundation. Indeed, the original 19th century aim of establishing colonial Hong Kong was to build an entrepôt between the British Empire and the oriental Asian countries, primarily Mainland China. The birth of Hong Kong was a by-product of international trade, and the territory's survival and growth remains inevitably bound with and influenced by its importance in international commerce.

Not long after the Second World War ended, Hong Kong prospered as a haven of political stability and legal certainty compared with its neighbours. The continued state of disagreement between mainland China and Taiwan made Hong Kong a necessary stepping stone for travel and trade between the two Chinese governments. Hong Kong's status as a trading port also drove its economical development to new heights, and the resulting prosperity was enjoyed not only by the territory itself, but also the whole East Asian region.

The Rose Garden Project, announced in 1989, effected the construction of the new Hong Kong International Airport and its associated transport infrastructure. Regarded as an architectural magnificence of the 20th century and whose construction lasted for 8 years, the new Hong Kong International Airport, known commonly as 'Chek Lap Kok Airport', opened on 6 July 1998. Its modern standard of construction laid a foundation stone for a new era of aviation in Hong Kong with much higher developing potential and handling ability compared with the previous Kai Tak Airport, which was famous and infamous for its spectacular urban landings.

Nowadays travelling from and to Hong Kong is a piece of cake, whether from neighbouring regions or the opposite side of the globe. Hong Kong's airport is a primary transport hub in Asia, served by variety of airlines; flight connections with Asian destinations are many and extremely frequent. It is also a major transit hub on the Kangaroo Routes between Australia and Europe, particularly the United Kingdom. These make Hong Kong the origin of several of the world's busiest passenger air routes, such as between Hong Kong and Sydney, London, Taipei, Tokyo and Beijing. Its accessibility and capacity gives the airport strategic importance in both regional and intercontinental travel.

Currency and money matters

The Hong Kong dollar (港幣 or HKD) is the territory's official currency. In Chinese languages, one dollar is known formally as the yuen (元) and colloquially as the men (蚊) in Cantonese. You can safely assume that the '$' sign used in the territory refers to HKD unless it includes other initials (e.g. US$ to stand for US Dollar). The HKD is also widely accepted in Macau in lieu of their home currency at a 1:1 rate.

Currency exchange desks are available at the airport, as well as at most banks. Australian Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Chinese Renminbi, Euro, Indian Rupee, Japanese Yen, Macau Pataca, Malaysian Ringgit, New Zealand Dollar, Singaporean Dollar, South African Rand, South Korean Won, Swiss Franc, Taiwanese Dollar, Thai Baht, Pound Sterling & US Dollar are all widely exchanged.

Exchange rates as of 25 Jan 2012 (www.xe.com)
Currency Equivalent of HKD 1 Equivalent in HKD
Icons-flag-au.png Australian Dollar AUD 0.12242 HKD 8.16849
Icons-flag-ca.png Canadian Dollar CAD 0.13028 HKD 7.67552
Icons-flag-ch.png Swiss Franc CHF 0.119658 HKD 8.35715
Icons-flag-cn.png Renminbi CNY 0.815998 HKD 1.22549
Icons-flag-eu.png Euro EUR 0.09879 HKD 10.1224
Icons-flag-uk.png Pound Sterling GBP 0.08280 HKD 12.0779
Icons-flag-in.png Indian Rupee INR 6.44689 HKD 0.15511
Icons-flag-jp.png Japanese Yen JPY 10.0553 HKD 0.09945
Icons-flag-kr.png South Korean Won KRW 145.006 HKD 0.00689626
Icons-flag-mo.png Macau Pataca MOP 1.03000 HKD 0.970874
Icons-flag-my.png Malaysian Ringgit MYR 0.396655 HKD 2.52108
Icons-flag-nz.png New Zealand Dollar NZD 0.15888 HKD 6.29408
Icons-flag-sg.png Singaporean Dollar SGD 0.163270 HKD 6.12482
Icons-flag-th.png Thai Baht THB 4.06593 HKD 0.245946
Icons-flag-tw.png Taiwanese Dollar TWD 3.85064 HKD 0.259697
Icons-flag-us.png US Dollar USD 0.12885 HKD 7.76106
Icons-flag-za.png South African Rand ZAR 1.02268 HKD 0.97782
Vending machine, Octopus card friendly

Automated Teller Machines (ATM's) are common in urban areas. They usually accept VISA, MasterCard, and to certain degree UnionPay. Maestro and Cirrus cards are widely accepted as well. They dispense $100, $500 or rarely $1000 notes depending on the request. Credit card use is common in most shops for major purchases. Most retailers accept VISA and MasterCard, and some accept American Express as well. Maestro debit cards however are not widely accepted by retailers. Signs with the logo of different credit cards are usually displayed at the door to indicate which cards are accepted.

Octopus card

The Octopus card (八達通, "baat daat tung" in Cantonese) provides instant electronic access to Hong Kong's public transport system. As the world's first contactless smart debit card, it can be tapped onto a reader to transfer fare from the passenger to the carrier. It is similar to Singapore's eZ-Link card, London Underground's Oyster card and Japan Railway's IC card. In addition to being used for all forms of public transport (except most of the red-top minibuses and taxis), Octopus is accepted for payment in almost all convenience stores, restaurant chains like McDonald's and Cafe de Coral, many vending machines, all roadside parking and some car parks.

Local Transport

Main Article: Local Transport

Hong Kong has a highly developed and sophisticated transport network, encompassing both public and private transport. Over 90% of the daily journeys are on public transport, making it the highest rate in the world. There are buses, ferries, MTR, and trams serving the whole territory. The public transport ticketing system of Hong Kong is incredibly simple despite the transport system's vast degree of interconnectivity. Just buy an Octopus Card, beep in at the beginning of each journey and off you go!

Buses

Buses in Hong Kong are franchised, and there are currently five franchised bus companies in Hong Kong including three general bus companies, one serving Airport specifically and one serving Lantau Island specifically. Harbour-crossing routes are jointly-operated by three bus franchises.

MTR

As can be gleaned from its full name – Mass Transit Railway is currently the metro-train services operator of Hong Kong. It provides a convenient, network-extensive, and primarily the most efficient mode of transport for travelling across different districts of Hong Kong. MTR now serves a majority of places in Hong Kong, from the eastern end of Hong Kong Island to the border between Hong Kong and China in the New Territories. For example, our venue is served by an MTR station nearby and connects to an excellent railway network.

If you have any queries about the MTR, or experience any delay, you may contact MTR Service Update on Twitter for 24/7 live interaction. MTR Service Update can also provide customer service assistance. MTR Service Update also provides weather advisories such as typhoon and heavy rainstorms.

Trams

Established in 1904, Hong Kong Tramways is one of the oldest tramway networks in the world remaining in operation today. Along with the Blackpool Tram in Britain, it is the only place in the world with double-decker trams in operation. The tramways not only act as a mode of everyday transport but also have a tourism value.

Ferry

Ferries can be mainly divided into the following three types of services according to their characteristics. Harbour-Crossing routes are the ferries services, which travel between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon by crossing the Victoria Harbour. There is also a service between Hung Hom and North Point that can be used by participants who live in North Point to our venue.


Notes

Parts of the Local information pages were adapted from relevant pages from Wikitravel, which are based on work by Claus Hansen, Martin Cox, Samuel Chan, Edison Chua and Bill Ellett, Wikitravel user(s) Globe-trotter, Timeo and Sumone10154, and anonymous editors, released under cc-by-sa 3.0 licence.