Hong Kong, China Information by Rough Guides
Hong Kong works as a useful gateway into Southeast Asia and into China . It is also an interesting place in its own right – an extraordinary, complex territory of seven million people that's a repository of traditional Chinese culture, a recently relinquished British outpost, and one of the key economies of the Pacific Rim . The view of sky-scrapered Hong Kong Island, across the harbour from Kowloon, is one of the most stunning urban panoramas on earth, but Hong Kong also holds some surprises for the traveller – alongside the myriad shopping possibilities (not all of them such a bargain as they used to be), are a surprising number of inviting beaches, rewarding hiking trails and some surviving bastions of Chinese village life, most of them in the New Territories. An excellent infrastructure, an efficient underground system and all the other facilities of an international city make this an extremely soft entry into the Chinese world.
Some visitors dislike the speed, the obsessive materialism and the addiction to shopping, money and brand names in Hong Kong . Downtown is certainly not a place to recover from a headache, but it's hard not to enjoy the sheer energy of its street and commercial life. Hong Kong's per capita GNP has doubled in a decade, overtaking that of the former imperial power, and the territory is currently the largest trading partner and largest source of foreign investment for the People's Republic of China , a country of 1.3 billion people. Yet the inequality of incomes is staggering: the conspicuous consumption of the few hundred super-rich (all Cantonese), for which Hong Kong is famous, tends to mask the fact that most people work long hours and live in crowded, tiny apartments.
Since the handover to China in 1997 the people of Hong Kong have found themselves in a unique position: subject to the ultimate rule of Beijing , they live in a semi-democratic capitalist enclave – a "Special Administrative Region of China" – under the control of an unaccountable communist state. This is not to say that the people of Hong Kong were not glad to see the end of colonialism – an overwhelming majority supported the transfer of power, and a huge majority speak only the Cantonese dialect, eat only Cantonese food, pray in Chinese temples and enjoy close cultural and blood relations with the Cantonese population that lives just over the border, in the southern provinces of mainland China. Indeed, it is hard to overstate the symbolic importance that the handover had for the entire Chinese population, marking the end of the era of foreign domination. However, worrying questions remain, notably whether the One Country/Two Systems policy created by Deng Xiaoping will work in the longer term, especially if China 's own economic progress begins to falter.
Hong Kong's climate is subtropical. The pleasantest time to visit is between October and April. The weather is cooler, humidity and pollution levels drop, and the flowers are in bloom. In January and February it can get quite rainy and cold – you'll need a light jacket and sweater. The temperature and humidity start to pick up in mid-April, and between late June and early September readings of 30ÞC and 95 percent humidity or more are the norm. Walking and other physical activities become unpleasant and sleeping without air-con difficult. May to September is also the peak typhoon season, when ferry and airline timetables are often disrupted by bad weather.