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Published on February 26th, 2013 | by Andrew Garcia

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Tourists Cultural Guide to Hong Kong

With a history spanning 30,000 years, it is hard to pin down one cultural explanation of Hong Kong. It is an interesting mesh of spiritual and atheist, new and old, divergent and traditional, Eastern and Western, Chinese and NOT Chinese. The dichotomy of Hong Kong culture is the epitome of what it is: diverse, complex and unique.

To really experience Hong Kong you are best served by reaching all the dual experience it has to offer. Through tours, sight-seeing and an open mind you can really begin to sink your teeth Hong Kong. Even with weeks in the city you will only be skimming the surface of culture in the city which has a population of over 7,000,000, so do not get frustrated by feeling overwhelmed. Even the most well travelled people are humbled by the unique and vast place that is Hong Kong.

 

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A view over Hong Kong from The Peak

East Meets West

Although legally Hong Kong is part of mainland China, the reality proves that their stance of independence is quite justified. You will find that many refer to themselves as “Hong Kongers” or “Hong Kong Chinese”. Their food, law, politics, education, language and style of thinking is very different from mainland China.

The root of some of the differences between China and Hong Kong is the 150 years of rules from the British Colony. Hong Kong officially became part of China again not that long ago, in 1997. One hundred and fifty years is a brief spot in a 30,000 year history, but you can definitely see how the fast paced West meets the serenity of an East in a rare and stunning juxtaposition.

To get a guided taste of how West meets the East you can go on a tour that explores the harmony of the combination. You will explore tai chi, feng shui, a tea house all with the bustling city as a back drop. Click here for more information.

 

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Kowloon Walled City before it was leveled in 1994

Crime Laden Anarchy Paved Over with a Multi-Million Hong Kong Dollar Park

The Kowloon Walled City became a living and breathing example of the struggle between Hong Kong and China. The visually dissonant labyrinth of high-rise apartments with poor living and sanitary conditions has been the inspiration for many authors and video game makers. For a short while it was a law-free in between zone, because neither Britain, China nor Hong Kong were willing or able to apply the resources necessary to “deal” with the city.

Between the years 1945-1993, the city was more or less on its own. Kowloon became a safe haven for criminals and license-less doctors and dentists. The city was not just filled with the lawless, but also with regular Hong Kong citizens trying to get by who, due to their financial struggles, actually formed a very tight knit community.

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The new Kowloon City Park

Efforts to deal with a city with a population peaking at 35,000 should not be underestimated. Police were afraid to go in without large groups. Attempts to demolish small shacks on the skirts were stopped by protests. Eventually the unsightliness, danger and unsanitary conditions were enough for the British and Chinese to act together to demolish the city and relocate all 33,000 citizens.

The park to replace it cost 76 million Hong Kong dollars, and you can spend days exploring 3.1 hectare park. The Kowloon Walled City Park’s style is inspired by the Jiangnan gardens of the Qing dynasty. You can get lost in the 8 different divisions ranging from a Chess Garden to a Chinese Zodiac Garden. You can contemplate all the people who used to live here as you walk through the serenity of the garden.

 

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A busy Hong Kong city street

New and Old

In contrast with the example of the Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong has kept many of its historic buildings. When you first taxi or drive to your hotel in Hong Kong your eyes will be astounded by the variety of sights there are to see. We suggest to really take in the contrast of new and old architecture of the city to explore it on foot. Adventuring about the city on foot can be very intimidating to travelers who are unfamiliar with the language and city, but we want to encourage you to be brave. It may also be a good idea to take a foot tour, so you can have an expert guide you through some parts of the city.  

Historic buildings even share spaces with the ultra-modern office building to astound the eye. Visually comparing the structures from the 19th century to the 21st century really is worthy of tour that will take you to St. John’s Cathedral, Governor’s House, Flagstaff House, the Court of Final Appeal, the Old Central Police Station and the Formal Legislative Council building. This particular tour really gives you a taste of some cultural and political aspects the British left behind.

 

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The Big Buddha near the Po Lin Monastery

The Spiritual and the Atheists

Most of Honk Kong population, around 57%, actually are atheists, but most religious groups are present in the city. In Honk Kong you can find Buddhist, Taoist, Confucians, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Jews. Religious freedom is very important to Hong Kong, and there are all different places of devotions you can visit.

 

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A typical Hong Kong harbour tour boat

One of the must see religious stop in Hong Kong is the Giant Buddha who sits majestically 111 feet high. We recommend a tour that takes you on a ferry then Cheung Sha Beach, a fishing village, the Giant Buddha, the Po Lin Monastery and on the Wisdom Path. The tour is topped off with a cable car ride down the mountain for spectacular views.

 


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