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Hong Kong
 
Hong Kong

Hong Kong's position as Asia's world city is built on its role as the gateway to the mainland of China and a hub for business in the Asia-Pacific region. This position is supported by a community which values freedom, generates opportunities and rewards creativity and entrepreneurship. As one of the world's great cosmopolitan cities, Hong Kong's continued success will increasingly depend on an ability to add value in the economic, social and cultural spheres to meet the needs of the people of Hong Kong, in the Mainland and internationally. Hong Kong is one of the most riveting and unexpectedly beautiful spectacles on earth. Two minutes walk from the bustle of Central reveals a harbour view that the architectural boom of the 1980s and 1990s has turned into a mixture of Manhattan and San Francisco, with added shipping bustle; and at nights it just gets better.

Statue Square: Previously never a feature of traditional Hong Kong tourist itineraries, Statue Square is now a must-see on account of its dazzling ensemble of architecture. Richard Rogers, headquarters building for the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation forms the south side of the square, and just to the east of it is I M Pei's Bank of China Tower. Less distinguished but equally prominent buildings jostle around them, towering over the colonial remnant of St John's Cathedral. In more antiquated contrast, the Legislative Council Building, formerly the Supreme Court, on the east side of the square, houses Hong Kong's partly elected assembly. The square should be avoided at weekends, however, unless the visitor is seeking a display of flocks of filipina and Indonesian housemaids, taking time out from their employers to chatter and picnic there.

Bank of China Tower: Deliberately planned to dwarf the neighbouring Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Building, the Bank of China Tower is now Hong Kong's national monument. The Chinese-American architect I M Pei developed Beijing's triumphalist intentions into a soaring, gracefully irregular pinnacle, whose design characteristics inspire lively debate amongst connoisseurs of feng shui. Visitors can ascend to the 43rd of its 74 storeys by lift for a particularly stunning view of Central.

Times Square: The retail plaza to end them all, Times Square is a vast temple complex to Hong Kong's number one deity: consumerism. The vast Times Square building houses nine floors of shops, and has a spectacular exterior with a huge electronic clock: the venue for the big millennium countdown in 2000. At weekends, the hosts of sacrifices ascending the escalator, to be swallowed up in the belly of this huge idol, demonstrate exactly what the Asian economic miracle was all about.

Victoria Peak: A miniature hill station in colonial times, the Peak is stratospheric in its social exclusiveness and its rents. Groundlings can still visit though, ascending by the vertiginous Peak Tram, a funicular in use since 1888. Atop the hill is the Peak Tower, a slightly bizarre viewing platform with displays and other facilities, and the Peak Galleria shopping arcade. The amusements and shops on offer vary from the appealing to the unforgiveably tacky, but there are at least plenty of restaurants and bars to sustain visitors. The view down into central Hong Kong and across the water to Kowloon defies description, day or night. Hikers can scale the real peak, some 140m above the tram terminus.

Western Market: A four-storey redbrick Edwardian building dating from 1906 occupying an entire block at the eastern end of Central, the former market was reopened in 1991 as a shopping centre featuring small shops, souvenir stands and curio sellers. Ground-floor shops must sell unique merchandise rather than chain-store goods, and the first floor recreates the old 'Cloth Alley', selling silks and fabrics of all kinds. There is also a dim sum restaurant and a fine antique-shop.


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