Far East cruises can take you to some of the world’s most exotic destinations. They explore a region where the legacies of ancient cultures draw tourists in just as much as the wow-inducing futuristic skylines and tasty, eclectic – and sometimes downright strange – food. Hong Kong is certainly no exception and indeed, it’s a favoured destination for a great number of luxury Far East cruises. Here, you’ll find the world’s most celebrated skyline, an iconic mountain, gardens, tramways, temples and more street food vendors than you can shake a fish ball on a stick at.
Hong Kong history
Hong Kong’s often perceived as a destination and country all of its own, though it is in fact a Special Administrative Region of China. Before this happened, it had been a British Colony for 150 years, something which continues to influence its infrastructure, though it has since grown into a major Eastern player on the world’s financial stage. All a far cry from 30,000 years ago, when the area in which it stands was first settled. Things really began to develop during the time of the last Imperial dynasty of China, the Qing Dynasty, which took power in 1644. The dynasty incorporated Hong Kong into China during its rule and was in control of it until the Empire’s fall in 1841, when the British took administration of Hong Kong Island. What would become known as the Crown Colony expanded with the incorporation of Victoria City, which is now the present-day city’s central district as capital and the 1860 Convention of Peking, which added the Kowloon Peninsula.
The Second World War brought the threat of Japanese occupation and indeed the city surrendered to them on December 25, 1941. Following the war, the British had hopes of controlling Hong Kong once more but it was not to be and it became a free market. The subsequent Communist control of China brought many refugees – including businessmen – something which played a major role in Hong Kong’s rapid economic growth. Sovereignty of Hong Kong was finally handed over to China in 1997, though this is somewhat complex arrangement and the region still enjoys financial and a lot of political independence from mainland China as a result of its Special Administration status. Think of it as a small country within a country and you’ll get the idea.
A harbour made for Far East cruises
‘Hong Kong’ is Cantonese for ‘Fragrant harbour’, which gives you some idea how much of a focal point the city’s harbour has always been. It would probably be fair to argue that it’s not quite as fragrant today as the day it was named, but it certainly much more of an iconic sight. Victoria Harbour is today one of Hong Kong’s most popular tourist attractions and separates Hong Kong Island from Kowloon Peninsula. You’ll still see the myriad colourful junks puttering across its deep waters today, but they’ll be set off by a truly spectacular back-drop – a skyline which is believed by many to be the world’s finest. It’s a shimmering, towering neon curtain of skyscrapers and at night is truly something to behold. The good news is that many Far East cruises will take you into Victoria Harbour on your cruise ship, so you’ll be able to experience it, and Hong Kong’s spectacular skyline for yourself.
Other things you shouldn’t miss on Far East cruises to Hong Kong
Scaling the loft Victoria Peak is the biggest tourist must-do once you’ve taken the time to take in the harbour and skyline. Indeed, from the summit, you’ll be able to enjoy alternative, but just as satisfying views of both from a completely different perspective as the city and harbour are laid out before you far below. Once up there, the Peak Tower observation lookout offers an even more comprehensive view. The most popular way of getting to the summit is by way of the iconic Victoria Peak Tram which has been faithfully taking visitors to the top since 1888. There’s ample opportunity to capture some great shots of the city on your journey upward and it’s a great way to combine two tourist attractions at the same time.
Chin Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Gardens
These beautiful gardens are free to enter and easily accessible by city metro. The perfect place for some Buddhist calm in the heart of the hectic city, the beautifully landscaped Nan Lian Gardens are thought by many to be Hong Kong’s very best and some of the most memorable that Far East Cruises can offer. The nunnery is an active place of Buddhist worship, so photography is forbidden. However, it’s well worth a visit and the beautiful architecture forms the perfect companion piece to the gardens’ more organic beauty. This is a rewarding way to spend a couple of hours for free and get some Eastern enlightenment.
Be sure to head over to Lantau Island if you want to soak up some traditional Eastern atmosphere during your trip to Hong Kong. The clue’s in the name really and indeed, this particular Buddha statue is one of the largest you’re likely to see. OK, he’s stone, not gold, but the setting in which he’s situated is truly beautiful and though witnessing this literal religious giant up-close is the highlight of the trip, the island’s scenery is almost as enjoyable.
Hong Kong Museum of History
I merely touched upon some of the most prominent periods of Hong Kong’s history earlier in my blog, so if you find yourself there and want to find out more about its past, be sure to head to this entertaining and informative museum. With four huge floors and eight permanent galleries as well as temporary exhibits, you could spend hours in here, though it’s easy to skip to displays which specifically interest you and there are mini theatres dotted around the museum which display themed films detailing periods of Hong Kong’s history.
I couldn’t finish this blog without giving an honorary mention to Hong Kong’s lip-smacking smorgasbord of meals and snacks. Far East cruises are always going to offer you the opportunity to sample some pretty far-out cuisine as well as some of your favourites, if you’re partial to a visit to your local Chinese once in a while. If you’ve time for a sit-down meal, you’ll never have to look far, as there are literally thousands to be found on the Hong Kong streets. Indeed, the street itself can be your restaurant if you’re pushed for time, as roadside vendors are always on hand, peddling all manner of tasty treats. Snake soup is considered a delicacy here, but if you’re not feeling that adventurous, Egg Tart could be as a safer bet and could well be the finest custard pie you’ll ever taste. Pork in instant noodles is another favourite, though for the authentic Hong Kong feel, it’s served with cheese sauce. The Egg Waffle or ‘eggette’, is probably the most popular street snack in Hong Kong, a quick and easy sweet pancake that’s served in the Belgian waffle style or even spherically – owing to it sometimes being referred to as a ‘Bubble Waffle’.