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Hong Kong
Avg.Score:
 
4.3
Dining:
 
4.4
Entertainment:
 
4.4
Hotels:
 
4.0
Scenery:
 
4.3
Shopping:
 
4.4
Transportation:
 
4.3

In the shadows of mountains and towers, Hong Kong (Hēung Góng in Cantonese or Xiāng Gǎng in Mandarin, 香港) goes about its business, with crowds thronging street markets and luxury malls, dining in steamy dim sum eateries and elegant world-class restaurants and otherwise enjoying a city renowned for its independent spirit, wealth and industriousness. 

Hong Kong's unique mix of East and West makes for an exciting, modern metropolis full of surprises. Comprised of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, the New Territories and the Outer Islands, the Hong Kong Special Administration Region (SAR) is unlike any other place in the world. On Hong Kong Island, skyscrapers soar against a backdrop of lush peaks and ridges, with Victoria Peak providing a stunning counterpoint to architectural landmarks such as I.M. Pei's Bank of China Tower, the modular HSBC Building and the elegant International Finance Centre (IFC).  

Across Victoria Harbor, Kowloon appears to be entering into competition with its glamorous opposite number (though it has a long way to go), constructing its own phalanx of new high rises—including the International Commerce Centre, the tallest building in the in Hong Kong—and tempting consumers with brands and bargains galore in Tsim Sha Tsui

Beyond Kowloon stretch the surprisingly expansive New Territories, including large areas of undeveloped land perfect for getting away from the crowds for a day at the beach or visit to a village with the feel of an older China. To the west, Lantau Island is home to fishing villages and trail-laced parks as well as Hong Kong's top-rated international airport and Hong Kong Disneyland.

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History

Hong Kong has known human habitation since the Paleolithic era. The Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) brought it under its rule when it first unified China, and by the time of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) Hong Kong had become a significant trading and military outpost, benefiting from its strategic position near the Pearl River Delta and its proximity to Guangzhou (old Canton), where the British and European traders established a presence in the late seventeenth century. In 1841, the growing port of Hong Kong and its valuable deep-water harbor were handed over to the British as a result of concessions wrested from the Qing Dynasty after the First Opium War. After the Second Opium War in 1860, Kowloon Peninsula was ceded to Britain and in 1898 the New Territories were leased to the United Kingdom for 99 years.

By the time of the Second World War, Hong Kong had grown wealthy, though the European colonists and Chinese residents lived in very different worlds. The colonists, known as tai pan ("big shots") to the locals, had built railroads, schools and clubs, effectively isolating themselves from the native culture around them. Many Chinese lived near the harbor, while the tai pan largely lived further up Victoria Peak, away from the heat and bustle of the waterfront. Kowloon's famous Walled City, which had remained under nominal Chinese control under the treaty, became an infamous ghetto and one of the most densely populated spots on earth (the city was razed in 1993 and replaced by today's Kowloon Walled City Park).

All of this radically changed on December 8, 1941, when just eight hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese bombs rained on Hong Kong. Commonwealth troops and Chinese volunteers held off the Japanese for 17 days until Christmas Day when Japan took the city. They would hold it until the end of the war, though Chinese guerrillas conducted raids and sabotage throughout. After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, Britain resumed control with 52 years remaining on its lease and a big question mark hanging over Hong Kong's future.

Despite the ongoing uncertainty, the economy boomed in the 1950s, fueled in large part by a flood of mainland Chinese who sought refuge from China's civil war. Many were wealthy Shanghainese who brought their businesses with them. With the matter of Hong Kong's return to China looming ever larger, uncertainty grew until 1984, when the Chinese and British Governments signed the Joint Declaration that would return the territory to China effective July 1, 1997. Under the Chinese slogan "One Country, Two Systems," Hong Kong largely retains its own economic and social systems, as well as a good deal of its colonial British character. It hasn't always been easy—Hong Kong has recently weathered the SARS epidemic and the Asian Financial Crisis—but despite rocky times the city is thriving, resilient as ever.

Climate

Spring is cool and pleasant with average temperatures running between about 17°C (63°F) and 23°C (73°F). Summer is hot and very humid, with average high temperatures from June through September running to 30°C (91°F) and humidity that hovers around 90%. Typhoon season lasts May to September with frequent downpours. Fall brings mild weather with averages between the low to mid 20s°C (70s°F) and clear skies. Winter is dry and can get chilly, averaging 17°C (62°F) with temperatures occasionally dipping into the mid-teens Centigrade (mid-50s°F). The best time to visit Hong Kong is in the spring and fall, when the weather is pleasant and the rain less frequent.

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