Hong Kong is a brilliant place for a vacation, offering everything from the utmost in cosmopolitan sophistication to quiet mountain trails and remote beaches, with some of the world's best shopping and dining thrown in for good measure. A night out in the neon city can take you to some of the ritziest clubs, hippest discos and most intriguing bars and clubs in China, not to mention some of the most enjoyable karaoke.
As a city built on commerce, Hong Kong's reputation for culture has traditionally suffered somewhat; that's changing, however, as the city, once isolated from the mainland, now competes with Beijing, Shanghai and nearby Shenzhen for top honors in every area (it certainly wins hands-down in the theme park category as home of Hong Kong Disneyland).
The music scene is improving, with festivals supplementing club dates by local and touring bands and DJs, supplementing the Hong Kong's traditional delightfully cheesy Cantopop offerings. The city is rightfully proud of its famous film industry, and cinema is huge (think Gong Li, Chow Yun-Fat, Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee). Unlike the more restrictive mainland, Hong Kong shows most first-run films from around the world within days of their release (sometimes dubbed into Cantonese, so be careful). Hong Kong also loves the ponies—you can catch a race at one of several tracks in the SAR, including Happy Valley Racecourse in the midst of the city, and during the 2008 Olympic, equestrian events were held in Hong Kong--and if gambling's your thing, you can always pop over to Macau's casinos). The city's stages host world-class symphonies, dance companies and theatrical performances. Finally, Hong Kong has several excellent history and art museums and a number of art galleries.
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Bars & Clubs
Come nightfall, Hong Kong's expats and locals alike congregate at Lan Kwai Fong, a funky collection of restaurants, bars, and clubs running along steep, narrow streets. Nearby, Soho ("South of Hollywood Road") is becoming a draw. To the west, Wan Chai offers a chiller scene, with a number of nightspots scattered throughout a district once known for raunchy dives and sailor bars. In Kowloon, try the bars along, Nathan Road, Ashley Road and in Tsim Sha Tsui East.
And you want to be the star of your own show, Hong Kong karaoke is among the best in the world: you can find large, sleek complexes containing hundreds of private rooms with selections cater to the area's youth as well as after-work crowds. Reserve a room by the hour and sit back, have a drink and belt out your favorite tunes. Finally, if you've had enough of the crowds, bright lights and loud music, you can escape to any number of elegant lounges around the city, many with stunning views.
Hong Kong's performing arts calendar features a steady stream of international touring acts combined with increasing cultural exchange with the rest of China, though visitors accustomed to the choices available in major European or American cities—or Beijing, for that matter—will find the SAR's offerings a bit thin. That said, the Hong Kong Arts Festival brings world-class classical music, jazz, dance, opera and theater to town every February, running into March. In the past it's hosted performers from Ornette Coleman to Yo Yo Ma to Jose Carreras and groups including the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Year round, the Hong Kong Arts Centre and nearby Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts are good bets for dance, music and opera, as is the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, which is home to both the Western-style Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the largest Chinese instrumental group in the world, the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra.
Museums & Galleries
For a selection of Chinese antiquities and classical art, including an excellent collection of work from China's southern Guangdong Province, visit the Hong Kong Museum of Art in Tsim Sha Tsui. The museum, housed in a blocky, almost windowless 1991 building near the Star Ferry terminal, also features regular international exhibitions. Also on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbor is the fascinating Hong Kong Museum of History, opened in 2001, which vividly tells the tale of Hong Kong from Neolithic settlement to today's ultramodern metropolis. The SAR's long list of museums likewise covers an impressive range of local, Chinese and international history, from the Law Uk Folk Museum and Sam Tung Uk Museum, both of which focus on the region's indigenous Hakka culture, to the Hong Kong Science Museum.
Festivals & Events
One of Asia's most international cities, Hong Kong's annual calendar is chock-full of high profile events. Sports fans revel in the electric atmosphere of the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens (last weekend of March) and the Hong Kong Cricket Sixes (October), music fans can get jazzed up with the Hong Kong International Jazz Festival and the Hong Kong International Film Festival (March/April) is a must for movie buffs. Hong Kong's recent colonial history means that western festivals like Christmas, Halloween and Easter are all embraced with verve and of course, China's traditional festivals are celebrated according to the lunar calendar with Spring Festival (aka Chinese New Year) in the spring, the Dragon Boat Festival in the summer, and the Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival in fall. Some of the most spirited local celebrations are to be seen during four of Hong Kong's classic festivals that take place in April and May: the Birthday of Lord Buddha, the birthday of local deities Tin Hau and Tam Kung and the unique Cheung Chau Bun Festival.
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