A young participant in the 10th
It’s been 10 years since Hong Kong’s sovereignty was transferred to
the People’s Republic of China, ending British rule that began in
In 1997, there were fears that the city known as the “Pearl of
the Orient” would fade from the world scene both as a global
financial center and a major travel destination. But a decade
later, the former British colony has proven its viability on both
accounts. The doom that many foretold has not materialized as the
Mainland has honored its commitment to the status quo with a “one
country, two systems” policy.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Growing pains have included
the Avian Flu and SARS outbreaks, as well as the Asian financial
crisis of the late 1990s. Ironically, these were not the results of
the hand over.
Despite these setbacks, the tourism market has been bolstered by
numerous public and private sector ventures.
The new Hong Kong International Airport opened in 1998 and won
numerous international awards, including the Skytrax “Best Airport”
awards from 2001-2005. The airport, a primary hub for Cathay
Pacific and Dragonair, operates 24/7 and is capable of handling 45
million passengers and 3 million tons of cargo per year.
The airport can be reached by the Airport Express, a dedicated
high-speed rail link provided by the MTR (Mass Transit Railway). It
takes 28 minutes to reach the airport from the central Hong Kong
station, via Kowloon and Tsing Yi stations. Check-in counters are
available at both the Hong Kong and Kowloon stations on the Airport
Express Line. Bus service is also available.
For those like me with fond memories of the old Kai Tak airport
breaking through the clouds and coming in just over the rooftops
there are plans to redevelop the area into a new cruise terminal
with construction set to begin in 2010. The terminal will provide
berths for two mega-vessels and up to 17 hotels.
Another Hong Kong classic has already undergone a major
facelift. The revitalized Peak Tower, with 360-degree views of the
city, opened in November 2006 after a multi-million-dollar
renovation and expansion.
Guestrooms On July 1, Hong Kong
celebrated the hand over of the city
to the Chinese government with fireworks.
The marine-themed Ocean Park, which opened in 1977 and was
recognized last year on Forbes.com’s list “Ten of the World’s Most
Popular Amusement Parks,” welcomed Ying Ying and Le Le,
22-month-old baby pandas to their renovated Giant Panda Habitat,
joining An An and Jia Jia, Hong Kong’s first pair of pandas. The
Giant Panda cubs were given to the people of Hong Kong by the
Central People’s Government in celebration of the 10th anniversary
of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative
Competing with the pandas for attention is a mouse named Mickey.
Hong Kong Disneyland opened the doors to the Magic Kingdom here in
September 2005 on Lantau Island. It is a 30-minute ride from the
city center to Disneyland via the purpose-built MTR Disney Line.
Lantau is also home to the largest bronze Buddha on earth at the Po
Lin Monastery. A vegetarian restaurant on its grounds is famous for
making meat-looking dishes out of tofu.
The culinary arts have always been a major selling point for
Hong Kong. The fabled Yung Kee Restaurant, which began as a street
stall in the 1940s, is now a multi-floor restaurant with
traditional and exotic dishes, including roast goose (a departure
from the omnipresent Peking duck), deep-fried mini sea cucumber,
jellyfish and deep-fried prawn with mini crab roe. They also
specialize in themed menus including one based on stories from Jin
Young’s period novels. For example, “Twenty-Four Bridges on a
Moonlit Night” is stuffed bean curd in whole Chinese ham.
The city is full of trendy eateries as well, ranging from Cine
Citta in Kowloon, serving haute Italian cuisine, to the nouveau
Tibetan dishes of Yun Fu in the central district. Celebrity chefs,
including Nobu Matsuhisa, Alain
Ducasse and Joel Robuchon, are getting into the act recently
opening Nobu Hong Kong, Spoon and L’Atelier du Joel Robuchon,
respectively. For those in need of a good old-fashioned corned-beef
sandwich, The Langham Hotel Hong Kong boasts the mouthwatering Main
From all appearances, the “one country, two systems” arrangement
is working. Predictions of a political clampdown will hopefully
never materialize. Evidently the Mainland knows a good thing when
they see it. Hong Kong is not only alive and well, but many will
find it’s better than ever.