Despite the British having their way in Hong Kong for more than a century, Chinese culture still dominates the city’s society. Though English is an official language, along with Cantonese, my initial explorations revealed that a surprising number of people in Hong Kong don’t speak a lick of English. Indeed, in some areas I was hard-pressed to find signs or menus in anything other than Chinese characters. Even more evident to the newly arrived is the overriding cultural presence of feng shui. The Chinese here are tuned in to spiritual harmony to the point of paralyzing superstition, so every building of note – if the designers know what’s good for them – is planned inside and out under the careful guidance of a feng shui master. What’s more, as feng shui equilibrium is subject to minor fluctuations annually and even monthly, these gurus do a brisk business keeping Hong Kong balanced. True story: Hong Kong’s previous governor, Tung Chee Wah, who stepped down in March, refused to live in the governor’s mansion. His reasoning? The negative aura of the nearby sharp-edged Bank of China building, a decided affront to feng shui, cut right through the residence.
I loathe using the tired metaphor “forest of buildings,” but when discussing Hong Kong there’s just no avoiding it. Astounding numbers of skyscrapers line the waterfront of northern Hong Kong Island and sprawl across the steep ascent to Victoria Peak. In any other city this arrangement would likely be off-putting, but the aforementioned feng shui and the care that go into designing these structures make the view of Hong Kong unexpectedly appealing day or night, though my vote goes for night. Many buildings are illuminated by lighting schemes designed to draw a little extra attention after the sun goes down. These efforts come together in the collaborative “Symphony of Lights” performance at 8 each evening, when 20 buildings along a mile-long stretch of Hong Kong Island take center stage in a 15-minute laser-light show set to music. During holiday celebrations – and with Hong Kong observing both Western and Asian holidays, there are plenty of them – dazzling pyrotechnics are added to the show.
While the tip of Kowloon Peninsula is the ideal position from which to absorb the glass-and-metal splendor of Hong Kong Island, I found the vista-to-end-all-vistas on Victoria Peak, 1,810 feet above the harbor. Although you can make the climb on foot, I opted for the less punishing tram, in operation since 1888, which conveys the bulk of the peak’s 6 million annual visitors. Once at the top, I had the choice of walking a little farther west to the absolute highest point, ducking into the wok-shaped Peak Tower with its variety of viewing terraces or, no joke, stepping into the conveniently located mall for all my Victoria Peak shopping needs. Morning is the best time to ascend the peak, as clouds typically roll in by afternoon. Weather can fluctuate wildly at the top, so monitor the forecast or risk having your view obscured by a renegade cloud.
Depending on your aesthetic preferences, Hong Kong is either a shopper’s paradise or a frenzied aural and visual assault of uber-commercialism. As in most Asian cities, all Hong Kong neighborhoods have root characteristics that sum up their offerings. Here’s a sampling: Mong Kok, bustling with residential and shopping activity; Yau Ma Tei, same but even more shopping; Jordan, pubs, topless bars and shopping; Tsim Sha Tsui, hotels, tourists and shopping; Causeway Bay, crazed, high-end shopping. If you’re after a less extravagant shopping excursion and don’t mind a bit of culture shock, a day trip to the Shenzhen SEZ (Special Economic Zone), just over the border in China, fits the bill.
While I found walking the streets of Hong Kong to be a resolve-testing trial of advanced navigation and sensory overload, hoofing it doesn’t hold a candle to taking transportation. Driving is masochistic, parking is torture and cycling is suicidal. Fortunately, Hong Kong’s public transportation is delightfully robust, cheap and reliable. The MTR subway system skirts the shore of Hong Kong Island and branches out to all corners of the Kowloon Peninsula. Double-decker buses and trams are a slow, enjoyable way to get around, though there are also faster yet equally scenic ferries. Finally, the 870-yard-long outdoor Central-Mid-Levels Escalator and Walkway System, the world’s longest, is an alluring curiosity for visitors and a definite plus for anyone living atop Hong Kong Island’s steep vertical slopes.
Hong Kong also offers a variety of leisure options that one would expect in a mega-urban zone. On the tip of Kowloon Peninsula alone, there are the Hong Kong Space Museum (http://hk.space.museum), the Hong Kong Museum of Art (http://hk.art.museum) and the decidedly kitschy new “Avenue of Stars” waterfront walkway, with photo-opportunity stops and sidewalk handprints from Hong Kong film stars such as Bruce Lee, Chow Yun Fat and the ubiquitous hometown boy, Jackie Chan. You can roam the night market on Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei – which, in a grand departure from other Asian night markets, offered items that I actually wanted to buy – or stroll through SoHo and Hollywood Street for antiques and art. Later in the evening, the Wan Chai area is the place to be, with the highest concentration of stylish restaurants and clubs in Hong Kong.
And what of Hong Kong’s much discussed future under its new overseers? “One nation, two systems” is China’s official approach to governing the territory. Under its agreement with Britain, China cannot alter Hong Kong’s social, economic or legal systems until 2047. However, the smooth transition seems to suggest that as long as Hong Kong continues to turn a profit and behave itself, the city will remain a capitalist center of good vibrations.
Pleasant weather, autumn foliage and vibrant flowers are among the many delights awaiting nature lovers at botanical gardens and arboretums across the United States. However, some of these green spaces take on additional color this month and through Halloween when enterprising gardeners, landscape architects, management and other creative minds cast a spell with themed environments running the gamut from spooky to utterly bewitching.
The Islands of Tahiti offer a range of captivating activities for travelers with diverse interests, from hiking to breathtaking waterfalls, riding horses on secluded beaches; swimming with sharks; or immersing in Polynesian culture through traditional dance, music and art. For watersports enthusiasts, the crystal-clear lagoons offer exhilarating experiences like surfing, kiteboarding and paddleboarding. And if you’re looking to relax, the pristine beaches, overwater bungalows and tropical sun offer the perfect setting. With 118 islands and atolls to explore, island hopping is an excellent way to experience the full diversity of The Islands of Tahiti. With its blend of adventure, culture and relaxation, The Islands of Tahiti offer a truly unique travel experience.
For travelers who love all things autumn, Crystal Springs Resort, New York City’s closest destination resort, features special offers and experiences to meet the demands of everyone’s fall bucket list. Located only 80 minutes outside New York City in Sussex County, New Jersey, Crystal Springs Resort offers a quick getaway to enjoy fall foliage. Are any of these new offers or experiences on your bucket list?
It’s time to start dreaming of your next trip. Here’s some destination inspiration for you. Take a visual journey with us through these historic (and famous) cemeteries in Europe.
Experience the life-changing destination of Greece by exploring its island gems in the Ionian Sea. Scattered off the western coastline of Central Greece, to the south of Peloponnese, the Ionian Islands are an island group comprising large and small islands.
At the entrance to the fishing village of Les Goudes, a 40-minute drive south of Marseille facing the Mediterranean, is Tuba Club. Nestled in a historic seaside building,with its laid-back restaurant and sun-splashed terraces it is a perfect hideout for locals and international visitors who can actually find it.
Ever since opening in 2021, Nobu London Portman Square has served as the focal point for many gatherings, stays and experiences. This fall the hotel’s Nobu Bar adds four more reasons to visit with an exciting array of offerings, menus and events.
One affordable plan can protect an entire year of trips: business or pleasure, short or long, domestic or international.
There’s no doubt the northern lights are awe-inspiring and spectacular. Unfortunately, they’re also fickle and fleeting, and despite your best-laid plans of checking this item off your bucket list, sometimes Mother Nature’s luminescent show just doesn’t cooperate. But one cruise line has a new fail-safe in place.